50 State Travel Journal
Hello! Welcome to my chronical of my family of four’s (2 kids, 2 adults) mission to get to all fifty states before both of my kids graduate from High School. This means, we will be done in about 11 to 13 years… Our rule is that we all have to travel to the state together as a family for the state to count toward this goal.
So, far, we have focused our initial travels in the Midwest, where we are from, and are saving the more glorious trip for when my littlest one can remember most of experiences. (She will turn 4 in 2021, so we are getting there!)
While I hope you find my family’s personal journey entertaining and helpful, you will find more detailed (and less me focused) articles on the rest of the FiftyTenTravel website. I will link to these articles as helpful resources on this journal page.
How We are Keeping Track
Half the fun of having a goal of visiting all fifty states is finding creative ways to keep track and document your visits!
50 State Travel Journaling and Check-List Ideas
Here are a few of the creative ways to keep track of your 50 state goal.
- Fifty State Travel Photo Map – We have a giant photo map where we can put a photo in for each state. This is the most visual and fun way we keep track of all of our states visited. We have it displayed in our dining room in a frame that allows for easy access to adding new photos. When it is complete, we will find a more permanent frame. Our map is from Thunderbunny, and I would recommend it. I am very satisfied with their state printing app and options. Moreover, the map itself is beautiful.
- Travel Journal – Etsy has a few good printable options (digital downloads) for 50 States Travel Journal searches. You can also make your own easily. However, I prefer documenting our travel via…
- Family Photo Albums – I use Shutterfly to print off family photo albums for each season of the year. This seems to be the best way for me to journal about our fifty state travel.
- States Visited Apps – There are a few apps that are very basic that let you check off states. I have downloaded them, and then deleted them. Let me know if you have found something worth keeping!
Our 50 State Family Travel Chronical
From 2017 – 2020, we went to 13 states together as a family. Focusing on states close by that were easier to travel to with small children. Since we live in the Midwest, these are also states that we will most likely visit more than once, and more often.
However, we only document in our 50 states travel journal when we have been to them for the first time. So far, for 2021, we have four to five more states on our list. We will just have to see how the end of the Covid pandemic goes…
Our 50 States Travel Check-List Map 2017 – 2020
Our Travel Map with 2021 Plans
State One: Nebraska – “Home State Advantage”
We live in the Eastern side of Nebraska. Our favorite places to visit in our home state include:
- The Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha
- Arbor Day Farm and Lied Lodge, Nebraska City
- Morrill Hall Museum, Lincoln
- Fontenelle Forrest, Bellevue
- Durham Museum, Omaha
State Two: Utah
Summer 2017. We have family in various parts of Salt Lake City, so we have been all around that area. However, our favorite memories come from Snowbird Ski Resort. Our girls have so far only been to Snowbird in the summer time, but they are getting old enough to ski – so we might be back there in the winter soon.
State Three: Kansas
Summer 2017. This is a bordering state for us, and Kansas City (which shares space with both Kansas and Missouri) is a great little get away for our family. (Or fun stop on the way home from somewhere south!)
The first time we ever went down with both children was for a family reunion, with a quick friend visit as well. The favorite activity was the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. It was a perfect farm experience for my then 3 year old and baby – from bottle feeding goats to ridding horses.
State Four: Minnesota
Fall 2017. We also have family up in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota, as well as in Stillwater. We went up there this time for a short film premier my cousin was hosting.
State Five: Wisconsin
Fall 2017. Visiting Wisconsin was a piggy-back off of our Minnesota trip! We have another cousin who owns a farm right on the Wisconsin border to Minnesota. We were able to bring our girls to their farm for an afternoon of farm play, feeding pigs and visiting with family.
State Six: Missouri
Fall 2018. We ended up revisiting some familiar places this year. As a result, the only new state we brought the girls to in 2018, was Missouri. We explored the Ozarks, Branson and Table Rock Lake. It was rainy, but fun. Our hotel had a great little indoor water park with some splash activities, a pool and a water slide.
The hit of our trip was going “Golf Cart Hiking” at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake. It was a perfect way to bundle up and adventure through the caves, bridges and water features around the lake area.
