11 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.

Snowmobiling

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 Pexels.com

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 held onto the hopes that 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 had to cancel because the awful forest fires were bulldozing through the western states and in the area we had planned to visit. I cried and got angry and then was so depressed for about 3 days. That itinerary has been stashed away for another time.

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

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 wasn’t perfect and the accommodations were just alright, but we were together and alone 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. After all we have been married nearly half of our lives already!

The Sassy Girlfriend Getaway Guide

Girlfriend getaways are so much fun!

The Sassy Guide

This post is a sassy guide for a girlfriend getaway, a break from the everyday life at home. This post is not a step by step planning guide. Our focus here at Go Family Adventure is mostly on family and family adventures so this one doesn’t fit the mold. BUT, with everything that has shaken up in our everyday world it seemed like a good time to do a small rogue post.

If you are clawing at the front door and need some time away from the same 4-5 faces/personalities (and I LOVE my family) it might be time to plan a little getaway. If you have cleaned your baseboards more in the past 6 months than the entirety of your life, it might be time to plan a getaway. If you shudder at the 1000th mention of a certain board game or children’s book it might be time to plan a little getaway.

It’s also worth mentioning that not everywhere in the world is allowing this type of thing. I recognize that and don’t want to encourage poor behavior or unruly activities that go against rules. Plan it anyway. The plans may change or be put on hold or be postponed, but at least you will have something to look forward to!

Enjoy the solitude of nature on your next girlfriend getaway

Where to Getaway

Does it matter? My only suggestion for this is to go somewhere that is easily reachable for the girlfriends, but not so easy that you can be enticed away. You want to be close enough to give you peace of mind that you CAN get home if your kid breaks his leg and needs surgery, but not too close that caretakers can woo you away with guilt. Choose a place that has a dishwasher-duh! Make sure you are near enough to restaurants for take-out. Pick a spot that allows for some outdoor activity, but also plenty of relaxation. The bottom line here is to come up with a destination that removes the most amount of stress and work. My most recent girlfriend getaway was to a quiet beach community in South Carolina.

When to Getaway

Does it matter? Just kidding. This part takes a little thought and planning. Depending on the size of your group and how many in the group work full time, etc. you will need to choose a time accordingly. Ladies, this doesn’t have to be a long trip. The last girlfriend getaway I did was only for two nights, but it was so refreshing and life giving. If mid-week makes it easier for caretakers, go then. If the weekend makes life easier for you, go then. Don’t get paralyzed by this part. There is no ideal time to getaway. You will have to make it happen.

No girlfriend getaway is complete with out cute bicycles!

Girlfriend Getaway Guide Packing List

  1. Food to share-easy breakfast & lunch stuff. Don’t forget the chocolate!
  2. Swimsuit-I always pack a swimsuit no matter where I go
  3. Clothing-comfy, 1 or 2 cute casual outfits, active wear for outdoor time
  4. Open ears for listening to each other
  5. Wine
  6. List of books, podcasts, articles, TedTalks you want to share
  7. Portable (and waterproof) blue tooth speaker
  8. Camera

Things NOT to pack

  • stress
  • burdens
  • guilt
  • work of any kind

Make the Girlfriend Getaway Happen

At some point the planning and implementing is going to get tough or seem impossible. The point is to go anyway. You will have to push through to make this happen, but you will not regret it. Communicate with your spouse and children that this time away is good for you and for them. Then run! Forget the dirty dishes in the sink and the half folded basket of laundry. It will still be there when you return, I’m sure. Don’t check your phone 1000 times, limit your interactions with home; and by all means, don’t let their burdens become yours. It’s only a few days!!! Go. Come up with your loose plan, grab your girlfriends and go. They may be the most life giving few days you’ve had in quite some time.

Free time on the girlfriend getaway

Life Between the Adventures

A Typical Day

Over here at Go Family Adventure we spend a lot of time highlighting the adventures we take and the adventures we want to take. During these COVID months our adventures have been fewer and shorter. So today we are focusing on the normal. A typical day in our family life consists of very normal, everyday tasks. The kids attend traditional schooling and John owns a business and serves on our municipal city council which keeps him quite busy during the week. We love our life in our community and we’re dedicated to the life we have in between the adventures. In fact, we appreciate our adventures even more!

