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Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Putting it all Together: Part 1

Traveling with kids

The following article is excerpted from "Adventuring with Children," a how-to book for outdoor families written by Nan Jeffrey and published by Foghorn Press/Avalon House. It is available by calling 1-800-FOGHORN.

Other Foghorn Press books of interest include "Best Places to Go", a worldwide family destination guide, and "The Camper's Companion", a how-to book for beginning and advanced campers.


What makes an adventure work is an accumulation of so many things. It's those moments of sheer joy and just feeling alive that only come after moments of discomfort or hardship. It's knowing your family just accomplished something you never thought you would, reaching a new pinnacle of achievement. It's the rapport and tight bond that is forged between family members thrown together on an adventure. Most of all it's an attitude, a belief that your family adventure is going to succeed.

Despite the best intentions, a few key issues can occur again and again, things that are typical of adventuring with children that can make or break a trip. In this chapter we've dealt with a number of them, plus some general budget tips for traveling with children. Knowing what to expect ahead of time and being prepared can all help contribute towards making a family adventure work.


Nothing makes a bigger impression on a family embarking on an adventure than the first 24 hours, and nothing is more atypical as to what the rest of the trip will be like. The first 24 hours is like your first day at school, overwhelming, confusing, scary and sometimes even slightly disastrous. If the rest of the school year was like that, children would refuse to go. The same is true of adventuring. Like the child plunged into a strange classroom, you're presented with a whole new environment in which to function.

By some twist of fate, we've discovered that we can almost assume that first day will be anything except fun. If we're bicycling, it always rains, even in places where rain happens about twice a year. If we're going somewhere hot, it's cold when we get there. The year we went to Greece, we missed a connecting flight, went stand-by with about 100 shouting Greeks, landed in the wrong place and arrived at our destination in the middle of the night. In Madeira we spent the night in what must be the most abysmal pension ever in operation. There was laundry in the tub, cigarette burns in the carpet, holes in the bedding and a clientele that never, as far as we could ascertain, went to sleep. Despite the fact that it was June, when we arrived in England it did everything except snow on us.

In terms of adventure travel, coping with the first 24 hours is an art form. The following is a list of guidelines for getting you through what can be the roughest stage of your trip. Short of going on an organized tour, this is an unavoidable situation, so the best thing is to be as prepared as possible.

Prepare for bad weather - even if you're heading for the tropics and the weather predictions are 90 degree temperatures with clear skies, have your rain jackets ready. Mother Nature likes to spring surprises on newly arrived tourists.

Be prepared to pay - the first 24 hours are always the most expensive. You're new to a place and have no idea how the system works. Locals know this and act accordingly. Don't worry about it or think things will always cost this much. There will be plenty of time for economizing later.

Book your family into a nice hotel - forget bargain-hunting the first night. If there's one time you need to splurge when adventuring, it's now while you're trying to familiarize yourself with an area. Don't bother trying to book your first night ahead unless you are absolutely sure of a place. Except for luxury accommodations, this is difficult to do despite the conveniences of phones, faxes and the assurances of a travel agent. Until you see a place, it's difficult to know what it will be like, or in some cases, even what it will cost. There are always places to stay once you get somewhere. Our mistake in Madeira was not spending the money when we should have, after arriving in a place that was more expensive than we had expected. The experience taught us the value of paying for a first night in comfortable conditions, no matter what the cost.

Bring plenty of food. Go out somewhere nice to eat your first night, then fill in the gaps in your children's hunger with food you brought with you. It's one thing to spend $50-$60 for a nice room and quite another to spend nearly that much just to eat.

Bring along some special foods to tide your family over until you discover where to shop. Peanut butter is a good choice because even if the whole family is sick to death of it in a few days, the chances are you won't see it again until you go home. I carry peanut butter, crackers or rice cakes, trail mix, sunflower seeds and dried fruit on all our trips. We actually dined on an exclusive diet of this for three days the time we made the mistake of arriving in a country on Friday where all the shops were closed over the weekend. In the end no one cared because we never saw these foods again during five months of travel.

Bring everything you think you might need-avoid having to go find a store in the first 24 hours. This is a time for recuperating, relaxing and getting to know a place in an enjoyable way, not rushing around trying to find aspirin or toothpaste.

