In her book Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure, writer Patricia Ellis Herr relates the adventures and lessons learned as she and her young daughter summited 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. Your goals might be a little less lofty, but here are five ways you and your family can enjoy peak experiences:
From blue-footed boobies and howling monkeys to spewing volcanos and black sand beaches, a family vacation to either of these two adventure meccas is sure to create long-lasting family memories.
In Costa Rica
1. Visit Tortuguero National Park.
One of the best parks in Costa Rica, this is a major nesting area for the green sea turtle as well as home to more than 300 species of birds, including herons and kingfishers, monkeys (howler, spider, and white-faced capuchin), sloths, caiman, iguanas, frogs, and butterflies.
2. Go batty.
Learn about bats at Costa Rica’s Tirimbina Biological Reserve. Bats represent almost 50% of the mammals in Costa Rica (113 species). You’ll find out about the natural history of these curious creatures as well as their adaptations, reproduction and how they are captured for research.
3. Raft the Rio Sarapiqui
Enjoy the thrill of Class II and III whitewater amidst Costa Rica’s beautiful scenery while observing abundant wildlife beyond the water’s edge.
4. Explore Arenal Volcano National Park.
Hop aboard the Sky Tram Gondola and check out the Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake. Next up: ride ten zip lines down for the ultimate adrenaline rush.
5. Discover Otavalo.
Home to one of the most popular indigenous markets in South America, your family will long remember the colorful Ecuadoran market, brimming with handmade items sold by the native people in traditional dress.
6. Visit Punta Pitt.
This is one of the only sites in the Galápagos where the three species of the famous boobies can be found, along with two frigate species, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions along the beach.
7. See Santa Fe Island.
Find out who will be “Beach Master” among the sea lions. Snorkel and swim or observe the sea life from a glass bottom boat. Check out the native land iguanas that are unique to this island.
8. Sleep aboard a cool ship.
Travel by night. Explore new islands and habitats by day. (Families will like the quadruple cabins) Tilt your head to see an albatross cross the sky overhead. Sleep well, rocked to sleep by extraordinary natural beauty.
More hotels are catering to large families.
Here are five places that offer space and services for your clan:
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Orlando, FL.
As many as six can comfortably stay in themed suites at this Disney Resort. Your clan will be immersed in décor featuring favorites like Finding Nemo, Cars and The Little Mermaid. The suites include a bedroom with a double bed, a table that cleverly transforms into a double bed and a double sleeper sofa. A kitchenette and two bathrooms add to the family appeal. Finding Nemo fans will appreciate the expansive pool with state-of-the-art underwater speakers.
Contact: 407- 938-7000; https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/
Residence Inn by Marriott.
Check into a two-bedroom suite that also includes a pull out sofa and six people can rest comfortably. Three bathrooms, a full kitchen, plus free hot breakfast each day means families choose to cook or head downstairs as the day gets underway. A grocery delivery service and Wi-Fi are also complimentary. Pets are welcome.
Contact: (800) 331-3131: ResidenceInn.com.
Omni Kid's Fantasy Suites.
Families checking into some Omni hotels will enjoy accommodations that provide extra space as well as colorful décor, toys, games and other amenities designed to thrill young travelers. For example, the Omni Mount Washington Resort serves up a 1,250 square foot environment that includes a master suite as well as two separate rooms designed for children. In Boston, the Freedom Trail suite includes a children’s sleeping nook with colonial style costumes to inspire historical play. Ask and the kids will receive a milk and cookie delivery before bed time.
Contact: 800-843-6664; www.OmniHotels.com.
Homewood Suites by Hilton.
With more than 300 hotels to choose from families can check into one or two bedroom suites, some of which sleep up to eight. Expect a full complimentary breakfast, free Wi-fi, an onsite convenience store plus free grocery shopping services. If your packing strategy was flawed, not to worry. Laundry services are available at most locations. Current and retired military families receive a 15 percent discount.
Fisher Price Family Suites. Riviera Maya, MX.
The Karisma seaside resorts offer oversized suites developed in partnership with Fisher-Price toys. A private, queen-sized bed is separated by a sliding door from a sleeping area for the kids that includes a double and single sofa bed. Take advantage of a toy lending library plus games targeted to specific interests (think music or space) and age groups. Leave your kiddie gear at home; the resort makes available everything from cribs to bottle warmers.
Contact: 1-888-280-8810; www.karismahotels.com.
Steamboat Springs has a very strong western tradition, which even the youngest residents celebrate.
There was a time when my middle son, Alex, would don his small cowboy hat, grab an unsuspecting stuffed animal and practice calf roping in the living room. Swinging his imaginary rope, he would nab the stuffed toy, drop on one knee and throw his hands in the air. Success!
Do you long to sleep under African Skies?
Check into Little Kulala, a desert eco-retreat within southern Africa’s Kulala Wilderness Reserve.
Hop aboard a Land Rover to scope out springbok, ostrich and oryx or float above the dramatic landscape in a hot air balloon.
Visit the world’s tallest dunes amid Namibia’s famed “sand sea”.
Then fall asleep on your rooftop Sky Bed and enjoy a late night show where shooting stars and the Milky Way serve as headliners.
Today I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.
And not “catching”.
It was a beautiful day in the Vail Valley and my son Alex and I headed out for a morning of “Walk and Wade” fly-fishing with a guide from Gore Creek Fly Fishermen.
First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn.
Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing:
Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.
Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.
Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com.
LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.
The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses. You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond. Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact: LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552.
For class registration: (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html
Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.
The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families. When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.
Contact: (800) 243-8652; www.Chetola.com.
Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.
Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation.
Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com
Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.
With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com.
Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.
Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
1. Preparation breeds confidence.
Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.
2. Knowledge is power.
When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.
3. Bestow Responsibility.
Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.
4. Communication is key.
Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.
Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
5. Go local.
Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.
Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmer’s markets.
Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.
In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.