When it comes to planning the perfect adventure travel trip, children are notorious for being unimpressed by grand vistas, spectacular scenery, and hair-raising excursions like zip lines. Between the rugged cross-country road trip and a visit to a theme park, most kids will take the latter. This makes adventure travel with kids a strange paradox. While it may be adventurous for you, the parent, your child may react differently depending on what you’ve decided to do.
Let’s be honest, kids are just as likely to be thrilled by the foot showers at the hotel as by body surfing in the ocean. To introduce your kids to adventure travel, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what type of “adventure” your child might be craving, and how far outside of their comfort zone you’re willing to push them.
To stave off the planning panic, we’ve come up with six suggestions when planning an adventure travel getaway with your children.
- Consider your child’s interests
What does your child like to do, given free time? Does he or she like drawing, music, or reading? Does he or she love sports, exploring the woods nearby, or video games?
Consider how you will meet your child’s needs for “fun” on this adventure travel trip you are planning, and once you’ve got some ideas, tell her or him what they are. Create a sense of excitement about the activities you’ve planned. Let your child know that there will be something fun and familiar on the trip.
- Use structured play to prepare them for the real adventure
Adventure travel can be augmented (or preceded) with four or five days in a resort, where child-friendly activities abound. If you know that rafting down that river in Costa Rica is probably going to stress and/or bore your child, plan something more relaxing for the second leg of your vacation.
Resorts also offer plenty of adventure, such as horseback riding and snorkeling. Locations like dude ranches can be effective blends of the rugged with the resort-life. This can be a way to introduce adventure travel before the big family vacation island hopping on a sailboat next summer.
- Ask and include
For older children, including them in the planning is a perfect way to get them excited about the idea of adventure travel. Beyond asking them what you could do that he or she would like, try to see if they’d like to plan a section of the trip, or do some of their own research into the activities and excursions available on your upcoming trip. Involve your kid in the planning process and you’ll get—at the very least—more excitement about the trip.
- Bring a friend
If you can afford it, and don’t mind the extra work of supervising two (or more) kids, consider having your child bring a friend. Even if a mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon bores him, his buddy might really like it. Better yet, take a group of your kid and his or her friends out on a backpacking trip. Although strenuous to plan, backpacking can be one of the best ways to teach your kids essential outdoor skills and show them the basics of adventure travel.
- Teach skills and responsibility
Everyone wants to feel competent, whether you’re a child or adult. If you are camping—an excellent adventure for kids—teach fire building skills, how to filter water, or to properly tie up a kayak. During down time, teach ropes and knots. Every kid will enjoy expanding their skill repertoire. Double-down on skill building and give your kid (over 10) a responsibility around the camp.
- Keep your expectations realistic
While you may want to plan the most extensive trip possible, your children might not need to be impressed by the scenery of Yosemite right off the bat. Rather than trying to impress your kids with the scenery and activities, let the joy and adrenaline of a new adventure inspire them, and keep your expectations level on the first few tries at adventure travel.
Check in with your child on a regular basis, but, mostly, see what they enjoy and make sure they are informed about what you are doing as a family. At the very least, every trip is a new opportunity to seek adventure, whether you’re traveling close to home or abroad.