Have you ever thought of traveling to all 50 states? The ideas never crossed my mind until I had kids and started this blog. Once they were born my husband and I decided to prioritize family travel in our lives and it has evolved into creating our goal of visiting all 50 states.
Before we had kids, my husband and I enjoyed weekend getaways and maybe a 5 day vacation once a year. Then we had my daughter and went on our first family vacation, to Myrtle Beach, when she was 2 months old.
It was a great trip, and I knew that having kids would not change the way I felt about traveling. From there we planned little trips, but we were working on saving for a house and paying off student loan debt.
Fast forward to 2013, we were a family of five and made our first visit to Walt Disney World. It was an amazing vacation and one of our favorite family travel stories.
The kids were so small- 5, 2.5, and 10 months. We drove from New York to Florida. It was chaos and crazy but I loved it.
When we returned from that vacation I knew that we would have to prioritize travel in a new way.
Traveling with a family of five was not going to be easy or cheap. We started a travel savings account and started adding money to it monthly.
We also started thinking about how we could experience as many places as possible. I wanted to fill our kids childhood with travel memories and encourage them to develop a love of travel.
Why We Decided to Set a Family Travel Goal
As the kids got older and they became more involved with our travel plans the fun really started!
We started talking more about why we traveled and what our family travel goals were.
We loved road trips and making the journey part of the adventure. We survived the New York to Florida trip, and we had planned an awesome New York to Myrtle Beach trip for later that year.
We also talked about all the amazing things to see in the United States. Slowly this evolved to our 50 state challenge. Honestly I never really thought about visiting all 50 states. It seemed like an impossible goal.
But I also believe that the journey is just as important as the destination and decided why not. The worst is we don’t make it to all 50 but we will have a lot of fun along the way trying.
Visit All 50 States (The “Rules”) Family Travel Goals
We decided there needed to be a few rules. My husband and I had traveled a bit before we had kids but we wanted this to be a family goal so we all started fresh.
We had visited a few states together but we were ready to make it a priority to add new ones every year. In early 2018 our family goal to see all 50 states was born.
We decided any states we visited as a family of five would count, even before the challenge officially started. Then we created a few simple rules.
- Only trips all 5 of us take count.
- Driving through counts. Long layovers also count. Flying over doesn’t.
The goal of the 50 states challenge means more to me than checking a state off the list. It is filling my kids lives with experiences and strengthening our bonds by spending time together.
Everyone will have different rules but I think it is important to stress that this is not about checking things off your list and you can make rules that work for you.
You may want to visit a destination in each state or take a photo in front of the state sign. The goal for this should be to make it fun for the family and something you can really work towards.
I don’t know if we will make it to every state but we will have a lot of fun trying!
Update: When the pandemic started in 2020 it slowed down our progress of traveling to all 50 states, but it also gave me clarity on the why of the challenge.
At the heart of this challenge I want to experience new places with my family and create awesome memories. The challenge is a way to help us do that.
Tips for Visiting All 50 States in the USA
- Plan a few years out but also be flexible. Think about states you can visit all in one trip.
- Brainstorm destinations you want to visit and start a list you can reference.
- Plan a road trip where you start in one location and stop in another. Read our Southwest Road Trip for ideas!
- Just Take the Trip. Sometimes you need to plan and then make it happen.
- Watch sales and travel deals to save our your vacations.
- Take advantage of your current location and visit bordering states for day trips or overnights.
24 States Visited Since 2012
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Visit 50 States Challenge Ideas
Most places we visit I write about. I love sharing our adventures and encouraging you to go out and experience them with your family.
I’ve organized the list below alphabetically by states we have visited and I wrote about. I will add to this list as we go. If we drove through a state but I didn’t write much about it, it will not be below.
I hope it inspires you and your family to get out and have more family time, while exploring the United States.
I love that this is a family goal that we can work towards and plan together. I fully expect us to reach these goals, although who knows when, but the benefits from working together to reach it far outweigh anything else. We have grown closer, learned more about each other, and have created lifetime memories.