Yellowstone National Park: Rough Itinerary and Pre-trip Planning

Our family trip to Yellowstone (and the surrounding area) is fast-approaching, and we are just finalizing our travel plans.  Now is a great time to start thinking about a summer trip in 2020 – reservations open on May 1 for next year’s summer season.  I’m so glad we booked 6 nights in Yellowstone (two nights each at the Old Faithful Inn, Roosevelt Cabins, and Canyon Lodge), even though we didn’t have time to do much research.

With just over two months to go before our trip, we decided it was time to start looking at more details. Flights in and out of Jackson Hole are limited (very few nonstop options from LA), so we will be arriving very late and leaving very early. At a minimum, this meant an extra night at either end of the Yellowstone visit.  In the end, we opted for two nights on each end of our Yellowstone stay – first in Jackson Hole and finishing up in Grand Teton National Park.

Rough itinerary:

Nights 1-2: stay in Jackson Hole at the Alpine House. It was recommended by a friend, and after a quick search, we agreed that it was a good fit for us. The rates include breakfast, there’s a small spa onsite, and an honor bar that we will definitely take advantage of.  Our full day here will mostly be spent in Grand Teton National Park, although we plan to go at a more leisurely pace, since we will be returning on the back end of our trip.

Nights 3-4: stay in YNP at the Old Faithful Inn. We made dinner reservations at the nice restaurant in the lodge for both nights, but will likely only keep one of the two (there are quicker dining options also available at the Inn, so I can see the allure, especially with a two-year-old in tow, of opting out of a fancy dinner for one night).

Nights 5-6: stay in YNP at the Roosevelt Lodge in one of the Roughrider Cabins. I’m really looking forward to this stop because apparently this is a great area for wildlife viewing! Back in January we booked a Old West Dinner Cookout Wagon Ride for our second night there (it starts relatively early at 4:45pm, so that would cover us in case we get in a bit later on the first night). The cost was about $135 total for Ryan and I (Oliver, as a lap child, was free).  They also have options for a one or two-hour horsehide prior to dinner, but kids have to be at least 8 years old.

Nights 7-8: stay in YNP at the Canyon Lodge.  We were able to make dinner reservations each night, but similar to Old Faithful Inn, there are more casual options that might be nice for one night.  Reservations can be made as early as May 1, but we were able to get a 6:45 and 7:15 reservation only two months out.  There is also a casual dining option (as well as a grab-and-go cafe), so we may swap out a nice dinner for something a little more kid-friendly.  I’m looking forward to hiking around the area, and enjoying views of the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” (pictured below, courtesy of

Nights 9-10:  Grand Tetons at the beautifully-situated (and extremely pricey) Jenny Lake Lodge. This is our huge splurge for the trip, at $800/night (including taxes).  The location is great and will allow us to maximize our short time in the park. The rate also includes dinner at the lodge, which is normally priced at $94/person. One thing to note is that dinner reservations should be made as early as possible; I just called to book and make reservations, and everything in the 7:00 hour was already taken.

From Jenny Lake Lodge we’ll take an early morning flight out of Jackson Hole, finishing up our 10-night stay in Wyoming.  I’m looking forward to crossing two more National Parks on my list (one of which is arguably the most beautiful), and doing so with our curious little boy!





London: The Extremely Detailed Itinerary

Our London trip is fast-approaching, and while I’m not stressing over learning a new language or wondering what the weather will be like (I know it will be freezing!), I am completely overwhelmed by all of the must-see sites and attractions that London and the surrounding area has to offer.  For a first timer, a 7-night trip seemed more than long enough, until I realized that even with 7 nights, there is no way we could fit in everything (and do it well).  So, we decided to map out a detailed, tentative itinerary (to be changed while we’re there, I am sure!).  As a warning, this post is going to be lengthy and wordy, but hopefully it will help show how we came up with our plans. 

Ryan has been to London twice before, and so he has seen many of the major sites.  That being said, most of them are worth visiting again, so we really aren’t taking into account what he’s already seen.  I made a list of the top 10 sites we wanted to visit, as well as additional attractions and things to do.  The list is no where near exhaustive, but we had to start out with something manageable.  We tried to rank the sites in order of priority, but changed our mind as we were planning out which thing to do or see on each day. 

Here are the sites we considered: Tower of London*, British Museum*, British Library, St. Paul’s Cathedral*, Westminster Abbey*, London Eye*, Churchill War Rooms and Museum*, Tate Modern, Parliament*, and National Gallery*.

Westminster Abbey and other sites in London.

Here are the other attractions, areas, things we wanted to fit in (including day trips): Day trip to Bath and possibly Stonehenge, day trip to Brussels*, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Gardens, Windsor, Covent Garden*, Portobello market* (Notting Hill – Saturdays), a musical* (Les Mis is on the top of our list), Christmas Market(s)*, outdoor ice skating*, Greenwich*, the Docklands*, Harrod’s*, walks* (through the Westminster area, West End area, Southbank area), Hyde Park*. Continue reading

Portugal and Spain: How we are spending our time

The Westin Palace hotel, Madrid, Spain

The Westin Palace, Madrid – our hotel for two nights.

For our upcoming trip to Portugal and Spain, we will be gone for a total of 13 nights.  While I originally wanted to stick to three or four cities, it was so hard to limit the options.  I want to share the itinerary for our two week vacation, since we’ve been sharing bits and pieces of the travel-planning process:

Lisbon, Portugal – 3 nights

  • Arriving: around 8:30am at the Lisbon Airport
  • What to Do: explore the neighboorhoods, enjoy the food and wine (and hopefully experience Fado!), visit Belém, visit Sintra (as a day trip)
  • Leaving: around 9:30 from the Lisbon Airport

Barcelona, Spain – 3 nights

  • Arriving: around 12:30 at the Barcelona airport
  • What to Do: nothing is set in stone, but we plan on visiting some of the popular sights like Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, hanging out at the beach, exploring La Rambla, enjoying tapas
  • Leaving: around 9:30am – this ticket is already booked! Check out Ryan’s post here on direct online booking to potentially save a lot of money on train tickets. 

Sevilla, Spain – 2 nights

  • Arriving: around 2:00pm at the Sevilla train station
  • What to Do: Alcazar, Flamenco, food!
  • Leaving: We aren’t sure yet.  There are a few train options we’re looking at – one leaving around 7am, one that would leave around 9:30am and one that would leave around 12pm.

Granada, Spain – 3 nights

  • Arriving: Depends on the train we decide to take from Sevilla, but we would get in around 10:30am, 1:30pm, or 3pm at the Granada train station.
  • What to Do: the Alhambra, a possible day trip to Nerja
  • Leaving: around 9:00am from the Granada train station.  This ticket has also already been booked. 

Madrid, Spain – 2 nights

  • Arriving: around 1:30pm at the Madrid train station
  • What to Do: tapas, tapas, tapas! Ok, and the Royal Palace, Prado, and 
  • Staying: At The Westin Palace, Madrid.  This is the only hotel we haven’t written a post on, so I wanted to share the information now.  Long story short:  Starwood had a “points and cash” option for the nights we will be staying (pay partially with starpoints, partially with “cash” in USD – this is usually an awesome deal) and we couldn’t pass it up.  The location is great, so honestly, we didn’t even look at other options. 
  • Leaving: around 11:30am from the Madrid airport.

We’ll continue to do research on activities, places to eat, and things to see, but we look forward to changing our plans according to what we want to do while we’re there!