whitewater rafting
A day rafting is the perfect getaway: You don’t need to buy a ton of special—and pricey—equipment or even take lessons; if you crave adrenaline, it can be as exhilarating and challenging as you can handle; if you’re more of a “lazy river” kind of boater, rafting can be peaceful and scenic, too; and, since many companies offer rafting tours for children as young as seven, you don’t always have to leave the family behind.

What to wear
All you truly need is a bathing suit and a sense of adventure, though dry clothing and a towel for afterward are always a good idea, too. Along with the raft and a guide to take you out on the water, the rental outlet will provide everything from life jackets to helmets and paddles. There are, however, a few extras worth having that are small and inexpensive. Watershoes (or surf-socks) cost as little as $10 a pair and will make life much easier. Running shoes are uncomfortable when waterlogged and can get ruined. Sandals are not ideal for boats of any kind, since ropes can get caught in them and some guide companies will even prohibit sandals.

Sunglasses are also a good idea, since the glare on water can be strong and whitewater rafting is not an activity you want to be caught in without vision. If you’re fond of your sunglasses, you might consider a neck strap for them, too.

Of course, you’ll need to dress for the weather. If you are rafting on colder water, or in a cooler time of year, then some waterproof clothing like a wetsuit is a good idea. (Check first to see if this will be included in your rental.) For warmer weather, stick to quick-dry clothing like board shorts to go over your bathing suit.

When to go
April and May are usually the best months to head out on the water. For many rivers, the spring runoff is high, which means it's moving faster. These months don’t work for you? Temperatures are warm and water levels are still great in June and July, and in many areas across the country, the rafting season goes as late as October.

Who to go with
When looking for a guide company, you’ll want to make sure they can accommodate your level of experience. Rafting runs are generally classified as I to VI: I and II are for beginners; III and IV are good for intermediate paddlers; V and VI (and beyond) are for experienced rafters only. If you’re bringing the kids along, ask about how they cater to children (whether they offer a gentler trip or even daycare). As for the guides, these are the people who are supposed to know the river and will be giving instructions in the raft, so ask questions about their experience and accreditation. A couple to start with: Do they have first aid and CPR training? Are they SRT (Swiftwater Rescue Technician) qualified?

The cost
This depends mostly on how long you want your trip to last. Going out for three or four hours can cost as little as $20 a person, but a full day trip, which usually includes a meal, will be closer to $100. If your trip is overnight, it will likely cost upwards of $100 per day to accommodate meals and cabin rental. You can also choose whether or not to hire a private guide or if you would like to be grouped with others. A private guide will cost more, so be sure to decide on what type of trip you’d like and what amenities you expect before you plan your budget.