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Summertime is prime Dadventure season. The kids are out of school. You get 15 or more hours of sunshine every day. Plus, it’s pretty much unAmerican NOT to go on a family road trip in summer.
In fact, 35% of American families plan to take a road trip within the next few months, according to AAA. But, road trips are only one form of adventure. While they make up 69% of all vacations for families, visits to national parks (49 percent) and theme parks (42 percent) round out the top three most popular family adventures.
Whatever your plans are for your summer adventure, this ain’t your first rodeo, so you know things can quickly get out of control when you’re trying to corral your kids into some focused family time.
Well, you’re in luck. Here are 6 pro tips I pulled together from some of the dads at Road Runner Sports to make your summer adventure a little more fun, a little more relaxed, and maybe reduce a few tears and tantrums along the way (from your kids and you)!
Taking your kids on a road trip to the great outdoors? Turn your outdoor adventure into a game. Keep your kids occupied with counting games. Pick a type of animal or a type of bird or a type of tree and have your kids count how many they can find. Bug bingo is another variation on this game where you can print out a bingo card online and have your kids cross out the bugs they see on the trail until someone wins.
Unless it’s a birthday or Christmas, kids don’t like surprises. I find the best success with family outings when I tell my daughter what to expect. The more information you share about your weekend adventure, the more mentally prepared your kids will be. You might get some groans up front, but the rest of the weekend should go a whole lot smoother.
Don’t be afraid to overpack for your dadventure. I hear a lot of parents stress about how much stuff you have to pack for their kids. As parents, we have some strange vision in our heads that minimalism is the ideal. We think to ourselves that we didn’t have all this stuff when we were kids, so why do we have to bring so much stuff? Stop worrying about it. Go easy on yourself. Bring as many supplies as you can stuff in your car or bike trailer or backpack. It really is better to be safe than sorry.
Some family adventures go off without a hitch. Or so I’ve heard. I’m still waiting for that magical day to happen. That’s why you should make backup plans. It’s not good for anyone to force them to do an activity they don’t care for. You don’t like being forced into something you don’t want to do, and neither do your kids. It’s a good idea to have Plan A, Plan B, and maybe even Plan C.
When I’m out hiking with my daughter, she always reminds me to stop and smell the flowers. Literally. She’ll stop for minutes at a time on the trail just smelling or admiring a patch of Black-Eyed Susans, Shooting Stars, or Indian paintbrush. She’ll get close to the ground and ask me to do it too. It’s hard to do when I’m focused on getting my family up to the top of hill or down to the park. But, it’s also a good reminder that the journey can be a lot more fun for everyone if you forget about your destination for a few minutes.
Dads, this one should be easy for you. Let your kids do dangerous things. Think back to when you were a kid. You did some pretty crazy things and you survived. Kids need to explore their boundaries on their own. Plus, if you’re always barking at your kid enforcing rules telling them what NOT to do, they’re not going to have much fun. Let ‘em live a little. This is what a dadventure is all about. Family adventures outside are the perfect place to let your kid take some reasonable risks.
So, there you have it. The quick and dirty guide to making summer adventures a little more fun. Now, get out and get wild!
Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Communications Director at Road Runner Sports for the last 13 years.