Are you cut out for adventure travel with your kids? I mean off-the-beaten path, beyond the all-inclusive resort vacation. Have you considered renting a house and immersing yourselves in the language, cuisine and customs of a different culture? What about boosting your adrenaline with sports that get you up close and personal with nature’s waves, water, wind and trails?
Like many new parents, my husband and I were concerned having children would hinder our opportunities for spontaneous travel. How could we adventure travel, yet still meet our children’s needs for stability? We were determined to find a balance—and we have! In the past year, our girls have gone rock climbing and hiking in Colorado, trekked in the rainforest and river beds of Costa Rica, and surfed in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. We paddleboarded around islands and through mangroves at Rookery Bay Estuarine Sanctuary, and rode horses along the Central American coastline. We’ve danced in the moonlight, practiced yoga and gone kiteboarding. We played on beaches, and chased sea snakes and wild horses. We’ve tried new foods and got tummy bugs, cuddled stray cats, learned Spanish, got cold, got wet, got hot, tired, hungry and then happy, again. We wouldn’t replace any of it for the world.
Are you ready for your own family adventure? Consider these principles for family adventure success!
Set Expectations: Be realistic and clear about what you expect from your children during your travels. In all fairness, you might consider including yourself in the “rules” and expectations. For instance, we expect that our children try new foods when we travel. We then model this willingness by also trying new foods.
We expect our children to exercise regularly, so we include something active everyday. Because no one is a fan of “melt downs”, we model kindness and patience (not always perfectly, albeit), even during flight delays, cancelations and detours! Recently, a canceled flight out of Naples re-routed us through Tampa. We got creative and found an amazing organic, raw food restaurant in South St. Petersburg. We had a good attitude and it allowed us to find solutions and feel successful instead of stuck!
Adventure is when you don’t know what’s going to happen next: This is how we start every trip, and what we return to often when plans go awry. It’s a simple motto for travel and life. We plan for the best, but expect a curveball every now and then. Disappointment loses its grip and we see the opportunity for adventure instead!
Home is where the family is: I admit that my children are inherent “home bodies”. They loved being home with their dog when we still had him and miss their cat when we are away. They got stuck with wanderlust parents and I am convinced they will end up with desk jobs and hobbies like window box gardening and knitting just to counterbalance their adventurous childhoods. I started saying this to my first born when she was only one year old and occasionally cried about missing her “cribby” at home.
Forget FOMO: Very important principle! FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out. Once I got over this, I could miss almost any event or party while I was away and not feel bad, guilty or like I was “missing out”. Being totally committed to travel is rewarding. Those people who don’t support your travel, well, you know what they say, are they real friends, after all? What you and your children will have to share will be interesting and will hopefully spark others to venture out, as well!
Snacks: Practical and obvious. Many a meltdown can be averted with regular and somewhat familiar snacks. While we do expect our children to try new foods when we travel, it is important to have snacks that are appealing, healthy and sustaining during long travel days.
Patience: When you figure out the perfect solution to keeping yourself and your children patient during flight changes, zip line closures, airport lines, shuttle lines, bus lines and more…let me know. Music, I spy, stories and good ol’ handheld devices like iPods and books are helpful. My best advice is to set the example- if your children see you practicing patience and playing games with them to pass the time, then they will model that with each other.
Service and Gratitude: We already play The Grateful Game. On our recent trip to Dominican Republic we pre-planned an opportunity to visit a non-profit organization called The Mariposa Foundation. We brought a big duffle bag of essential items, including school supplies, books and everyday necessities. My daughters assisted me in delivering a meaningful day of empowerment activities. Hands-on experiences with children from different cultures who live with far less materially will expand your child’s cultural awareness, gratitude and empathy.
Even with all of the above rules, keep in mind there will still be personal hurdles. For me, it’s public restrooms. I still insist on my girls covering the toilet seat with paper in public restrooms, that is, if there is a toilet seat (we’ve encountered some on our travels with none)! It is situations like these that remind me of my last suggestion- pack your humor in your carry on and don’t leave home without it! And always remember, no matter if you have the wrong gear in the wrong weather and have made a wrong turn…if you have the right attitude, you’ll have been successful!