Find out what your family is interested in
The first step in taking the Ultimate family vacation that will wow your family is figuring out what you can do that might interest the group. Epic Trek’s proprietary quiz will help you make decisions based on a few simple answers. Whether it’s hiking, an adventure course nearby, boating, fishing, or guided tours, there is something for everyone. The best vacations for families are those that bring the group together with a chance to collectively (and safely) disconnect from the normal stressors of life and connect with each other. Most families these days do not have time or are too entrenched in technology to focus on the simpler things in life to be grateful for, each other.
The outdoors are the perfect getaway for a vacation in the time of COVID-19. It is understood that many indoor options are risky and most likely, already closed. When amusement parks are no longer interesting and stress levels are at an all-time high, turning to nature is the perfect remedy. Getting outside provides a safe alternative to most other vacation activities and nature’s effects on us are proven to reduce stress and increase togetherness.
Get the logistics out of the way
One of the first things to consider when planning your outdoor adventure is the bottom line budget of course! One of the benefits of an outdoor vacation is accessibility at any level of investment. Whether you are looking to trek at a great distance from home with a considerable budget or looking to spend a minimum with a local trek through an arboretum, the options are endless. How far you are willing to travel is a great place to begin! Figuring out a perimeter on a map if you are driving or considering your budget for train, bus, or plane travel is an important first step.
Next, consider the current pandemic. How does this affect your family travel? Perhaps you are not comfortable with public transportation at this time. If this is the case, that is important to consider because a drive will impact your distance traveled. If you decide to drive you are not alone: 67% of 2000 internet users aged 18+ say travel by road trip by car is their choice of vacation travel before a vaccine is available (mintel). If you are driving, you will need to consider gas costs and your level of comfort with stopping at public rest areas at this time.
What can you do outside with teens?
Will my kids like the outdoor adventures? The short answer is, yes! While there are so many fun options for the whole family, hiking is a great first activity to try. Let’s face the reality, it’s been a bad year for us all. However, for the average American teen 2020 has been downright miserable. Normally a time of self-discovery, social navigation, first tastes of freedom and exploration is replaced with lockdown, altered schedules, and social isolation. Everyone is sad and most have experienced some form of depression due to the pandemic. The benefits of Hiking on our mental and overall health are proven. Researchers from Stanford University found hiking reduces stress, calms anxiety, and leads to a lowers risk of depression (nps.gov).
For most school-aged teens, interruptions in education are widespread. Hiking is an excellent opportunity to learn. In fact, the vital life lessons that hiking can teach are priceless beyond the classroom. One of the most important lessons is resilience, no two trails are alike and they can pose unique navigational obstacles and challenges. However, to get to the top for the epic views, one must not give up. And if a fall or navigational challenge ensues, the resilience to keep going will long remain with your family beyond the trail.
Getting ready for your family’s first hiking adventure can be part of the fun! There are many great books and movies about hiking that can entertain and inform you before you go. While you can find a full list of best-hiking movies anywhere online, some of the favorites we recommend:
- Into The Wild
- A Walk In The Woods
Ideas to start locally
National park visits are a great bet to get started on your outdoor adventure journey. There are many park service days, especially on National Holidays where the entrance to the park is free or discounted. In addition, there are many options for students and military families to enjoy reduced entrance fees. Once your family begins making hiking trips to local or National Parks, why not make a game of it?
Gamifying your journeys can increase interest in achieving a collective goal. Once your family is done collecting stuffed animals, why not start collecting adventure? Some great ideas include rewarding the family with a favorite dinner after achieving certain distance milestones and/or a number of places visited. Creating picture albums of the beautiful scenery will provide great memories and stories for years to come. Or why not challenge your family to achieve a hike up to your local highest elevations? Reaching this goal provides bonding opportunities and some great achievements to post on your social media.
How to pack
Packing for a day hike or a multi-day travel adventure varies with your plans. If you are just beginning you may want to pick up some gear for a day hike. Buying gear does not necessarily need to be expensive as there are many sites that provide gently used alternatives or good bargains. The REI outlet is a great commerce site to buy and sell used items and get gear on the cheap.
What should I pack for a day hike? While that can also vary with budget and hike time, here is a basic hiking list to get you started:
- weather appropriate layers (think moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics)
- Hiking boots or shoes
- water bottles or hydration packs
- healthy snacks like trail mix and fruit
- Mini first-aid kit
- camera (most phones are perfect for use)
- Navigational compass or map
The most important thing to keep in mind is your family! However, you decide to get outside and enjoy the scenery, make sure you cherish the moment and each other.