Advice

May 19, 2017

International Family Vacations: A Good Idea for Young Families?

I read an article recently that said there was a science behind not taking kids under the age of 12 on international family vacations. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I can’t say I agree, or at least, that has not been my experience. My boys are now 17 and 20 and we have been traveling as a family since they were babies. Being the general manager of a family travel company I can say my experience has been different than the author of the story. I am sure most of you will take what I say with a grain of salt as I would if I were you.

a family on an international family vacation to the Galapagos Islands

Jim and his family exploring the Galapagos Islands.

I will try and be as transparent as possible.  Until the age of 5 or 6 I would agree that it is difficult for children to really enjoy “the strange smells of a Moroccan souk.” The flights and the moving about from hotel to hotel are unsettling for most children. We took our boys to Tanzania when they were 4 and 7 to visit friends there and to go on safari.  They both did well on the long flight thanks to all the pre-trip planning my wife did in bringing along games, toys, and video machines to distract them.  In Tanzania it was a mixed bag. My 4 year old (Joshua) didn’t have the attention span to be watching wildlife from a vehicle so we were cutting our game drives short and heading to the pool at the hotel before the scheduled time.  On the other hand, my 7 year old (Christian) was very ready and happened to learn to read sitting in the back of a land rover.  He read the 1989 Animal Family Series from Jane Goodall.  This made his parents very proud and maybe he will brag about it when he’s older.  At another point on this trip, there were four boys from 4 to 8 years old sitting beside a pool in one of the premiere game parks in Tanzania and all they wanted to do was build things with Legos. Their focus was the enjoyment of the Legos.  Getting them out on safari did take a bit of convincing and maybe some arm twisting.

We continued to do adventure trips as a family year in and year out and the boys learned a lot and really did enjoy themselves.

Where I think I do agree with the article is that children do have simple pleasures and like consistency. As parents I think that we need this as well. In addition to our overseas adventures we went camping in Nickerson State park on Cape Cod and went on a long weekend ski trip during the February school vacation to New Hampshire.  These two family vacations did allow our boys to ski and sled the same slopes, swim in the same pond, and watch the Cape Cod League ballgames every year.  My wife (Kim) and I found these traditions important in our family.  We are still doing these two family vacations although the scheduling is much more difficult with one kid in college and one in high school!

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but maybe it was these repetitive vacations that allowed our boys the “intellectual space” to explore the more exotic spots of the world like Turkey, the Galapagos, and Cuba. I know as parents, watching them spend hours with our guide Natalia in Ecuador identifying the fish of the Galapagos was something we will never forget.  They were between 7 and 10 but they took in every second of it. A few years back we went on a trip to Cuba and at the end the boys spent a day at the beach with two Cuban teens as part of a cultural program. The Cubans didn’t speak English and one of my boys spoke basic Spanish, yet the four of them were able to talk “music” for three hours.  Where there is a will there is a way. This is another great memory that will always be with us.

Most of the trips that they did with us were “scouting” trips for Thomson Family Adventures.  There was an element of work involved as we asked them to rate all of the hotels, meals, activities, and more. That is different than what most families are doing. That being said we were able to introduce our boys to new horizons and I don’t think that they will need counseling because of it. They might for other reasons related to all of our parenting mistakes, but going on adventures to Guatemala or Portugal or Belize won’t be the reason.

We have wonderful memories from both types of family vacations and, looking back, I don’t think I would change anything.  We were happy to be able to do both.

Maybe the key is that each family needs to figure out what works for them.  I doubt that one size fits all. There are probably plenty of families with children that can really enjoy two or three adventure trips per year and there are others that need to limit it to once every other year.



April 28, 2017

Which Galapagos Family Vacation is Best for You?

The “Galapagos” has been one of the most popular destinations asked about since Thomson Family Adventures started offering trips for families in 1998, and with good reason. This unique volcanic archipelago is home to numerous marine species, birds, volcanic rocks, and gorgeous scenery.  An idyllic destination for families, kids and parents alike are fascinated by something when they visit.

photo of the skyline taken on a family vacation to the Galapagos

There are a lot of different ways to experience a Galapagos family vacation and looking at all the options can be overwhelming at first.  The first question is if your family wants to visit just the islands, or do they want to also experience the culture and people of mainland Ecuador.  Our Friends Across Borders program here is one of the best, along with incredible hiking, cooking lessons, and some of the nicest people you will have the pleasure of meeting!   Several itineraries combine the best of both options with 3 nights in the Andean Highlands and 3 nights in the Galapagos Islands.