Pursuit of Passions leads to Adventures

In the every day moments we encourage each other to pursue passions and interests. Sometimes those interests are short lived and sometimes they turn into full-blown passions. Either way, we celebrate and incorporate them into life. We have even been known to plan an entire adventure around a pursuit-call us crazy! Here’s the thing. When you incorporate pursuits into your daily life those daily tasks become filled with purpose. Working hard means you get to play hard and we get to do it together!

Responsibilities

Yes we expect our kids to take on responsibilities! From an early age we delegate chores and special projects to keep our household running smoothly and moving forward. Here’s how that translates: we give our kids responsibilities while we are adventuring to keep the focus off the negative AND because the kids are used to contributing to the family they work better together while adventuring as a team. Of course this isn’t perfect and we are all human and fail on the regular. But y’all, this stuff works. Put into practice at home what you want to be a reality out in the world.

Making Home THE Place to Be

Life between the adventures doesn’t have be drudgery. Academics and activities take up a lot of time for the kids and John works hard during the week. The down time should be done in a place that is comfortable and welcoming. We are outside people so you’ll find us on our front porch eating, playing, napping or reading just about every day. As the kids have gotten older it’s been harder and harder to keep them home, but we’re working on it. I guess we’ve done too good a job of encouraging them to pursue their own interests!

Dreaming BIG in Between the Adventures

In the midst of the responsibilities we work on our big dreams. Our conversations might sound slightly different than other families. Dinnertime shenanigans include the highs and lows of the day or week, but we also love to talk about the places we are dreaming to explore. A sailing vacation was a big dream for John. We were skeptical we could pull it off with the various other commitments and money constraints. We put in the research and found a way to cut down on our flights costs and hooked up with Sunsail to charter a catamaran for 9 days! Before we knew it we had chartered a catamaran and we were in line to get the kids passports.

Taking Chances & Trying New Things

Some people consider us risk takers. In all honesty, for us, it feels riskier to go with the crowd. We don’t do our adventures to be risky. We do our adventures to enrich our family and build each other up. For some crazy reason we enjoy the challenge of solving problems and figuring something out for the first time. Travel adventures lets us do that together as a family. You know what’s crazy? All those adventures we take together helps the kids courage and bravery here at home too.

When COVID hit and life changed quickly the kids had to adapt. School and activities were radically diminished and altered in the spring and summer. Word got out that school would be face to face for the kids starting in mid-August, but many of the things they were involved in disappeared or changed so much that they were uninteresting. Holland made a massive change and left her ballet training in order to pursue a new sport: swimming. That’s a big deal for a 14 year old girl who had been dancing for 11 years! The truth is that we build each other up in our travels and experience new things together so that life between the adventures is just as exciting.

Keep the Wanderlust Alive

Life between the adventures can feel boring, but we strongly encourage our kids to dream big. We also show them ways to translate those dreams into goals. It is so rewarding to dream alongside them and watch them realize those dreams through achieving their goals. We are in a strange time right now, but we are genuinely learning so much about ourselves and the world around us. Now is the perfect time for us to work on goal setting. Sooner than later we will get around to adventuring and achieving those goals.

Seven Secrets to Successful Family Adventures

Sibling love on a day trip

A Successful Family Adventure

No matter how far you venture from home, there are a few tactics to ensure you have successful family adventures. This list of 7 tips for success follows after a bunch of trial and error, a few missteps and several victories. As always, we hope this helps your family enjoy the adventure and look forward to the possibilities…even with teenagers!

Involve Your Kids in the Adventure Planning

One of the best ways to get buy-in from the family is to involve them in the process. To begin, have everyone come up with a BIG DREAM bucket list of destinations that sound fascinating and exciting. We keep those lists going, occasionally crossing things off that no longer have the same allure, or trips we conquered and get checked off! We have discussions about activities they would like to do or try for the first time and then we research the heck out of it. Our kids are teens so they can do the research themselves, but if you have littles sit them on your lap and spend a few minutes looking at photos on the web. Now you’ve got buy-in.

