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!
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.
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.
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:
If you are looking for a great summer road trip, consider this iconic drive inside one of America's most stunning National Parks.
Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1932 and is a spectacular 50 mile, paved two-lane highway that bisects this magnificent Montana park east and west.
Lake Winnipesaukee. Wolfeboro, NH.
This spring-fed lake has served as the center of New England family holidays for decades. Surrounded by three mountain ranges, the wooded shoreline and numerous islands make for great picnicking, sunning and simply relaxing on or near the water. Visit local museums, enjoy community theatre or stroll along the beach with an ice cream cone. 1-800-516-5324; www.wolfeboroonline.com.
Caneel Bay, St Johns Virgin Islands
Once a favored getaway for Laurance Rockefeller and family, this 170-acre island paradise is tucked within the Virgin Islands National Park, a protection made possible by Rockefellar’s land donation to the government in 1956.
Grab the sunscreen. Gather the towels and beach books. Yes, it's goodbye snow. And, hello warm, sandy beaches. As readers share their favorite beaches, get ready to choose from this list or share your own special spots.
1. Club Med, Punta Cana. Dominican Republic.
“There was something about relaxing on that beautiful stretch of white sand beach with the coconut palms swaying in the breeze. I think about it all the time,” muses Dayton, Ohio-based Diana Duncan. Her two children loved the children’s club that included a slew of age appropriate activities.
Diana and her husband Matt took to the trapeze, learning circus skills, when not kayaking, playing tennis or building sand castles on the beach with the kids. “My only regret,” admits Duncan, “is that I ate way too much of their famous white chocolate bread!”
Susan and Rich Andrews have been traveling to South Florida every year for decades. “Our long time family favorite is Bal Harbour because there is something for everyone.”
A luxurious seaside enclave, families take to the wide open beaches, walking paths and chic but comfortable ambience. Upscale restaurants and shopping abound. The Bal Harbour Kids Beach Camp is a collaborative partnership with the Miami Children’s Museum, and available to guests of both the Sea View Hotel and ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa, as well as village residents and their guests. Children have the opportunity to paint, learn about international cuisine, music and how to grow a garden.
3. Sag Harbor, NY.
“My favorite beach is still my home town stretch of sand here on Long Island,” explained Sharon Elizabeth. “The beaches on the east end of Long Island are some of the most magnificent in the world. My favorite is Sagg Beach, near Sagaponack.”
According to Elizabeth, Sagg Beach is pristine, wide and a great place for family picnics and relaxing days playing in the surf. Located near the historic whaling port of Sag Harbor, the area, widely known as “The Hamptons”, offers plenty of water-related recreation as well as top-notch dining, museums, parks and bike paths.
4. Destin, FL. –
When I was a child, we spent many a holiday on the white beaches of Destin and my memories are so wonderful,” explains Mary Ellis, who makes her home in Milwaukee, WI.
“As a result I was quick to take my own three children to this pristine location where there is so much for families to do! Between snorkeling, hiking, diving and just relaxing on the 24 miles of powder-soft white beaches, our family vacation never seems quite long enough,” says Ellis.
Cannon Beach, OR
Maxie Wade has long enjoyed flying kites with her kids on this wide beach on the north coast of Oregon where gulls float overhead and bon-fires melt s’mores and keep the sea breeze chill at bay. Cold water temperatures mean swimmers may only get ankle deep. Rather, families gather to collect shells, explore tide pools, watch storms roll in or stroll the day away enjoying the salt air. Just off shore and towering 235 feet over the beach, Haystack Rock is home to nesting seabirds. It is one of the largest sea stacks on America’s Pacific Coast.
Volunteer vacations enable parents to model their most deeply held values while demonstrating compassion for others who share our place on the planet. Develop new talents, brush off rusty skills and make a difference as a family.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Choose from volunteer experiences in India, Costa Rica, Thailand and other destinations where sustainable, locally run community, environmental and educational projects will expand your family’s view of the world. Trained travel advisors share information about each country and specific projects to insure a suitable match. Find a trip working with kids, the environment or wildlife that will blend well with the ages, interests and levels of experience within your family group. Contact: 800-985-4852; www.i-to-i.com.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Cortez, CO.
Channel the Indiana Jones vibe and assist professional archeologists on excavation sites and in the lab as the quest to uncover mysteries surrounding the ancient Anasazi and Pueblo cultures continues. Ask about Family Archeology Weeks during which kids learn to make fire and sharpen skills needed for fieldwork. Pair your volunteer experience with one of a handful of educational adventure trips offered in the region by the same outfit. Contact: 800-422-8975; www.crowcanyon.org
Learn about community-based tourism through this cross-cultural exchange that includes home-stays, family-style meals, exploration, adventure and time with locals in indigenous communities. Your trip will be fully-supported by a North American guide but you and your family members will have plenty of time to engage in service activities that range from building schools to assisting with the need of the moment in Peru, Guatamala, Kenya, India and beyond. Create a custom trip or join a scheduled outing. Contact: 206-383-9828 www.crookedtrails.com.