We love family vacations, and we love off-the-grid travel, especially challenging treks to ancient ruins. Our last big trips have been to Peru, multi-day camping-hiking adventures that have taken us – two adults and two teenage boys — through cloud forests, along mountain ridges overlooking spectacular valleys, and inside the walls of secluded Incan ruins. We have gotten to spend time with people who live much the way their ancestors did 500 years ago, and learned up-close how coffee beans are farmed. We have seen the well-preserved treasurers of a 2,000-year-old tomb, and watched two male llamas have a serious duel. We also rode mules for the first time, and got a whole new perspective on butterflies (some of the most beautiful species we saw eat dung. Yuck.)
While adventure travel has its rewards, it also has its challenges. Our most recent trip to the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru involved some of the most rigorous hiking we have done, and after I described the trek to a colleague, his response was, “That sounds awesome but I never want to go on vacation with you!”
Over the next few days, I’ll share tips for planning a great family adventure vacation. I know it may seem early to start thinking about vacations now (didn’t school just start?), but planning ahead is an important part of a successful adventure vacation.
Today’s Family Adventure Travel tip: Choosing the destination
- Start with climate. You’ll want to avoid the rainy season, and stay away from regions where the temperature is at either extreme.
- Balance the length of time you have to spend on the vacation with the amount of time it takes to get there and back. For instance, it took us almost two days of travel to get from New York City to the start of our most recent trek, and two days to get back, including an 11-hour layover in Lima.
- Consider jet lag, especially if you are taking a trip right before the start of school, or during spring break when students will come back to mid-terms.
- Be honest about the abilities in your group. If your route involves any technical climbing or strenuous hiking, make sure your family can handle the demands. And don’t just take the tour operator’s word for ability level required – do online research to find blogs or forum posts written by travelers who have already done the trip you plan to take.
- If you are using an outfitter, ask for references. For treks in foreign countries, we’ve found it best to choose full-service groups that provide an English-speaking guide, a cook and porters who carry the gear and pitch the tents at the end of the day. (The dollar still goes a long way in Peru and in other South American countries, and adventure tourism is welcome in the region as a growing source of employment.)
- Try to avoid overnight flights at the start of the trip. You want to be well-rested when you begin.
- Include your whole family in the planning process. Anticipation is part of the fun!
Have you ever gone on an adventure vacation? Was it a “successful” trip? Would you do it again?
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