One of the biggest misconceptions about family travel is that you have to splurge for airfare and fly somewhere faraway to have an experience your kids will remember.
The truth: All you have to do is get the kiddos out of the house.
I’m reminded of this all the time, as we’re lucky enough to live in a part of the world with seemingly infinite natural beauty. When we tire of the routine, we pile in the car and head to the Pacific Ocean, about 45 minutes away. When we want a Big City experience, we shoot down the freeway and spend the day in San Francisco. Heck, sometimes we rarely leave our town.
Such was the case this past weekend, when, after a big rainstorm, I took the girls to a local park. The park sits next to the Russian River, and I know the place gets pretty muddy after a rain. That’s precisely why we went. Seriously.
I told the girls we were going to “hike.” Really, however, I had one plan and one plan only: To bring them to this trail system, encourage them to splash in puddles, and sit back to enjoy what happened next.
They followed the plan perfectly; all three of them were up to the tips of their rainboots within five minutes of leaving the parking lot. They enjoyed the puddle jumping so much that the three of them ran ahead on the trails to make sure they “scouted” puddles before I could find them and assess them myself.
One time, Baby G misjudged the depth of a puddle and got a boot full of water. Another time, Little R lost her balance and fell backward—straight on her rear. Then, of course, there was the Big Girl, who loves puddle-jumping but has anxiety about muddy clothes, so she hiked her pant legs up to her knees.
We stayed for nearly two hours. We were never more than seven miles from our front door.
About a week has passed, and the girls have talked about or puddle adventure at least two times every day. For them, this was a major family travel experience. Yet we didn’t “travel” at all.