Three Active Wellness Vacations for Families That Want to Get Moving

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Families travel for any number of reasons: to learn about new cultures, relax, indulge in delicious food, and connect with one another. Increasingly, though, families are focused on travel that gets them moving — and in today’s climate of kids binging on Cheetos while playing video games, that’s a good thing. Consider the statistics: according to Child Trends, over one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight, while 18 percent are considered obese. Getting kids active has tremendous health and wellness benefits, like strengthening bones and muscles, increasing self-confidence, and even helping kids do better in school.

But how do you get your wee ones to turn off the T.V. and get moving? That’s where family wellness travel comes in. When your family vacation is full of action and adventure, it won’t feel like exercise — it’ll just feel like tons of fun!  And your active vacation may even inspire your kids to pick up new fitness skills, sparking a lifelong interest in wellness and well-being. Ready to get a little sweaty with the kids on your next vacation? These three action-packed family wellness travel ideas will get everyone’s heart pounding:

Mawenze Peak
Hiking the tallest mountain in Africa with the family? It’s possible! Fabulousfabs/flickr

Summit Mt. Kilimanjaro

Yes, climbing Africa’s tallest mountain with your kids sounds like a challenge — and it definitely will be — but it’s do-able. At 19,341 feet tall, Mt. Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it’s the tallest freestanding mountain in the entire world. 

Children just need to be 10 or older to attempt the climb.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is also considered one of the “Seven Summits,” along with other infamous peaks like Mt. Everest and Mt. McKinley. But despite its exceptional height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb that’s the easiest of the Seven Summits to actually, well, summit. That makes it an ideal trip to tackle as a family; children just need to be 10 or older to attempt the climb. When planning which route to take up the mountain and the length of your hike with your outfitter, be sure to take your kids’ needs into special consideration. Many groups tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro in six or seven days, but when you’re traveling with kids build in a few extra days on the hike. This will allow your children to acclimate to the altitude change more slowly and easily. Plus, the vegetation of Mt. Kilimanjaro is incredibly diverse and constantly changing, so fidgety tweens and blasé teens won’t get bored with the scenery. The mountain’s lush jungle forests and sparkling, pristine snow-capped peak will impress even the most jaded middle and high-schoolers.

Biking Through Italy

Biking is great exercise for the whole family; it’s fun and engaging for the kids, and it’s more low impact for adults, who might be keen to take some stress off their joints. And Italy is the perfect country to explore by bike! Long winding roads trace their way through the breathtaking scenery of Tuscany’s vineyards and olive groves or southern Italy’s dramatic coastal cliffs. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of having to cycle up endless steep hills; lots of bike tour companies have a van that follows along behind the tour that tuckered-out cyclists can hop into for a rest and a cool blast of air conditioning. For a more out-of-the-box Italian adventure, consider cycling with the family through Sardinia, an island off Italy’s southern coast that is awash in Mediterranean culture. From crumbling Roman ruins to incredible seafood and shopping, Sardinia’s splendors are sure to fuel your family’s minds, bodies, and spirits.

Swimming and Stair Climbing in Thailand

Thailand is an adventurer’s dream: dense jungles, wild rivers, clear blue coastlines, and awe-inspiring temples beckon the inner explorer in all of us. Since there are so many different activities to tackle, it’s a dream spot for an adventurous family vacation, too! Cool off with the kids at Nai Harn Beach on the southern tip of Phuket; this popular beach with unbelievably clear waters was just voted the Third Best Beach in Asia. Water sports reign supreme here — to pump up the fun, have your kid try his or her hand at surfing. For more heart-pumping adventure, travel inland to the Kwai River. Rent kayaks and race your way down to the world-famous Bridge on the River Kwai, which was featured in the 1957 Oscar-winning film of the same name. If your kids are not big swimmers (or if you are all just ready to dry off), make the trip to the impressive Buddhist temples of Ayuttaha. Besides getting a great history lesson (some of these temples date back to the 1300’s), you’ll get in some exercise, too. Climb the stairs of the tallest temples for incredible views and an incredible thigh-burning workout to boot.

Have you taken your family on an adventurous and active vacation? Where did you go? 

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Emily Matras

Contributing Writer

Emily Matras is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in marketing and travel education, she now writes about travel, food, and lifestyle topics for top brands and online and print publications. Follow her on twitter at @emilymatras.

28 Comments
    1. Lounging by the pool and lapping up waves at the beach is fun, but let’s face it. After day 1, you need something else to do too. Mix it up with some active activities to balance out the vacation.

  1. We love taking active vacations although I’ll admit I’ve never taken my little boy on one of our active vacations. My favorite was when we went canyoning and hiking in Switzerland. If you’ve never tried it, you need to, definitely one of the coolest things ever!
    Britni recently posted…Four Fantastic Popcorn RecipesMy Profile

    1. Oh Britni, another brave one. Canyoning is perfect for my husband, then there is me. Lol. I am perfect to capture the moment for him. My kids are more adventurous too. But someone has to take the pictures, right? I run, bike, hike, climb, but I don’t propel anywhere. haha.

  2. WOW and all of these vacations would certainly get the family moving! The swimming would be okay, but think the climbing stairs would get to me! Climbing mt Kilamanjaro! It has always been on my Bucket List!

    1. You may not call it a wellness vacation, but you have probably experienced one. We’ve been planning wellness vacations for family for years and years. I even speak on the topic at conferences and such. Let us know if we can answer any of your questions. It is just a more well-balanced vacation with purpose. :-)

  3. Biking though Italy is on my bucket list! My son is only 5 now, but I figure to give him a few more years and we are going to plan a big trip. I love having active vacations! maybe one day, we’ll all be brave enough to try Mt Kilimanjaro!

  4. I agree that biking in Italy can be amazing… especially around Lake Como, where biking is very popular. Though when I’m in Italy, I’m more likely to be eating and samping Italian Reds than biking : -)

    Nai Harn is indeed a beautiful beach, but I wouldn’t recommend it for families because there’s not much there except for the beach. I think Nai Harn is much more suited to couples looking for a romantic and quiet holiday, but that’s just me.
    Sage @ Sage & Simple recently posted…Swedish Hasbeens ReviewMy Profile

    1. Yea, everyone may be different. My kids quite enjoyed Nai Harn. Youngest was 5. It will definitely depend on the family if the kids are accustom to over stimulation or more nature like activities.

  5. As a family, we still make sure to have some trips every now and then. We book some local and international flights to discover new fun things together. Vacation is very important. Biking through Italy and learning cultural stuff in Asian countries are must-tries!

  6. We went on vacation in April of this year and it was super active we walked up 150 flights of stairs, climbed horses, rode bikes, paddled boats, and walked….goodness we walked. I was in bed by 9 every night but it was good to move because we ate just as much as we moved so I didn’t gain any weight
    Kita recently posted…Fab Top Five: 5 Non sandwich school lunchesMy Profile

  7. I don’t think you’ll ever find us climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, but our vacations tend to be more about doing and seeing new things rather than lounging around the beach all day. In fact, I came back from our last trip a few pounds lighter, in spite of the fact that we ate whatever we wanted!
    Megan Elford recently posted…7 Canadian TV Shows You’ll LoveMy Profile

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