Activate Your Goals

You know it’s January when all the talk is about goal setting. Some people call them New Year’s resolutions, but in my world goals work better. I also like to come up with a theme for the year ahead. Last year my theme was “focus” and boy was it a difficult, but worthy theme during a pandemic. Goals are a necessary part of business life, but many are realizing they have a place in personal life as well. Everyone seems to have their own process in setting goals; how they are documented and kept visible, how they brainstorm to narrow down and specify their goals, when they space them out, how often they re-evaluate, etc. It can take years to come up with a goals process that you stick to. Don’t let that hinder you from activating your goals, though. Just go forward.

anonymous lady walking on road in forest

So, what’s next? Do you just set your goals and hope they are achieved? How do you move in to the next part of the process? You have got to find a way to activate your goals. Put those goals in motion. Over here at Go Family Adventure we choose to live life with intention and we try to incorporate goals in to our whole family culture. The first step is all you need to take, but you have to take it. Think of it like a marathon. You can stand all day at the starting line, but if you don’t cross that line you never DID a marathon. Wouldn’t your rather try something and fall short than never try at all? It’s one thing to set your goals, but it’s another thing to move toward accomplishing them. I’m going to suggest three ways to activate your goals this year.

Activate Your Goals: Step 1- Write Them Down

Remember how your high school teachers gave you study tips and told you to re-write your notes a few times for them to sink in? Well, friends, it’s time to re-write your goals. Keeping goals in your head is a great way to self-protect, but if you want to put them in to action you need to write them down. And then write them down again and again. I have found that naming goals for the year is powerful, but breaking down those goals into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks is empowering. The visual written goal is a starting point. Activate those goals by continuing to write them down in task format in a planner or notebook that works for you until you have reached the goal.

opened notebook with silver pen near magnolia

Activate Your Goals: Step 2- Read All About It

Now I know this may seem like an extra step, but hear me out. If you really want to put your goals in to action I suggest doing the needed research and learning to make them happen. This can happen in a variety of forms. Articles, books, blogs, and audiobooks are incredible resources for leaning all about what you are working to achieve. Taking your goal seriously and moving it from an idea into action includes research. You will need to put work in to activating your goals. They will not happen just sitting in the written form. A word of caution at this step-do not get caught by analysis paralysis. There is a necessary next step to this process.

stack of books near magnolia flower on table

Step 3- Take the Leap of Faith

It’s time. You wrote down the goal. You learned all about how to successfully tackle the goal. Now you need to take the leap and achieve the goal. Although it could take weeks, months, or the entire year to achieve you are on the right path. The key at this point to activating your goals is to continue to pursue them. A final suggestion is to bring in a level of accountability at this point. Your spouse, business partner, best friend or business coach needs to know what you working toward. It helps to know in the back of your mind that someone else is aware of your pursuits, cares about your pursuits and is cheering you on as you activate your goals.

woman in white long sleeve shirt and black pants standing on brown rock formation near body

The Magic of Winter Comfort Food

Don’t you love that warm, cozy feeling of sitting down to a comfort meal with your family and friends during the chilly winter months? It is so comforting to make, serve, and eat food that brings people together. With shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures, it’s no wonder we spend more time preparing and consuming food. It’s like this age old way of fattening up for the “lean” months. Of course, that’s not a thing anymore, but we still do life like that even though it’s unnecessary. Weird.

Maybe it’s because I’m from the midwest, but the comfort foods of choice in winter revolve around soups, stews, and roasts. I even grew up eating cream of wheat and oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day in the winter, which my kids think is ridiculous. Funny how that stuff stays with you. Well I’m going to share three winter comfort food recipes with you today that are sure to give you that warm and cozy feeling I know you’re looking for. So before you head outside for a day of winter activities, power up. We’ve got you covered for your midday warm up and also a simple, cozy way to entertain after a cold day of outdoor winter activities.

Power Oatmeal: Winter Comfort Food Breakfast

oatmeal platter of comfort food

One great way for me to start my day is with a warm bowl of power oatmeal. It is packed with flavor and with protein and keeps my belly satisfied all morning. And the best part is you can microwave it and your oatmeal will be ready in less than 5 minutes prep to spoonful.

I use a recipe from Clean Simple Eats, but tweak it to my desired consistency and tastes. Have I ever told you how much we love their protein powders and off-beat butters? YUM!


  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 TBSP of liquid egg whites
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • 3/4 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 TBSP of half & half
  • dash of cinnamon
  • Combine oats, water, egg whites and banana. Microwave for 1.5 minutes
  • Stir in your protein powder and half & half, add cinnamon to top
  • Enjoy!

