Who knew camping could be so comfortable?
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 with 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.
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: www.SunSnowCreative.com and is a founder of www.MontanaMountainMamas.org.
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.
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 southeastern shores of 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.
PS: During the winter months, be on the lookout for humpback whales spouting in the distance.
If YOU GO:
Considering a family vacation that includes your pet?
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: www.AlicesTeaCup.com
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: www.legacyhouseimports.com ; www.teashopgirls.com.
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: www.smithtea.com; www.taooftea.com ; www.portlandchinesegarden.org
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: www.LaurasTeaRoom.com.
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.
Looking for luxury?
Here are five dreamy destinations that are sure to please:
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lanai City, HI.
It’s a lush island of contrast, where sea-faring activities and land adventures compete for your attention. Paring a family-friendly attitude with well-crafted luxury, your family will feel right at home amid the towering pines, tropical flowers and brightly-hued birds on the property. Spend the day at the beach where surfing, snorkeling, kayaking and turtle watching are on the itinerary. Play a round of sunset golf on the stunning, oceanside, Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course, head out for a snorkel and sail adventure, or find your way to Shipwreck Beach in a high-clearance Jeep. Spa time, archery, clay shooting, hiking, horseback riding and off-roading are also options. Your youngsters will want to tap into the Kids for All Seasons program, where hula and ukulele lessons, story telling and lei making add to the holiday memories. Contact: www.FourSeasons.com/Lanai
Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Del Mar, CA.
What does it take to be named the Top Luxury Hotel in the US in the 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards? Find out when you check into the family-friendly, Mediterranean -inspired resort. Lounge aside one of four, heated pools, check out the equestrian center, sign up for a guided hike into the adjacent canyon preserve, or consider a mother-daughter spa treatment. Get in the swing of things on the Tom Fazio-designed golf course or pile into the free shuttle for a day at the SoCal beach. Do yourself a favor and indulge in an adults-only evening at Chef William Bradley’s Addison restaurant, Southern California’s only five-star, five-diamond eatery. Contact: www.fairmont.com/san-diego/
Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Plan an all inclusive family getaway and enjoy stunning sea views, casual or fine dining programs and activities that are sure to have the kids falling into bed with a smile each night. There’s a half-day, kids program for youngsters ages four to twelve, water sports, tennis, mini golf, eco-tours, sailing and shopping. Scout for tropical fish while snorkeling or take your turn in a kayak. Stop into the spa for the treatment of your choice and enjoy a daily workout in the fitness center. Ask about current specials for those who book soon. (Temporarily closed due to hurricane damage. We wish them well.) Contact: https://sugarbayresortandspa.com
Regent Seven Seas, Alaska.
Are you eager to sample the wild beauty of our 49th state? The cruise includes unlimited shore excursions, the heart of any Alaskan adventure, and promises glaciers, mountains, historic ports and wildlife viewing. Relax in the on-board Canyon Ranch Spa or settle in for enriching lectures about the region. The Club Mariner program provides special activities and experiences for children. Ask about special youth pricing. : www.RSSC.com/Alaska
Turtle Inn, Placencia, Belize.
A holiday trip to this Central American outpost offers an extraordinary bounty of experiences packed into a short time frame. This trip offers a chance to explore ancient caves, get immersed in Mayan culture and kayak through freshwater lagoons. You can also snorkel above the second largest barrier reef in the world, hang out with spider monkeys, loggerhead turtles, toucans and kingfishers, and watch the sunset. End your trip at the Francis Ford Coppola-owned, 25-room, seaside refuge where you will fall fast asleep to the sweet song of the natural world in your thatched-roof bungalow. Contact: www.CoppolaResorts.com/TurtleInn; www.TravelBelize.org
If you don’t have children of your own or yours have left the nest, it’s still possible to experience the joys of travel through the eyes of a child.
Plan a trip to any of these five places with a niece, nephew, grandchild or young cousin and you’ll forever be a rock star relative:
Get ready for some adoration when you announce your favorite youngsters will soon discover the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Perhaps you’ll add a day reveling in the magic of Walt Disney World or get splashed at Sea World. A bevy of new healthy menu options at local theme parks and a fresh selection of world-class restaurants mean you won’t be relegated to a week of chicken fingers and tater tots.
Contact: 800- 972-3304; VisitOrlando.com.
Small, green and savvy, this Northwestern city has a youthful vibe that will make your young family members feel right at home. Visit lush gardens, the zoo and a popular farmer’s market. Choose from children’s, art and science museums. Visit Powell’s, the world’s largest indie bookstore. Shop, stroll, bike or make the most of the MAX light rail to move around town. You’ll score big with the kids if you stop by VooDoo Doughnuts, where the creative confections are as eye-popping as they are palate pleasing. Stay at the trendy, art-filled The Nines or the more family-centric Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Portland.
Contact: TravelPortland.com; www.TheNines.com; Marriott.com
You’ll be a forever favorite for showing them an expanded view of the world. Join other families in small groups to explore destinations from Turkey to Tuscany. Ride a camel in Morocco or explore Mayan ruins in Mexico. How many species can you spot on the Serengeti? You’ll dine, discover and stay in ways that will immerse you into local cultures. Check last minute specials for great value.
