Active Vacations

School's almost out for summer and it's time to start thinking about your family vacation(s) if you haven't already. In your quest for a more active lifestyle I'd like to encourage you to inject some action into your vacation. Instead of spending all your vacation time reading the latest novel while lying in the sun at the beach, how about renting bikes to explore the area, hiring a local guide to take you on a half-day canoe trip, packing a lunch and spending the day exploring the countryside ... The possibilities are endless.
Adventure Guides are written by knowledgeable, experienced authors. The focus is on outdoor activities - hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, downhill skiing, parasailing, scuba diving, backpacking, and waterskiing, among others - and these user-friendly books provide all the details you need, including prices. Search by destination or activity.

Adventure Vacations has all kinds of information. Tap into their community for answers to your questions. Find gear, maps, and books for creating your own adventure vacation.

Recreational opportunities on Federal lands.


Volunteer Vacations

Accomplish several goals with a volunteer vacation. Enjoy an active vacation, do something to change your world for the better, meet others who have the same interests, and in most cases you'll pay less for a volunteer vacation than any other kind of vacation.

Domestic and international trips allow for a wide range of skills and intensity. 

Sierra Club sponsors about 330 national and international outings each year. These trips combine the exploration of extraordinary natural areas with the conservation and environmental goals of the Club. Most of their trips are wilderness trips, and are run as cooperative ventures in which trip participants help out with camp chores and such other work as is required to make the trip a success.

Chapter and group outings introduce you to the wild places in your own backyard. These may be day hikes, peak scrambles, bird-watching trips, or forays into the remaining natural areas of a major urban region.

Go the the "Get Outdoors" section to find info on all trips and outings.

More Volunteer Vacations



A Most Excellent Adventure (with kids)
by Tracey Minkin

The following section is condensed from an article in Cooking Light

Take your family on an adventure vacation and you may never settle for lazing around the hotel swimming pool again. This is why, when we travel as a family, we like to make each trip one that combines action, exploration, and usually some degree of risk-taking on all our parts. Adventuresome travel takes some planning, a good attitude, and the ability to respond quickly when things don't turn out as expected. But it is worth it. When you explore new vistas together, you not only introduce your children to a larger world, but you put yourself on equal footing with them. And sometimes, the parent-as-teacher/child-as-student roles reverse. I know teenagers who have reveled in showing a nervous mom or dad how to scramble up a rock wall or pilot a snowboard around the moguls.

Begin the process slowly, by injecting a bit of adventure into your family's typical vacations: a day of dogsledding or snowshoeing during the annual family ski vacation, or a two-day sea-kayak excursion during your summer beach week. Then you can get more ambitious and try something completely different.

Eco-adventures are a great way to give the entire family some exposure to flora and fauna, from animal-observation site visits to stays at resorts with eco-programs. If you have older kids, consider an environmentally oriented volunteer vacation. Programs are springing up all over the world to corral this pent-up teen energy.


Saddle up

Breteche Creek Ranch Wilderness Learning Center (307-587-3844) is a rustic retreat in the mountains east of Yellowstone National Park. The focus is on getting back to nature so you'll stay in platform tents with electricity and running water in the main cabin only. Activities include trail rides, hiking, and fishing.

Leon Harrel's Old West Cowboy Clinics offering one to five days of horsemanship and cowboy skill sessions at the Harrel Family Ranch. Cowboy Clinics include all meals, lodging, tack, horses, entertainment, and instruction. Prices range from $90 to $1,975 per person and single occupancy. . The five day program includes accommodations at one of Kerrville's finest resort hotels and all transportation to and from the ranch. Group rates are available  for 10 or more persons.

Harrel's Cowgirl Clinic (for women only)

  • Five star accommodations three miles from the ranch.
  • Any level of rider may attend.
  • Team penning, team sorting, cattle work, cattle round ups, trail rides, cutting, basic barrel practice, and more.
  • Gourmet meals cooked on the ranch everyday, and nights with entertainment around the campfire.
  • Four nights and three 1/2 days for $1475/person.

The Double Diamond X Guest Ranch (800-833-7262) caters to families with kids with a family rec room, Kid's Clubhouse (no parents allowed), and kid's only sleepout under the stars. The DDX also features nightly entertainment and an optional overnight pack trip.


Get Wet!

Underwater explorations

Explore the Southern California coast with NiteRider. Scuba, snorkel, or kayak for a one-of-a-kind vacation adventure.

Join the crew from Blue Escape and Nite Rider for an organized night dive in the San Diego area. Explore sites that aren't accessible from shore. This incredible adventure cost only $35.00 - all equipment and refreshments.