Let the children play-after the rigors of traveling to wherever you are, they need a day just to have fun. Take a book along, sit in a cafe, go to a beach or a park while your children play. They'll forget whatever hardships they went through to get there and develop a positive feeling towards adventure travel.


First impressions are often a let-down. No matter what the brochures, books, travel agents and your friends say, don't expect to immediately grasp the appeal of a place. Places, like people, grow on you. You can't help but visualize what some places will be like from what you've heard or read, while the actual place is always somewhat different. In essence, if your vision is of your children frolicking on some pristine beach in the sunshine, don't expect to even find the beach or see the sun when you first arrive.

The charms of most places are subtle and less obvious than we are led to believe. I can still remember my first impression of Madeira, an island I had nothing but raves about over its beauty, mountains and abundance of flowers. After surviving the hair-raising landing, the exorbitant taxi ride from the airport (there was no bus), the crowded streets of Funchal and a night in a sordid pension (the only affordable vacancy we could find), I was hardly in a position to notice the flowers or appreciate the mountains. In the end we stayed two months. The same thing happened when we arrived in Galini, a town on the southern coast of Crete. One glimpse of the place and I was ready to leave. There were too many hotels, too many gift shops, too many tourists and too small a beach. Within a day we had all fallen under the spell of the place and remained camped there for two blissful weeks.


Some places turn out to be a mistake. Your best friend may have loved it, but it just doesn't work for your family. Despite the amount of helpful travel information, no family can really know whether they'll like a place until they go there. Most will turn out to be wonderful. A few won't. One of the reasons is that nearly all travel material is oriented to either the tourist who wants to know where to shop, where to dine and how to take a tour, or to the backpacking college crowds who are looking for nude sunbathing and where the action is. Family adventuring lies somewhere in the middle between tourist hot-spots and singles hand-outs. As travel material rarely deals with adventuring families (a deficiency we're presently working on), much of where you choose to go will be guesswork.

If you have arrived somewhere, given it a chance to grow on you and finally realized you've made a mistake, what can you do?

Look at the funny side of the situation-nearly every bad moment in adventure travel has its humorous side. It's like taking your children to the Ice Capades. You can dread the whole experience and have a miserable time or you can laugh yourself silly. Children will simply follow your lead. If you see the funny side, they will, too.

Find something fun and adventurous to do. There's always something adventurous you can do, even in the most unlikely circumstances. Try exploring the surrounding area. Few tourists venture beyond the town or city limits. We did some of our best hiking in Greece outside a village that seemed to be largely under construction, populated by unfriendly entrepreneurs and filled with young tourists ready to party. Another time we found ourselves stranded on an island in a town that turned out to be quite dreary and not at all what we were looking for. We rented two derelict one-speed bicycles for a dollar apiece, sat each child on a backrack and biked all over the island. The whole experience was a wild adventure, culminating in a flat tire on a remote road and a hitched ride in the back of a pick-up. This is the stuff that adventuring is made of, those memorable happenings when you least expect them.

Know when to leave. Don't be afraid to leave somewhere you don't like, even at the risk of losing money. It's better to forfeit a few hundred dollars than the whole trip. Being able to make your own decisions and change plans when you want to is one of the advantages of adventure travel. There's nothing locking you into a certain place or situation except your own actions.

The most drastic exit we ever performed was early in our family adventuring career, when we flew to Jamaica for a three-week trip with six-month-old Tristan and Colin. On the advice of an acquaintance, we booked into a place that turned out to be miles from the nearest beach and store, and a hotbed of dope consumption-hardly the ideal spot for a family with twin babies. As the only other places to stay in the area were way out of our price range, we left Jamaica and flew back to Florida for a fabulous three weeks of camping. Sure, we wasted the flight money, but we didn't waste the whole trip and the lesson learned has helped us avoid similar mistakes again.


Everywhere has its moments of bad weather. Short trips can practically be destroyed by it and even on long ones nothing can demoralize you faster or make you more miserable than bad weather. Bad weather, for outdoor adventures, usually means rain. Except in tropical showers where rain is actually a welcome respite, rain that lasts for more than an hour is no fun when you are outdoors, especially when camping. The first thing to realize is that rain rarely lasts more than a day. So instead of worrying about how you will survive the trip if it rains the whole time, think about just getting through the day.

