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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 2

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.


As with the importance of time, the pace of travel is going to be at the mercy of your children. Pace is a self-imposed structure that children want nothing to do with on a long-range basis. It's an alien concept to them and pushing it only makes them unhappy or rebellious. No child's pace is ever going to match yours, so you might as well forget the issue. Children are naturally energetic and capable of a tremendous output when it comes to outdoor activities. Your problem won't be their capabilities, but keeping them from getting distracted. Stimulated adventuring children can find a great deal to keep them interested, most of which interferes with pace setting. I can remember hikes we have had, each one's pace determined by what activity the children were involved in at the time. There was the one where they played elves and swept the trail for us the whole way with make-believe brooms. On another they built stick signs at every turn on the trail indicating which way to go. There have been times when they wanted to collect leaves of every type or look for special stones. This is a child's idea of a pace of travel, the kind that adapts to each moment.

On a larger scale, a whole trip operates this way. If they find a place they like, why move on to the next? They'd rather linger and enjoy what they've already found. Work out a compromise. Abandon your sense of a structured pace for a more sporadic one, one that keeps you moving, but allows children time to enjoy things along the way. Unless you have a bus to catch or a train to meet, be as relaxed as you can. In a world where time has come to be regarded as a vital part of daily life, adventuring is one of the few times you can ignore it. Children naturally live in the present; we could do well to emulate them. With children it's not the pace of travel that counts so much as the quality.


In family adventure travel, improvisation makes up much of what you do. There's no set itinerary, booked hotels or guided tours. Other than when you leave home, where you initially go, and when you come back, the trip is an open opportunity. Beyond choosing an area and activities that interest you, the rest of the trip should be left to develop as you go along. You're like a pioneer family, conscious of where you are going, but not sure what will happen along the way.

If something sounds or looks promising, then pursue it with no thought for previously set plans. You won't find the kids complaining if you end up on the coast of Turkey when you said you'd be exploring the islands of Greece, or walking the footpaths of England instead of hiking in the Alps.

Almost any situation can be turned to advantage when adventuring, through the use of a little improvisation: bad weather, confused directions, people met along the way, a sudden inspiration, a bad destination. Each can send you off in a new direction you hadn't even thought of. An extreme example of this was the year we planned to travel by ferry up the coast of Yugoslavia, hike in Austria and fly home from England. This was also the year of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, thus putting an end to any exploration in the vicinity of the Alps. As we were already booked home from England, we took a cut-rate charter flight from Turkey and spent three weeks camping and hiking in the British Isles, something we hadn't planned on doing that turned out to be a real highlight of the trip.

Who cares if your trip takes a completely different turn from what you had intended? Eventually you will find yourself starting to sound vague when people ask you on your next adventure. This is all part of adventuring, particularly with children when any number of unpredictable things can happen. With a little spontaneous improvisation, all can result in an added element of excitement.


The following ideas have all been used by us with great success, saving us money where we didn't feel it was necessary to spend it and adding to our experience in fun ways. People are very accommodating towards families with children, especially ones traveling in a simple, adventurous way. All the tips make use of your family status without taking advantage of the people you meet. Families sometimes have unique needs that can be accommodated just by asking.

When eating out, ask for a child's portion even if it's not on the menu, or split a dinner and drink between two children. This saves you money and the restaurant wasted food.

At a bed & breakfast, get the bed without the breakfast if possible. The food makes up a large part of what you pay for. As a place to spend the night is what you really need, breakfast on cereal, milk and fruit in your room for a fraction of the cost.

At an inn, guesthouse, hotel, etc., sleep the children on the floor, making beds with camping pads and sleeping bags. Most places will let the children stay for free this way. In a pension when abroad, cook your meals right at the pension. Some have porches, balconies or courtyards where you can set up your campstove. Some will offer you the use of their kitchen. Expect some interest in what you're cooking, always a subject of curiosity to foreigners.

When there's no campground, try finding a B & B, guesthouse or restaurant that will let you camp out back. Settle on a small fee for the use of their bathrooms, water, refrigeration, even sometimes a washing machine. If they won't take any money, return the favor by buying a drink or food from them or giving them a picture of your children.

Don't be afraid to ask. Even if you feel incredibly foolish, ask instead of assuming the answer will be no. With children it will often turn out to be yes, instead. After days of rigorous bicycling and camping in Morocco, we came on a lovely, isolated 5-star hotel up in the mountains. With sudden inspiration, Kevin entered its pristine portals and asked the price of a room. The proprietor looked at Kevin, our bicycles and the two children, took in our obvious aura of family-on-a-shoestring-budget and offered us a discount room at the back of the hotel with its own separate entrance.

The children were soon frolicking in the outdoor pool, I cooked meals on the picnic table outside our entrance and all of us were treated like royalty by the staff. It was quite an experience, one we never would have had if Kevin hadn't asked.


On any family adventure, a day or two of motorbike, bicycle, or car rental can provide a real treat without breaking the budget. Keep some money in reserve for just such an occasion when the time seems right: perhaps a day spent exploring an island by bicycle or an excursion up into the mountains with motorbikes or a trip through the countryside by car. We've tried renting all three and found each lends its own element of excitement to a trip.


Not surprisingly, this is the most popular with children. Infinitely more exciting than car travel and faster than bicycles, motorbikes are sure to be a success. Rentals are available all over the world, particularly in places like Europe and warm climates where this is a common mode of transportation.

