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KOA camping

(Who knew camping could be so comfortable? Photo: KOA) 

Modern campers are eager to reconnect with nature, spend more time with family and friends and explore new territory.

If you are inclined to camp wiht the kids, here are five ideas to consider.

1. Get in to the back country. 

For the purest connection to nature, make your way off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure, whether that be early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.


2. Connect at the campground. 

KOA, the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds, has evolved since its inception in 1962. Choose your camping style and destination from among 485 locations in North America and access tent sites, RV hookups, cabins, playgrounds and a range of recreational facilities. Then, let the fun begin.


3. Go glamping. 

If staking a tent is not your idea of fun, glamping, or glamorous camping, might be for you. The walls may be canvas, but the experience is anything but ordinary. High-thread-count bedding, luxury furnishings, fine dining and uncommon outings often led by top-notch guides define the experience in locales around the world.


4. Sleep in a yurt. 

Snooze to the sound of the tumbling Trinity River as it winds its way past the resort near Big Flat, Calif. The 30-foot Pacific Yurt is set amid the Trinity Wilderness Area where bird-watching, fishing, hiking and canoeing await. Enjoy road and mountain biking or check out local music festivals. Learn about the organic coffee grown on-site and enjoy a fresh cup as the morning sun warms the day.


5. There’s no place like home. 

Family camping can help stir a deep and lifelong interest in the natural world. Therefore, early, positive experiences matter. Discuss the details and set clear expectations. For the youngest set, consider an overnight in the backyard or nearby park. That way, if the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plans, warm and dry shelter is nearby.

Becky Edwards Montana Mountain Mamas

When I was knee-high to the cattle roaming near my Midwestern home, my grandfather gave me a block of old barn wood for my birthday. Burned into it was that famous Helen Keller quote, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  My grandfather knew a thing or two about growing things in the dirt, and about his precocious granddaughter.

Later, in a relatively abbreviated period of time, I went from a deliciously luxurious life spent marinating in grand adventures, near and far, to the sometimes austere and certainly crazed life of a single mama running her own business and running after a tiny human.

Where do great adventures factor in?

Do I still take that Chamonix ski trip, but this time pack in my kiddo instead of my ice tools?  Do I throw caution to the Montana wind and buy a ticket to New Zealand? Or do I now buy two tickets and download 20 hours of cartoons to the iPad for the flight?  And do I realize a lifelong dream of learning how to sail, press pause on my Montana life and allow the winds to carry me around the globe…albeit this time with a tiny-human sized life jacket aboard?

The answer is simple.

Yes, yes and YES!

I’ve made many mistakes at this parenting game that I've tackled on my own.

But what I am most proud of, what really sends the gooey, chocolate center of my heart into palpitation, is when my daughter runs up to me and says, “Mama, let’s go on an ADVENTURE!”

Now, to a nearly 3 year-old the term ‘adventure’ means a slew of different things.  We often load up on crusty bread and ‘adventure’ on our bikes to the MSU duck pond and share carbs with our webbed friends.  We also ‘adventure’ to nearby Yellowstone National Park for geyser gallivanting, to practice our elk calls and then spend the evening bouldering on grassy slopes high above Gardiner with Electric Peak on the horizon.  And most recently, ‘adventuring’ has included Kaia’s inflatable dragon floatie that we’ve launched for many aquatic missions across Montana’s rivers and lakes (Lake Upsata is a recent favorite…full of lily blossoms, loons and trumpeter swans!).

As my daughter grows older, she continues to astound me with her simple wisdom.  She is correct in that ‘adventuring’ does not always have to include lengthy plane rides, schlepping gear up a far-flung mountain or river, and scaring myself silly in general.  All of that is good in moderation, but what we are so lucky to enjoy in Montana is the spectrum of adventure.  From meandering ambles scouting for bear grass on the Whitefish Trail in northwestern Montana, to leisurely canoe paddles in the stunning Missouri River breaks, to dawn patrol backcountry ski days filled with homemade muffins and fresh powder tele turns in Hyalite just south of Bozeman…we can fill our boots with adventure in any fashion we choose.

All we have to do is walk out our front door.

Becky Edwards is a runner, climber, skier and all around mountain lover who resides in the shadows of the Bridger Range with her family.  She owns a communications and marketing consulting company: SunSnowCreative.

 kids fly solo 

School breaks mean more kids are on the move.  Whether heading to camp, to visit family or connect with friends, solo flights often become part of a family’s travel plan. Here are five tips to consider when putting your child on a plane:

1. Is your child ready to fly solo?

Consider your youngster’s maturity, travel experience and ability to handle new situations when making plans. Will he or she be comfortable taking direction from airline representatives? How will your child manage during take-off, landing and down time while in the air?  Should weather or other unpredictable events cause a delay, will your child be able to cope? Consider a practice trip to the airport if he or she has little air travel experience.