Copycat Trader Joe’s Harvest Chili: Comfort Lunch

variety of vegetables for the magic of comfort

I’m obsessed. I can’t help myself, but when lunchtime comes around I NEED harvest chili. Yes, Trader Joe’s offers it seasonally in their prepared food refrigerated section, but it’s only there for a short amount of time. Good thing I found a copycat recipe so I can make it at home to curb my need for winter comfort food. There are a lot of ingredient in this, but it’s basically a dump and cook recipe. The creator suggests cooking the onions, carrots and celery prior to adding the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot and I agree, but if you are short on time you can skip this step. Did I mention this is a vegetarian recipe? Did I also mention how satisfying it is? Cozy up and fix yourself a bowl of harvest chili and if you’re feeling fancy, add a few slices of avocado on top.

Company Pot Roast: Comfort Food Dinner

Cookbook for winter comfort food

Having friends or family over for a meal is a quintessential aspect of life. As much as we crave wonderful food, more so we crave sharing that food with others we love. Having a solid main dish that you can put together and let cook while you finish off your side dishes and salads is the key to easy entertaining. This pot roast recipe has a 3 hour cook time, so be sure to plan ahead for that. The options for side dishes are endless and you can creatively add healthy options to accompany your comfort food main dish.

Choose the most prime piece of beef you can afford. This is important when your dish is simple. Pot roast is not a fancy dinner, but the cut of meat and the quality of the meat will stand out more if you select prime beef. Talk to your butcher (even if it’s just at your local grocery store) and let him/her know exactly what you’re cooking and what you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to talk budget either.

Three January Travel Destinations

suitcase for travel

The winter months can leave us longing for time away from home. Life inside after a hectic and fun filled holiday season is a great way to recharge, but for those who get itchy feet this is a time to recharge by being outside. Today we have put together three January travel destinations worth considering. Each of these three locations will scratch that itch and get you outside in a big way.

Destination: Big Sky, Montana

snow ski mountain

Known as one of the best family ski areas in the U.S., Big Sky is a winter wonderland playground. There is no shortage of outdoor activities for the entire family and an incredible January travel destination. If you are new to skiing or you don’t ski at all, don’t worry. Big Sky has hundreds of ski runs in 19 different areas including 38 lifts to suit any level. This place is massive and it’s easy to spread out.

Lodging options are aplenty at Big Sky Resort and beyond. Whether you’re looking for a ski in ski out condo or a luxury mountain chalet, you and your family will have you choice of accommodations. Hotels on site offer parking and shuttle options, making it easy to get to the lift of your choice.

The easiest and most efficient way to get to Big Sky is to fly in to Bozeman International Airport. From there you can rent a car or hire a shuttle to take you to the resort, about an hour long scenic drive. As with any trip, weigh the options of having a vehicle at your disposal or not. There is plenty to do at the resort, but if you plan to visit Yellowstone National Park or have other winter adventures during your visit, you may want an all-wheel rental car.

If you’re looking to start your year off with movement, then Big Sky is the place for you and your family. Snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing are just a few of the alternative activities to skiing or boarding that will keep you moving outside. Dress warm! Big Sky boasts annual snowfall up to 400 inches and the temps in January are no joke. If you aren’t geared up correctly, you won’t be having fun.

Destination: Domincan Republic

Dominican Republic travel

If the holiday season left you stressed and you are craving relaxation and warm temps, then consider Dominican Republic in the Caribbean for some island life. With 1000 miles of coastline, this island will give you the respite you need. And if you want to throw in some adventure, you can find that too.

You can arrive in the Dominican pretty easily from the U.S.-just a 2 hour flight from Miami and a 4 hour flight from NYC. Most of the resorts are within close proximity to the international airport, which allows you to transport directly to your resort without needing a rental car. Lodging and resort options go from budget friendly to luxury and everything in between. The all-inclusive choices are easy to find and many people we have talked to have raved about the food wherever they have stayed.

It goes without saying that the beaches are plentiful and the blue waters are gorgeous. Chill time is not hard to come by in the Domincan. Grab a book, lather on the sunscreen, pop those earbuds in and enjoy the sunshine! If you are looking for activity don’t fret. Kite surfing, paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, sea caving, and more gives adventurers lots to explore.

Destination: Costa Rica

Costa Rica travel destination

It’s no secret how much we love Costa Rica and honestly everyone we know who has been agrees. Costa Rica is one of the best January travel destinations in the world. January is considered rainy season, so the jungle will be lush and green and vibrant. Don’t forget your rain jacket! The coasts will be alive with waves great for surfing conditions and getting your glow back.

There is so much to do in Costa Rica that it’s hard to narrow down the perfect itinerary. One week is what most families have to spend away from home so you will need to plan well and accept that you won’t have much down time in such a fun destination. Head to the interior for adventure activities like zip lining, canyoneering, kayaking, 4 wheeling and more. After a few days of pushing the limits head to the coast for surf lessons and sunset paddle boarding.

