Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tips for Finding Nature While on Vacation

This is my third in a series of posts for Nature Rocks, a wonderful movement that encourages families to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. It's an idea that my family tries to live out each and every day. Next week, I'm their featured ambassador, so Nature Rocks will be posting some of my tips for enjoying time outside with kids, and I'll be posting more detailed posts that correspond with each tip.
Read posts from earlier this week here:

Today's tip is to include nature in your family vacations.

There are some destinations that lend themselves to spending a bulk of your time outside. Hawaii, for instance. But even urban getaways or cold climates offer plenty of outdoor exploration opportunities.

Here are a few reasons we love to spend time outdoors while traveling:
  • It's cheap. You've already spent an arm and a leg to get your family to a particular destination. Add up lodging, dining or other entertainment expenses, and your budget can go up in vacation smoke pretty quickly. But parks, beaches, gardens, etc., are often free or very low cost. And you can usually spend hours enjoying them. Pack a picnic and save on lunch or dinner!
  • It's exciting. You have an opportunity to see animals, plants and landscapes that are unique to the part of the world where you're traveling. I can't take my eyes off the water whenever we visit the ocean or Lake Michigan. Probably because it's not something I get to look at everyday around home.
  • It gets kids moving. We all know that kids, especially young ones, like to be on the move. And it can be exhausting chasing after them and trying to keep them on their best behavior when you're out and about on vacation. The beauty of the great outdoors is that they're free to roam and explore (within reason, of course).
Connecting with nature in Boston: Harbor Islands

Need a few ideas to get you going?
  • Nearby local or state parks. When we visit St. Petersburg, Florida, for example, we naturally spend some time at the beach near our rental property. But we also always plan a visit to Fort DeSoto Park, one of the world's most beautiful and natural beaches. It's fun to show our kids the beach as nature intended it, not populated with high rises and jet skis.
  • Try something new. Visiting a winter climate? Maybe you could try snow shoeing or skiing. Heading to a tropical destination? Snorkeling would be a fun and easy way to more thoroughly explore the ocean. In just about any location, you could go bird watching, geocaching, or hiking.
  • Do a little research. If you're visiting a city, connecting with nature might require a little more homework. But you can almost always find an aboretum, botanical garden, zoo or urban park to put on your list of attractions. And breathing in some fresh air in the middle of a city will do everyone some good. Ask for recommendations, look at blogs, or connect with the tourism bureau.
  • Dine al fresco. My kids are always much happier when they're outside. So whenever possible, we choose restaurants with outdoor patios or seating areas. This typically means less entertaining that the adults have to do. And if our baby does get fussy, one of us can just take him on quick little walk around the block.
  • Camp! I'll be writing more about camping later this week, so check back!
Connecting with nature in Tampa: Lowry Park Zoo
Other Resources:
If you're interested in more ideas about finding nature while on vacation, you might enjoy this article by Colleen of Travel Mamas: Vacation that connect kids with nature

And I wrote this post about Nature on Vacation last year.

How do you include nature in your vacation plans? Please leave a comment!

Next up: Tomorrow I'll be posting about baby and toddler carriers. You might need one for your nature-filled travels!