09 July, 2019

How to plan a South Dakota trip with kids

We have visited South Dakota recently with kids. So, as usual, I spent a lot of time exploring the places, choosing the places to visit as per our interest, booking accommodations and planning pit stops, etc.,

I take travel planning seriously and I enjoy it too.

Here is my plan for South Dakota vacation with kids:




1. Exploring tourist places

My first task before planning a trip is to explore the tourist places in that area.

South Dakota,  also known as "Blizzard state" is home to the Black Hills, vast open spaces, and prairie grasslands. Of course,  we all know about the famous Mt. Rushmore memorial but there is more to this state than this monument.

Mt Rushmore and Crazy horse memorial are a must visit. Custer state park with 3 scenic byways, Spearfish canyon with many waterfalls and Badlands national park for its unique terrain should definitely be added to the list.

Rapid City has a lot to offer for kids like Dinosaur Park, storybook island, and Cosmos mystery area. Chapel in the hills is a great place if you like unique architecture. Wind cave national park, jewel cave, mt Rushmore cave, Reptile Gardens, Bear country are all within 1 hr from Rapid city.

The list is big. I explored all these places by searching on Google, reading multiple travelogues and searching on social media.

2. Choosing the places to Visit

This is the next step of the planning process. In the first step, I just explore all the places and make a list. But, in this step, I focus on our interests while picking up the places that we would love to visit.

When traveling with kids, of course, we have to plan keeping their interests in mind. Before choosing any hikes, I always read Google reviews and travelogues to ensure that the trails are kid friendly and not a strenuous one for children. I note down the distance of each trail and time it takes to finish each hike.

The most important places to visit with kids in South Dakota are - Dinosaur Park,  Storybook Island,  Cosmos mystery area, Windcave national park, and Bear country. We are not interested in reptiles, else would have chosen the Reptile gardens.

The places that  match our interests are - Custer state park,  Badlands national park, Spearfish Canyon,  Chapel in the hills, jewel cave, Deadwood historic town, etc.,


Crazy horse memorial 

After preparing this list, I usually filter it out again in the next step depending on the time we have in our itinerary.

3. Planning the Itinerary

This is the time we decide on how many days it will take to cover all the places in our wishlist, filter out the list based on time and budget, plan the itinerary by days, plan the places to stay at night, plan the pit stops and food stops in our trip.

Yes, this is the main part of the trip and please bear with me as you read this lengthy post 🙂


Storybook Island 

Always keep in mind that you need to take multiple pit stops during road trips when traveling with kids. So, be flexible and ready to trade off some places to relax and make the journey fun.

We chose to stay in Rapid city which is nearer to most of the places in our list. Keystone is another good option. Hot Springs is a small town but with many budget-friendly accommodations and dining options.

We have 3 days and 4 nights to cover all of these and below is the plan we laid out:

Night 1/ Evening 1 - Colorado Springs to Rapid city - around 7hrs journey time

Day 1 - Dinosaur Park, Chapel in the hills, Storybook Island,  Custer State Park, and Mt. Rushmore

Day 2 - Spearfish canyon and Badlands national park

Day 3 - Crazy horse memorial and the Return trip to Colorado Springs through Carhenge and Chimney rock national monument in Nebraska

Unfortunately,  Wind Cave National Park was closed during that time and so, we couldn't cover this.
Tunnel in Custer State Park


4. Booking accommodations

The easiest part is this last step. We always rely on Expedia for the best rates for accommodation with free breakfast. This saves a lot of money.

We choose a hotel with a swimming pool and spa so that we can relax every evening after roaming to all the places and hiking.

Airbnb is a good option too but we opt for this if multiple families are going together. We also choose Airbnb if the location is great with a good view and other amenities like swimming pool and kitchen are available.

We stayed all 3 nights in Rapid city as it's nearer to all places, but if you want to spend more time on any specific national park,  it's better to book a night there.

That's how we planned this amazing vacation in detail.

Do let me know in comments if this post helps you in any way to plan your dream vacation to South Dakota state.

Also, do let me know your suggestions and tips to make travel planning easier.

The detailed travelogues of each day are below:

Day 1 - Rapid city, Custer state Park and Mt. Rushmore
Day 2 - Spearfish Canyon and Badlands national park
Day 3 - Crazy horse memorial and Carhenge, Nebraska 


Until next time,






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