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3 Easy Ways to Keep Your Family Active While Traveling

by Sarah on October 17, 2010

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Staying active while traveling is a tall order – your routine, your sleep, your eating habits – everything shifts.  It’s hard enough for an adult traveling solo to stay active. And it’s even harder when you’re traveling with the whole family.  Nonetheless, you can keep family fitness in the travel plans.  And in fact, by finding ways to exercise, you’ll find your trip will be that much more enjoyable for it.


Active Family Travel Tip #1: Get Out And Walk


It’s amazing what you see when you get out of a car and actually walk.  Not to mention the exercise you get from it.  Just recently, my family visited New York City.  On one of our afternoons, we checked out one of our favorites – the Museum of Natural History. 


However, when we were done with a nice dinner nearby, instead of jumping on the subway to return to Brooklyn where we were staying or hailing a cab, we walked. Yes, for those of you who know New York, that means we walked over 7 miles.


Now that’s a long hike.  And not for everyone or every family (we hike a lot).  But it was the most memorable part of the trip.  For not only did we get a great workout as a family, but we really saw the sights!  And it didn’t cost us a cent! 


We followed Broadway down through the heart of Manhattan – window shopping in the Upper West Side, wending around horse and buggies near Columbus Circle and cruising through the crowds in Times Square.  But of course the most glorious part was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and watching evening fall over the East River and Manhattan behind us.


Having lived in New York for several years, we knew the territory.  But being a stranger doesn’t prevent you from cruising the streets.  (We did a lot of walking in San Francisco too). Do your research.  I highly recommend Google’s pedometer and route planner at and’s plethora of trail information. Also, make good use of local tourist information services and guidebooks so you can enjoy your hike, not stumble upon unhappy surprises.


Active Family Travel Tip #2: Plan For Green Space 


As an active family, we tend to plan our trips around the outdoors.  We just recently visited Yosemite.  But even if you hit an urban or semi-urban spot, you can find green space to romp in.  You can find parks and playgrounds by contacting city and state Departments of Parks and Recreation. Or try if you’re looking for something with clambering equipment.  Also, go to the library (hint, many local libraries are built near parks) and check out guidebooks.


Whatever you do, don’t just plan for museums or theme parks, plan for outdoors romping.  On our recent trip to California, we stayed outside of San Francisco where the rates were cheaper and we were a 5-minute walk from the beach and miles of trails.


And just like you take time to plan ahead in order to locate the green spaces you can explore, be sure and make time in your schedule for active family time.


Active Family Travel Tip #3: Keep It Simple And Fun 


Planning a day hike or a day by the ocean gives your family a solid dose of activity.  But don’t get caught up in the Big Activity (if you know what I mean).  Keep it simple and squeeze little spontaneous active games in as well. 


On our recent trip to San Fran we were sorely disappointed by the aquarium we spent close to $40 to visit (not to mention the parking challenge and tickets).  Ironically, we ended up having the most fun racing each other as we balanced on the 3-inch wide board lining a little boardwalk on the beach near the marina. For close to an hour we raced each other up and down the deck – perfecting our technique and finding new levels of zen balance control as we speeded up.


You may find the same delight in hopping up and down museum steps, trying not to step on sidewalk cracks (great stretching opportunity!) or sashaying for several blocks.


If you’re short on inspiration, watch your kids.  Kids tend to find inventive games most anywhere – holding onto a streetlight pole and swinging around, weaving in and out of parking meters.  Of course add your bit of parental sanity and safety awareness to the mix but allow some time to saunter, skip, jump and spin if the opportunity presents itself. 


Put these three tactics to use and you can make any vacation an active family trip.

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