Get out and explore the great outdoors

June 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Does your family suffer from nature deficit disorder? Maybe it's time to get them into the great outdoors for your next vacation. Travelocity's contributing editor, Jennifer Gaines, shares some budget-friendly ideas.

Family nature trips ideas

California road trip

  • A budget friendly outdoor getaway from the Bay Area.
  • Highlights include: Yosemite, Carmel and Monterey. Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
  • Stretches across British Columbia from the Cariboo Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Outdoor playground features fishing, horseback riding, hiking, wildlife viewing safaris and more.

Earthwatch Expedition - Bahamian Reef Survey

  • This trip is geared toward teens and gives them a chance to be a scientist for a week.
  • The research center is located on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.

Tips on getting your kids outside

Volunteer Outside: Unplug the kids for a day and get outside to improve local public lands at a Take Pride in America volunteer event near your hometown.

Hit the Road: Experience nature by winding your way through scenic roads and national parks, taking the time to stop and explore along the way. Need Ideas? Try one of Travelocity and Road Trip Wizard's recommended road trips.

Be a Scientist: Participate in a family Earthwatch Expedition to get involved with the research, education and conservation of the natural world.

Take a hike: The American Hiking Society offers tips on hiking with teenagers. Choose easier, shorter routes and stop often with younger children, and always let your kids get involved with the planning.

Go digital: Try wildlife photography - appropriate for small children, teenagers and adults. Digital cameras are portable, decreasingly expensive and save money on film. Once you get home, you can create your own nature scrapbook.

For more information on getting your kids outside, visit Travelocity's blog at www.travelocity.com/outdoors or explore outdoor vacation ideas at www.travelocity.com/nature.

Children and nature: The facts

In the past 30 years, children of the digital age have become increasingly alienated from the natural world. Instead of free play time outside, children have been lured by indoor entertainment such as video games, TV, etc and all free time is filled with organized activities, not allowing children to explore nature on their own. Obesity, attention deficit disorder and impaired social skills are just a few of the ways children are being impacted by what author Richard Louv has dubbed "Nature Deficit Disorder."

The health of children is at stake, but so is the health of the Earth. Studies show that, conservationists or any adults with environmental awareness had some transcendent experience in nature when they were children. Young people who grow up without spending time in nature are much less likely to be strong champions of the environment as they get older, thereby jeopardizing the fate of forests and open lands, lakes and streams

According to a recent family travel poll conducted by Travelocity:

- Families with children today are visiting national parks and other nature sites much less frequently than previous generations. 25% of the Silent Generation (born between 1925-1945) report that all of their childhood family vacations included some interaction with nature compared to only 15% of families traveling with kids today.

- Today's families take less time to participate in outdoor activities. Instead of hiking, biking and camping, more than twice as many families today focus on activities like shopping than did earlier generations (now 20% of family vacations

- Up from 8% during the Silent Generation's childhood years).

- Instead of camping trips families frequent major cities (19%) and amusement parks (13%) as their vacation destinations. In contrast, as children the Silent Generation visited major cities 8% of the time and amusement parks only 6%.

- The means by which families travel also has changed dramatically across generations. Not surprisingly, car travel has diminished while air travel has increased with families going much greater distances. This means families today have fewer opportunities to stop along the way to admire scenic overlooks, explore local hiking trails, or just watch the scenery outside as it changes.

About Jennifer Gaines

Jennifer Gaines, Travelocity's Contributing Editor, writes for The Window Seat blog and talks travel while on the job, providing tips and advice for local and national media outlets across the U.S. and Canada. While off the job, she puts her advice to the test, getting out of town as much as possible. Her favorite nature pursuit: exploring the rustic landscape of Magnetic Island, Australia by way of Mini Moke and spotting koalas, wallabies and kangaroos in their natural habitat.


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