Why Seeing All 50 States is On Our Family’s Travel Bucket List

April 13, 2018

Our family has five travel goals. This post is the first in a five-part series of posts that explain more about why our family selected each of our travel bucket list goals. In this post you’ll read more about why we chose our goal to see all 50 states. To see our progress on our travel goals and read about many of our travel destinations, you can look here. To get more bucket list ideas for your family, you can read our list of family travel bucket list ideas.

Links to the rest of this series can be found below:

Explore More of Our Own “Backyard”

Visit All Seven Continents

Experience As Many Sweeping Vistas, Mountains and National Parks as Possible Along the Way

Experience As Many Zip Lines as Possible Along the Way

If you want to learn more about how your family can create and reach their travel goals, you can subscribe here for my free quick and easy guide, How to Create Your Family’s Travel Bucket List:



Why did we select this bucket list goal?

There are many reasons why our family has a goal of seeing all 50 states in the US.

  • We live here – It’s our home country, so we want to see as much of it as we can.
  • We live in the Midwest – Where we live in Minnesota is somewhat centrally located in the country. Therefore, seeing the US doesn’t have to involve any long cross-country trips for us.
  • We love road trips – Related to the fact that we live in the Midwest, road trips are relatively doable for us to be able to see much of the country. Luckily, we love road trips! Our kids have been riding on big road trips since they were babies, in part because we visit family several states away at least once a year.
  • There is so much to see in the US – Once I met a guy from Australia who had just spent three weeks touring the US. His comment to me was that people around the world criticize Americans for not leaving their country, but now that he had been to the US, he had a better understanding why that is. I agree that Americans often are guilty of not venturing out to see other countries (and that they definitely should more often), but yeah, America also has an embarrassment of riches geographically and attraction-wise. It would be silly not to take advantage.

What we love about this bucket list goal?

There’s a lot to love about exploring your home country.

  • It’s comfortable – We know the language, and while there are definitely cultural differences to be found across the country, there is a lot we hold in common with the people of the US.
  • They speak our language – Literally.
  • Planning and logistics are usually easier than international destinations – We don’t need to navigate passports, currency exchanges, different electrical outlets, or many of those logistics that take a lot of energy.

What is challenging about this bucket list goal?

There are actually several challenges we have come across when working toward this travel goal.

  • What “counts” as visiting a state? For us, we decided that, in order for a visit to “count,” we had to have at least gotten out of our car to walk around on the ground of the state, which is a pretty loose interpretation. But it seems a little flimsy for a few of the states we’re counting. For example, a few years ago we crossed the very tip of the northwest corner of Pennsylvania when driving from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Cleveland. We got out of the car to get gas, and that was about it. We hardly scratched the surface of what is a large and lovely state. (For the record, I’ve been to Philadelphia, so I can officially count Pennsylvania without question, but the others in our family, well…)
  • How do we prioritize states we’ve barely experienced? So how do we then prioritize going back to Pennsylvania? Do we go back to it after we’ve seen all the other states? Or do we seize an opportunity to see some of Pennsylvania’s great attractions at the expense of adding other states to our list? There is no ideal solution.
  • What if we don’t remember going to a state? I have been to a lot of states on family road trips as a kid. My older sister swears we’ve been to North and South Carolina. I have no memory of it. But I counted it. Similarly, our son has been to Wyoming and Idaho, but he was 18 months old. Should our goal be to just get there, or to actually remember being there? For now we’re counting them, but I don’t know…it feels like we should get back to those states, too.


World is Wide Travel Gift Ideas

Looking for personalized gifts for the travel lovers in your life? Click above to see the keepsakes we create in our home in Minnesota!


What is our status on reaching our goal?

You can see our progress on this goal here. My husband created a handy map to illustrate who in our family has been where.

  • As of this writing, I (“Mom” on the map legend) have 42 states under my belt.
  • My husband (“Dad” on the map legend) also did some travel to states near his native Indiana. Both of us have gotten to do a decent amount of work travel around the US over the years as well.
  • Our youngest (“Daughter” on the map legend) has been to 19 states as I write this post. Not bad for an 11 year old, but she is itching to have a bigger number.
  • Her older brother (“Son” on the map legend) went on a vacation before his sister was born where he saw Wyoming and Idaho. He’s also been on a class trip to the Washington DC area.

Where do we want to go next for this goal?

Good question. We are trying to map out potential trips in the next few years. I’m not sure in what order we’ll get to these US destinations, but here are the trips we’ve talked most about:

Kentucky: While visiting my husband’s family in Indiana, we may try to make a day trip to neighboring states. First on our list would be Kentucky to see the rolling hills and horses.

Montana and North Dakota: My husband and kids have not been to these states yet. We are very intrigued by Glacier National Park, so I think we’ll try to do a road trip that encompasses Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park in Canada. This trip would also definitely qualify for our fourth goal to see as many mountains, sweeping vistas, and national parks as possible along the way.

Hawaii: Our daughter was born on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were a few early years where she harbored a grudge against Japan for ruining her birthday, but now she has embraced the fact that such an important event happened on her birthday. She would love to see the Pearl Harbor memorial. So would the rest of us. Our son also really wants to go to Volcanoes National Park. And it’s another opportunity to meet goal four (mountains, sweeping vistas, national parks).

New England: There are five states in New England I have yet to visit: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maine. It would be great to do a sweep of that area sometime. Luckily these states are relatively small geographically, so seeing them all in one trip would be feasible.