Find alternative lodgings-if you're camping, find an alternative if possible. Camping in the rain is never a pleasant experience. As bad weather doesn't last forever, it's well worth the money to find a place to stay that's warm and dry. Just about anything is going to look good if the alternative is a tent or small camper, so don't feel compelled to find luxury accommodations. A simple motel room with access to an indoor pool can seem like you just booked into Club Med. Another option is to find a place to camp with access to indoor facilities. We've done this a few times, once in the backyard of a bed and breakfast place, another time beside a hunting lodge. In both cases we were offered use of the indoor facilities to get out of the rain.

When camping is the only option-try to find a site near a shelter. This at least gives you somewhere to go other than your tent. If the rain is really torrential and the children are desperate for exercise, send them to the rest rooms to play. The chances are no other campers will be venturing out in this weather so the children will have the whole place to themselves. Just being able to move around makes a big difference to a child and gives parents and children the break they need from each other in weather conditions like these.

Tristan and Colin once spent half a day playing in the ladies' room of a campground in Nova Scotia while it poured rain outside. When I checked up on them they were mopping the floor (with a mop they had found), racing matchbox cars, floating stick "boats" in the sink and having the usual nine-year-old giggle fits. What they weren't doing was getting bored. Don't be embarrassed to make use of the bathroom this way, provided your children are well behaved and not the kind to spread water or toilet paper all over the place. We've seen adults resort to the bathrooms on rainy days as well. In Spain during one major stretch of bad weather, I entered the ladies' room to find a fellow camper doing her aerobics routine to music.

Children like playing in the rain. Forget trying to sail or bicycle or hike, activities they won't enjoy in the rain any more than you will. Instead, stay in one place and let them outside to play as much as possible. Try to avoid too many wet clothes, especially if you're camping. Have them wear sandals instead of shoes to keep the shoes from getting soaked.

One outdoor activity that can still be enjoyed in the rain and help relieve the tedium of bad weather is walking. Pick somewhere to go that's interesting-through a village, down a country road, along the seashore, in a park. Try walking where you can look at houses, a fun activity for children who like to compare houses and yards and speculate which one they would live in. See if there's a coffee shop or cafe or interesting shop you can head for as a destination along the route. Before you know it you will have whiled away the rainy hours and enjoyed yourselves as well.

It's nice to have a special cache of goodies, games and projects for bad weather. If you're stuck in a tent, get out some drawing paper, scissors, colored pencils and scotch tape. Children can spend a long time being creative with simple materials. A pack of cards, miniature backgammon or checkers, or a surprise paperback will keep older ones occupied as well.


Children have no real sense of time. To them time is an endless present. What's happening now seems like it will go on forever and what's going to happen will never come. This is a basic difference between adults and children and one that should be taken into account when adventuring. Their limited concept of time means that when children are having fun, they never want to stop. If you assure them they've been playing by that stream or on that beach for an hour, they will insist they just got there. In the same way if things are tough, children feel they will never get better. Telling them that they'll be up that hill or to a certain destination in ten minutes means nothing. All they know is that they're not there yet and ten minutes is as good as saying forever. As any parent knows who has ever tried to hurry a child out the door to catch the school bus or make it to an appointment, children also seem to think that time can stop to accommodate them. This is where so many trips and outings go wrong, when parents feel continually held back and children continually rushed. If you don't want to find yourself harassed beyond belief when adventuring with children, some adjustments are going to have to be made to their sense of time.

Getting your children to perform within some sort of time framework is best accomplished by a series of gentle proddings. Fortunately, adventuring is free from most of the emphasis on time that dominates our lives at home.

Some goals have to be met, however, if you adventure isn't to become one endless beach scene or play session. Forget telling your children they have already played for an hour or have ten minutes of uphill hiking before the next break. What they understand best is countdown. Five more minutes to play-one more night before we leave-finish up what you're doing now-it's time to go. After numerous warnings, a child can hardly throw a fit when you announce it really is time to stop playing. The same strategy works for bad moments. We're half way up the hill-we're two-thirds of the way-we're almost there-just one more corner-time for a break. With a steady supply of progress reports, children don't have a chance to get overwhelmed by a steep hill or long hike.

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