Adventure travel has come a long way in the past few decades. Destinations and activities once reserved for only the hardiest of souls are now open to active travelers of all ages and abilities-including kids!
Family adventure travel could be as mellow as a weekend stay at a Colorado dude ranch or as "out there" as a week heli-skiing in Iceland. It all depends on your family's interests, experience and budget. Here are some tips for finding the most ideal adventure vacation for you: Narrow down your adventure focus.
- Narrow down your adventure focus. Get a feel for the different adventure options available with some perusing of the Internet. Gordon's Guide is an award-winning web site that calls itself a "supermall" of adventure travel, listing more than 700 adventure and active travel companies. Family Adventure Magazine has compiled different adventures by "destinations" and by "interests and activities."
On these two websites, you'll find a number of different outfitters. A few I think are pretty neat are Wildland Adventures, an eco-travel company offering family safaris to Kenya and cruises to the Galapagos; GORP Travel, with hiking in Montana and snorkeling in Belize; Thomson Family Adventures, offering cultural trips to China and camping in Peru; and Backroads, with biking in Italy and kayaking in Canada.
- Check age minimums. Once you've narrowed the focus, whether it's touring the Costa Rican rainforest or rafting the Grand Canyon, be sure to check the age or weight requirements for the trip. You don't want to get all excited about going hot-air ballooning in France with your kindergartener, only to find out that kids under age six aren't allowed.
- Make sure there's something for everyone. Outfitters that specialize in family adventure trips know that they need to please Mom, Dad, teenage brother and younger sister. So it's likely your trip will have enough action-or time to relax-for every member of the family. Similarly, if a young child's legs get too tired on a stretch of biking or hiking, there's probably a "sag wagon," or shuttle bus, that can take him to the next destination. Just confirm that kids will be able to "opt out" of a particular activity as needed.
- Prep the family for what's involved. Once you've booked your trip-typically by phone or online with the particular outfitter, or through your local travel agent-make sure everyone knows what's involved. Inform your kids, for example, that they'll be spending three nights in an eco-lodge in Brazil, with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Or, if you'll be traipsing at least five miles every day through the Swiss Alps, start hiking at home to prepare for your active trip.
- Don't forget immunizations. If you're visiting foreign regions like India, Central America or Africa, you might need some vaccinations to keep you healthy. Visit the Centers for Disease Control Traveler's Health website for its recommendations.
- Remember that most young children find even the most mild of trips an adventure. For little kids, simply camping outside is a huge deal. If you're just introducing adventure travel to your preschool-age children, start small. Make their first adventure vacation a winner, and you'll get them hooked-paving the way for more active, exotic travels in the future.