If you have never ridden one, take a test drive first before carrying a child as passenger. My family will never forget the first time I ventured forth on one in Greece, terrorizing drivers and scattering pedestrians as I roared up sidewalks, careened around blind corners and drove the wrong way down one-way streets, all while trying to find the brake. Children can ride as passengers either on the back or in front. Try sitting little ones (6 and under) up front where you can keep an eye on them and they won't fall asleep. With their hands on the handlebars alongside yours, they'll think they are the ones doing the driving, a guaranteed way to ensure they behave like models of perfection. Ask for helmets for everyone. They may be a little large on your children, but they're better than nothing.


A day or two of bicycle exploration is a fun way to see an area. If you've been traveling by car, this will give the whole family a much needed breath of fresh air. If walking is your usual way to explore, bikes will seem revolutionary as they whisk you over distances it would take hours to cover on foot.

Any place that rents bicycles should naturally be located in an area good for bicycling, like country lanes, coastal roads and islands. Drivers will be on the look-out for bikes, and facilities able to accommodate them. When it comes to the bikes themselves, don't expect to find anything too glamorous. Some places will have ten-speeds, but these aren't really necessary as you won't be carrying gear or attempting any major distances. A basic one or three-speed bike will be quite sufficient for a fun day's outing.

Ask about children's-size bicycles or bicycle seats if you don't see any. These aren't always self-evident. If their supply is limited, reserve them ahead of time. On the Greek island of Cos, we inquired at three bicycle rental shops before finding one with two children's seats, both of which were in use that day. Without asking, we never would have known anyone had them. The next day, for the grand total of $8, we explored the whole coastal area, seeing far more than we ever would have on foot and enjoying a change from walking.

If there are no bicycle seats available, children 5 years and older can ride seated on a backrack. Pad the rack with a folded towel for more comfortable seating. This may sound uncomfortable, but our children claim they had the time of their lives the day they spent exploring this way. For a child used to walking, the ease of sitting and excitement of going fast will outweigh any discomfort they might feel seated this way.


Renting a car for a day or two is the best way to cover major distances if motorbikes are out of the question. The price is always comparatively high, but well worth the cost for a special occasion now and them. Pick a place to explore by car that really makes sense, an area of interest inaccessible by public transportation or somewhere you want to see at your own pace.

Shop around before choosing a rental. Avoid high cost areas like airports and main towns frequented by tourists. The more local the clientele, the less expensive it will be in most cases. Be sure to ask about all the different rates. Bring the children and emphasize your need for the best possible deal. Try some friendly negotiating. People naturally assume that families are traveling low-budget (with good reason) and will make more of an effort to tell you their least expensive option.

Even when only renting for the day, don't overdo the driving. Children usually hate being confined to a car for hours on end and will remember the whole experience as being quite unpleasant. As any parent knows, children who aren't enjoying themselves aren't very enjoyable either. So if you want to make car rental a treat instead of a chore, choose a special destination that isn't too far away, go there and leave plenty of time for outdoor exploration after you arrive.


Children love celebrations. Any number of things can give rise to one: birthdays, holidays, a stretch of bad weather, a goal reached, a special place, a meeting with friends. Children hardly care what excuse you dream up for a celebration. The event is always welcome and cause for plenty of excitement. Years later they will still remember a place because it was where someone had a birthday or Carnival took place or you had an impromptu party when it rained for three days.

Let the children get involved. More than anything else, children love the preparation period. Some celebrations can be sprung as a surprise or done on the spur of the moment, but most are planned ahead and anticipated with great delight by children. Let them in on as much of the preparations as possible. Due to their enforced separation from the entertainment devices of home, adventuring children become very creative and eager to participate in activities of this type.


If you know you'll be celebrating a certain occasion while on your adventure, bring a few appropriate decorations along. Any trip should also include some basic creative materials for making decorations. The following is a list of suggested party items, all of which are lightweight and can fit in a backpack, pannier, on a boat, or tucked into the corner of a car.



Plastic colored eggs

Cardboard cut-out hearts



Colored pencils or crayons

Scotch tape

Children's plastic scissors

Colored construction paper

Balloons and streamers can be used for birthdays and other occasions. Fill plastic eggs with nuts, dried fruit or candy for Easter. Use cardboard cut-out hearts for tracing and making Valentines. Paper, pencils, scissors and tape can be made into signs, cards pictures and invitations. One of Tristan and Colin's favorite touches for any event is cutting up pieces of colored construction paper to make confetti. This always gets swept up afterwards and recycled at the next party.

Celebrations need hardly be the costly, well-orchestrated affairs some parents make them. When children are involved with preparation, they could care less how expensive and fancy things are. To them, nothing is more beautiful than what they themselves have created. Children don't have very discriminating taste, as any parent who has let their young choose something from the store knows. To them quality means big and bright. So be prepared for an inundation of brightly colored party decorations. Children can never have too many decorations and will continue to produce them until the event finally takes place. Store-bought items will hardly be needed other than what you brought with you plus perhaps a surprise present or two.

Things children can do:

Make invitations


Make presents

Prepare refreshments

Perform music

Organize games

Perform a puppet show

Perform a play

Children can make presents themselves from materials at hand and things they've found along the trip. Favorite presents that surface at our celebrations are collected shells and rocks (all carefully washed), boats made from sticks and bits of cloth, homemade books, drawings, paper airplanes with messages written on them and pieces composed by the children and performed on the violin.

If celebrations are something that usually end up giving you a tension headache at home, let the children take over on a trip. Before you know it, all you'll have to do is produce refreshments and find the scotch tape. They'll have the rest under control and be enjoying themselves more than they ever did before.

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