There are two major international airports that will feed you into where you want to base yourself. Liberia or San Jose will accommodate most locations to give you loads of adventure, so it’s just a matter of preference. We saw every kind of traveler in Costa Rica. You can find your budget sweet spot without any trouble.

One note on in-country transport. Roads in the rainy season can be an absolute bear. If you are comfortable with off roading and getting stuck in the mud go for the car rental as it gives you more options to explore off the beaten path. If not, we suggest hiring private or semi-private transfers to keep things less stressful. Just know that you will be more limited. We have found the costs to be comparable between the two options so don’t let that hold you back either way.

January Travel Notes

white airliner for January travel

We always like to give general travel notes when we give any destination information. January travel always proves tricky when it comes to weather. Make sure you understand where you are coming from and where you are going, but also know where you are traveling THROUGH. You can’t control weather, but you can choose routes that maximize your vacation time and lessen the risk of bad weather. Choose wisely.

Highly consider travel insurance. Weather, sickness, and changes in tourism protocols is the norm during cold winter months. Plan for the best and prepare for the worst. Travel insurance gives you and your family a peace of mind on your financial investment for travel.

There is no perfect place to travel. Everyone travels for their own reasons. Pursue the January travel destinations that match your family culture the best. You don’t want to invest in the vacation that your neighbor wants. You want to invest in the vacation that YOU want. Happy exploring this January, from Go Family Adventure

Top Family Travel Trends for 2021

outdoor activity trends

The entire globe is wondering about what travel trends will look like in 2021. You aren’t alone in trying to get a grasp on what will be the same, what will be different, or what will never exist again. If you are questioning how you and your family can travel in 2021, read along to see what will be possible in the year ahead. These trends will help you sink your teeth into your planning.

Large Scope Travel Trends

Travel Insurance

Not a “fun”tastic way to start out, but let’s be real here. Insurance lends you security to the plans you are making for an unknown future. Many of you learned hard, but valuable lessons in 2020 about protecting your finances for travel. Invest in an insurance policy that meets the needs of your family and your adventure. If you plan to travel extensively consider an annual policy. Your few and far between adventures may only need insurance on a trip by trip basis. Bottom line-do your research and don’t skip this step. Learn from last year and be prepared for the years ahead as travel plans will remain loose and you adjust to this new normal.

Domestic Travel Trends Continue

domestic travel trends

No matter where in the world you currently reside expect that the majority of your travels in the year ahead will remain domestic. The ever changing rules, regulations, and expectations VARY so widely on the international spectrum which make planning difficult. Vaccination roll-out will also vary widely and not every country will be on the same timeline. You will have more control and preserve more opportunities on the domestic home front in 2021. Changes are still going to happen, but it will be easier to adapt domestically.

Bucket List Travel

IF you are going to plan to travel internationally, we are convinced that many of you will take this opportunity to book a bucket list trip. After a year of saving and waiting, you will be finding a way to book that one BIG DREAM adventure. And now that you have figured out a way to work from just about anywhere, you will find a way to combine work with pleasure. With that in the back of your mind, that bucket list adventure becomes all the more possible.

bucket list travel

Limitations In Travel

This may be a turn off, but hear this one out. The pandemic has given us all pause to spending time in large groups and this sentiment won’t evaporate in the new year. Across the board you need to expect that museum entry, dinner reservation availability, tour group size, and more will be limited. The negative of this is you will need to plan ahead with less flexibility for in the moment decisions. The positive is your experience in a destination will be enhanced with more personal experiences and less crowds.

Travel Marketing will Focus on Safety vs. Price

Although this may be tough to swallow, we genuinely think this will be the trend as the tourism industry begins to re-market. Because tourism as a whole has suffered tremendously, the expected outcome may be low prices and unbelievable deals, but we don’t see it moving in that direction. The messaging bubbling to the top is safety and flexibility. Both of those ideas suggest a marketing enticement not based on price, but rather based on quality. This may seem surprising because many countries are upheld by the tourism industry. However, in the age of social media, reputation and culture remain king. Those who are willing to “risk” travel are seeking well-thought-out accommodations that provide excellent cleaning as well as flexible cancellation and rebooking options.

airline safety trends

Still finding this hard to believe? So did we, but it makes sense after listening to several tourism industry leaders, including the Family Travel Association, that have extensively analyzed the data. Statistics show people were not enticed by record low pricing. Hotels remain at less than 20% occupancy, with all-time low nightly rates, and airlines could not get people to travel to popular destinations even with prices as low as $12 one way. Most of the airlines have tested this, and the data is clear: No one cares about low prices if they think they will get sick. Delta remains the airline of choice because of its commitment to keeping the middle seat empty through March 30, 2021. Delta’s prices can be higher than other airlines because of planned empty seating, but people are willing to pay more because of their perception that it’s safer.

