Enjoy the Family Vacation of a Lifetime

Physician's Money Digest, September15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 17

Family adventure trips are hot. Outfitters specializingin active itineraries reported an 80% increasein bookings in 2003, and 2004 is following suit.More and more specialists in adventure travel are recognizingthat family trips are a booming niche.

Itineraries that used to be designed solely foradults are becoming fine-tuned to please the kids too.What these outfitters provide is something that parentsalready know: Kids would rather "do" than"look at." Therefore, active recreation (eg, bicycling,rafting, camping, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking,and hiking) is an essential ingredient.

Summertime Family Fun

Twelve lucky youngsters, their parents, and, in twocases, their grandparents kayaked last summer amongAlaska's icebergs to gawk at seals and paddle the edgesof wilderness fjords, scouting for bear. Out in the inflatabletender, humpback whales emerged closer thanclose. So did the enormous LeConte Glacier whenviewed from a bush pilot's plane. The kids had the timeof their lives, and so did the grownups.

Other families hiked through strange rock formationscalled "hoodoos" in Utah's Bryce National Parkand clambered over and around nearby Zion NationalPark's monumental monoliths. Others, holding tight tothe belief that a family adventure should involve tents,chose to go camping. But this time, they cheerfully relinquishedthe pitching of the tents, meal preparation, andhauling of recreational gear to an outfitter.

Adventure Outfitters

There are several outfitters that can get you startedon your quest for the perfect family adventure.Abercrombie & Kent (800-554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com) offers nearly 2 dozen diverse, generationalitineraries. American Safari Cruises' Kids inNature program (888-862-8881; www.amsafari.com)includes the Sea of Cortez as well as Alaska.

Among the many adventures California-basedBackroads offers families (800-462-2848; www.backroads.com), ten involve a tent. Butterfield & Robinson(800-678-1147; www.butterfield.com) ensures thatyoungsters meet other kids their age by grouping tripsinto four different age levels. Country Walkers (802-244-2387; www.countrywalkers.com) tweaks options,accommodations, and activities to create tailor-madefamily adventures.

Of course, don't forget about our national parks.The Yellowstone Association Institute (307-344-2294;www.yellowstoneassociation.org), in partnership withthe National Park Service, offers two outdoor coursesthat are exclusively set-aside for families with kids ages8 to 12. Activities include animal tracking, wildlifewatching, photography, painting, and hiking. Other USnational parks offer similar programs.

Travelers' Checklist

Family adventure trips should be equally fulfilling forboth the youngsters and grownups. Flexibility, freedom,and fun are keywords. Before booking your vacation, askabout kid-friendly options, such as shorter hiking andbiking routes. Find out if professional, enthusiastic guideswill be leading the trip and if it truly is a trip especiallydesigned for families—not just a "bring the kids along ifyou want to" type of trip. Also find out how many otherchildren will be going on the trip and what their ages are.

Note:

While it goes without saying that high-qualityrecreational equipment and the utmost concern forsafety should be at the top of all outfitters' lists, be sureto inquire about safety. In addition, although togethernessis the goal, realize that both kids and adults maydesire time alone. Last but not least, remember toinvolve the kids in the planning of the trip. Manyoutfitters offer special family travel deals and discounts,so it pays to ask about them.