2. Airlines and age restrictions.

When checking flight options know that policies, prices and possibilities vary by carrier. Children as young as five typically may fly as “unaccompanied minors” (UMs) on direct flights. Those eight to 14, depending on the carrier, can fly on connecting flights. Again, depending on the airline, young people 12 to 17 need not fly with assistance, although it is available upon request. Some carriers will not allow an unaccompanied minor to travel with a connection on the last flight of the day, in an effort to avoid issues should delays occur.

3. At the airport.

Bring proper ID for you and your child as well as information about who will meet the young traveler at the destination. Most airlines will provide a form requesting all necessary information. You’ll be able to get a gate pass to accompany your child through security and into the gate area and even on to the plane. Arrive with plenty of time to solve any last minute problems and provide reassurance before departure.  Be sure he or she is familiar with the itinerary and feels comfortable asking questions when necessary.

4. On the flight.

Your child may be aware of the unusual incidents that have garnered publicity on recent flights. Before departure day, spend time with your child explaining what to expect onboard the aircraft. Talk about seating, bathroom breaks, and how to ask for assistance. Explain that a flight attendant will check in, but will not be their designated travel companion. Send snacks, a sweater or jacket and in-flight entertainment tucked in an easy to access carry-on. If possible, include a cell phone loaded with appropriate contact numbers. Otherwise, send a paper list of contacts, flight and travel details and emergency numbers.

5. Upon arrival.

As an unaccompanied minor, a flight attendant will accompany your young traveler off the plane and make the connection with your designated family member or guardian in the gate area.  A photo ID will be required and matched with the information provided on the unaccompanied minor form. Ask your child or the person meeting him or her to let you know when the

With proper planning, a child’s solo travel experience can be a positive and enriching adventure.


Play golf at Four Seasons Lanai

Talk about views! 

They don't get much better than this coastal feast for the senses served up by the Jack Nicklaus-designed Manele course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Built on lava outcroppigs, you'll be hard-pressed to keep your eye on the ball. Your biggest hazard on at least three holes?

The Pacific Ocean.

Complimentary clubs, including sets for junior players, are available.

Swing away!

PS: During the winter months, be on the lookout for humpback whales spouting in the distance. 


Olympic National Park Delaware North

If you and your family are yearning for a seaside holiday, these coastal National Parks may fit the bill. Here are five to consider: 

 olympic National Park Delaware North

1. Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, WA

Brimming with thousands of years of human history, your family can contemplate the complexity of the natural world amidst lush rain forests, glacier-capped mountains and richly-hued seaside tide pools.  There are wild animals to observe, trails to hike, rivers to fish and more than 70 miles of untamed coastline to explore.  Rangers are in residence to provide input during interpretive walks, campfire programs and to help decode the starry sky. Stay in the park lodge, in cabins or pitch a tent in your own campsite. , Built in 1953, Kalaloch Lodge is the only coastal lodging in the Park.


Cumberland Island 

2. Cumberland Island National Seashore, St. Marys, GA.

Bypass the crowds and head for Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island.  Pristine beaches, mud flats, dune fields and salt marshes provide respite for shore birds, sea turtles, wild turkeys and wild horses. Kayak, fish, and hike by day.  Enjoy the bounty of stars visible from your family’s campsite. (No other lodging is available on the island.) A 30-minute, daily dockside program offers insight into the island’s history, culture and ecosystem. Other lengthier tours are also possible. Check the web site for times and availability.


  cancel bay

3. Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Explore the underwater world via a 225-yard trail where snorkelers are treated to a signed introduction to the region’s fish and marine life. While 40 percent of the park is under the water’s surface, there is plenty to do on land. Stroll the beaches, hike or tap into the region’s history at the visitor’s center.

Ranger led programs include bird watching, hiking, yoga on the beach, lionfish safaris and sky watching. Inside the park, resort lodging and camping are available. An extensive array of possibilities are available outside Park boundaries.


 padre island

 4. Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, TX. 

This Park protects the longest stretch of undeveloped Barrier Island in the world, a landscape that includes dunes, tidal flats, prairies and 70 miles of coastline. Home to more 380 species of birds, the Park also provides a safe haven for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Hatchling releases, often open to the public, occur from mid-June through August. Ranger-led interpretive programs broaden the experience with walks and talks and birding tours.