Your next decision is how you want to experience the Galapagos themselves.  Many people opt for a cruise, allowing you to unpack once and settle in.  Because the boat moves throughout the days, it allows your family to see the maximum numbers of islands in a short time.  However, it is good to know that the boats have to adhere to strict guidelines set by the national parks.  So the visits to the islands are limited in time and activity.  On average there are (2) excursions daily, each about 2.5 hours long.  The remainder of the time will be spent on the boat.  Be ready to spend some time on a boat and don’t expect to be active for 8-10 hours a day when seeing the Galapagos on a family cruise.

Alternatively, your family can choose a land based Galapagos vacation. The amenities may be more limited but there is much more flexibility in terms of activities. While you may not see as many islands compared to a boat trip, you will see so much more of the one or two islands you do visit.  Activities can be more active such as biking, longer hikes, and snorkeling in more remote parts.

However you choose to experience this amazing destination your family will be amazed.  Call and speak with one of our family travel advisers to help find out which Galapagos adventure is best for you and your family!



April 13, 2017

Easter Traditions Around the World

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead. The origins of the word “Easter” are largely unknown but there are several common theories. Some claim that “Easter” comes from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring and fertility. Others account the origins to hebdomada alba, white week, in Latin, for people who wore white when they were baptized. Easter is an entire season of celebration and observance, from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Monday. Easter is celebrated all around the world and you can take a family vacation in one of these countries to take in the traditions!

Italy: Pasqua

There aren’t set traditions in Italy. It’s more about where in Italy you are that sets the stage for the traditions and celebration you will encounter. The Vatican is a mecca for Catholics and all pilgrims who wish to attend the Pope’s mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. After the evening’s mass, the Pope goes on a candlelit procession at Palatine Hill stopping fourteen times along the way to remember the walk of Christ and pray, ending at the Colosseum. Mass is held every day from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Another tradition in Rome is the food that is traditionally served: pizza sbattula (sponge cake), hard boiled eggs, ham and salami, and colomba (dove-shaped cake).

Peru: La Semana Santa (Holy Week)

One of the most well-known Easter celebrations takes place in Cuzco. The city’s celebration circles around Señor de los Temblores, Lord of the Earthquakes. The King of Spain had sent a statue of Christ to Cuzco to convert the locals. The statue was placed inside the church in Cuzco but during a major earthquake in 1650, the locals removed the statue from the church and the earthquake stopped. Since then, the statue has remained in the Plaza de Armas as a symbol of their Savior. One of the celebrations falls on Holy Monday when there is a six-hour procession around the plaza. There is mass during the rest of Holy Week. Another Easter tradition involves food as it represents a time of rejoicing and gratitude after an extended period of fasting. On Good Friday, is it common to eat twelve main dishes like soup, fish, potatoes, and dessert like mazamorra.

Canada: Easter

Easter in Canada is much like that in the United States. The celebration of Easter is preceded by Lent, during which Christians practice penance that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. In French Canadian communities, Lent is interrupted by Mid-Lent. This is mostly celebrated in Quebec and Acadia. Otherwise, Easter is celebrated in the same manner as other Western countries.

Canadians mark the holiday with family gatherings and food. Lamb is a common dish, as well as ham and hot cross buns. Consumption of the buns dates to the British tradition of making the cross buns incised with a cross as a symbol of Christ. In modern times, icing is used to mark the cross on top of the buns. There are many symbols of modern Easter that have more to do with the beginning of Spring than with the religious holiday itself such as egg hunts, the Easter Bunny, chocolate, and more.

The messages of rejoice and gratitude are the same while celebrations in these countries can be different. This is a time of the year to celebrate new life and a fresh beginning of the season. You can travel to any one of these places and see these celebrations and traditions up close and personal. Seeing traditions play-out in a different culture is one of the best parts about travel!



