We have mentioned before just how we started on our fifty state journey, but for those who may not know we will recap.
Shortly before K was born a friend mentioned that she would be the only kid in kindergarten that had visited all fifty states. At the time we did not thing much of it because it was extremely unlikely - then we started traveling with her.We did not quite make it before kindergarten started, but did complete it before she finished first grade!
Her very first trip was to St. Louis. This was mainly because we could take a short, direct flight from Atlanta. This was where she visited her very first National Park Service site. This was the place she went to her first major league baseball game. The place she first was mesmerized by the mighty Mississippi.
Most of our early trips were somewhere within Eastern or Central Time Zone so that we could keep her as close to her normal schedule as possible. As she continued to get older we pushed our travels further west into Mountain Time by age two and into Pacific Time by age three.
We are really financial conscious so many of our trip choices were economically based. We would visit the locations that it was the cheapest to get to. It was incredibly easy for the first few years. It got much more difficult (but not impossible!) once we had visited most states. K's last three states were Alaska, Michigan, and Hawaii. Two of those are quite a hike from our home on the east coast!
When we visited Montana (which was close to the end) we took the Amtrak Empire Builder from Chicago to Whitefish. We spent a little more than we had budgeted because we had an opportunity to get a bedroom on the train. (Highly recommend!!) We think everyone needs to take a long Amtrak ride at least once!
We visited much of the desert Southwest and New England on fly then drive road trips! We visited some of the midwest on long weekend drives from home. Sometimes dad would not be thrilled with our itinerary because he's the family chauffeur. Mama is the planner and if it looks reasonable it MUST be drivable.
We cruised to Alaska. K loved it so much we are about to cruise to Alaska again this year for her birthday. Same ship, same captain, slightly different itinerary. To be honest, Alaska was a life changing trip for us. We parents had been before ten years prior. We set some long term goals and set the ball in motion to make those goals happen.
Michigan was a state 50 (parents) road trip over Labor Day weekend. We learned a lot along the way by making stops at the William Taft House in Cincinnati, a Wright Brothers aviation lesson in Dayton, and a war of 1812 stop in Michigan.
The final piece of the puzzle was Hawaii over Spring Break in April! We were able to visit both Oahu and the Big Island on our trip. The Big Island was a huge surprise for us! We absolutely loved it but deep down wished we could have seen some flowing lava! Hey, maybe one day!
In the end, it took us just under 6.5 years from the time K first visited another state until she visited number fifty. She visited most states numerous times. She visited all fifty at least once in just under 5 years. There are only eleven states that she has only been in one time. While the fifty state journey may be over our United States travels definitely are not!
Hawai'i - one of our favorite destinations, but it is quite a hike from our home on the east coast.
We took K to the islands for the first time over spring break. She absolutely loved it.
K has traveled a good bit so she is no stranger to long flights, but the flight from Houston to Honolulu was her longest flight ever. She handled it like a champ. If she were a little younger we would have likely opted for a west coast connection. In fact, when others ask we usually advise a stop on the west coast to break up the flight for younger children.
Challenge #1 - we landed in Hawaii when it was her bedtime at home.
Challenge #2 - it had been a long time since our last actual meal.
We are not sure about your family, but those two together can be a doozy in ours. We ALL get hangry. We grabbed a quick meal then off to the beach we went. This kept all of us occupied enough to begin the adjustment of the six hour time difference.
DO - visit Pearl Harbor and let kids earn a Junior Ranger badge
The USS Arizona Memorial is currently closed for repairs, but one can take a boat around the harbor for a close look. Having been on the Memorial on previous trips we found this slightly disappointing especially in the context that most do not visit Hawaii multiple times. K did not seem disappointed in passing by on a boat. She also enjoyed their Junior Ranger program. The program was not very time consuming to complete. Also, we chose to get walk up tickets the day of our visit. We arrived shortly before opening so we had no issues getting tickets for the first boat of the day.
DO - take the hike up Diamond Head
Seriously, she made it up easy peasy. We did not do a tour to Diamond Head. We went on our own so we could head up as quickly or as slowly as we wanted. It took us less than thirty minutes to get to the top. We went up the huge staircase, but if one is not up to it simply go to the left instead of up the stairs. That part of the trail is basically a loop so one could go down the stairs on the way out instead of up the stairs on the way up. Also, make certain to get a shave ice or Dole Whip as a treat once the hike is done!
DO - use The Bus as transportation. We took The Bus from Waikiki to both Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor.
We purchased the day pass on two seperate days. We definitely feel like we got our money's worth.
DO - rent a car to get out of Waikiki if staying there.
Oahu is so much more than Waikiki Beach! We rented a car one day and did our own circle island tour. It was much cheaper than some of the circle island tours offered and we were on our own schedule!
DO - visit the Dole Plantation
Seriously, DOLE WHIP! Need any more reasons? K enjoyed looking at all of the different sizes of pineapple. We had to take photos of the tiny ones and the big ones and all of them in between!
DO - remember to sample the cookies
At Honolulu Cookie Company! The cookie samples were a favorite snack for K! She tried to visit every single store she passed.
DO - take a swim in the lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village!
Be prepared! The water was a little cool in April. There were plenty water toys to rent. There were also many little fish in the lagoon. K spent so much time trying to sneak up on those poor fish. HA!
Leave us a comment if you have found any fun things that we did not mention above!
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with maps, globes, and wanting to see the world. Now I'm trying to make all of those childhood dreams into a reality.