If you talked to me about summer bucket list travel destinations even just a year ago — my reaction would’ve been incredibly different than it is today.
Let me explain.
Summer is officially here and I’m (Stephanie) giddy with excitement. And if I’m being honest— normally that isn't the case. Like most working moms, in years past summer’s been stressful. Between balancing nap schedules, cleaning up 1,000 messes and packing too many items before leaving the house to basically do anything — for so long, summer admittedly carried a looming sense of dread.
But this summer I feel a shift. My kids are at more manageable ages (10,8,5) — so we are taking a trip that I have dreamed about for 13 years.
A 17 DAY road trip out west!
Our trip will no doubt be filled with all of the mom hacks I’ve collected from my friends who’ve done wild trips like this — audiobooks, screen time, snacks, more screen time, more snacks, etc. — but I honestly couldn’t be more excited to make these core memories with my family.
And I cannot wait to record it all (the highs and the inevitable lows that are bound to come from a family of five taking a 17-day road trip) in my Travel Journal.
To inspire you to make memories with your family this summer — lengthy roadtrip or not — I’m sharing our family’s five summer bucket list must-visits for epic family memories.
Here’s to checking off our list
Summer Bucket List Travel Destination #1: Black Hills (South Dakota)
From the roaming bison herds in Custer State Park to the ridges and canyons of the Badlands — I’ve been wanting to romp around Black Hills for years and I can’t believe I’m getting to finally take my people too. I’m hoping we’ll hike Spearfish Trail and get to soak our sweaty selves in the Devil’s Bathtub and snap a few good family action photos.
Summer Bucket List Travel Destination #2: Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)
Okay, okay. So I know Mount Ruhsmore is technically in Black Hills — but I feel like this just needs its own spot on my list.
I’ve heard the monument tends to look smaller in real life – but I still can’t get over the fact that the faces of four US presidents were carved into the side of a mountain with dynamite.
Summer Bucket List Travel Destination #3: Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
I have high hopes for our camping stay in Yellowstone National Park — and I’m hopeful my kids will appreciate the history, wildlife, and vastness of it all. I’m hoping to snag another family photo here — especially at Old Faithful — that I can paste front and center in my Travel Journal.
Oh, and I’m only slightly terrified of the bears and wolves.
Summer Bucket List Travel Destination #4: Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
I am SO excited to do the 42-mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park. Sure — it’s more time in the car with the kids — but we’ll rent a pair of binoculars for each of them and tell them to play a giant game of “I Spy” or something. (It’s got to work, right?)
We’re holding out for mooses in Schwabacher Landing and can’t to snap yet another family photo at Jenny Lake Overlook.
Summer Bucket List Travel Destination #5: Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
Okay — saving the best for last here! All five of us cannot wait to do some epic hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve heard there are some pretty strenuous hikes here — so I’m trying to be realistic with what’s possible for us — but I have my eyes set on the Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lake Hike because it’s just about 3.5 miles and is rated by most travel sites as “Easy to Moderate.” I’d also like to do some basic/easy rock climbing — but we’ll see how it all shakes out.
Obviously — I’ve got some big dreams for this trip and I’m counting down the days until we pull out of our driveway in Northwest Arkansas. But the truth? No matter how this trip shakes out — whether it exceeds my expectations or proves to be one of the questionable decisions we’ve made 🤣— I cannot wait to make these memories.
The best part?
I’ll be recording it all in my Travel Journal and we’ll be able to look back on it for years to come.