February 10, 2017

Top 5 Reasons to Take a Family Vacation to Switzerland

Although small, roughly the size of Massachusetts, Switzerland is a country that offers quite a lot for families to enjoy while on vacation. Switzerland is fun, adventurous, and multi-faceted. It’s clean, crisp air is inviting, relaxing, and rejuvenating. It’s easy to forget how taking in a breath of fresh air is supposed to feel! From the mountains and grazing cattle to watches and chocolate, family vacation to Switzerland has a variety of things to do and things to see.

scene from a Switzerland family vacation

The Mountains

The Swiss countryside is full of mind-blowing mountains with snow covered peaks. You can hike them. You can see them from afar. You can get up close. You can visit the tops of them. No matter how you choose to see the mountains, there isn’t a wrong answer. The most striking and famous of the Swiss mountains is the Matterhorn. You’ve probably seen images of the Matterhorn on chocolate wrappers, in movies, or photos, but nothing compares to what it’s like in person. Interlaken is a town home to three impressive mountains, Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. The best part is that many of these mountain peaks have options to take cog railways or cable cars up to the peak for the ultimate view.

The Goods

If there is one thing that the Swiss know how to do, it’s really perfect a craft to produce something that people around the world can enjoy. The two that come straight to mind are chocolate and watches. The chocolate is of the highest and most delicious quality. Keep an eye out for classic brands such as Callier, Chocolat Villars, and Suchard. Swiss watches are sold all over the world and are famous for their precision, ingenuity, quality, and ability to set the tone for trends in the industry. This is one of the best things to bring home after visiting Switzerland, it’ll last you a lifetime!

The Waterfalls

It isn’t only the mountains that are a natural wonder in the Swiss countryside. Among the tallest and largest in all of Europe, they can be inspiration for art or simply enjoyed by a traveler that comes across one. Some of the most striking waterfalls are in the Bernese Oberland region where plenty of hikes and trail walks cross old wooden bridges in front of gorgeous waterfalls.

Train Rides

Traveling by train or railway is one of the best ways to get around Switzerland. It is often faster than taking a bus and cheaper than a flight. It also allows people to see some of the most wonderful views on the continent, from the comfort of a seat. It isn’t just cross country trains that people should check out, but also the cog railways that wind along the sides of mountains until reaching the peak. It’s an easier and faster way to get to some of the highest points in Switzerland and see some amazing views.

Variety and Neutrality

Switzerland is perhaps most famous, more so than its mountains, watches, and chocolate, for its neutrality. It has time and time again kept itself out of conflict and from choosing sides. This is part of the national culture; people are friendly and like to keep their noses in their own business! There are also four languages spoken in Switzerland. In addition to English, the main languages of Switzerland are French, German, Italian, and Romansh. What language you hear will depend on what region you’re in.

There is a ton to see, do, and learn in Switzerland. It’s one of the best places to go for a European family vacation!



February 2, 2017

Sicilian Blood Orange and Shrimp Risotto Recipe

One of the best parts about taking a family vacation to Italy is the food, although there are many things to love about Italy. One place that is especially great is Sicily. Sicily is famous for its citrus orchards and their fruit is frequently used in Sicilian cooking.  One fruit that deserves special mention is the Arancia Rossa di Sicilia or blood orange.  With its rich orange flavor and delicate raspberry notes, it is a delight to cook with and wonderful to match with seafood.  Here is one of my favorite recipes for one of the dishes that my family loved on our last vacation to Italy.

(If you can’t get blood oranges, the dish is very good with regular oranges.)

Risotto:Sicilian Blood Orange and Shrimp Risotto Recipe

  • 6 cups Shrimp Stock
  • 1 ½ cups Risotto
  • 2 Shallots, chopped
  • 3 T Olive oil
  • Zest of one blood orange
  • ½ cup Heavy Cream (optional)
  • 3 T Butter
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Shrimp:

  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 1 lb. Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier
  • Juice of one blood orange

 

Risotto Recipe:

In a large sauté pan with olive oil, soften shallots over med-low heat.  You should avoid getting any color on the shallots, you just want them to go clear.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, bring shrimp stock to a simmer.

Add rice to sauté pan and cook lightly for 2 minutes.  Add one cup of shrimp stock to rice, raise temperature to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon until most of the water is absorbed.  Continue adding one cup of stock at a time until all stock is absorbed and rice is tender.  Taste for salt.  Depending on your stock you may need to add a significant amount of salt to make the rice flavorful.

Reduce sauté pan to low heat.  Add heavy cream, zest, and butter. Stir until thoroughly incorporated.   Add fresh ground pepper to taste.  Cover and leave on very low heat to keep warm.

