Babystep Your Way Into Being an Adventurous Family
How to Take Your Kids on Outdoor Adventures
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Having a baby can make you feel tied to your house, with sleep routines, diaper bags and everything else that comes with the little bundle (of joy). Anxiety over minutiae can quickly become exaggerated, especially with sleep deprivation. Our advice? Don’t stay home. Getting out there — from camping to road-tripping to heading out of the country — can make the little stuff seem less gargantuan and add a healthy dose of go-with-the-flow perspective. When else has your daily routine been completely turned on its head? And then turned again? And again? Go with it. The more you get out, the easier it will be to keep doing it, and in the end, the kids (and your routine) will be alright.
That’s right, go camping. It won’t be that different from camping previously except that you’ll need something to corral the kid while you set up camp (like a pack ‘n play), lest he shovel dirt and rocks into his mouth while you unfold the stove and set up the tent. Many babies actually sleep better outside in cool, fresh air (as adults do), and co-sleeping is highly encouraged in the early months so that the baby can then regulate his or her breathing with yours, which helps to prevent SIDS. Lash together two sleeping pads and then snuggle with your baby in a double sleeping bag to regulate temperature until the baby is enough to sleep on his or her own. Many walking toddlers find sleeping pads to be particularly entertaining for jumping — let them bounce out extra energy.
To ease up on the logistics, choose a campground with running water and bathrooms and keep it close to home. That way, it’ll be easy to ditch effort if things become too overwhelming. Not sure you’ll be comfortable in a tent with your little one? Try a primitive alternative like Washington’s Rolling Huts, which basically put walls around you in an outdoor setting, or an RV resort like Rip Van Winkle Campground in New York’s Catskill mountains.
Whether it’s a weekend or six weeks, an RV can make you feel adventurous without submitting completely to the elements. Take advantage of parental leave from work and hit the road for serious family bonding time. Any sort of routine will be thrown out the window anyway, so roll with it and make it up as you go along; you’d be doing the same thing at home. You can even use an RV or camper van as home base at the ski slopes in lieu of winter camping. Keep it classy with a camper van — Winnebago’s Era Sprinter van is the most affordable of the Mercedes-Benz lineup and comes equipped with screen doors for airflow, a retractable awning for chilling outside, an outdoor shower, and a smooth-riding motor that handles like a sports car. It barely sipped on diesel on our nine-day adventure through the Berkshires and Hudson River Valley, and the bed was big enough for the three — er, 2.5 of us.
Just don’t get too aggressive with your itinerary: spend more than one night at each stop, keep driving distances to a couple hours per day or less (especially to keep carseat time to a minimum, which benefits your baby’s head shape), and plan campsites within walking distance of things to do, like short, easy trails. Not sure how to get yourself in an RV? GoRVing.com is a catch-all for everything RV, including rental facilities, fuel-saving tips, trip suggestions and more.
The first rule of a ski trip with a new baby is heading to the resort with friends who also have a new baby. Otherwise, you and your partner will be stuck taking turns skiing alone while your counterpart hangs back with the baby. While the latter is fine, it’s not as much fun. Who are you going to hoot and holler with when the face shots are coming in hot? Pick friends who are close in ability and then keep things honest; it’s okay to forgo a hike up the ridge and keep it easy, since you probably aren’t in fighting shape.
If you want to venture farther than your home hill, opt for family-friendly terrain like Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which has a highly regarded daycare center right at the base of the gondola and, because it’s relatively remote compared to the Front Range’s I-70 resorts, it’s pretty well protected from the “Bro-rado” ‘tude. Plus, the Hayden/Yampa Valley airport now caters to Steamboat with eight nonstop flights from San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles and more, making it easy to pop in without much fuss. Spend the extra dough and book a slope-side condo or at least one that’s walking distance from the base area. You’ll save on time and stress when it comes to naps and babysitting hand-offs.
Sure, Mexico can be known for its stomach rumble-inducing water and being rough around the edges, but it’s also not a huge commitment when it comes to traveling abroad with an infant, and it’s less expensive than Hawaii, but with all of the same relaxation. It’s just close enough to easily get back to the US in case of emergency yet also far enough away that it feels foreign. The water’s warm, the surf can be inviting and mellow, and who turns down fresh lobster, ceviche and a population that knows its tequila? Head to Punta Mita or Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta, for beginner-friendly surf and a tourist crowd that’s mostly straight out of Boulder. Talk to your pediatrician about vaccinations your child should have prior to heading over the border and don’t forget that even your newborn needs a passport to fly into Mexico.
True, you probably aren’t going to run any class III+ rivers with a baby. But floating a calmer section of river (say, class II or flatter) is an adventure all on its own. The gently moving current, Great Herons winging downriver, and, well, mud for splashing, make float-trip adventures you’ll remember for years to come. Plus, river trips are the best way to take little ones into remote places because you don’t have to carry your own gear. The secret weapon: a portable crib. Pull up to the beach at camp and pop this thing up first. Letting the baby romp around in it while you get camp set-up will make things move much more efficiently and stress-free.
Make sure you have the right gear for getting downstream. We like NRS’s Otter 130 Self-Bailing Raft with an oar rig like the NRS Bighorn I Raft Frame. Mom or dad can row the rig while the other can hold the baby. And as a bonus, infant life jackets have dual support collars that cradle the head so well, they can also act as a pillow. That, paired with the motion of the water, equals total nap-inducer. As the kids get older, bring an inflatable stand-up paddleboard along; it gives everyone a way to mix it up during long, flat miles.