Five family outdoor adventure vacations worth planning for

Embarking on a jungle trek in search of sloths. Skiing fresh powder accessible only by snow-cat. Climbing up a waterfall using only a rope tied to a tree. These kinds of adventures are not behind you now that you have kids. If anything, with the right planning and the right guides and tour operators, they’re perfect for families who want the chance to explore the outdoors beyond a nature walk or zip-line. 

Five family outdoor adventure vacations to take with your kids:

A jungle cruise you can’t find at Disney:

Have you heard of Uncruise? It’s a company doing exactly what the name implies: taking your preconceived idea of what a ‘cruise’ entails out of your mind, and replacing it with something better. We took Uncruise’s adventure itinerary through Panama and Costa Rica, where every day started with a briefing on the day’s excursions over a gourmet breakfast. Unlike on a large ship, you’re off the ship (in a new destination) at least twice per day, hiking the jungle, kayaking, paddle-boarding and swimming, and wildlife watching. Uncruise vacations are offered throughout the year, with nice discounts in the shoulder seasons (mainly non-holiday periods when kids are in school). Read more about Uncruise’ Panama and Costa Rica itinerary.

A bucket-list trip to the land of Machu Picchu:

Every day of a Vantage Adventures trip to Peru, you’re outside and doing things that feel like a challenge, whether that challenge is walking up seemingly endless stone steps to the top of a UNESCO-protected antiquity or gathering ingredients for a group dinner at a bustling Cusco outdoor market. My point: adventure doesn’t always have to mean ‘extreme’ adventure. ‘Soft’ adventure can bring families together just as easily, and young kids can participate. Get a glimpse of what’s in store in Peru.

machu-picchu

A whitewater camping trip:

When you raft an American river with OARS, my hands-down favorite family rafting operation, you get a camping trip and rafting trip in one. Even if you’ve never slept a night in a tent before embarking on a river, you’ll feel like an expert by the time you’re done four or five days later. Many families report that this is where their own traditions of camping began. If you’re a family accustomed and experienced in the outdoors, OARS will still bring on the challenges with whitewater, personal ‘ducky’ kayaks to command, and side hikes up to jumping rocks, to hot springs, and to waterfalls. Learn more about OARS trips.

oars

An RV vacation under the Midnight Sun:

Maybe you’ve been on an RV vacation road trip, but have you done it in Iceland? In summer, the sun literally never sets, which means adventure is a 24-hour endeavor (much to my kids’ delight). Once you get the hang of driving one of Iceland’s many camper rentals on their narrow roads, you’ll be off and running…to glaciers, hot springs, geothermal pools and hiking trails. Do as much or as little as you want, and plan your itinerary as you go. Read more tips on Iceland camper vacations.

iceland hidden hot springs

A week of Wild West adventure:

Maybe you’re not ready to tackle a glacier yet, or you don’t know if you can trek all the way to Central or South America. Maybe you just want to get your kids on horseback, learn to fly fish, or spend your days hiking and biking. A dude ranch vacation is like summer camp for grown-ups, because you’ll play right alongside your kids all day, and never have to worry about cooking, planning, or driving. Just wait for the dinner bell each evening (and maybe try your luck at rodeo or gymkhana games). Read our guide to planning a dude ranch vacation for next summer.

flathead lake lodge

Why you want to invest in travel insurance for any family adventure trip:

  • Adventure trips that involve specialized guides, exotic destinations or extreme conditions are expensive! We never pay for a bucket list-worthy trip without buying Allianz insurance. It just gives me the peace of mind I need to hit that ‘book’ button. (Why Allianz? Read why this is the travel insurance we trust here.)
  • Your credit card or health insurance at home may not cover you in full, and your airline won’t reimburse you or offer you credit in the case of weather-related delays or cancellations.
  • You want to be covered in have YOU have to cancel, for whatever reason.
  • You definitely want to forego all of that extra coverage every car rental company wants you to tack onto your reservation.

General tips to ensure you won’t need to use that travel insurance:

  • Fly into your departure destination at least a full day before any adventure cruise. Remember, if you’re delayed for any reason, the ship will not wait for you.
  • Opt for public transportation when possible, and hire local drivers in difficult-to-navigate areas.
  • Pay attention to seasons and weather. Will it be hurricane season where you’re going? How about wildfire season (in the American West?). Always, always invest in travel insurance when traveling during high-risk seasons.
  • Always pack a well-stocked first aid kit, that includes any prescription or over-the-counter medications your family regularly needs. For our crew, this means stashing plenty of antihistamine tablets for those of us with severe seasonal allergies and minor food allergies.
  • Prepare for any weather discomfort with the right clothing. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the best of everything, but it does require an investment. Think sun protection and layering: make sure everyone in the family has wool or synthetic base layer items to wear against the skin for any outdoor adventure trip, wool socks, and a down or down-alternative puffer jacket and rain jacket.

This post is written in partnership with Allianz, my preferred travel insurance provider. All opinions are my own.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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