TIPS | Meal Planning
Planning an Active Family Vacation
An active family adventure can be a canoe ride on a nearby lake or a hiking trip in a national park. With some creative vacation planning, your next family vacation can create lasting memories and a better foundation for health.
By Kristen Stewart
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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With three children under age 5, a simple trip to the grocery store can be a family adventure for Debbie Dubrow of Seattle. However, that hasn’t stopped Dubrow and her husband from enjoying a range of family vacations from New Mexico to New York City and beyond, all with the kids in tow.
“We started traveling with our kids because we simply weren’t willing to give up travel just because we had kids,” says Dubrow, author of . “As the kids grow, I’m just as interested in what they get out of it as what I get out of it.”
Not only can travel expand kids’ horizons, a vacation can also be a great time to connect with your family — and get a little exercise in the process. An adventure vacation can re-energize you and get you started on family fitness, a healthy lifestyle habit you can continue at home. While planning an active family vacation can sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Here are five great ideas for adventure vacations to get you started.
Adventure Vacation Planning
- The great outdoors.Hiking, biking, white-water rafting, and horseback riding are just a few fun adventure vacations that allow families to enjoy nature. If you’re looking for something a little different and are near water, snorkeling can be fun, as can kayaking and canoeing. While natural environments anywhere in the country make excellent destinations, do consider national and state parks as well. “The United States contains some of the planet’s greatest national parks and some really amazing state parks,” says Erin Claudio, adventure programs coordinator at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yellowstone are just some examples of places that offer a combination of hotels and wonderful dining opportunities for when your family has had enough of sleeping on the ground and campfire meals.”
- The urban jungle.For those wanting a family adventure in the city, the choices are endless. “New York is probably the best, and most children won’t even notice how much territory they are covering on foot since there is so much to see and do and everyone else is walking,” says Lauren Goldenberg, owner of The Family Traveler, a travel agency based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Between playgrounds in Central Park, a wide array of sports choices at Chelsea Piers, and certain sections of the city closed to traffic on weekends to allow plenty of space for running, biking, and rollerblading, New York City can be an excellent place for families to get active. Other great cities to consider when vacation planning: hilly San Francisco and Boston with its Freedom Trail.
- Inexpensive cruises.While some cruises can be pricey, with careful vacation planning it is possible to find choices at a reasonable cost. Many ships have everything from waterslides and swimming pools to rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, walking tracks, and gyms. When in port, there are plenty of fitness opportunities, such as water sports on local beaches, bike tours, and more.
- All-inclusive resorts.“There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean that are well priced,” says Goldberg. “Here you have plenty of water sports and land sports along with gyms, fitness classes, and special children’s activities that can include games, sports, and other such things.”
- Do-it-yourself activity.Even if you don’t include “active” in your vacation planning per se, it’s easy to incorporate exercise wherever you go. Walk, hike, or swim laps in the hotel pool. Public parks, playgrounds, and open spaces exist everywhere. Tuck a ball or Frisbee into your suitcase and you’re ready to play. Even the airport can be a place to be active. “Many airports have a playground,” says Dubrow, “but if yours does not, an empty gate area is a great place to ask your kids to run relay races, jump up and down, or do whatever else you think might get their jiggles out.”
Where you go is less important than making sure all members of the family enjoy themselves. “Remember, the purpose of your vacation is to get out, move your body, and have a little fun,” says Tracy Newton, a travel agent at Worldview Travel in Santa Ana, Calif. “Oftentimes children are excited to do things that adults may overlook: simple things like jumping on a subway or a trolley in San Francisco, running on the beach, or riding a bike on an old farm road. As adults we often forget what it’s like to be 5 years old.
Video: Steps to plan a family vacation
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