Sibling love on a day trip

Don’t Over-plan Your Adventure

Adventuring in a new place often times translates to squeezing out every minute of fun that’s possible. Resist. That nagging voice in your head that says, “this is once in a lifetime so we must…” is feeding you a standard that is impossible to reach. There is no way we can DO everything in every destination even with unlimited funds. Allow for plenty of wiggle room in your itinerary to compensate for lost time waiting in lines or lunch taking longer than planned. We can’t control it all.

An easy way to cure the over-plan is to have one big activity/tour a day and then a few others depending on how long the activity is. For example, Shep and I wanted to go canyoneering in Costa Rica, but we were still tired from our travel the day before. We chose an afternoon tour that lasted 3 hours which gave us time to chill in the hot springs in the morning. Create space for downtime where the kids can relax/nap, check their phones and veg out for a bit. If you don’t create it, you will naturally fill it with something else. From the early days we learned to communicate when those down times would be so the kids knew to push through even if their feet were ready to give out (like in Washington D.C.).

Dream adventure sailing in the BVI
Processed With Darkroom

Family Space

You know your family. When you make decisions about accommodations or car rentals I urge you to choose wisely. We have a family of 5 with three teenagers/tweens so needed space is a thing. It’s good for kids to know that sharing beds and sacrificing some space for a great experience is worth it, but if the accommodation has limited beds consider rotating who gets the comfy one each night. Also, we have made the grave mistake of trying to stuff everyone into a compact SUV (along with our luggage) in order to save money. NOT a good idea if it’s a trip you plan to use the rental car a lot. Long trips that require lots of family adventure time together will go more smoothly if you can make space for everyone.

Top activity choice for the win!

Everyone Has a Responsibility

This tip can really help with the squabbling amongst family members. When each person has their own responsibility on the trip they can focus on that instead of everyone else. It’s not foolproof, but it gives everybody some ownership in the tasks of travel. For us, John is the driver and I am the navigator. Rowan is the luggage handler and car packer, Shep is in charge of snacks and the cooler and Holland does the music and is in charge of keeping us on our activities structure. Even your littles can have something they are in charge of. Get creative- music playlists, packing the cooler, setting up chairs at the campsite, collecting firewood, and more are all ideas.

Family time-success for Holland's choice on a morning of murals in Miami

Say YES!

Honestly this one can be tough to adjust to. Fight the urge to say no. It does seem unreasonable to say yes to ice cream right before dinner and it doesn’t always fit into the schedule to stop off at a viewpoint for one more photo. BUT, this is about successful family adventures so who cares. You are not going to ruin your kids or the experience or the budget by doing this. The memories will be heightened and the family will be more amiable. Say yes to the kids jumping in the lake with their clothes on. Say yes to getting up at sunrise so your teenager can get an epic photo. Say yes to one more round of s’mores. This is what building up your family is all about!

Epic Hawaii family adventure

Surprises

This one works well with littles especially. Keep small surprises along the way to really add to the joyful experience of the adventure. Hiking isn’t always a favorite for little legs, but if you keep a surprise for them at the end of the hike they will remember it forever. It’s up to you if you want to dangle the surprise or not. You know your people and how they will deal with that. Just don’t talk it up too much or they may be disappointed! With older kids you can really boost the trip by holding out on one big activity they had their eye on and saving it and watching their reaction is so rewarding.

Red Sand Beach in Hawaii

Something for Everyone

This is the key to successful family adventures. Every trip we take we make sure we all have one thing or one day that is each individual’s choice. Not everything we do makes everyone happy or fulfilled, but if you really want to ensure a successful adventure you need to take into account personalities and desires.

On our recent weekend mountain trip we did zip-lining, which Holland really wanted to do. Shep had done it in Costa Rica and was uninterested. No worries because later that day we went looking for a sliding rock/swimming hole and he was ecstatic. On the Big Island in Hawaii John absolutely did not want to miss visiting a coffee farm. The kids were bored out of their minds, but it was only 1.5 hours. John was delighted and had been waiting for that coffee farm visit the whole trip. Mission accomplished and everyone survived. Make sure on each trip that there is something for everyone!

Create lots of space during long car rides for success!

Cheers to Your Next Family Adventure

You can have successful family adventures. Having a few tips and tricks in your back pocket will help to make it a successful and memorable trip. Now, go DREAM BIG and start planning your next family adventure!

