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Parade Magazine, Take an Active Family Vacation 1995

Live Longer, Better, Wiser
That special time together should recharge body as well as spirit—and bring you closer. So…


By Bonnie Tandy Leblang
March 12, 1995, Parade Magazine

GET THE WHOLE FAMILY together and go do something fun and challenging. You’ll be surprised at what happens.

When I go by vacation with my sons, Bryan and Eric, whether for a week or a weekend, we look for action. We’ll hike to the top of a hill to watch the sunrise, or bike along the coast to spend time at the beach, or ski. “It’s more fun to do something, like ski, than to spend two hours waiting in line to go on a two-minute river-rafting ride at some theme park,” says Bryan, who’s 14.

Such holidays, which needn’t be expensive, are healthful for both body and mind, and they often give rise to happenings that become family stories told and retold down the years. My family still talks about the time, 14 years ago, when my mother, at 60, tipped over in a canoe on the Delaware and went bobbing downriver while my dad—instead of rescuing her—immortalized the moment with his new video camera.

Doing things with the kids can end up making adults more adventurous too.

That’s what happened when Bryan and Eric persuaded me, at age 40, to take a stab at the slopes. They’re experts, while I’ve eked my way up to the intermediate level. They tolerate me anyhow. “You can do it, Mom,” Bryan will tell me at the top of a difficult run. “Just don’t look down!”

You don’t need lots of money to enjoy vacations together. If money is a factor, adapt your leisure pursuits to your area. Ever since my mom floated downriver, canoeing or rafting has been a part of our family reunions. You’ll find canoe, kayak, raft or even tube rentals at most lakes, ponds and rivers, often for about $25 a day for each craft. Just be sure to don life vests.

If you live near a coast, snorkeling is easy to learn and great fun to do, as is basic sailing. For other water opportunities, consider the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area along the Minnesota-Canada border. It’s a paddler’s paradise, with more than a million acres of wilderness and interconnected lakes that are ideal for exploration., Or try an overnight outing on the Salmon, the Colorado or one of the many other rivers throughout the U.S. (about $375 to $465 a person for a three-day trip). River rafting can be a high adventure in white water or a relaxing ride in calm.

“Choose a river that’s compatible with the ages of your children,” says Jaci Dvorak of Dvorak Kayak and Rafting Expeditions (800)-824-3795.

You might also buy a tent, rent a campsite, pack some food and take the family camping. “My kids still talk about the shooting stars we saw,” says Bob Ronshagen of Milford, Conn., recalling the meteor shower his family witnessed while camping on Cape cod.

Hike the mountains in your area or within one of our national parks to discover wildlife treasures. As you enter a national park that charges admission, buy a Golden Eagle Passport ($25), providing free entry for a year to all 136 parks that charge a fee. If you plan to stay overnight, be sure to make reservations and get permits way ahead. At some parks, you’ll need to call almost a year in advance. For details, see

The Complete Guide to America’s National Parks (Fodor’s) or a similar source.

Don’t overlook references listing active vacation ideas, including The Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook(Turner) or Great American Sports and Adventure Vacations: 500 of the Country’s Best Outdoor Trips and Sports Schools (Fodor’s).

Dude ranches range from resorts that include golf, tennis, swimming and fine dining to small, homestyle places. For complete details on U.S. ranches, read Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations (John Muir Publications).

Consider a wilderness trip with an outfitter who’ll set up camp, provide food and be your guide. “It’s a real family togetherness activity,” says Terry Pollard, owner of Bald Mountain Outfitters (307-367-6539), which has been taking families into Wyoming’s Bridger Wilderness for more than 30 years to fish, hunt and just enjoy the outdoors, beginning at $195 a day for each person. Find outfitters by word of mouth or contact the state’s Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Forest Service.

Before deciding on a specific trip, get lots of information. Ask what the price includes and what it doesn’t. Inquire about pre- and post-season prices and other special rates that would make the trip more affordable. Ask if there are age or height restrictions.

For vacations, planning is key. Investigate thoroughly, but remember: Adventure involves the unexpected.