By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency
“Get up, Mom!” my daughter commanded.
We were nearing the end of an exhausting and iconic 14-mile hike from Crested Butte, Colorado, to Aspen, up and down the famous Maroon Bells, navigating steep terrain, rock scree and rain.
I’d slipped crossing a stream and started crying. “You are going to finish this hike with a smile on your face,” my daughter Mel said.
I couldn’t help but smile, and get up. I don’t know how many times I had said that to Mel — and her older brother and sister — when they were young and unhappy on a particular vacation outing.
Got a vivid vacation memory?
It doesn’t necessarily have to come from a bucket-list trip, though some might — coming face to face with a giant sea tortoise in the Galapagos Islands or watching a bear from a kayak snack on salmon in Alaska.
A lot of travel memories, I was reminded recently, come when you get out of your comfort zone with those you love most and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. For several years at our Connecticut home in the summer, we hosted Enesi, a young Albanian immigrant living in the Bronx. Enesi came to us courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund, a more than century-old program designed to get disadvantaged children away from cities in the summer.
Enesi joined us on some travels — to a farm in New Hampshire where he gathered eggs for the first time, to Maine where he ate lobster for the first time and tried paddle-boarding and to New Hampshire in the winter where he zip-lined over the snow-covered trees. Later, we arranged for him to go to Camp Nebagamon in Wisconsin, a boys’ wilderness camp my son had attended, and which offered scholarships.
“I think of those experiences all the time,” Enesi told us recently. Now 23, he is finishing college, living with his parents while working. “I did things and saw things I could never do at home. As soon as I finish school, I want to show my girlfriend some of those places.”
That made me think of memorable trips with my kids. And though we have been privileged to visit some far-flung locales, some of your fondest memories are closer to home, including the trip that started Taking the Kids.
In 1987, I was covering national news for the Chicago Tribune and my two kids were three and one. My third hadn’t been born yet. The travel editor asked if I would do a story about a weekend family getaway not too far from Chicago. Why not, I thought. Remember, this is before Tripadvisor or any way to look up destinations on the web. I took the owner’s word that he liked kids and had plenty of room in his guest house and outdoors.
I knew things were going from bad to worse as soon as we arrived. My son, just three, pushed the owner’s kitty in the pond because “he wanted to swim,” my son explained. My daughter was sticky from a Tootsie Pop. The owner was furious and insisted we leave. Of course, I wrote about that misadventure — and many more after that. They resonated with young parents trying to figure out how to travel with their children when hotels, resorts, even campgrounds, weren’t nearly as family friendly.
People often ask me how this column started and how it has lasted so long (nearly 35 years). I think it is because, like that first misadventure, I’ve never sugarcoated the reality of traveling with kids. It’s aggravating, exhausting and always more expensive than you anticipated. Why do we do it? For those memories, of course
Post-pandemic, some families were determined to make up for lost time with bucket list trips, only to be stymied by airline woes and lost luggage. Others were stopped this summer by escalating gas prices and inflation.
Now, gas prices have come down and there are plenty of memory-making options that won’t break anyone’s budget. With our partners at Family Travel Forum we’ve put together a list of 22 terrific fall getaways for 2022.
For example, national and state parks are always less crowded in fall. While a tent may be chilly in many climates you can opt to rent an RV (rvshare.com works a lot like Airbnb with RVS) or stay in a campground cabin like those offered from KOA.com.
Take public transportation to a city and explore from the kids’ perspective. Are they interested in a certain neighborhood, trying new foods, seeing a museum? Let each one have a say in the itinerary.
How about whale watching? Through mid-December, see humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins and killer whales in Monterey Bay, California, or Newport Beach, Oregon, among the options. A favorite on the East Coast: The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts. Join them on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch from Boston before the cold weather sets in.
Make history relevant at an outdoor living history museum. In Virginia, there’s Colonial Williamsburg, the country’s largest living history museum depicting 18th-century life and Jamestown Settlement, the first permanent English Colony. Explore how Native Americans helped early settlers survive. Visit also the Museum of the American Revolution at Yorktown. (The kids can visit a Revolutionary War encampment!) See what outdoor museums are near your home and what special fall activities are on tap.
Go enjoy the foliage but remember, kids will want to get out and jump in the leaves, not just look at them. Plan some kid-friendly hikes and bike rides (don’t forget your helmets).
Remember, it’s not how far you go, it’s what you see along the way.
(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The Kid’s Guide to Philadelphia and The Kid’s Guide to Camping are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)
©2022 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.