A Weekend Adventure in a GA Mountain Cabin

The Mountains Were Calling

It was time for a weekend adventure, so when the mountains called we decided to hop in the car and get on the road. Being isolated to home for 4 months was not fun. There are a lot of great things that came out of that isolation time-reflections on living an intentional family life and creating healthy habits while in quarantine. Our day trips kept us going and gave us an outlet. BUT, it was time to venture out and explore beyond the nearby outside attractions.

The summer temperatures are relentlessly hot here in South Carolina so we decided to escape to a destination we could get some reprieve from the sweltering humidity. Believe it or not, temperatures still topped out in the high 80’s and it was still humid, but it felt so good to have a cool morning and evening!

We Rented a Cabin in the Mountain Foothills of GA

COVID-19 is still very much a determining factor, so we chose a single home away from others on this trip. We found a cabin within driving distance of our home that was basically in the middle of nowhere but close enough to outdoor activities for us to enjoy as a family. There are several Northern Georgia towns in the valleys and mountain areas to choose from.

We started off by looking near Helen, GA and landed on a cabin between Helen and Clarkesville. It was perfect for our family of 5 to spread out to sleep, but gather together to cook our meals and play games after dinner.

En route to the Mountains of GA

On our way up to the cabin we stopped at a Paris Mountain State Park, which is in South Carolina. We hiked two trails connected by a road through the park and enjoyed quite a bit of solitude. We only saw a total of 10 people on the trails the whole day. Paris Mountain State Park is located just 5 miles north of Greenville, SC. Greenville is a bustling city with a main street full of restaurants with outdoor seating and shops to wander through. The park itself offers fishing, a designated swimming area, canoe/kayak/paddleboat rentals, and hiking & biking trails. Picnic shelters are scattered throughout the park, along with campsites (some with full RV hookups) located near shower/restroom facilities. We spent a few hours here and enjoyed the trails, but barely scratched the surface. This was a great way to start off our weekend adventure.

Activities in the GA Mountains

Our focus was outdoor activity with as few people around as possible. We traveled during COVID-19 times so we chose to be extra careful about this. The morning after we arrived we set out to Unicoi State Park to conquer their zipline adventure. The group sizes were limited to 10 people, and everyone wore masks including the guides. They sanitized all equipment prior to our time on the course to ensure healthy standards were met and kept. It was a stress-free and super fun environment for a family of adventure teens.

After our time zip lining, we drove over to Anna Ruby Falls to do a short hike and observe the beautiful cascading falls. Although the entries were limited and the parking lot was less than half full, it still felt a bit crowded to us. I think being at home for so long has made us hyper aware of masses of people-something we would never have blinked at prior to this global pandemic. Everyone was courteous and respectful, allowing for spaced out pictures and ample viewing time. This is a very easy hike with a great reward. If you have littles or tired legs from a previous hike, this is a great one to add to your weekend adventure.

Hiking in the Mountains of GA

There is no shortage of hiking trails in this area of Georgia that were perfect for our weekend adventure. We did a lot of research to see where we could hop on the Appalachian Trail, where to find easy parking spots for trailheads and where bathroom facilities were open. We used Atlanta Trails for all the information we needed. Not everything was updated with COVID-19 closings, but it was the best resource we could find. Our oldest wanted to hike on the Appalachian Trail this summer, so we chose Preacher’s Rock as our family hike. It was the perfect moderate hike and it had the added benefit of amazing views at the end (this is an in & out hike). Per usual the rain chased us away sooner than we wanted.

After our hike to Preacher’s Rock we drove to Brasstown Bald visitors center, which is surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. This is the tallest peak in Georgia and has some epic views from the observation deck. After you pay your entry and find a parking spot, you will need to hoof it up the .6 mile paved walkway. It’s short, but strenuous as it feels like you’re walking straight up. When you get to the top you’re at the tallest peak in Georgia at 4,784 elevation above sea level. I know for you west-coasters that’s no big deal, but most of us east coasters live at sea level so it’s a jump for us!!