 Indiana dunes  

5. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter, IN 

Geocaching is a favorite activity of families who choose to explore this 15,000-acre Midwestern lakeshore. Be on the lookout for the rare Karner blue butterfly. Climb over dunes, along rivers and through wetlands as you choose from 50 miles of meandering trails. Take the Succession trail to the top of a dune for a view of the Chicago skyline. Kayak via the Lake Michigan Water Trail or claim your spot along the 15-mile stretch of sandy beach. 




Olympic National Park Delaware North

Don't let busy schedules and work constraints get in the way of family travel time.

Sprint back to your calendar and make a plan for a family holiday now!

best fathers day gift for dads

If the Dad in your life loves to fish, you'll want to reel in one of these Ts designed with him in mind. It's easy and affordable! And they originate in Montana, Mecca for any serious fly fisherman. 

(Your uncle might like one too!) 

Big Hole River T shirt
Big Hole River - buy it here
Check out the others here:

Alices Tea cup

Tap into the graceful tradition of tea.

Here are five special places to consider:

Alice’s Tea Cup. NY, NY.

One family’s affection for sharing stories over a steaming cup of fragrant, fresh tea spawned these three neighborhood refuges for tea lovers. Children of all ages are happily perplexed by the nearly overwhelming list of specialty teas as well as temptations like fresh-baked blueberry, raspberry and pumpkin scones, clotted cream and other mouthwatering creations. Stop by for breakfast, lunch or tea anytime and steep yourselves in an eclectic ambience, where comfortable antiques, sparkly fairy wings and hints of Alice’s Wonderland provide a whimsical haven. The charming hideaways are a favorite destination for Suri Cruise and her mom Katie Holmes. Pick up a copy of the restaurant’s cook book to create your own magic at home. Contact:

Legacy House Imports Tea Room. Madison, Wisconsin.

Laura Schaefer is the author of the children's novel TheTeashop Girls ( Simon & Schuster ) the story of a 13 year old girl determined to keep her Grandmother’s tea shop in business. During a recent book event, Schaefer was impressed by the way the owners of this tea and gift shop provided ambience-inducing hats for young readers to wear during a traditional English afternoon tea service. Guests can browse for unique gift items and then sample a global tea selection, finger sandwiches, light lunch fare and tasty scones.

Contact: ;

Two For Tea. Portland, OR.

Check in with master tea maker Steven Smith, to understand the origins of this aromatic beverage. As the founder of Stash Tea and Tazo Tea, Smith shares his expertise by providing tours of his small facility, where visitors can see his new line of high-quality, small batch tea in production, blend a case of their own, or simply sample in the tasting room. Later, head to Portland’s Chinatown to discover the Lan Su Chinese Garden and Tea House, the result of a friendship project between this city and Suzhou, China. Choose from dozens of Chinese teas and then relax in the second story tea room where you’ll have a window onto the authentically built Ming Dynasty style garden below. Contact:; ;

Laura’s Tea Room. Ridgeway, SC.

Kids will have fun choosing a special hat to wear while sipping specially brewed teas and relaxing with friends and family in a vintage-hued environment. Every week, Tuesday through Friday, youngsters five and older are invited for Wee Tea, a two-course tea service and an opportunity to nibble on chocolate chip scones, tasty sandwiches, sherbet and other taste treats. Take time to admire the work provided by local artists. Reservations required for Wee Tea. Contact:

The Brown Palace Hotel. Denver, Co.

For more than 30 years families have gathered in the venerable hotel’s atrium to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and each other’s company. Sip specially brewed teas amidst a bit of western history, as harp or piano music provides a peaceful backdrop. Relish well-crafted tea sandwiches, pastries and Devonshire cream imported directly from England for your culinary pleasure. Reservations recommended.


Hawk's Cay family vacation family

Head south, dear families, to Hawks Cay Resort, in sunny Duck Key, FL.

You’ll feel right at home checking into this family-friendly resort where your gang can get to know the resident dolphins, swim in a salt water lagoon, learn to sail, salt-water fly fish and snorkel.

Great restaurants offer plenty of options for dining delight. Play tennis, work out, relax by one of several pools.

A full-scale kids club enables the parents to check out the adjacent spa where treatments come with a delicious key lime scent. Located at the mid-point between Key West and the mainland, end the day with an evening sail to catch a glorious sunset.

Don't forget the sunscreen!

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