Contact: 800-970-7299; www.Intrepid.com.
Club Med, Punta Cana. Dominican Republic.
Kids of every age will have boatloads of fun and you’ll get time to refresh yourself at this or any Club Med resort where young people are engaged in a slew of age appropriate activities ranging from tennis and trapeze skills to kayaking and sand castle building. Gather for meals, activities or quiet time on the white sand beach under swaying palms.
Contact: 1 (888) WEB CLUB; www.clubmed.us/cm/resort-punta-cana-dominican-rep_p-115-l-US-v-PCAC-ac-vh.html
Grand Canyon National Park.
They’ll think you’re great for showing them the grandest canyon of them all. Whether you hike, bike, raft, take pictures, study the geology or simply enjoy the extraordinary beauty of this natural wonder, an indelible memory will have been made. Ask about free ranger tours. Contact: 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757); www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.
Family travel can play a strong role in the education you offer to your children and grandchildren.
Here are six ideas to consider:
1. Reflect your values.
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you.
My life is noisy.
Until now, I never thought much about it. Sure, I live with a little traffic rumble, the occasional helicopter humming overhead, and ambulance sirens wailing in the distance — but the volume never really registered.
Until I visited Yellowstone National Park in winter.
I’d always resisted a wintertime outing to our nation’s first national park. I’m passionate about outdoor adventure, but truth be told, I am increasingly nature’s fair-weather friend. I don’t like to be cold.
But, on this January day, I quickly learned that it’s better to layer up and lean in to Old Man Winter than miss out on all Yellowstone has to offer in this season less traveled.
The lush silence was enough to make me want to whisper, to stifle random commentary, and to just be in this pristine wonderland. The crunch of boots on packed snow, the gurgle of a stream under broken ice, the sudden burst of a geyser: Each decibel took on a rich quality in the absence of the everyday din.
Wildlife in winter
“Look! A wolf!”
This, from one of my traveling companions, as we lumbered along the snow-covered road inside the cozy snow coach. Our merry band of nature lovers was bound for Old Faithful Snow Lodge, named for the park’s famous geyser. It’s one of two lodging options inside the park boundaries that are available during the winter months; the other is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
We had spent much of the day in the expansive Lamar Valley, often called the American Serengeti for its wide swath of landscape where elk and buffalo roam, as well as the occasional wolf.
According to our guide, it offers the visitor’s best chance of catching a glimpse of the elusive gray wolf — canis lupus — especially in winter. Aided by spotting scopes and the advantage provided by my long camera lens, I scanned the open space and far hillsides for the most treasured of sightings.
Wolf history - then and now
We had entered the park on the north side, crossing under the iconic Roosevelt Arch. Twenty years ago to that very day, Jan. 12, 2015, a horse trailer reportedly came in under the same arch, transporting the first 8 of 31 gray wolves from Canada.
While this would mark the official reintroduction of wolves into the park after a seven-decade absence, it was both the welcome result of careful planning and preparation — and the continuation of a complex battle between environmentalists, on the one side, and ranchers, farmers, and outfitters on the other. Many within the latter group believe wolves are a threat to their way of life and to livestock.
“It is difficult to be enthusiastic about the increase in the wolf population when their existence is a threat to your livelihood,” explained Tom Swanson, a third-generation Montana rancher whose cattle graze just 35 miles north of the park border.
According to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, proponents of the wolf reintroduction hoped to eventually build the population to 300. Current estimates, which have far exceeded expectations, put 80 wolves in the park, 450 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and as many as 1,700 in the Northern Rockies.
On our expedition, we were thrilled to see one.
Our guide nudged the snow coach onto the side of the road, as our group maneuvered to capture images with our cameras while hoping to stow the memory in our mind’s eye for future reference.
With the icy Firehole River as a buffer, the burly male appeared unfazed by our presence a mere 50 yards away. We watched in awe as he stepped in and out of the river, intermittently feasting on an elk carcass splayed on the far bank, as a handful of ravens hung back, hoping to sneak a few scraps.
No doubt we would have treasured this late afternoon sighting on any given day. But somehow, given the anniversary, it felt like a gift.
A unexpected eruption
The next morning, our group opted to pop on cross-country skis and slide our way to a backcountry gem: the Lone Star Geyser. Yellowstone contains nearly 10,000 geysers, which are approximately one half of the world’s hydrothermal features.
“It only erupts every three hours or so,” explained our guide, as we set off from the trailhead. “So don’t be disappointed if we get there and there’s no action. Either way, you’ll enjoy the scenery.”
We swooshed the two and a half miles along the trail, gliding atop a few inches of fresh snow and aside a different stretch of the Firehole River. Along the way, our naturalist pal, Emily, shared her bounty of knowledge, identifying small tracks leading into and out of the forest.
Then, with the geyser area in sight, I could hear Lone Star sputter before shooting a plume of steam some 40 feet into the air.
“What perfect timing!” hooted one member of our group.
And when I didn’t think the day could get any better, the sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow appeared, arcing across the mist spewed by the steaming eruption. Seriously.
Oh, and the cold?
When it comes to Yellowstone, Old Man Winter knows how to warm a girl’s heart.