State Seven: Iowa
Spring 2019. Iowa is another boarder state. We travel through it whenever we go east. We also have some family in this state! The first time we visited Iowa with both of our girls (not in utero – that doesn’t count!) we stayed in Des Moines. Our trip was a weekend excursion to swim at the hotel pool, visit the Science Museum, and most importantly, to eat our favorite barbeque at The Flying Mango. (We also have a hard time passing up Wedding Cake Shakes at Zombie Burger!)
State Eight: Colorado
Summer 2019. I remember our 2019 Colorado trip as the time I drove the 8 hour journey all by myself with both of my tiny girls in the back! We made it, but only after visiting every rest stop along the way. Either for my then 2 year old to pretend to potty-train at rest stop toilets or for me to get out of the car to fix someone’s tablet. My husband’s work flight was late getting back to town, so I drove and he flew into Denver to meet us!
In Denver, we visited friends that live there and visited breweries, museums and even braved La Casa Bonita for the girls.
State Nine: South Dakota
Winter 2019. We visited Sioux Falls, South Dakota right before the new year. It was great to see the Christmas Lights on the falls and to drive through the park with Christmas lights timed to music. The girls also enjoyed the Science Museum there. Our hotel was a perfect set-up for our family with a kid friendly pool and a suite style – separated bedroom area we weren’t even expecting!
State Ten: Wyoming
Summer 2020. And then . . . there was Covid. As did most everyone’s, our elaborate travel plans for 2020 went down the toilet. I did get a girls’ trip with my mom and sister to Estero Beach, FL in February, right before lock down. However, due to Covid, we are mourning the loss of trips to London, Maui, and Las Vegas.
When we couldn’t stand the cabin-fever any more, we packed up the girls (and my mother-in-law) and headed out on a 14 hour car trip to Utah. On the way, we broke up the trip with a stay close to Cheyenne, WY at Little America. This particular Little America hotel / resort is a very favorite among everyone in my in-law family. It is kitschy cute with an unrenovated charm.
I am sure we will be back this way to visit Yellowstone when the kids are older.
State Eleven: Florida
Summer 2020. Donning our masks and packing our sanitizer, we flew down to Destin, FL for our summer vacation – Covid Style. I personally had not been to Destin for 15 years or so, but I had remembered it a lot sleepier than it in fact was…
Even with busy beaches and elevator rides to the 23rd floor, where we looked over the ocean from our VRBO condo, we managed to avoid Covid. We socially distanced by ordering food to go, or sitting outside at a beachside restaurant.
We had the pools to ourselves each morning and watched the sunset over the ocean every night, and overall it was very low-key. Our favorite excursion was hiring a boat to drive just our family out into the gulf to see dolphins, and even sharks, swim up close to us.
State Twelve: Alabama
Summer 2020. We drove over to Orange Beach, AL from our Destin condo one sunny afternoon to visit the Warf. When I was planning this little day trip, it was pre-Covid times, so I imagined a hopping, fun time at the Warf. In reality, it was dead quiet. There was no one there, which was fine, since we could then park right beside the giant Ferris Wheel, pay for tickets and instantly ride.
Our Alabama trip ended with ice cream. It was all pretty fun, and the ride home along the coast introduced us to our next place in FL we wanted to stay – Navarre Beach. We booked a VRBO for April 2021 in Navarre – a very quite, socially distanced beach town. So looking forward to it…
State Thirteen: Oklahoma
Fall 2020. In another attempt to get away from it all which still socially distancing, we booked a short trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is about a 6 hour car ride from our hometown. We stayed on Skiatook Lake in a cute cabin for two nights and then two nights closer to the city at a sleepy hotel with a pool we could basically have to ourselves the whole time. Our favorite activity was Tulsa’s amazing outdoor park – The Gathering Place.
State Fourteen: Arkansas
Winter 2021. As of now, this is our next trip. We are still traveling with covid-precautions, so our plans include secluded stays and outdoor eating and activities. We are looking forward to the Crystal Bridges Museum’s North Forest Lights outdoor light experience.
Plans for 2021
As of now, our planned new states to visit for 2021 are as follows:
- Arkansas – Winter 2021
- Illinois – Summer 2021
- Indiana – Summer 2021
- Michigan – Summer 2021
We will also be visiting Florida again in the Spring of 2021, this time to Navarre Beach. Which should be much less crowded than Destin. We are being very flexible this year still as we wait for the world to catch up and open back up!