Small Scale Travel Trends

Multi-Gen Travel Escapes

After a year of very limited interaction it totally makes sense that spending time with extended family is a priority for 2021. The Pandemic has changed our way of thinking and planning and preserving. For many of you, the ability to visit and experience life with your family has been nil. One way that will change in 2021 is the idea of a multi-gen trip. Consider the notion of renting a mountain cabin where you can be with parents, children and grandparents in a destination that offers a variety of activities to keep everyone happy and engaged. Experiences within the family will be valued more and more as older grandparents aren’t able to get out and about as in the past. One family we already see enjoying this type of travel is Everyday Adventure Fam. Follow along as they seamlessly travel in this way.

RV & Camping Travel Trends

The pivot you noticed starting this past summer with RV sales and fully booked campsites will absolutely continue through 2021. Families are looking for options to continue social distancing and experiencing wide open spaces in the wake of the pandemic. While the virus may weaken and a viable vaccine may be available, the germs aren’t going away. Therefore, these two trends will be on the rise for the forseeable future. Practically speaking, if this is a trend you want to hop on to, better to begin sooner than later. Get on the wait lists for the RV you have your eye on and get to booking those popular campsites early.

Off The Beaten-Path & Isolated Travel

isolated travel on a sailboat

Big cities and high traffic tourism (with the exception of National Parks) areas will not see much of an uptick in 2021. This coming year will show that more off the beaten-path destinations will see a larger boost in tourism. This makes common sense as you assess the types of destinations you are comfortable traveling in. We predict destinations like Antartica, Tahiti, and Maldives will see a boost due to their remoteness. Similarly, smaller cities with options to day trip elsewhere will be enticing. Think along the lines of Puglia, Italy or Toulouse, France that give you a more cultural experience with options for add-on destinations.

Boutique Hotels & Small Luxury Accommodations

The trends show you will be pursuing excellence when it comes to accommodations. You want flexibility and safety alongside a more bespoke experience. Hotels that will bounce back more quickly are the smaller, more manageable boutique hotels who can increase health standards more readily. Luxury accommodations will reach to serve their clients in a more personal way. They will aim to provide safety, flexibility AND other personal services to make your stay even more valuable. As you are changing your expectations, hotels are adapting their services.

boutique hotel trend

What to Expect As You Plan Travel for 2021

The first thing you will need to pack is your patience. Your planning and strategizing make take longer as you look for optimal flights and campsites. Similarly, road trip planning takes extra time as you choose the route the best works for your family. 2021 may also begin to show the trend of subscriptions, taking the lead from many other industries. We aren’t exactly sure how well this will take off (pun intended) as airlines seek to bolster revenue and loyalty as a way to dig out of this economic catastrophe, but there have been promising results in SE Asia. TripAdvisor looks to roll out a program, as well, offering a yearly subscription in return for special deals. We anticipate more like this to come in an effort to boost the tourism industry in 2021.

We sincerely hope that as the world begins to open up more you will have a head start in knowing and understanding the trends. Happy travel planning, friends!

Have you Made a Travel Wish List for 2021?

This past year has been a year of travel dreaming and wishing. There has been the heartache of watching so much loss in this world and there has been the hope of so many possibilities on the horizon. So in typical Go Family Adventure fashion we spent most of our 2020 solitary moments sitting on our front porch dreaming big about the places we would go if we could. Alas a travel wish list for 2021.

Is it strange to try to come up with an ideal idea? It gives us something to shoot for and realizing the dreams is very rewarding. Without further ado, here is our ideal list of where to travel in which months of the year and why. We know you have your own ideas so drop us a message and let us know what your ideal list would be! We even have a template up in our Instagram stories/highlights for you to play along.

January: Big Sky, Montana

winter wish list

Embrace the winter weather and head out to big sky country where you can tear it up on the slopes, cozy up next to a fire, or head down to Yellowstone for an epic snowmobile adventure.

February: Costa Rica

the ultimate family wish list destination of Costa Rica

Time for surf lessons and jungle adventures. Just when you think you’re back to the grind and routine of work and school, take off for beautiful Costa Rica to soak up the sunshine and friendly faces. This is the best family destination we have ever visited!

March: Chile/Patagonia

Visit the epic Patagonia region of chile

The temperatures don’t vary too drastically in the Patagonia region, but March is one of the months with the least rainfall so you can do all the hiking and fishing you want to do. The views and solitude aren’t too bad either. Book an all-in tour for the best, most personal experience.

April: BVI Sailing

the dreamiest wish list travel experience, sailing in the BVI

April is one of the best months to sail the BVI because of the consistent winds and warm temperatures. Many families have a spring break that works well with a week long sailing trip this time of year as well. Anchors away, friends!

May: Utah-Arizona Road Trip

amp up your travel wish list with a road trip

Before those temperatures heat up and before the crowds descend, cue the tunes and hit the road for some breathtaking views and National Park memories. You will have enough sunrise and sunset experiences to last the whole year!

