With all due respect to Lewis and Clark, Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), navigating the wilderness with kids is certainly more difficult than traveling on your own. Traveling Moms make hiking and camping with kids look easy, but we’ve made mistakes along the way. Planning outdoor family adventure? Read on for these Tips from Traveling Moms.
National Wilderness Month: Outdoor Family Adventure
America has some of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems in the world. We all know that the U.S. was once all wilderness, but industrialization and expanding populations changed all that. After watching America’s natural resources dwindle, its citizens eventually took action and the result was the 1964 Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
To honor and support the continued protection of what remains of wilderness in this country, this year President Obama proclaimed September as National Wilderness Month, so it is a great time to plan your next outdoor family adventure.
Here are some of Traveling Moms best tips and adventures with kids across the U.S. and beyond in the great outdoors.
Outdoor Family Adventure: Day Hiking with Kids
When Discovery Traveling Mom, Eden Pontz took her family hiking on the Haystack Mountain Trail in Maine, she found that encouraging her children to collect natural treasures added to their enjoyment on their outdoor family adventure. During their hike, her daughter collected a handful of things, like pebbles, sticks, and snail shells, that she used later for projects in school.
Eden recommends the Haystack Trail to families with younger children because it has chapters of a children’s book posted on signposts along the trail. The books, thanks to a partnership with the Regional School District, change seasonally so children have something new to look forward to each year.
A great resource for kids who like to scavenger hunt is Into the Fields kits published by Downtown Bookworks. Their A Walk in the Woods kit includes easy-to-read nature guides along with a magnifier jar and collecting bag.
Younger Children? Start with Short Test Hikes
Spontaneous Traveling Mom, Amanda Topinka, recommends taking younger children on short test hikes first before bringing them on a full hike with the whole family. One tip I wish I’d know was to not tell kids you are going on a “hike,” but that you are going on an adventure! And although hiking can be an educational experience, don’t use that word.
Keeping your Outdoor Family Adventure Safe
Candid Traveling Mom, Patty Holliday, and her family have hiked the Grand Canyon many times. For her, safety is always a top priority. On all high terrain hikes, she has a strict rule that her family must stay several feet from the Canyon’s edge, especially when taking photos.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but once during a hike in Oregon, I was standing still taking a photo of Mt. Hood when my feet literally slipped out from under me on the gravel stones. Luckily, being afraid of heights, I was well away from the mountain’s edge.
Learn From Our Traveling Mom Mistakes!
Nature Traveling Mom, Jacquie Fisher and her family are regular hikers. She knows from experience the mistakes that beginners can make.
The most common mistake is not bringing enough water. Always bring more than you think you need, and each family member should have their own water bottle. Sharing among younger children may seem like a good idea, but someone always ends up thirsty and cranky.
Fisher also advises families to wear closed toed walking shoes with good rubber treads. She always brings extra socks for everyone because someone always ends up with wet feet even on the driest of days.
We’ve learned that comfortable quick dry pants and shorts work best – photo by Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom
Wear AND Bring the Right Gear on your Family Outdoor Adventure
Gringa Traveling Mom, Marina Kuperman Villatoro, made the mistake of wearing jeans on her first hike up the Acatenago Volcano in Guatemala. She cautions families to learn about the changing weather before attempting any hike — and always wearing and bringing the right gear.
During her hike, the weather went from hot and sunny to rainy and extremely windy. Her jeans became heavy from the rain and the wind chilled her to the bone. She’s since tried lots of hiking pants but her favorites are convertible (convert to shorts) pants made of a quick dry fabric like nylon.
Camping: Full on Nature
Camping comes in many forms, from full-service campgrounds to full-on wilderness overnight camping.
The best advice I received was from a wilderness tour guide was to take everything you think you need on your first overnight camping trip. Then when you return home note, everything you did not use and remove it from your camping list.
Frequent campers Rural Traveling Mom, Amanda Williams and Credit Card Traveling Mom, Yvonne Jasinski both agree that preparation is key. Yvonne’s number one camping must-have is numerous Ziploc bags and containers to keep everything from cameras to sandwiches dry. She also recommends oversized plastic garbage bags for packing wet tents and gear back into your car.
Unstoppable Traveling Mom, Susie Kellogg has taken her twelve (yes 12) children on many hiking and camping trips so you should take her advice seriously. She learned the hard way to always make a reservation if your ultimate destination is a popular campground. Twelve kids and no place to camp equals one unhappy bunch of kids!
Glamping your Outdoor Family Adventure: Nature For the Rest of Us
Not all Traveling Moms love camping and the great outdoors. Some prefer their nature with a few creature comforts and others like straight up glamping. Of course, still others prefer to skip it altogether.
If you think that sleeping under the stars would not be so much fun, maybe a little reverse psychology will work. There are a lot of amazing wilderness areas across the country to explore, but you are not guaranteed they will always be there so enjoy them while you can.