Epic Family Road Trip – Part 1

We love road trips! They are some of the best ways to travel with our little boys.  Join us for the three-part series of our family road trip. We had decided on a 9-day road trip. We don’t usually drive anywhere for more than 6 hours but decided that this would be a great experience. We would be able to see things we typically would not see if we flew.  Our boys are generally really good about travel although I was a bit nervous with such a long stretch.  You know the constant “Are we there yet!”

This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.

Road trips require some very detailed planning to ensure we are able to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. We utilized Mapquest to calculate travel time and allowing extra time for rest, bathroom breaks and meals.  We were quite ambitious is getting in all our destinations in 9 days. But with careful planning, we made it work. We also made sure we packed snacks, juice box, water bottles and all the things to keep the boys occupied.  

We decided to get up at 3 am to start our journey from Minnesota. A little bit on the crazy side but this would allow us enough time to get to South Dakota and see all that we wanted to see.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Our first destination was Badlands National Park. We had made a few stops prior to arriving there as well as stopping for breakfast in Sioux Falls. Badlands National Park was so beautiful!! But I was a nervous wreck with two little boys who looked like they were ready to jump or fall into the canyon.  Don’t stand too close to the edge boys!! Heart palpitations.

Too close to the edge boys!

Can we say, “It’s HOT here?” It’s in the triple digits!! After taking in the sights and letting the boys run around for a bit, we decided to hit the road.  Everyone I talked to prior to this trip recommended a stop at Wall Drug. “It’s the place to see when there”. Well, we were not able to stop there at all. But for those who are interested, check out Wall Drug here.

It’s too HOT!

One of the beauties of a road trip is not knowing what is out there and just stopping as you go. We were driving along the highway when we noticed a sign. We just followed it and Vang went inside to check it out and a few minutes later he came out and said “let’s go inside. You guys will like it”. Ok…. why not… Badlands Petrified Garden was very interesting to see. Not only did we see petrified wood, but there was also a wide variety of fossils.  Definitely a pleasant surprise. Of course, the boys couldn’t leave without grabbing some souvenirs.

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Arriving in Keystone, South Dakota later that afternoon felt like the best thing ever. Knowing that we would be checking into our hotel shortly and getting to stretch our legs. We stopped at Mount Rushmore National Monument. Walking through the Avenue of Flags gave a huge sense of pride in being an American. And having the boys there to learn of our history. We then stopped in the Carver’s Marketplace for some ice cream. It is the only onsite restaurant so if you are hungry or looking for a quick bite, this is the place.

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Crazy Horse Memorial

After that, we headed out to Crazy Horse Memorial. It has several museums there so make sure you check it out. The museums feature American Indian arts and artifacts from tribal nations across North America. There are also gift shops so be sure to grab something there. The boys always find something to bring home. They offer tours that visitors can take to the top of the mountain carving but we opted out of it. We felt looking from afar offered us a better experience. Loved that we were able to see these two places and the boys enjoyed learning about history.

Crazy Horse Memorial

We finally checked into our hotel and the boys went for a swim in the pool. They were looking forward to that swim all day.  Happy as a clam. Cramming all these sites into one day was quite ambitious. Wouldn’t you say?

Crazy as we are, we checked out 3 am the next morning to get a head start for Yellowstone National Park.  An eight-hour drive. Again in their pajamas, we drove off into the darkness.  Driving through Montana was quite a scary thing.  For hours, we drove in darkness, literally.  Just us and darkness on all sides. With the occasional cars or trucks passing by.  All sorts of thoughts were running through our minds but I think we were too afraid to voice it out loud.  Vang asked me to stay awake and keep him company.

Daylight finally came.  Whew!!  We made a stop at a gas station. Pumped some gas, bathroom break, and a stretch and off we went again.

Join us in Part 2 of our journey as we head into Yellowstone National Park.

Pin it for later!

Road leading to Badland National Park

32 thoughts on “Epic Family Road Trip – Part 1”

  1. I love mountains and road trips. And I have never been to those places! Thank you for sharing. Will definitely visit! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. I was just there two summers ago! We stayed right next to Sylvan Lake near Custer State Park. I just love the beauty of the Badlands and the Black Hills. We took a helicopter tour of Mount Rushmore, and it was amazing! The photo of your boys looking miserably hot made me laugh! 😊

    1. It was a lot of stops and I was nervous about how the boys would do but they were wonderful. They only asked “are we there yet” a million times. 🙂

  3. That’s some very impressive coordination with 2 little ones! I think my palms got a little sweaty when I saw the picture of them near the edge in Badlands National Park. Whew!!!

  4. What a wonderful journey! I love this area of the US. Mt Rushmore is so majestic when you come around the mountain and see it. We did not go to Badlands, but hope to on our next trip.

    1. Yes I think that was my favorite part as well. Our first glimpse of Mount Rushmore as we came around the mountain. WOW!

  5. I love road trips, my boys are pretty good with trips too but they are older than yours. When we go on road trips we like to keep count of how many different license plates we see. Mount Rushmore is in our bucket list!!!

  6. This sounds like quite a trip. I would be paranoid that my boys would go over the edge too, even now as teenagers. Looking forward to the second installment.

  7. Road trips are the best! I’m glad you guys allowed some time for unexpected stops…those are the places my kids always remembered when we got home (the ones not on the itinerary!).

  8. What a fun adventure! Road trips do provide opportunities to see more while en route to the main destinations. I look forward to part 2.

  9. What an adventure!! We’ve taken trips like this before – up at “0 dark thirty” and driving down roads that have no illumination outside of your headlights and those coming towards you. You’re making some amazing memories with the boys. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

  10. Angela Greven | Mean Green Chef

    looks like you all had so much fun, I love your photos! Road trips are fun and were a favorite when the kids were little. Now I see my daughter doing the same with her two little ones. Thanks so much for sharing! 🤗

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *