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:
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?