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Home / The Sunday Afternoons Blog / 8 Pro Tips for Pulling Off Adventure Travel with Kids


8 Pro Tips for Pulling Off Adventure Travel with Kids'

By Written by Amy Whitley for RootsRated Media in partnership with Sunday Afternoons.

August 17th, 2018

Do you glimpse adventurous travel photos online and long to elevate your next family vacation to include a little whitewater, a sea voyage, or a jungle trek? Or perhaps you fear your adventuring days are behind you now that you have kids. Banish the thought! Adventure travel with kids is absolutely possible, though admittedly it takes a bit more planning, preparation, and packing. The following pro tips will get you started on any adventure with the little ones.

1. Pick Your Adventure Destination with Logistics in Mind

Some outdoor destinations are simply easier to access than others. They are more welcoming to tourists and offer an infrastructure that’s easy to navigate. These countries and locations, such as Iceland, Canada, Thailand, Costa Rica, Croatia, and the United States offer great “entry level” adventure countries to check off the list. Adventuring with kids in British Columbia or southeast Alaska can feel as wild and exciting as far more exotic locations, yet travel there is relatively easy.

2. Select Outfitters and Guide Services Carefully

Some adventure destinations are easily tackled with a DIY mentality. Good examples: exploring Costa Rica’s national parks or camping in Iceland do not require experts to lead the way. However, less easily navigated countries or destinations with more severe language barriers do lend themselves to a guided experience. Families will want to book a reputable safari operation when traveling to South Africa or Tanzania. Look for organizations with lots of positive reviews from travel experts, and you want them to hire local employees (you want your guide to Machu Picchu to be from the Sacred Valley, for instance). Companies with fewer guests on each journey are usually preferable. Don’t be afraid to tack on extra days to spend exploring on your own in countries where you feel comfortable doing so.

3. Opt for Flights That Ensure Smoother Travel Days

It can be tempting to book that cheap flight itinerary with four stops each way, or that red-eye that gets in at zero-dark-thirty, but you’ll be regretting it with kids in tow, even if you did it all the time during your single days. It’s worth the upgrade to book as direct a flight as possible, and it’s always a good idea to schedule long-haul flights that work for your family (some kids sleep on planes and some, unfortunately, do not).

4. Prepare Kids to Unplug

Bring along games and puzzles to keep kids entertained without electronics. – Seika

If your kids aren’t used to it, the possibility of unplugging from devices on an adventure trip can be miserable. (But don’t worry, they get over it quickly.) Prepare them ahead of time by reducing screen time at home and leaving for the airport or road trip with plenty of off-line entertainment lined up. Visit your local library (yes, those still exist!) or download plenty of family-friendly podcasts. Young kids love pretend play; come equipped with felt boards, coloring books, and mind games and puzzles.

5. Dress for Success

This includes packing for success. Every family member will need destination-appropriate clothing and gear to ensure a great time. Even for summer trips, the layering method is key: bring wool or synthetic base layers for everyone, and make sure everyone has a light jacket and rain jacket, just in case. Wool socks and sturdy hiking shoes are almost always on the list. And don’t forget sun protection. Sunday Afternoons’ Kids’ Play Hat is your go-to sun protection choice for everything from safaris to rafting trips, and the Infant SunSprout is a good pick for babies and toddlers. The Kids’ Truckers are a fashionable pick for older kids.

6. Consider a True Wilderness Experience

If you’re comfortable in the wilderness yourself, don’t shy away from planning a multi-day backpacking or camping trip, even with babies and toddlers. Start small—think shorter distances and fewer nights—even a few miles into the backcountry can feel adventurous. If you’re not as outdoor savvy, consider a guided pack trip or river-rafting expedition (best for kids six and up). Multi-day river rafting trips are a great introduction to true outdoor adventure, and as a bonus, you don’t have to cook or plan your route. Ocean and lake kayaking trips teach kids water safety and navigation under careful supervision. Want to start small? Go on a dude ranch vacation or to a family adventure camp. Try “glamping,” where your outdoor experience may include chandeliers in your canvas tent or butler service before bedtime (good luck going back to regular camping after that). Even an RV trip can be adventurous if you choose the right destination.

7. Don’t Overlook an Adventure Cruise

Small ship cruising is fun for families. – Mack Lundy

When most people think of cruising, they think of crowded ships with evening entertainment and overpriced drinks. But small ship cruising is a world apart, and excellent for families. Ships can carry as few as 45 guests, and the average is under 100. Experienced adventure guides lead excursions off the ship daily, which equates to actually burning off those cruise calories. And families only have to pack and unpack once.

8. Be Flexible and Don’t Be Afraid to Let Kids Get Their Hands Dirty

You embarked on an adventure trip for a reason—to introduce your kids to the outdoors and encourage a love of nature. Let them play in the dirt, splash in the mud, check out that bug, and jump in that lake. To that end, pack extra clothes for everyone (if laundry services are hard to come by) and that includes a second pair of adventure-ready shoes for each kid. Don’t forget the small items, such as headlamps (with extra batteries), cameras, a high-quality charger or two for electronics (solar is a nice touch), and journals for everyone to record their adventures.

Enjoy your adventure vacation. Before you’re back, you’ll already be planning your next one.