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Six Family Vacation Ideas for Active Fun


Family vacations come in all sorts of flavors. Sometimes the goal is just to leave behind a hectic schedule, get away to sun, surf, and sand, and relaaaax. In other cases, however – and especially with teens and tweens – what’s wanted is a chance to stretch muscles, learn skills, have some thrills together… An active vacation, in other words. Check out six ideas, below.

1. Snow Vacations

Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs.
Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs.
Skiing and boarding are terrific fun and can unite the family in an exhilarating activity -- check out great ski resorts for families in six regions; see also money-saving tips and more about Family Ski Vacations. (Tip: Club Med has all-inclusive ski resorts in Europe, with emphasis on instruction, and Club Med is known for terrific kids' programs.)

But sometimes not everyone wants to strap on gear and slide down the slopes... So consider some Fun Things to Do at Ski Resorts Besides Skiing and Boarding, such as ski biking, alpine roller coasters, tubing, snowshoeing...

Dog sledding is another exhilarating activity in the snow, and usually everyone gets to "mush" and control the sled. Be sure that your company treats its dogs well! All of them -- including the ones that are not "first string".

2. White Water Rafting

Pirate-themed white water rafting trip. Photo courtesy for Blazing Adventures.
Pirate-themed white water rafting trip. Photo courtesy for Blazing Adventures.
White water rafting is just plain thrilling. Most families try it as a one-day activity when vacationing, say, in Colorado, (as in the photo, right), and these half-day or full-day trips can be a lot of fun. It’s also possible to jump into this sport and do a multi-day rafting trip. See great places for whitewater rafting on family trips.

Most companies offer a range of trips, from easy floats to challenging rapids. Even kids as young as six can join certain trips. A Class I ride means "easy gentle moving water with small waves or obstacles"; families will typically choose Class I or II trips. Remember that the same river is very different during the course of the summer: get there early if you want a tumultuous ride.

And for the mother of all trips: raft the Grand Canyon. You'll need a good chunk of time, 6 to 16 days; the longer trips add hiking into side canyons and other activities. Typically, minimum age is twelve. What an adventure, to do with teens!

3. Horseriding

Photo courtesy of Braco Adventure Tours.
Horse-riding in Jamaica, photo courtesy of Braco Adventure Tours.
Families can choose among several ways to get on horseback on a getaway. Often, people will do a horse-riding excursion as a day-trip while on a vacation – for instance, guests at an all inclusive resort in Jamaica can try horse-riding in the sea.

Meanwhile, in states such as Arizona, some areas specialize in dude ranch vacations, that offer instruction and trail rides from beginner to advanced levels. These ranches usually have nearly-all-inclusive pricing; be sure that your rate includes all the riding you want! You might also want to investigate the trend toward Luxury Dude Ranches.

And then there are the dream equestrian vacations scattered around the world-- often a cherished choice for a Mother-Daughter Getaway.

4. Snorkeling and Scuba

Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Snorkeling day trip in Negril, Jamaica. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
One easy way for families who love the underseas to get into the water is to stay at an all inclusive resorts that offer snorkeling trips -- such as the Beaches resorts in Jamaica.

Beaches is the family brand of the all-inclusive Sandals resorts, and Beaches resorts are particularly noteworthy for scuba fans because they offer all-included scuba dives. (Typically, scuba is not among the all-included watersports at most resorts.) Kids 10 and up can participate; guests who aren't certified divers do need to take a "resort course" first, and then can dive once a day.

5. Outdoorsy Resorts

Photo courtesy of Woodloch Resort.
Photo courtesy of Woodloch Resort.
Another good way to have active fun is to head to a resort or lodge in a Great Outdoors setting that prides itself on offering its guests a wide range of things to do. Woodloch Resort in Pennsylvania, for instance, is a four-season resort with a thousand acres, and guests might variously try lake watersports, snow tubing, or ice skating; Rocking Horse Ranch in New York State has horseriding and nature trails, plus bungee jumping, softball, tennis, bocce court, miniature golf, and climbing walls; at Mohonk Mountain House, also in New York State, winter guests can try try x-country skiing on 35 miles of trails, snowshoeing, snow-tubing, and ice-skating.

Smugglers Notch, VT has too many activities to list in both winter ( including skiing) and summertime... And in North Carolina, the rustin Earthshine Mountain Lodge --about an hour and a half from Ashville-- has ziplines and a high-ropes course; guests also hike up a creek and slide down a natural rock waterslide.

6. Multisport Family Adventures

Rafting on Yellowstone multisport family adventure by Austin Lehman. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Family adventures” are a special niche in the world of family travel: small-group escorted tours offer great itineraries with all details handled. Often these trips head to legendary destinations: Yellowstone, The Galapagos, Italy… Some trips put an emphasis on physical activities: the keyword to look for is “multisport”. Check out, for example, the family multisport trips offered by the REI Adventure company: families will hike, bike, kayak, and zip-line on a Thailand trip, or hike raft, snorkel, sea kayak, and bike on a trip to the Amazon Basin and the Galapagos. Minimum age for these trips is eight. Austin-Lehman Adventures likewise has many "multisport" family trips, in Utah, Wyoming, British Columbia...

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