June: Big Sur and Carmel, CA

an outdoor coastal adventure wish list spot in Big Sur

We know June gloom can be a thing in California, but who wouldn’t want to take those coastal hikes during early summer? The drives, outdoor escapes and fabulous foodie options of the Carmel area are an easy draw for the start of summer.

July: Banff & Glacier National Park

the Canadian Rockies give all the travel wish list feels

While there may still be snow on the mountain peaks, the lakes and hiking trails will be at their prime in the Canadian Rockies. With vistas and plenty of wide open spaces to fill your lungs with fresh air, July couldn’t be enjoyed better anywhere else.

August: Italy

The coast of Italy at summer peak as part of our travel wish list

Yes Italy will be hot in August. Yes there will be crowds. But somebody has to go in August. We argue that some places are best experienced at the peak time because you get the cultural experience as well. And if you are looking for cooler temps head north to the Dolomites for some epic mountain life. Book early and plan your days for early mornings and late evenings-it’s the European way.

September: Switzerland

The perfect September travel wish list destination is Switzerland!

Kids are back in school, European holiday tourists are back at home and you can have the whole country of pristine lakes and adorable mountain towns to yourselves. Still warm enough to hike up high, but cool enough to wear a jacket. Sounds perfect to us.

October: Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Autumn in Lake Tahoe

Just in time for that crispy air to ride around in the boat and take in the blue sky and blue water. This low season escape dotted with autumn colors will fill you up as you rest in solitude while the resorts prepare for ski season.

November: Holbox Island, Mexico

Holbox Island paradise

When hurricane season comes to a close and you need a relaxing spot to get yourself together before the holiday season creeps in, take some time to put your toes in the sand and a drink in your hand on this car-less island in paradise.

December: London

London is a great destination for your travel wish list at the holidays

Can you say afternoon tea WITH holiday decorations? And all of those amazing markets to visit, bundled up and eating treats together as a family. Museums and shows would make London the perfect way to bring in the holiday cheer!

Make Your Own Travel Wish List

Your wish list doesn’t need to look like ours. Travel is a very personal experience and we all have our ideal ideas, right? Having a wish list may seem like a childish endeavor, but if you want to upgrade the thought process, make it a travel goals list. If there is something we have learned from our time at home in 2020, it’s that we need things to keep us moving forward. Have a little fun this December and sit down with your family and come up with a wish list together!

Outdoor Winter Activities for Teens

As the cold months with short daylight hours approach we all need to stock up on creative outdoor winter activities for our teens to bust the boredom and keep them moving. It’s only natural for our teens to want to hunker down inside with screens to pass the time in the dreary months of winter, but their bodies and their minds need the fresh air and freedom and probably a little adventure mixed in. With the added social distancing and increased school/work screen time due to this global pandemic we will need to fight even harder to get them outdoors.

We have compiled a list of 11 outdoor winter activities for teens (and their families) to entice them into the cold, and potentially wet elements. As we always say, the best way to encourage these activities is to BE the example. While a quiet hike through the snow may be more your style, you may need to live on the edge a bit. We’ve even put together a list of simple outdoor gear to make your winter adventures more comfortable and enjoyable.

We know that teenagers can often act like kids given the opportunity, so a few of these ideas are great for youngers or tweens, but we have also included some adventure activities to spur on the thrill seekers. After all, we want to encourage our teenagers to find healthy ways to push the limits and outdoor winter activities can be a great way to build confidence and resilience.

11 Outdoor Winter Activity Ideas

Build A Snow Fort

Build a snow fort as a winter activity

Kids of all ages love this activity because it invites creativity and competition. Different kids/teens will come up with a variety of ways to build the most quality fort with snow and other natural materials. Of course, what’s the point of having a fort if there isn’t a war? Bring on the snowball competition!

Snow Sledding

Winter sledding activity

All ages love to sled, but we suspect that teens will take this activity to a whole new level. Get them thinking about ways they can elevate the experience with building ramps and jumps or by using a mixtures of types of sleds to see which runs the fastest. Teens love to prove themselves with a challenge.

Host a Bonfire

Winter bonfire provides social time outdoors

Reign in your teen’s skills to build a fire and invite their friends over for time together outdoors with warmth and snacks. This is the perfect recipe for teens-social time and food and you can have them do it all outside so it’s a win win!

Go Ice Climbing

Ice climbing as a new outdoor challenge in winter

Talk about exciting! We definitely suggest booking a guide/tour for this activity if you have no experience so you can ensure you have the right safety equipment and gear. If you have a teenager who has always been a climber this could be a fun, new activity that challenges him/her in a unique way.

Try Airboarding

Airboarding is a unique outdoor winter activity

There are only a few resorts in the U.S. that offer this exhilarating activity, but it’s perfect for your teen who loves SPEED. This activity is similar to body boarding in the ocean, but it’s done on snow. You ride a lightweight inflatable sled that has special grooves made for manipulating sharp turns and reaching speeds up to 60 mph!

Cosmic Snow Tubing

Snow tubing is a great outdoor winter activity

Night time snow tubing is offered at several resorts with a laser light show. Black and neon lights are included for special effect. This is a great option for a teen group date activity! Make sure to dress extra warm for night time temps.

Skip the Ice Skating and do Ice Biking

ice biking in winter

This uses the same ideas as ice skating, but atop a stainless steel frame with blades. This is perfect for those teens who struggle to keep upright on skates, but still gives them the opportunity for movement and exercise while outside during the winter months.

RZR Tour Winter-Style

backcountry winter RZR tour

Get off road in a heated vehicle to see those untouched backcountry spots. These tours provide endless fun and stretch the adventure limits just enough. These tours typically are for ages 12 and above so keep that in mind. Several of these tours also include dinner so it can be a great family activity or another great group date idea.

Snow Biking

snow biking on winter trails

If your teenager loves mountain biking then this is the winter activity for him/her. A bike frame is mounted on skis to give a smooth, but quick ride down hills and mountains. Many locations offer multi-level trails for your adrenaline rush seeking teenagers OR your cautious newbie. Younger kids and older folks can enjoy this activity, too, on beginner trails.

Winter Zip Lining

winter zip lining

Many adventure parks are beginning to offer zip lining in the winter months to give adventure seeking families a different perspective through the seasons. Do some research on daytime and nighttime zip tours to find the best fit for your family.


Snowmobile across winter terrain

Another great way to get to the backcountry vistas quickly is by snowmobile. Snowmobiling can give you a thrill and get you to places to see incredible wildlife and other adventures like soaking in hot springs.

Winter Gear for Outdoor Activities

  • Insulated boots to keep your feet dry for as long as possible
  • Base layers- Smartwool or Cuddl Duds are our favorites
  • Yaktrax for good footwear traction
  • Hardshell Coat to repel the wet elements with zip in fleece liner
  • Polarized sunglasses or Glacier Goggles to lessen the snow and sun glare
  • Wool Socks for wicking & warmth – we love Darn Tough brand
  • High quality hat and gloves to keep you warmer for longer

Getting Your Teenagers Outside in Nature

Teenagers Need Nature

Need is a strong word. Need = a lack of something deemed necessary; a lack that must be fulfilled. Need has become indistinguishable from want, but they are two very different things. You can want something that you need, but you don’t always want what is needed. A simple example is exercise. Some people honestly do want to exercise, but many never want exercise even though it is needed for their health. The same is true of nature. We all have a deep need for nature and teenagers are no exception.

Teenager outside fishing

Nature Deficit Disorder

Nature Deficit Disorder is characterized by a collection of mental health and physical symptoms that are caused or made worse by a lack of time outdoors. Many of the symptoms include anxiety, depression, ADHD, myopia and obesity-all health issues that are on the rise in the teen population. The phrase “nature deficit disorder” was coined by author Richard Louv who has written several books on the topic that I would recommend to any parent in the throws of raising teens or who has teens coming along.

Two teenagers in nature

Why Getting Outside Isn’t Natural Anymore

With the rise in technology and the social access we have through that technology, it is getting harder and harder to pull our teenagers away from the screen. The average teenager spends up to 7 hours in front of a screen (not including school work). The most natural thing to do in this technology era is to dive deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of information. If you have not watched the documentary The Social Dilemma, I would encourage you to do so. You will see the very ways in which social media is programmed to pull our teens further in to the web.

Like us, you are likely struggling to entice your teens away even though they know they shouldn’t. Guess what-that’s why they still have parents! It’s our job to build in to them and equip them to set time limits as well as enforce the family rules in order that they can be the best teenager possible. After all, they will all become adults at some point and it would behoove society to raise them as such.

Teenager trying something new outside

Why Do Teenagers Need Nature?

Research has repeatedly proven that time in nature reduces levels of stress, depression and anxiety by lowering the stress associated chemical cortisol. Being surrounded by nature increases focus, mindfulness, wonder and tranquility. So, not only does nature suppress the negatives, but it increases the positive qualities we all want to see in our teens. Nature also restores mental energy, which helps combat what I refer to as the tech zap. The more time spent in front of the screen, the more exhausted our minds become. Nature gives that energy back to us!