More from our Weekend Adventure

A weekend adventure in the mountains was just what we needed after being cooped up for so many months. The northern GA mountain towns offered all kind of activities and outdoor fun for families with teenagers as well as littles. Most everything was open, but we chose outdoor fun with plenty of space away from others. One of our favorite afternoons was to visit a sliding rock/swimming hole on Wildcat Creek. The creek was very rustic and a bit of a challenge to find, but we practically had the spot to ourselves with only 2 others there. The water was refreshingly COLD and it was perfect for our teens. No pictures from our time there, though, because there was nowhere to set my camera. I was having fun with everyone!

What to Expect from a Typical Weekend Adventure in the Georgia Mountains

While this was an incredibly good feeling getaway for our family, we may have done even more if COVID-19 had not been in full swing. We did not step foot into a single store or shop in any of the towns we came across, which was a shame. These towns are CUTE and have darling shops and restaurants that we would love to return to. Helen, although a bit kooky, is a Bavarian-esque town with put put golf, river tubing and other things. Hiawassee is an outdoors mecca of sorts with lots of outdoor shops, outfitter tour companies and more. Clarkesville is a sweet town we would have loved to wander in. Don’t sell yourself short if you go AFTER the pandemic has subsided. There is so much to do!

Healthy Habits Created During Quarantine

“Habits are not a finish line to be crossed, they are a lifestyle to be lived.” James Clear

The Current Situation of Quarantine 2020

Time slowed as the world shut down during quarantine, but it also marched on. We all found ourselves feeling a bit stuck and the rhythms of the days past slipped away. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to form new daily routines, which is where most of daily life is lived. The truth is that we become what we repeatedly do and we weren’t looking to become professional Netflix viewers. Habit, good or bad, has a profound effect on our daily lives.

What is involved in creating a habit?

James Clear describes a 3 step process to habit formation. Cue-the trigger in your brain to initiate a behavior. Craving-the motivational force behind the habit. Response-the actual habit you perform either through thought or action. You can read more about the process here.

Below are listed a few habits we have developed in our household during the quarantine that we hope to cling to as we move forward toward a new normal. We have no idea at this point when anything will change. There isn’t really any precedent in coping and adapting to a global pandemic, so we are deep into our habits and hope to continue as we crawl toward the next new things.

Sleep Habit

We have all consistently gotten 8 hours of sleep each night. It has changed the entire mood within the household. We’ve all read how important sleep is, but we saw this firsthand through the spring months while school was still going. There is no question that we will fight for this as we approach whatever school looks like first semester.

Getting much needed sleep is a habit worth forming

The Habit of Saying No

There has been an emphasis on discerning what is necessary and what is not these past few months. It’s been a natural shift with the current COVID-19 restrictions and having to decide as a family what we are comfortable with. Too much of what we were saying yes to was merely convenience and what was presented to us in the moment. We have all learned how to say a healthy, happy no, which has lead to saying yes to the meaningful things.

We said a lot of No's so we could say yes to adventures

Time Blocking Strategy

each of us has found bliss in time blocking as a way to order our days and meet our individual goals including work, school, fun, reading, and social. I imagine this will become particularly helpful as our teenagers cope with what will likely be in and out of the classroom this year. Our oldest is beginning to look at colleges and studying for the SAT.

Time blocking for reading and other activities as a habit

Making Family Meals a Habit

If you have teenagers, you get this. We have MADE time to include everyone in meal planning, preparing, and enjoying. New recipes have come to light, and I’m delighted as a mom to see my kids have skills I never knew about!

Outside Time

with little else to actually do for the past 5 months, this has come most naturally. We have all benefited from more intentional time outside no matter the weather. The discovery of nearby places to adventure has been icing on the cake. Working toward 1000 hours outside for the year 2020…and thanks to COVID-19, I think we will be successful.

The habit of outside time together

Practicing Contentment & Gratitude as a Habit

We are speaking out loud what we are grateful for and what we are finding contentment in when things aren’t going the way we want them to. Saying it out loud to one another holds us accountable and bonds us together even more. To be honest, it also makes us more pleasant people to be around, which is important to community. When we come out of this quarantine time, we want to be better and stronger than when we entered it.

Contentment as a habit even when things don't go perfectly

None of this has or will happen perfectly and some will be adjusted slightly as the circumstances change, but we are making the choices and putting in the effort. Consistency has been everything to keep us on track.