How to plan a relaxed Summer trip to Yosemite National Park

Have you ever wanted to visit Yosemite National Park? Did you wind up going down the rabbit hole of guides, planners, and schedules just to find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out? Did you end up canceling the trip before even booking that family vacation of your dreams because of the overwhelm?

Well you’re in good hands because we just returned from a few days in Yosemite with our 4 kids and RV (which we live in full-time). I’m here to give you the relaxed know-how!

Don’t have or live in an RV? Well, worry not dear friends, I have options for you too! Read on to learn how to plan a fun and easy vacation to Yosemite National Park with your family. This is the stress-free guide to a laid back trip. I hope you have the chance to experience this beautiful vacation destination this Summer.

I’ve including where to stay, how to get there (including a great way to actually get into the park) and what to pack in!

When you’re done reading this, you’ll see that it only takes one afternoon to plan a laid back trip to the beautiful Yosemite National Park.

meadow loop trail


Where to stay?

I know that this may be the trickiest part of the trip! With such an enormous park, so many small towns nearby, and a plethora of options, where to stay may be the toughest choice you’ll make! So as you know, we live in our RV full-time. We absolutely love it and one big reason we chose this lifestyle was so that we could travel often without ever “leaving home”! 

We chose to stay in an RV park called, Yosemite Pines RV Park. It’s seriously cute, really laid back, and sweet. However, there’s very little access to wifi/data. You’ll truly feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere which we absolutely LOVE. Besides, isn’t that the whole point of breaking away? Don’t have an RV? No problem! They seriously have such cute options here! You can choose a yurt, a cabin, or A COVERED WAGON!! They’re actually huge and can easily fit a family of four! 

Looking for a hotel?

We ran into the gorgeous Rush Creek Lodge which has a restaurant, tavern, pool, spa, the cutest store ever, as well as a Yarts bus stop (more on that later). While we didn’t stay there, we did stop by on our way into the park for some snacks, drinks, and bug spray! It’s beautiful and the staff was very friendly which is so important to me since I’d literally rather give my money away then spend it somewhere that has bad customer service! Anyone else?

If you’re looking to actually sleep inside the park, I honestly can’t help you too much there because you have to make reservations the moment they become available and to stay in Camp 4, you have to enter a “lottery” the day prior. 

Honestly, that’s all a bit too stressful for me so we didn’t do that but if you’re up for the challenge, you can find the links and more information here: 


Lodging within the park:

yosemite hike
yosemite summer trip

Traveling into the park

Wondering how to actually get into the park? Well, this is actually a two part answer! As I’m writing this during the Summer of 2021 where advanced reservations are required to enter. Couldn’t snag a spot? I couldn’t either which consequently landed us a great surprise! I’ll let you know how we got into Yosemite and why I recommend it for you as well! I’ll also cover transportation methods so buckle up for some fast and quick information!

  • Reservations open about four days in advance. They’re valid for three continuous days but you can only go for one, two, or all three of those days. If you plan on driving into the main park, you absolutely have to get a reservation! You can do that by logging into

“Reservations are available each day at 8 am Pacific time. Reservations are taken almost immediately. Be sure to have an account and be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 8 am Pacific time.”
  • Couldn’t get a reservation or not up for the stress of it all? Well here’s what we did, we actually booked our seats on YART’s and it was well worth it. The round-trip cost was a total of about $60 for the six of us and we didn’t have to worry about driving, getting a ticket, or decide where to go within the park because as first-timers. Consequently, the overwhelm of choosing a place to begin didn’t exist. Getting dropped off and picked up at the visitor center was perfect for our first trip to Yosemite. 
  • For transportation, we used YARTs public transportation but if you’re driving into or staying within the park, I highly recommend bringing bicycles so you can see and do more (or do less but be in certain places for longer). However, I also regret not bringing our stroller as the paths are all paved, extremely smooth, and tired kiddos being carried (and falling asleep). That may be the biggest take-away for me! It definitely makes traveling within the park with kiddos much easier!
YARTS bus to Yosemite

Please note all of these snapshots are from my phone. Completely unedited. I want you to see how easy and relaxed the whole experience was. No fancy gear or stress when I have to wrangle 4 adventurous kids!

Thoughts of a photographer
family summer trip in Yosemite

Things to bring into the park

This is going to be a straight-up bullet point list. I’ll skip the special needs portions (like obviously diapers, wipes, medication, or anything unique to your family and needs) and just skip to the things everyone will need.

  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray (the deep woods kind…we tried the natural and DEET free stuff…it did not work!)
  • Twice as much water as you think you’ll need. I expected water refill stations and regrettably, there I didn’t find any in Yosemite. The stores are far from the hiking areas and close down early so it’s not the most reliable thing either.
  • Snacks…A LOT of snacks! Granola/CLIF bars, fruit that travels well (think apples, bananas, blueberries, and pears. Avoid raspberries and blackberries…just trust me on this one! LOL). Sandwiches, jerky, and other sturdy foods will help keep you energized.
  • If you plan on getting in the water which I 100% recommend and was the best part of our trip: swimmies (our family word for swimsuits), a few towels, and water shoes (there’s some major rock action and it will hurt your feet (again, learn from us! LOL)
  • Sunglasses, hats, etc. because you’ll be out in the sun more than you may think.
yosemite summer vacation
water in yosemite national park


Looking to book the perfect family, engagement, or elopement photography session while in California and/or Yosemite? Please contact me and I’ll be there with bells and whistles! Can’t wait to capture your memories in such a magical place!


yosemite park trail


Well friends, I hope this little guide helps! 

You should now be comfortable booking your lodging, transportation, and know what to bring (did I mention more water than you thought you needed?)

Stay tuned for more another post next week about what hikes we did within the park and a really special day we spent within Yosemite but outside of the main park that doesn’t require an advanced reservation!


meadow trail Yosemite


Links to lodging and buses below!

Yosemite Pines RV and Campground:

Rush Creek Lodge:

YARTS buses:

To learn more about what a photo experience with me looks (and feels) like, click here!


family trip in yosemite


Jailyn Untalan is a mom of four, Marine wife and veteran, explorer, photographer, and always laughs out loud.


Want to work with me for your Family trip?


I’m located in South Carolina but love to travel!


Click here to see what my portrait experience is like 🙂 

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