Rafts, Kayaks, and Canoes

Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (800-346-6277) has put together trips in Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon, and discounts for groups of three or more. For river rats 4 years old and up.

Swim with sea mammals

You need to be at least 10 years old and a strong swimmer to swim in most of these programs. Little ones can participate in dolphin encounters in shallow water or on the edge of a dock.

Dolphin Cove in Key Largo, Florida (877) 365-2683 or www. $125 per person.

Dolphin Quest at Hawaii's Hilton Wailcoloa (808-885-2875); $85 per child, $115 per adult.

And manatee lovers can commune with the adorable mammals through River Safaris and Gulf Charters (352) 628-5222), based in Homasassa, Florida. A two-hour pontoon boat trip and swim session costs $20 per person.


Get physical

Kids love to play, adults wish they could. A trip that puts sports (participatory not spectator) at the forefront is not only fun for the whole family, but it allows you and your kids to put your bodies to the test - within limits, of course. Consider linking a chain of sporting days, in a region. A summer week in Jackson Hole, Florida, for instance, could include a backpacking trip, a whitewater day, canoeing on a lake, and some life served mountain hiking.

Vancouver Island Wilderness Resort offers exciting outdoor adventure with all the comfort and charm of a 4 star lodge. Wildlife/nature tours, sea kayaking, rainforest hiking, ocean fishing.

At you'll find an incredible array of adventures, just a click and a credit card away! Choose by region, activity, budget, or lifestyle.

AdventureQuest offers 1,400 adventure tours, voyages and unique travel for individuals, families and groups. Trips range from safaris, biking trips and language classes abroad to hiking treks, cultural and nature expeditions and rafting journeys. Choose from tours geared towards family, seniors, singles, women, or go to their Budget Tour section (which is where you'll find the volunteer vacations), or choose according to the type of activity you want to participate in or learn - they have over a dozen different vacation schools.

Exotic Locales

Desert Tracks (Australia) offers camping, hunting and gathering as you journey along the Aboriginal songlines.

Two of the most intriguing are in the Central American country of Belize: Casa Maya Eco Resort specializes in rigorous multi-day jungle expeditions for $110 to $600 per person.

Chaa Creek Cottages feature a river jungle camp with tented platforms for $42 per person per night.

Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works (970-870-1782) near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Continental Divide Dogsled Adventures (800-531-6874) outside Jackson Hole - let you try your hand at dogsledding. You can even drive the dogs yourself! Prices begin around $60 per child and $90 per adult for half day trips.

Backroads (800-462-2848) has a selection of more than forty family oriented trips that combine walking, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, and kayaking in places such as the Canadian Rockies, Washington state's San Juan Islands, Belire, and the Galapagos Islands. Camping trips begin at about $1,000 per person for six days. Inn trips run about $4600 per person for nine days.

Get The Right Stuff 

Find Sports Items on eBay Sports



  • 11th Hr. Vacations can get you airline tickets, cruises and hotel reservations at rock-bottom prices, and the price drops the closer you get to your departure date!
  • Contact the Chamber of Commerce in the area you want to visit to get the number for the local pound (see if they need volunteers to help with the animals), brochures for local attractions, tell them that you're interested in doing some volunteer work and ask for their recommendations on who to contact.
  • Use the Internet to look for info on the area you'll be visiting.
  • Subscribe to a local paper from the area you'll be visiting. You'll find all kinds of events, you'll see what the local restaurants and other places of interest are offering, you might even be able to collect some coupons or make note of days and/or times when prices are lowered.
  • Use your local library to look through the newspapers for the area you'll be vacationing in, preferably before you go, but you could also do it when you get there.
  • Check out recreational opportunities on Federal lands.

Tips & Tricks

Pureed Fruits can replace the butter or oil in baked goods. When a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter replace it with 1 cup of pureed pears, apples, bananas, prunes, or pumpkins. I like to use canned pumpkin, but then I end up freezing the remainder. A selection of baby food is an easy way to have just the right amount of pureed Fruit on hand. Replacing fats with pureed Fruit doesn't work as well with cookies. Try half pureed Fruit, and half butter. If they turn out well, experiment with substituting more Fruit for the butter until you reach the point where you're not pleased with how they turn out.


  1. Decide what kind of an adventure vacation you want.
  2. Contact the leads from this article or do your own research at the library, on the phone, and through the Internet.
  3. Make your plan.
  4. Enjoy your adventure!
  5. Send an e-mail to tell us about it.

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last revised February 22, 2006
Copyright Kathleane C. O'Leary 1997-2006 all rights reserved
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