Teenagers having fun in nature

How to Get Your Teenager Outside

  • Start Small so you and your teenager aren’t overwhelmed. Don’t try to change everything all at once or you will face rebellion.
  • Set limits and expectations. Clear communication will help these changes go more smoothly.
  • Move typical daily tasks outside. Read a book in a hammock or take the dog for a walk in the woods instead of the neighborhood.
  • Let your teenager decide how he/she wants to spend time in nature. Their ideas matter and letting them have a choice will create “buy-in”
  • Do something WITH your teen in nature. Go to the strawberry farm WITH your teenager and then make a cobbler together. Be the example!
  • Plan family time in the great outdoors. Give your teen a few mini adventures outside with the whole family experiencing it together.
  • Encourage your teen to try something new outside. Nature is a great place to push boundaries in a healthy way. Let them try mountain biking or snowboarding!
Teenagers outside in Hawaii

Top Ten Items to Pack for Teenagers

Packing Tips for Teenagers

There is an effective way to pack for teenagers to keep them comfortable, happy, and engaged in the adventures.

Just like most things in life, keep it simple when packing for teenagers. There is nothing worse than listening to teenagers complain their luggage is too heavy while scrambling through an airport.

First, keep them responsible for what they pack. Teenagers are perfectly capable of following a suggested list of items to pack for any adventure. The organization may not look the way you want it to, but they are the ones that have to deal with it.

Second, have your teenagers pack everything if possible in a carry-on. It can be cumbersome to carry it all, but also nice to have everything they need the moment they hit the ground.

Third, have them use packing cubes, but allow them to organize them they way they want to.

Top Ten Items to Pack for Teenagers

10. Water Bottle: Keeping everyone hydrated keeps everyone happy and healthy

Our go-to water bottle brand is Nalgene. We love the durability and the attached lids. John and I still have Nalgenes from more than 20 years ago!

9. Ebags Backpacks: soft-sided for maximum adaptability

These ebag Mother Lode backpacks are no ordinary backpack. Not only do they come in a variety of colors (each kid gets their own color), but they are durable beyond belief, which is what every teenager needs. They provide adequate internal pockets and are easy to store while traveling. Our have traveled the globe!

8. Snacks

In case you haven’t heard, teenagers eat all the time and when they are hungry they are even more moody. We have learned that quality snacks are really important. Two of our favorites are Country Archer jerky and GoMacro bars. If you can keep your teenagers fed with fuel and not just calories everyone will be happier.

7. Soft-Sided Cooler

Always pack a soft-sided cooler no matter how long you are gone. This will save you money and give you maximum flexibility with cold drinks and heartier food. Teenagers love to eat fast food, but having a soft-sided cooler will keep them healthier and allow for a picnic just about anywhere! Our favorite after testing many is the REI Pack-Away.

6. Towels

Even if you aren’t headed to intentionally get wet, your teenagers will find a way. It’s not fun to say no to an adventure because you aren’t prepared. Have each teenager pack a micro-fiber quick dry towel to have with them no matter where you go. If you’re like us, you will always manage to get wet somehow someway! Our go-to towel is from Wise Owl Outfitters.

5. Extra Change of Clothes

It’s the worst to spend a car trip or continue with an activity if you are soaked to the bone. Bring an extra change of clothes to have as a spare when you do excursions or hikes or water activities. Your teenagers will appreciate the comfort and flexibility.

4. Binoculars/Camera

Give your teenagers something tactile to keep them engaged. With a camera or binoculars in their hands, they will be more involved in whatever you are doing together as they get more out of the experience. They love to be the first to discover wildlife or the one to take that amazing capture.

3. Map/Guidebook

Not only are maps and guidebooks just downright helpful, but putting these into the hands of teenagers gives them some responsibility and helps build their confidence. Teenagers desperately want to prove their worth. Let them learn how to read maps and find treasures in the destinations you travel to. We have gotten hooked on the Moon guidebooks especially for our U.S. National Parks.

2. Sleep Masks & Earplugs

Teenagers need their sleep. Parents need their teenagers to sleep well. For us that means being able to block out light and noise. It used to be a joke that we brought these two items along, but after one really bad night of sleep in a noisy spot in Boston we never heard another joke about it. You may not need them, but it’s good to have them.

1. Headphones

This may seem counter-intuitive, but hear us out. Teenagers do need their space and alone time even while traveling. We encourage them to pack headphones so they can tune out the family at designated times for a re-set. We own several sets of Bose noise cancelling headphones for either white noise or bluetooth connection to music.

Pack for Happy Traveling Teenagers

The more prepared your teens are, the more they will relax and enjoy the ride. You can’t erase the moodiness of teenagers, but you can increase their joy. Traveling near or far allows teens to get out of their every day environment and get after something new and exciting. Don’t put a damper on the adventure by not being prepared!