Shrimp Recipe:

CAUTION: you are about to add alcohol to a hot pan, please be careful! 

We are going to flambé the shrimp.  To do this you need to be prepared.  You will need a lid which fits your skillet (in case of emergency use the lid to extinguish flame).  And you will need a long match.

Add oil to pan and heat until shimmering.  Add shrimp.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes.

Move the pan safely away from the cook top.  Add Grand Marnier, and orange juice to the pan.

Return pan to heat.  When the liquid begins to simmer, use a long match to light alcohol.  Shake pan gently while alcohol burns off.  When flames go out the shrimp should be fully cooked and ready to serve (about 2 more minutes).

Serve shrimp and a spoonful of the juices over the risotto, garnish with a slice of orange.

You can make this at home, or, the other option is to plan your next family vacation to Italy and try the dish right from the source!

 



January 19, 2017

7 Tips for Taking a Family Vacation

Family vacations have been popular forever. For me personally, I look forward to taking time off work, the regular day-to-day routine, and taking an adventure with my family. There are undoubtedly challenges when it comes to traveling with your family from petty arguments to the kids not getting along, just because. But with a little guidance and these tips, your family vacation will be a blast!

a beautiful sunset, as seen on a family vacation from Thomson Family Adventures

This is a sunset the whole family will remember!

1. Don’t let the little things bother you, you’re about to take an adventure with the people you love! Make the memories count, it’s a once in a lifetime getaway. Remember, you’re getting a break from life— don’t sweat the small stuff!

2. Put one outfit in each person’s carry-on bag. If the airline loses your checked luggage, you’ll still have some backup clothes and outfits to choose from. Nothing is worse than starting your vacation and not having any clothes. If you don’t bring a carry-on try to put some clothes in one of your family member’s bags!

3. Pick a destination that has something for everyone! One great place for families to explore together is Costa Rica. There’s an incredible amount of wildlife from Capuchin monkeys to scarlet macaws. It’s also a great place to find adventure. You can zip-line through tree-top canopies and hike through the jungle around the Arenal Volcano!

zip lining on a family vacation

4. If you pick a destination that’s far, make the most out of your time there by staying the right amount of days. You don’t want to spend 20-hours traveling for only 5 days of fun. Some good places to go if you want to travel far from home, that are incredible, are South Africa and Thailand! I promise you’ll be blown away by the sites and their cultures.                     

5. If you have a long lay-over, try to make a day trip out of it! Kill two birds with one stone, it’s travel efficiency at its finest. When flying to Tanzania you are almost guaranteed to have a layover in Amsterdam. Why not take an extra day to see the city and cross it off your bucket list?

6. Take a day off from one another. It’s OK if some of your family wants to take a break and split off from one another. Everyone needs a break now and then!

7. Do a little research about a destination before choosing where to take your family vacation. The world has endless opportunities. Regardless of a planned itinerary, it’s always good to look at the country your visiting and learn a little about it; food, culture, languages, and history. Every destination has something unique to its culture!

 



January 6, 2017

6 Reasons Family Vacations are the Best

The first part of planning a vacation is deciding who you are going to vacation with. Now we may be biased, but the best people to travel with are family. There are a lot of reasons to travel with your family and why family vacations are the best kinds of vacations.  From new memories to amazing adventures we have narrowed down the best seven reasons why family travel is the best.

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Traveling with your Family Creates Amazing Memories

It’s more than just the incredible scenery that makes it special, it’s the laughter, the awkward encounters watching mom haggle with a street vendor, and all the inside jokes that you’ll be talking, and mostly laughing, about during dinners and holidays for years to come.

Appreciation for Travel & Different Cultures

The world is huge. Spending time far from home, getting away from life as we know it can help us all to find our place in this world. There’s a path and a group for everyone. As a family you may even discover something new that you’ll love, together.  The sooner you can travel with your family, exposing your kids to new cultures, the bigger the impact on their life. It may even mold and shape their future paths. All of which is exciting to watch!

Establishing New Traditions

Traditions are what make families, well, family. There is no way like traveling together to develop mew traditions. Maybe it’s something you pick up from the local culture or maybe the tradition becomes traveling as a family. Whatever it is, it’s always great to start a new tradition!

