By Kari Svenneby
I grew up in Norway enjoying family hikes and cross-country skiing every Sunday. When the snow melted, we swapped out our skis for hiking boots. Summers were spent hiking to our rustic log cabin that hasn’t changed since my family built it 90 years ago. Without running water or power, we spent our time trekking, swimming and foraging for mushrooms and berries. During my childhood, my mom was often sick, so my dad would take us on adventures solo.
When I became a parent, I found myself wanting to explore solo with my kids, too. Thankfully not due to sickness, but a result of the sporadic life of two freelance parents with conflicting schedules. Adventures solo with your kids can be very rewarding for a parent. When you're the solo parent, you can have a unique bonding experience with your children while gaining a feeling of accomplishment conquering obstacles that arise when you get a little out of your comfort zone.
No matter what your unique situation is, here are nine ways to make the most of solo adventures with your kids.
1. Start small
Solo adventures with the kids should start close to home. Go on achievable day trips, such as a nearby hike or short paddle. If possible, take the train or bus with the kids instead of driving the car to get everyone acquainted with different kinds of transportation.
2. Safety first
When venturing farther from home, choose destinations that are safe to travel solo with kids. Look for countries with low crime rates and make sure you have the needed outdoor skills necessary for your adventures.
3. Get your kids involved
On a recent backpacking trip in Norway, my 14-year-old daughter was in charge of setting up the campsites.
4. Travel light
When my girls were over eight years old, they started to pack and carry their own clothes. Of course the weather dictates what you bring, but you would be surprised how long you can travel with two changes of clothes and lots of underwear and socks. Leave the kid’s technical gadgets at home as it is just more stuff to carry and lose.
5. Plan ahead
When you are traveling solo with kids, schedule in advance as much of your travel itinerary as possible. On my first train ride with my girls in Europe, we were stuck at a train station in Germany for four hours in the middle of the night because I did not schedule our train travel ahead of time. That was not a high point of our trip and now I always make sure our major connections are scheduled.
6. Consider budget travel
Backpacking means you travel light, use public transportation and are flexible in your lodging choices. This is a great introduction to travel with your kids before you add tents and backcountry camping.
7. Leave a little room for spontaneity
One of our most memorable stays was at a youth hostel in Crete that didn’t have a roof. When we started, we always stayed in various types of lodging, but now we always have a tent as part of our backpacking adventures so we can have a few nights in nature.
8. Invest in good gear
Spend the extra money on a quality tent that is light and easy to carry. Pack only the essential camping equipment: sleeping bags, pads, camp stove, mess kit. Make sure you have tested the tent with the kids before you take it on an overnight adventure. Everyone should know how to set it up.
9. Be prepared
Batteries can die, so always bring a pocket guide and maps for each of your destinations. It’s always good to have a paper guide because you never know if you are going to have Wi-Fi or how off the grid you might explore together.
P.S. Wondering where to start?
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