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery

I know that a mountain vineyard and winery is not the first thing that come to mind when you think about the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. In actuality we stumbled on this Banner Elk, NC spot purely by accident. On our anniversary trip earlier this month we were driving to find a pottery shop to look for some plates that John has had his eye on. When we arrived the shop was closed. Who knows why, but COVID19 sure has brought on the unusual. Spotted out of the corner of his eye when we turned around was a simple sign “Grandfather Vineyard”. Why not! Nothing was beckoning us and the kids weren’t in the backseat groaning, so we turned in. The sweet girl near the entrance waved us toward the overflow parking lot.

mountain vineyard & winery

As we walked toward the building there were tracks bustling around the backside of a large, beautiful barn. When we rounded the corner we could see that this was THE place to be on a Friday afternoon. Apparently everybody else already knew that! Tents, tables, and outdoor chairs were set up along the banks of the Watauga River and near the barn for people to gather in socially distanced ways.

enjoying the banks of the river at a mountain vineyard & winery

What to Expect at this Mountain Vineyard & Winery

Stop by this mountain vineyard and winery for a visit Monday-Saturday 12pm to 6pm or Sunday 1pm to 5pm. If you are there on a weekend you may get the enjoy live music and snacks from the Eleven80 Food Truck. We highly recommend the pimento cheese fritters with pepper jelly! Grandfather’s has been growing grapes and making wines since 2003 and offer a selection of dry whites, rose, dry red, sweet and even bubbles. Order your bottle, glass or 4 mini glass wine flight and head on down the river bank to sit back and relax for the afternoon. All types of people will be around enjoying the fresh air and ambience. We saw families with small children climbing out on the river rocks and splashing around. There were friend groups laughing and relaxing after a long hike. A quiet older couple snuggled up next to the river and soaking up their time together could be spotted from afar.

Grandfather Vineyard & Winery was such a pleasant and unexpected surprise. We’ve been telling all our friends to get up there for an afternoon/evening they won’t soon forget. It’s the perfect place to end a day after hiking or biking or driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The 20th Anniversary Celebration Trip That Would NOT Give-Up

Celebrating 20 Years of Marriage

An anniversary celebration trip is something every couple looks forward to. It’s a big deal to be married for 20 years; it is definitely a mile marker. But when you get married in the year 2000 that means your 20th anniversary falls in the middle of a pandemic. A lot happens in 20 years! As a very young married couple we had hopes and dreams like everyone. Many of those dreams have been realized and many are still to come.

The ups and downs of every day life in marriage build us up as we choose each other again and again. We have been growing up together in the midst of this marriage. We were married at age 22 and started a family at age 25. Raising three kids is no joke and has shaped us into very different people than 20 years ago, better people. Grateful seems almost too empty a word to describe how we feel about 20 years of marriage, but it also seems just right. God has blessed us with each other and we are ever grateful.

The Big Anniversary Celebration Trip That Wouldn’t

white and gray house on green field
Photo by Jonas Togo on

For years we had been dreaming about where we would travel to for the big 20th anniversary celebration trip. We went through various scenarios and finally landed on Scotland as the perfect place for us. Guide books, blog reading, Instagram photos and personal recommendations gave us all the things we needed to create the best itinerary. We set everything up and began counting the days. Literally 3 weeks later the world came to a halt as the coronavirus swept across the globe. We hoped by September we would be in the clear, but it wasn’t meant to be. That itinerary has been stashed away for another time.

Months went by before we even attempted to talk about an alternative. It felt wrong to plan a vacation while everyone else was hunkering down in safety. Travel began to emerge over the summer as families ventured out, first nearby, and then even via airplane. The idea of an actual adventure began to formulate. We waited, watched, and researched. Then we formulated a plan and got so excited and expectant. We chose a place where all of our activities could be outside and we could appropriately social distance. There wasn’t a thing we didn’t think of or have prepared. But…one week prior to the trip we cancelled because the awful forest fires were bulldozing through the western states in the area we had planned to visit. I cried and got angry and then was so depressed for about 3 days. We stashed away that itinerary for another time.

aerial photo of bixby creek bridge on the big sur coast of california usa
Photo by Nathan Moore on

The Little Anniversary Celebration Trip That Could

Honestly I wanted to force a square peg in to a round hole with this anniversary celebration trip. I wanted to make something big happen. John pressed in and made other suggestions, suggestions I was not content with. I had lost sight of what we were celebrating; the trip became the celebration instead of the marriage. Ugh. Why do I always fall prey to my sinful heart? So, I shoved myself out of my pity party and we last minute booked a stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC just a few hours drive from home.

20th anniversary trip

It was a glorious 4 days away. The weather did not behave and the accommodations were just alright, but we were together without the kids and relaxed. We had time to focus on us and talk about the past 20 years and dream about the next 20 years. Reminiscing on the many incredible trips we have had reminded me that we have seen and experienced so much. In the midst of all that talking we did 3 hikes, visited a winery, drove miles and miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, meandered through downtown mountain towns, and ate so much good food! Everything about the long weekend was completely “us”.

20th anniversary celebration trip

Our bucket lists continue to grown and our interests continue to expand, of course. The future is bright and Lord willing we have many more years to celebrate and enjoy traveling together. The lesson learned is that we love to travel because we love to experience new things together.