Learning New Things About your Family

There’s a good chance you’ll learn something new about your family and give them a chance to learn something knew about you too. There’s no better way to show your kids how cool you are than to go looking for lions together! Who knew your sister was so good at tracking wild animals? Seeing your family in a different light and getting to know them in new contexts can be really cool and eye opening.

a person enjoying a family vacation

You’ll Try New Things

Mom agreed to go shark cage diving with us?! And she’s good to go snorkeling with fish and zip-line over the jungle? Who knew she was that adventurous? When someone in your family is excited about trying something, you just might get the urge to try that new adventure too!

Experience a New Place Together

New places are exciting for everyone. Everything from the tastes to the sounds to the smells is an adventure. Chances are you’ll want to experience a new place together again! Whatever you do and wherever you go, whether it’s South Africa or Thailand, being there with your family is the best!

3 family members enjoying their vacation

Take the stress out of planning your next family vacation and focus on the fun and the memories! Give us a call today and we can help your family go on the vacation of a lifetime.



December 22, 2016

Holiday Traditions Around the World

Delicious food, cheery music, and colorful light displays. These are signs of the holiday season. We all have exciting traditions that we share and create with our families. But it is equally exciting, in season of sharing and giving, to teach our children the importance of traditions around the world. The best part about these holiday traditions is that they happen every year and you can visit these countries on a family vacation and see these traditions play out first hand!

blue footed booby wearing santa hats

Ecuador – La Navidad

Traditional Christmas in Ecuador is a religious occasion where families gather for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. As mass begins, eucalyptus branches burn in front of the church and families proceed into the church. Families carry figurines of Christ and sing carols. Inside the church, the figurines are placed at the Nativity. Ecuadorians attend morning mass on Christmas Day and bring more figures to place at the Nativity. In homes, you see nativity scenes and dinner tables with large Christmas Eve meals including variations of rice – like rice with stew, spicy rice, rice with corn, and arroz Navideño (Christmas rice). Christmas trees are not traditional in this Andean region. Instead fake trees are adorned with lights and ornaments.

Ireland – Christmas

Christmas in Ireland is a lot like that in the U.S. Christmas trees are displayed in the center of town with nativity scenes displaying the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Kings at local churches. Before Christmas trees gained popularity, holly and ivy were used to decorate homes. It was said that the more berries on the holly the more luck would come in the new year. Families attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve where blessed holy candles are lit. Celebrations on Christmas Day consist of a large Christmas dinner with turkey, ham, chicken, stuffing, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mince pie. The day after Christmas Day is St. Stephen’s Day, with Saint Stephen being the first Christian martyr. This day is spent resting, attending mass, and celebrating with another large meal.

Israel – Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah (“dedication” in Hebrew) is the Jewish eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem that occurred in the 2nd century B.C. During this time, Jews rose against their Greek-Syrian oppressors, who forbade Jewish religious practice, in an effort to refuse to worship the Roman Gods. On each night after sundown of Chanukah, a candle is added to a nine-branched menorah. The ninth candle is used to light the other candles and blessings are recited and the menorah is placed in a window as a reminder to others of the holiday. Traditional foods are made such as potato pancakes and jam-filled donuts or “sufganiyot”. Families engage in gift-exchanging and playing with dreidels.

China – New Year

The New Year in China traditionally honors household, heavenly deities and ancestors. The new year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar and each new year is marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals, including the dragon, rooster, dog, horse, pig, snake, rat, sheep, monkey, ox, tiger, and rabbit. It is considered the most important festival of the year and homes are cleaned to rid them of “huiqi” or inauspicious breaths that accumulated during the old previous year and be clear for inspection by the gods from heaven. Firecrackers are set off to frighten evil spirits and food and paper are offered to the gods. This was all meant to bring good luck and long life to families. On New Year’s Eve families fast and during the first five days of the new year long noodles are eaten to celebrate long life. On the 15th day and the last day of the new year, dumplings shaped like the full moon are made to show unity as a family.

While these celebrations are all different, the meanings behind each are the same: unity. Unity brings us together as families and a people. This is the time of the year when ours hearts feel a little less heavy and a lot fuller.



