Would you and your family prefer to scale a mountain in Colorado or the Himalayas, go scuba diving in the Caribbean or Australia, or wander through a farmer’s market in Italy or Vietnam? What counts — for each of us — is the new ways we see the world — and possibly make new friends in foreign places.
For families this type of experience is almost impossible. In between sports practices and games, music lessons, volunteer work, and of course heaps of school projects and homework, families are pressured preparing children for college. As a result, an emerging family travel trend is blending vacation time into a child’s school curricula for history, literature, geography, and science. The emerging trend is called Eco-adventure vacations. This type of family travel focuses on fun, outdoor experiences and the impact these meaningful travels can have on a child’s imagination.
Advantages of Eco-adventure vacations
These Eco-adventure vacations offer up-close-and-personal views of nature are led by naturalists and historians who are trained to understand — and have a passion for — culture, plants, birds and animals and their relationships to ecosystems. Eco-adventure vacations bring education alive, and if a child can better understand the world they will be more likely and better prepared as an adult to improve it!
How to choose a family Eco-adventure
Choosing and preparing for a family adventure trip that everyone, from your 5-year-old to your teen, will enjoy can be a family venture. Here are some tips for finding and getting ready for your first family adventure travel trip.
Time Required: Depends upon the type of adventure
If they have a say in picking an adventure trip they’ll look forward to it more. Let everyone old enough to read look at brochures to learn about each trip you are considering. (Show toddlers pictures.) While looking, one locale may resonate with some kids because they’ve studied it in school. If one child hates biking but they all love hiking and rafting you’ve narrowed the field. You’ve found a trip that’s right and everyone will have a better time. Let the kids help with the planning, by brainstorming places, activities, and dreams. Let them help with gathering the information. Finally, let them plan the trip.
Getting started with your Eco-adventure trip
Here are some suggestions that offer something for every member of the family, yet offer a range of adventure activities.
There are nearly 400 places with a total of 84 million acres of land protected by the U.S. National Park Service, and most all of them are accessible to families. Many of these national treasures are childhood homes of presidents, remnants of ancient civilizations and wars, and countless trails and natural phenomenon. At national park sites, families can stay in local hotels or on campgrounds. The National Park Service also hosts events during the year at various parks, such as Presidents Day programs at several of the childhood homes. A visit to nps.gov, the Web site maintained by the National Park Service, can get you started.
Ages: Depending on the park and the accommodations, park vacations can be suited to children from infancy to young adulthood.
National Geographic Expeditions Family Adventures
Visit Alaska, Greece, the Galapagos Islands, the Artic and several other international destinations with the experts from National Geographic Expeditions, the travel program of the National Geographic Society. Each of their trips includes experts such as naturalists, archaeologists, biologists and historians to lead hands-on activities and seminars. For example, on the Alaska trip, children will explore the feeding patterns of humpback whales and learn to identify bear tracks in the wild. An Eco-friendly visit to the Land of the Polar Bears (aka the Arctic) includes hiking, kayaking and animal viewing. These trips can be pricey, but they fulfill the requirements of a full eco-friendly family vacation.
Visit NationalGeographic for details.
Ages: School-aged and up
One of the largest — and oldest — environmental nonprofit organizations in the country hosts several outdoor excursions specifically for families. This year, grandparents, parents and children can take part in more than a dozen Sierra Club-led programs including hiking and whitewater rafting in a California national forest, archaeological digging in Utah or kayaking in the Smoky Mountains. Sierra Club also leads a grandparent-grandchildren trip each year.
On a family service trip, the club’s Web site notes, “children learn to be good stewards of the environment on fun, kid-centered projects.”
Ages: Each trip lists its minimum age, which ranges from age 6 to age 13.
Visit sierraclub for details.
This Caribbean hot spot has become a destination for nature-inspired families because of the family friendly region’s rich wildlife, and ecosystems like volcanoes and rainforests. Parents and children can easily plan their own itineraries or hook up with several U.S.-based travel companies that specialize in family tours. Among the area’s diverse eco-friendly and educational attractions are the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui Wildlife Boat Ride, where participants view animals up close without a long hike; the Poas Volcano, where you can drive up to the crater; and the Pacific Coast beaches. Costa Rican hotels are often child-friendly, with amenities for young ones and needed kiddie supplies. Check with the hotel or tour guide for more information.
To start, visit CostaRicanAdventures
Ages: Infancy on up, depending on activity participation
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