How to Have an Active Family Vacation at a Park

Family Vacation Image Gallery Spending time outside at a local or state park is a refreshing way to vacation. See more family vacation pictures.
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In today's totally wired, connected and electronic society, many parents find it next to impossible to hold a conversation with their kids without being interrupted by a text, call or beeping gaming device. Although these advancements certainly have their undeniable perks, they also make us more sedentary and less likely to engage in real, down-to-earth conversations and activities.

Many families choose to temporarily buck the technological trend by hitting the great outdoors and experiencing nature's wonders together, even if only for the few days or so that our hectic lives allow. Whether you pack an old-fashioned tent or rent an R.V. or cabin, it's time to trade the laptops for s'mores and find out what your local or state park has to offer your family -- often at a fraction of the price of a beach or theme park vacation, no less!


Parks are great for bicycling and plenty of other activities.
Parks are great for bicycling and plenty of other activities.
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If you can't find something to enjoy on a state park vacation, then you simply aren't trying (or you're just way too picky). Of course, most parks include the requisite fishing, hiking, nature-walking and marshmallow roasting opportunities, but plenty also offer white-water rafting, swimming and more.

For example, Jekyll Island, located off the coast of southeast Georgia, is a nature-lover's paradise, with a smattering of modern fun thrown in for good measure. Among the possible activities are dolphin tours, kayaking through the marsh, coastal charter fishing, biking, horseback riding, birding and eco-excursions, to name a few. If you or your kids need a break from communing with nature, the nearby waterpark and miniature golf course will keep your blood pumping until you're ready to head back to the campground.

Of course, you don't have to trek all the way to Georgia for many of those experiences. Chances are that a park in much closer proximity to your neck of the woods offers many of the same rustic amenities, so do a little research and ask your friends for their nature-loving recommendations.

Even if the nearby park doesn't boast as many adventurous options, there are many family-friendly activities that you can all do together, often with little or no preparation. Is there an open field? Do a little kite-flying, or hold relay races and football tourneys! Or, have everyone scour the woods for the perfect walking stick, and then decorate them with paint and stickers and use them while nature-walking. As cliché as it sounds, a little imagination goes a long way in the almost-wilderness. How do you think the settlers came up with so many cool advancements? They had to!

Of course, no matter where you choose to spend your active vacation, there are some serious necessities that must be brought along besides picnic baskets and sleeping bags. Your first-aid kit is easily one of the most important inclusions to your gear, since prompt treatment of even the smallest injury is very important. The kit should include (but not be limited to) necessities like tweezers, plastic bandages, gauze bandages, an instant cold pack, hydrocortisone cream, burn cream, pain reliever, antibacterial ointment, antiseptic, emergency flares, a flashlight (with batteries), alcohol wipes and plastic, non-latex gloves. Whether your emergency is as teensy as a splinter, or as serious as a stitch-requiring gash, it'll be easier for you to provide instant, hygienic care with all of these tools at your fingertips.

Whatever you do, don't forget two more outdoor comfort necessities: sunscreen and bug spray. Sure, you can leave 'em at home if you want to end up scratching your mosquito bite-riddled, sunburned skin, but we advise against it!

Relationship experts insist that it's better to give the gift of an experience rather than a store-bought present, which will probably just end up lost or broken eventually.

For instance, I don't have many memories of my grandfather. He lived across the country and died when I was about 10 years old, but I do remember that for a high-powered businessman, he sure made a mean fried salami over an open campfire! In fact, nearly every time I saw him, the whole family ended up camping at Sequoia National Park in California or on a house boat at Lake Lanier Islands in Georgia. Maybe it was as simple as his ranch-raised roots peeking through, but he truly seemed to enjoy roughing it (if you can call it that when a camper with plumbing was involved) with his grandkids. Was there bickering? Absolutely. Complaints about the salami? Most definitely, although not from me.

Despite the smelliness factor that invariably accompanies camping with one's family or doing anything together outdoors, it also produces a ton of memories, photos and newly solidified relationships that can't be built while sitting on someone's couch playing Wii. Let's face it -- that's what active family trips are really all about.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to fry up some salami for old time's sake. Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it!

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  • "Dehydration Directory." WebMD. (April 3, 2011).
  • "First Aid Kit." (April 3, 2011).
  • "Things to Do on Jekyll Island." Jekyll (April 3, 2011).