December 9, 2016

Why Familes With Millennials Love Costa Rica

The travel bug is incurable. So if you’re childhood was filled with adventure, like mine, you’re not going to stop when you’ve grown up. Sure, the dynamic of your adventures change, but millennial family travel is an opportunity to share experiences that will help both generations see each other in a new light.

a family about to go zip lining

Just because you’re grown and out of the house doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a family vacation. One of our favorite destinations for families with millennials is Costa Rica. Why? Here are 4 “hip” reasons from a millennial herself:

Endless Opportunity for Outdoor Activities

Whether you are a super adventurous family that loves the thrill of zip-lining through the jungle or a more laid back family who loves leisure hikes searching for wildlife – Costa Rica is the perfect place for all sorts of activity. There’s an opportunity at every turn for your family to explore the wild outdoors or roll up your sleeves and jump into action, from kayaking through the mangroves to relaxing on the beach, learning to make chocolate and sharing cultural experiences— there’s something for everyone!

New Experiences and New Friends

Test your limits in Costa Rica and step out of your comfort zone! Get caught in a rain storm and expect the unexpected! Repel down waterfalls, zip-line high above the tree tops, whitewater raft through class IV rapids, or test your taste buds. You can make new friends from group travel, being paired with people the same age, or through meeting locals.  And there’s no better way to meet the locals than spending a night out with a local craft brewer and going to all the hot spots in San Jose to have a drink and route for the local futbol team.

The Vibrant Atmosphere

Costa Rica is one of the most colorful places in the world. From the lush green forests and magnificent birds to the vibrant farmer’s markets and lively nightlife – there’s not much more you can ask for.

The Mouthwatering Food

Who doesn’t love Latin food? YUM! Stop at a local mercado and pick up some plantains! Peel and fry them up in your favorite oil and enjoy these sweet treats. Or if you like a more savory dish try cooking up some tostones – flattened plantains covered in salt!

Doing Adult Things

One thing us millennials hate is being treated like children and our natural instinct is to cringe or roll our eyes when we hear the phrase “family vacation.” But Costa Rica is far from childish. From bar crawls to hanging out at beach clubs with exclusive access to swim-up bars and private beaches, your family vacation will feel more like a party than a punishment!



November 23, 2016

4 Things to Bring when Hiking with Kids (Which I Forgot)

Something that all of us at Thomson Family Adventures enjoys is hiking. We hike on family vacations and in our spare time. Whether we are exploring the mountains of Chiang Mai or looking for waterfalls in Costa Rica, we love to be out and hiking through the wilderness. I like to hike whenever I have the chance. On my last hike I recognized a few things that could’ve made the hike a little bit better for the kids I took with me. These cheap and easy tips I thought of after my last hike might make your next family hiking experience extra special for your kids! And always remember, when hiking on a family vacation with TFA, we always make sure to have these little details covered to make it the best experience possible.

hiking trail for families

Recently, I hiked in the New Hampshire White Mountains with two 11 year old girls, my daughter and my niece.  We did a backpacking trip over Mt. Wolf to Eliza Brook where we spent the night, and the next day we did North and South Kinsman and then hiked out.  The girls had to carry some of their own gear, but they are young so I wanted to make sure to keep weight down.  While total weight is important I missed an opportunity, with just a few ounces I could have really improved their experience.  For $8.25 and less than a half pound I could have been a hero.

Hot Chocolate (1.5 oz., $.25)

Let’s face it, mornings in the New Hampshire White Mountains are cold.  I prefer hiking in the early spring and early fall (before and after bug season), two seasons characterized by chilly mornings.  Getting kids out of bed is never easy, but in these conditions it is even worse.  A cup of hot chocolate waiting for them outside the tent would have done wonders to improve the mornings.

Light (.07 oz., $5)

Much of the White Mountain National Forest does not allow camp fires.  As a result when then sun goes down there isn’t much for kids to do.  Having a small light which can be hung within the tent would have given them a place to go and hang out after dinner.  This would have given them their own space to laugh and gossip in and they would have loved it.

Candy (4 oz., $2)

Oatmeal, ramen noodles, granola bars, and trail mix are the obvious foods which kids have come to expect when hiking, camping, and backpacking.  But how epic would it have been if I had whipped out Swedish fish or gummy worms when we were struggling with elevation gains on a gray and overcast day.  I could have lifted their spirits with unexpected treat.

Hand Warmer (1 oz., $1)

Pitch one of these into the bottom of a cold sleeping bag a little while before going to bed, and your bedding changes from a thankless cold nylon bag, to a toasty warm haven.  After a long hike on sore feet, this would have made them giggle with joy.

PS: They had a great time anyhow and both want to go again.  Next time though, I am taking my own advice!

kids on a family hike