Pre-Planning: It’s Just the Beginning

Brett and Laura's First Trip to Glacier National Park (2002)

Yellowstone, Glacier, Teton, and more! Oh my!!! It’s the eve before our 2011 Summer Road Trip. Ethan and Autumn are sleeping not really knowing what to expect on vacation. Laura and I just spent the past few hours packing the car and tidying up the house. Lots of work has gone into this vacation. By far this will be our longest vacation in many years and the first two week vacation for our children.

Brett and Laura's First Trip to Glacier National Park (2002)
Brett and Laura's First Trip to Glacier National Park (2002)

Laura and I first did a shortened version of this trip in March 2002. We were dating at the time and she had a break in school. I drove up from Burns, Oregon to pick her up in Spokane, Washington. Our loyal lab Duff accompanied us on the journey where he enjoyed the backseat to himself. We mostly stayed in motels but also did a few days of snow camping. Since Glacier, Yellowstone, and Teton have most of the roads closed in the winter, we explored by snowshoeing. The parks were sparse with people which allowed us to move around easily but didn’t allow us to see as much as we’d like. We knew we had to come back again to experience the parks in the summer.

Our preparations for this road trip started a couple months ago. I asked for time off from work and was approved early. We booked camp sites where we could and reserved hotel rooms with miles I’ve accumulated from work travel. We contacted family in Montana to see if we could visit. Establishing the lodging was key to making this work. I also posted on Facebook our proposed itinerary. We received some great feedback from friends on what to do and see.

Car Preparation

Car iPod cords
iPod, phone, GPS, computer, and more charging system

Our car needed to be in tip top shape. The last thing we needed was to be broken down in the middle of nowhere with the next rest stop 50+ miles. We took the car to the shop three times to get brake roters replaced, A/C fixed, and a full tune up. We had only one cigarette lighter to power our GPS, iPod, phone chargers, computer, and anything else. I did some research and found this handy little device that now allows us two cigarette lighters and two USB ports. I also did a nice rigging job to hold our iPod. We chose to get a toy/book organizer for between the kids car seats. Usually we used pillows but this organizerhas proven to be extremely functional!

How did we prepare our kids?

Ethan and Autumn prepare for our road trip
Ethan and Autumn prepare for our road trip

We’ve been talking about this trip with the kids since we decided to do it. On our previous travels to these national parks we bought park books that show great photos of the park. We’ve had these out for Ethan to look through to be inspired. We also got a few DVDs from library. Ethan really enjoyed the Yellowstone National Park video because of the geologic features that is offered. We’ve always done plenty of hiking on the weekends so our kids are ready in that department. We weren’t sure about how Autumn would hold up for her first time camping so in May we did one night of family backyard camping. Autumn was super and put us at ease for this trip.

Something we’ve done on our past few airplane trips is purchase a few small items that Ethan can open along the trip. For this trip he’ll be excited to have Lightening McQueen and Mater from the Cars movie as well as a pair of walkie-talkies for the campground. He’ll also need to share with Autumn. Since we’re staying three nights in hotels with pools, we grabbed a few pool toys. We’ve also put together an activity binder for Ethan. It is filled with coloring pages from the parks, his National Geographic Kids, national park maps, and a travel journal where he can draw what he did that day.


Equipment is one area that we’re fairly prepared for in terms of camping gear. We’ve done so much of it over the years that we only upgraded our Coleman lantern. Our Kelty Tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, Coleman stove, headlamps, backpacks, cooking utensils, collapsible water jugs, and backpack carrier are primed and ready. We chose to purchase a double bike trailer so that we could bring our bikes and cruise around with the kids. A last minute purchase was our mesh canopy shelter. A friend took his kids camping last weekend with one and said it was well worth the purchase. We think it will be useful if there are lots of mosquitos or it begins to rain.

It’s Just the Beginning

We head out tomorrow for an exciting two weeks. We know that we’ll have high points and low points. It just comes with being family. In the end it’s going to be a trip to remember for everyone. I can assume this will be Ethan’s first good memory of a family vacation. Laura and I want it to be fun, comforting and one that he’ll talk about for years to come. Both he and Autumn are going to be doing a lot of these trips, whether from the backseat of car or carrying a pack through the wilderness. We hope to set the stage early with them that these experiences are the fabric of our life.


6 thoughts on “Pre-Planning: It’s Just the Beginning”

  1. We’re planning a trip of our own to Yellowstone and Teton, 10 days and counting! Six family members ranging in ages from 16 – 39. We have 5 days in YS and 2 in the Tetons. I’ve been devouring information for the last couple of months (mostly technical and advertisement sites) so your experiences were a nice treat. It’s always better to hear the human side of a story. You have a beautiful family, nice style of writing, and a great website. I wish more people would take the time to record their lives. This read was just one more ring of Pavlov’s bell. My mouth is watering. I can’t wait to get some dust on the boots. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Rob..thanks for finding us on the interent. I appreciate your kind words. By now you’ve probably finished your trip so I hope it a great time. We loved the trip and look forward to next year’s trip to visit National Parks in California. 

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