THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Vacations for families with a taste for adventure
By Paul R. Huard
Copley News Service
When it comes to vacation with the kids, more and more families are opting for something a little more adventurous than a trip to a theme park or lazing around the resort pool.
Adventure travel - an amalgam of vacations to outdoor or foreign locations, active pursuits such as hiking and cycling, and immersion in local culture, all under the helpful care of trained guides - is a popular choice for parents who want to enjoy time off, but create once-in-a-lifetime memories.
This trend is not lost on some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry and destination resorts.
For example, Disneyland had Adventureland from the first time it opened its gates in 1955. Today, the company offers access to many other lands on the planet through Adventures By Disney, part of Disney Travel Services, Inc. - and there is a lot more to see than Mickey and Minnie.
The Adventures By Disney home page describes a variety of guided family vacations to cities and locations throughout the world, including China, Costa Rica, France, Germany and Spain. Packages include travel and activities for families ranging from young children to grandparents, guides who explain local culture or teach necessary outdoor skills, and opportunities to experience hands-on activities that the region and and lifestyle. For more information, visit http://abd.disney.go.com, or call (877) 728-7282.
Getting back to nature has always been a theme in vacation travel, but the popularity of wilderness adventure travel is on the upswing.
One important motivator for taking the kids on wilderness outings is simply spending time together. Time is precious to working couples, and the outdoors represents an opportunity for parents and children to readjust their attitudes on Nature's time clock.
The outdoors offers fewer distractions, and lots of natural beauty and healthy exercise. For many parents, that's an unbeatable combination.
"Travel outdoors creates a certain wonder without the outside disturbances," says Cynthia Dunbar, manager for REI Adventures, the travel arm of the giant outdoor recreational equipment co-op and supplier REI. "You can be amazed at nature and how powerful it can be."
The results, says Dunbar, are family trips where both parents and children share the sights that come with the outdoors - wildlife, beautiful vistas, even travel to different parts of the world - and often experience life-changing times together. The Sumner, Wash., company has trips ranging from weekend getaways like a Tahoe family hiking adventure to full-blown wildlife viewing safaris in Africa. Non-members as well as members of REI can book travel, but there are discounts associated with an REI membership. For more information, visit www.rei.com or call (800) 622-2236.
Selling the equipment is not enough for L.L. Bean, the Freeport, Maine, outdoor recreation retailer and clothier. Providing outdoor schools and guided vacations lowers the barrier that keeps inexperienced people from enjoying the wilderness and "puts the brand in action," says Mac McKeever, senior public relations specialist for L.L. Bean.
"You can buy outdoor gear and apparel at lots of places, but very few companies show people how to use the gear and engage in outdoor activities so they get the most out of their purchases and more of what the outdoors offers," McKeever says.
McKeever, who once managed some of the venerable sporting goods company's outdoor programs, says L.L. Bean started decades ago with in-store demonstrations of outdoor skills such as flycasting and canoe use. Then, the company branched out by providing family travel opportunities based on camping, fishing and paddling, offering trips appropriate for kids as young as 6.
The Outdoor Discovery Schools offer adventures designed for families with school-age children to enjoy a unique experience outdoors. Some of the adventures include kayaking and canoeing adventures in Maine's beautiful Belgrade Lakes Region and Casco Bay. The L.L. Bean school also offers single- and multiple-day courses in bike touring, sporting clays, and fly-fishing for adults and children. For more information, visit www.llbean.com, or call (888) 552-3261.
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