Yes, you read that correctly. Walking holidays with the kids are not only possible, but they really can be whinge-free (okay – mostly whinge-free)! Even though I’m not the fittest person, I’ve always loved walking holidays, and family walking holidays are a great way to spend quality time with the kids while seeing the countryside. If the word “walking” results in pouts, well – you may need to use the word “adventure”. The downside to walking with young children is that little legs can only handle so much walking before melt-downs begin. The good news for you is that I’ve been there and done that with my daughter during an Alpine adventure in Austria, and have discovered some tricks that make walking holidays with kids almost completely whinge-free. Here are some handy tips if you’re planning a family walking holiday and have young children:
Photo: Ludwig Berchtold / Vorarlberg Tourismus
Choose your destination wisely
There are so many wonderful walking holiday destinations in Europe, but you need to remember that you’ll have kids with you; you’ll need to pick a destination that doesn’t involve walking for six hours straight without any pit-stops along the way. My favourite destination for a family adventure is Vorarlberg in Austria. This Austrian state shares a border with Germany and Switzerland, and has breathtakingly beautiful Alpine scenery. Although at first glance it looks like those mountains may be very strenuous to climb, there are actually dozens of easy trails that even kids can manage, with plenty of places to stop along the way and rest. There are 2,000km of sign-posted walking trails in the Bregenzerwald region alone. What makes the region so unique is they have themed trails ideal for families with kids, such as the Animal Trail in Brand where the kids can pet sheep, goats and rabbits en route and even inspect an insect hotel. The spring and summer months are the perfect time to visit this stunning region, and when you don’t have your hiking boots on you can always go swimming in Lake Constance. The kids will also love the Adventure Park in Schröcken, which is set against a beautiful mountain backdrop and has a rope course and flying fox runs. Vorarlberg definitely tops my list as the best spot for a whinge-free walking holiday!
Find family holiday rentals in Vorarlberg, Austria.
Photo: Les Haines
Another popular destination with active families is Spain. Here you can walk through the vineyards and pine-clad mountains of Valencia, or along the coastal trails of Andalucía. In the Castile and León region of Spain (and in the Alpes-Mercantour area of France) you can even book walking holidays where your luggage is transported by donkeys, which is a great novelty for kids!
For something closer to home, you can go on a family walking adventure along the Cornish coast. When you’re not walking Cornwall has plenty of other attractions to keep the kids busy like wildlife sanctuaries and castles, and let’s not forget the beautiful Cornish beaches.
Get comfy shoes and light back packsPhoto: Alex Kaiser / Vorarlberg Tourismus
One way to ensure your family walking holiday will be a disaster is for your kids to wear shoes that are too tight or not designed for walking. I speak from experience when I say there are few things worse than having your child crying and whining because they have blisters – which means you have to take their shoes off and let them walk barefoot, and then what should be a one-hour walk turns into a three-hour trek.
If your child is going to take a back pack make sure that it’s light and easy to carry, or you’re going to end up having to carry it yourself! Kids have grand ideas about what they want to pack, but they’re not always practical (especially my four-year old…), so you have to be firm. No, I’m afraid Mr Huggle Bunny, your Big Book of Animal Facts and that glue stick (huh?) won’t be able to join us. Don’t forget to include a light waterproof jacket and sunscreen in those packs!
Pack sufficient food and make sure they drink upPhoto: Jim Kravitz
This may sound obvious, but every parent knows that a hungry kid is a cranky kid. Nobody enjoys hearing “I’m hungry!” every two minutes, so make sure that you have plenty of snacks and finger foods that are easy to eat. I find it’s helpful to pack a variety of things (pretzels, peanuts, dried fruit) in re-sealable sandwich bags, so that when your little one is hungry you can just whip out a mixed bag. Remember that walking is going to make kids hungrier than usual so always pack more than you think you’ll need. You’ll thank me later!
Making sure your child drinks enough water is also really important because young children get dehydrated very quickly in warm weather. My daughter (who was six at the time) got terrible headaches if she was even the slightest bit dehydrated.
Plan your route and take lots of breaksPhoto: walser-image.com / Alpenregion Bludenz
Planning your route well is essential if you want a whinge-free walking holiday with kids. Kids are slow, and they need breaks – lots of breaks. Thankfully in destinations like Vorarlberg, there are so many beautiful places to stop and rest you won’t mind how often the kids need a break. Decide beforehand how many miles your children can walk each day, and plan how many stops you’re going to make along the way. If you’ve prepared your children for their holiday by slowly easing them into walking, and building up miles over months, you should already have a good idea of what they can manage.
Make it fun!Photo: Bad Kleinkirchheim
If your kids are like mine, you can make them like even the most boring activities as long as you make a game of it. Get them to look for “treasure” which could be special shaped stones or leaves, or have a competition to see who can spot the way markers first. And then there is good ol’ faithful “I spy”. One of the best ways to make the adventure more exciting for them is to give them each a camera (provided it’s not a four-year-old who will smash it to pieces – yes, also speaking from experience here!) and get them to keep a photo diary of their holiday. If you have budding little detectives you’ll love the “Golmi Agent” trail in Vorarlberg, where your kids get to solve a mystery as they find clues along the way.
We’d love to know what your top tips are for a whinge-free walking holiday. Share your ideas in the comments below!
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