Having children doesn’t mean that you have you suppress your adventurous spirit. While you probably will need to dial back the intensity of adventure in your trips at the beginning of parenthood, it won’t be long before you can consider having family adventure vacations with your kids. Whether you incorporate just a little bit of family friendly adrenaline-boosting activities into your trip, or plan a full action packed adventure trip, here is some inspiration for planning family adventure vacations.
Disclosure: We’ve experienced some of these activities at no cost over the years for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Ideas for Family Adventure Vacations
Incorporate Some Adventure Into Your Regular Vacation
Almost any destination that you visit will have some element of adventure that you can consider incorporating. This is a great idea if you don’t want to spend all of your time doing adventurous things, or if you have kids who may want to do some other activities as well (like visiting theme parks or museums). Start small and work your way up to peak adventure.
Kayaking is something that you can do almost anywhere there is water. Sea kayaking, or kayaking through mangroves (like I did in Sarasota) can definitely be more adventurous than other types. For a shorter adventure, perhaps you’ll want to rent kayaks for an hour, otherwise a guided tour can always be fun.
Another option that is especially good with teens is mountain biking on your family vacation. Many vacation destinations offer trails where you can bring along your own bikes, or you can also consider renting bikes. Be sure to pick a simple route if you aren’t as familiar with mountain biking so you don’t hurt yourself.
One of my favorite things to do with my family is visiting an adventure park. Many popular ski resorts offer adventure parks in the summer after the ski season is over.
I’ve visited two separate adventure parks – Attitash near North Conway, NH and Vail Ski Resort Epic Discovery in Vail, Colorado. Both offer lots of things to do with kids, including mountain coasters, alpine slides, bungee trampolines, ski lifts, gondola rides, and so much more.
Many of these parks offer all day passes or individual passes per ride, so you’ll have the option to just try a few things, or to stay all day enjoying the various rides. Even as younger kids, my children always loved visiting adventure parks.
Ziplining is another fun thing to do with kids during your family adventure vacation. We’ve been several times, and there are usually several different options for families.
During our trip to Raleigh, NC, my son and I visited a branch of Go Ape!, a treetop ropes course facility where we had an option of two different courses. Because of my son’s age and height, we ended up on the junior course. This can be a great option for families with younger kids.
The main course is definitely better for older kids. It’s longer, and requires more autonomy. There’s usually a guide that goes with a small group.
During my trip to Vail, I took a much longer zip line tour at Vail Epic Discovery. This trip included air stairs, rapels, chair lifts, and a variety of different zip lines. This type of trip takes between 3-4 hours, so it’s definitely better for a family comfortable with adventure.
As a kid, horseback riding on vacation was one of my favorite things to do. You can spend your family vacation at a dude ranch for a full experience. There’s also the option to take a one or two hour guided horseback riding tour.
Hot Air Ballooning
Going in a hot air balloon was something on my bucket list, and so I was thrilled to be able to do it on a press trip to Phoenix. This is something that is completely different from any other experience I’ve had.
There are lots of different places where you can book a hot air balloon trip throughout the United States. Expect to wake up bright and early for your trip. We left very early in the morning.
If taking a hot air balloon with kids, you’ll want to make sure they are old enough. Most companies have an age minimum, and you’ll want to wait until your kids are old enough to stand still for a while and not be afraid of heights. It was a little scary, even for me, so you won’t want to be up in the air when you realize your kid isn’t ready!
As a kid, I went on several helicopter rides during our family vacations. It’s such a fun thing to do, and a great way to see the local area. Again, you’ll want to make sure that your kids are old enough to appreciate it, and won’t be afraid of the ride. Some people do get motion sick on helicopters, so be sure your kids don’t have motion sickness.
White water rafting
I’ll admit that white water rafting is a bit more adventurous than I’m willing to experience. But if your family loves the water and adventure, it can definitely be lots of fun.
If you are visiting a beach location, snorkeling and/or scuba diving can be a fun adventurous activity on your vacation. My kids love scuba diving, and we often bring along our own equipment during our family beach vacations.
The best thing about snorkeling on vacation is that you can really take it at your own pace. When my kids first started out, we’d just walk into the water with our snorkel equipment and snorkel for a few minutes. Once your kids get more comfortable, you can take snorkeling trips in much deeper water.
We really enjoyed snorkeling at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort, because we didn’t need to bring along our own equipment. As an all-inclusive resort, it’s offered at no charge.
Don’t forget to bring along an underwater camera. There’s so much to see, and you’ll want to capture it while you are experiencing it. (This is my favorite).
Tubing is an activity that can be done in the water in warmer weather and on snow in the winter. We first went tubing outside of Lake George (at a place called Tubby Tubes), and my kids absolutely loved it. Snow tubing became a bit of a winter family tradition, because my kids enjoyed it so much.
Because we aren’t big skiers, we don’t take full family ski vacations. However, we’ve still been skiing with our family. Instead of spending our whole trip skiing, we usually just spend a day on the slopes.
Hiking is an inexpensive and easy way to add some adventure into your family vacation. On a recent trip to Asheville, NC, I enjoyed a brisk hike to Catawba Falls. This was a guided hike, which is a great option for a family hike.
Guided Adventure Tours
In addition to the family adventure vacation ideas listed above, you may consider taking a guided adventure tour. I love doing group tours, because the guides plan everything and my kids always love making new friends.
We’ve been on several different trips with Adventures by Disney, the guided tour arm of the Walt Disney Company. There are so many different tour options, including trips in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
For adventure, some of the best options are Costa Rica, Peru, and the Grand Canyon. These adventure trips including things like river rafting, national and state park tours, and so much more. Local guides typically join the regular adventure guides to provide you with local information.
During our Adventures by Disney trips, we’ve traveled with about 35 or so other guests, so the kids always make friends. The itineraries appeal to adults and kids.
There’s also the brand-new National Geographic Family Journeys with G Adventures. These trips launch in 2020, and typically include about 20 guests. You can see the various trip itineraries here.
When planning for your family adventure vacation, make sure that you pack appropriately. You’ll probably want to have long pants and open-toed shoes at a minimum, because most of these places require those things. If you are going into the water, you may want to pack water shoes in addition to protective covers for your cellular phones so they don’t get wet.