Yosemite National Park is a land of iconic giants. Names like Half-Dome, John Muir, and Ansel Adams are cemented into our national heritage. Planning a family-centered vacation to such a venerated place was daunting even to park-visiting veterans like ourselves! We wondered if our kids would care about the historical value of the park. What if seeing the iconic sites wasn't enough to pique the interest of our kids? How would we create lasting memories and good times together in this busy place?
After all our planning, we ended up visiting the park 3 different times and discovering the answers to those questions. We found trails that were less traveled, places that captured our kid's imaginations, we made lasting memories and formed a special place in our hearts for this place that manages to stay wild and stunning, despite the sheer number of visitors. We share what we learned in our newest guidebook, to be released in April 2019, in hopes that your family will carve out time to revel in all that is Yosemite National Park.
As with all our guide books, we include a list of our top five tips for taking kids to this national park in particular. We like to share this list here so that you have a taste of what the book has to offer. We hope these tips help you in planning the best family vacation ever-in Yosemite National Park.
tip #1:Get out of the car
Too often as adults, we have a vast list of sites to see and we believe the best way to visit the park is to do a drive-by of them. We tell ourselves we can see more this way, and after all, we can't go home and tell our friends we only saw a small bit of the park, can we? Well, if you want your kids to enjoy the trip you must change your thinking. Kids need to experience nature on a very personal level. They need to engage their senses. In order for your children to build lasting memories, you must get them out of the car. As parents of 8 kids, we know this isn't easy but it is imperative. Your children need to walk the trail through the cedar forest. They need to smell the soil and hear the wind and the birds. Our book can help you plan the details. It will be worth it. Believe us.
Tip #4:Start easy and leave extra time
If your kids haven't been out hiking with you much in the past, it may be hard to gauge their ability and enthusiasm. If you leave yourself plenty of time to accomplish a hike or visit a site, everyone will come out happier. Also keep in mind that kids will likely want time to explore along the way. They find great enjoyment in the simplest things: an ant colony at work, the shapes of leaves and pine cones, floating all manner of natural materials down a creek. When they are keen to explore but you are rushing them to a destination, you kill that child-like wonder and lessen the experience for them. Instead, leave plenty of time for stopping and exploring and the time will be more enjoyable for you all.
Tip #2: download digital content prior to entering the park
This goes for your digital content as well as your kids! It may be obvious that your kids will have various digital resources available to them on the trip. They will likely need entertainment for some of the inevitable driving time. One resource we like for our kids is digital books. They entertain our kids while leaving their eyes available to take in the sites. Parents often also have digital content. You may have websites that you used for planning and need directions to a trailhead. Download or print these off prior to travel. Maybe you have ebooks for your evening reading pleasure. There is usually no cell service in most areas of the park and the little that you may find is slow and limited. Even the internet in the lodges, if you are staying there, is not high speed.
Tip #3: Have realistic expectations
This is tremendously important at this particular park. In 2018 there were over four million visitors to Yosemite. No matter what time of year you go, there are going to be a lot of people. This means crowed trails, public transportation, packed campgrounds and long lines. Having realistic expectations helps you plan for and manage these less than ideal circumstances. Our book has lots of suggestions to help you mitigate the effects of so many people. Ideas like riding bikes around the valley floor instead of waiting for a crowded bus, camp as near as you can to the places you want to stay to limit time in the car waiting in traffic, or change the schedule of your day to minimize time in the car and kids becoming crabby.
There are a few other areas we suggest managing your expectations but this is the big one.
Tip #5: Bring plenty of the essentials
Keeping kids warm, dry and well fed is most of the battle towards having a great time. There are lots of affordable options for clothing for kids that will help with the warm and dry part. Do not feel you must buy all their gear at an expensive name-brand company. Thrift stores carry much of what you may need if money is an issue. We cover suggested items in our book but the main thing is to dress in layers and be aware of the weather and elevation.
As for keeping little tykes (and teens...) well fed, we recommend packing plenty of yummy and exciting snack
items that can be used as motivation if necessary. We've had to bribe our kids to finish the hike many a time and we aren't ashamed to say it. When you are outdoors on an adventure, you need to use all the tools at your disposal sometimes!