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With more people veering away from crowded vacation hot spots, folks are considering escaping to the great outdoors. Fresh air, scenery, peace, and endless activities await within national parks, forests and along remote coastlines. But when a family is acclimated to Disney World and city hopping, some adjustments may be required to truly enjoy a low key, disconnected getaway. So whether you’re taking that backpacking trip in the mountains, or just driving up to a campsite, there are ways to appreciate and love an outdoor vacation.
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Choose the Right Destination
What do you love? Snow? Dramatic desert landscape? Mountains? After selecting the broader category, start zeroing in. Maybe the family loves hiking lush trails with pristine water features. Glacier National Park in Montana has two distinct divided portions—one is more challenging, the other a tad easier. So this could be a good option for beginners. Experienced hikers may opt for more challenging terrain. Consider experience levels of all in your party to ensure no one becomes overwhelmed and miserable. And hey, if staying in a lodge, while venturing out during the day is more ideal, go for it!
Do Your Research
Playing off the above, researching the destination thoroughly is vital. Use tools like TripAdvisor to determine the best areas and trails that mesh well with the group’s interests. NPS.gov is a solid information resource for National Parks. Find out if there are neat swimming holes along the way, and if campsite facilities are nearby. Some may not be ready for the full backcountry experience, so a campsite can often provide facilities like restrooms and shelter.
Base it Around a Current Hobby
Fishermen would likely appreciate an outdoor vacation to Stanley, Idaho, where the Salmon River passes through, and pristine lakes are tucked in the mountains. Rock climbers may want to spend days ascending prominent peaks. And those who love paddling waters could either kayak along a river versus hiking, or even head to a more tropical environment for paddle boarding. Connecting something you already are in love with will undoubtedly sweeten the deal.
Have the Right Gear
One can imagine the misery that would come along with a trip amongst the snow, without waterproof hiking boots, a solid base layer and well-insulated pants and coat. An ill-fitting backpack loaded with sleeping necessities and food can induce a vacation ruining backache. And making it all the way to your site, only to discover there’s no fire starter or hot pad for cooking would just be downright difficult. Create a checklist of must-needed outdoor gear beforehand, and even consider asking experts what they’d recommend bringing for your specific trip.
Keep it Simple
Yes, you want the right gear. But it’s also important to keep things simple enough, so that pack isn’t weighed down. Also, keep your route fairly easy the first few go-arounds. Have a handful of “must-see” sites, but don’t pack the itinerary. Give yourself time to soak it in and enjoy the surroundings. Find your zen—connect. Keep things easy going and basic.
Immerse in the Native Attributes
At many destinations around the globe, there are stand out things to experience. Pick wild blueberries while hiking the trails in Maine (be sure you know how to identify edibles in nature correctly). If there’s a prominent river loaded with salmon or trout, bring along fishing equipment, while ensuring to review local requirements and laws. Traversing in Dark Sky territory? Lay under the stars at night before retreating to the tent.
Don’t just chillax in the tent. Although that’s totally cool for part of the time. Push beyond the typical comfort zone and delve into all the area has to offers. This broadens the mind, and who knows, a new hobby may be discovered. So take that slightly more challenging hike, try out fly fishing, take a guided whitewater rafting trip. It’s surprisingly eye-opening when trying out something that would have never before been a possibility.
Bring Great Food
Don’t just go with canned beans! Bring fun yet simple meals that are easy to look forward to. Maybe pack some cured meats, veggies, olives and crackers for charcuterie. And a super awesome s’mores selection with a variation of chocolates from a nearby town. Be sure to bring bear canisters for storing any goodies, for the safety of yourself and all the tasty treats!
Stop for Local Booze
First things first—drink responsibly. But stop by a vineyard or brewery on your way out of town. A bottle of Cabernet or a growler of draft beer is best enjoyed by a nightly fire. No wineries or anything like that in any towns you pass? No biggie. Just stop at a store for your favorite brands. Sometimes you’ll find local selections.
Bring Creature Comforts
Cozy blankets, chewable toothbrushing tablets, a sleeping bag and mat—these things are likely important for a comfortable experience. A little boiled water and a packet of Four Sigmatic coffee or hot chocolate not only tastes warm and delicious but are alkaline and energy-boosting. Don’t forget the marshmallows!