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Outdoor family travel Episode #2 – Planning the ideal outdoor trip is impossible.

Hope you caught the first installment of our new outdoor family travel series. Have you figured out just how far your clan was willing to go to enjoy the outdoors? Good! Now is the time to make it happen. Before you get your expectations too high, did I mention it’s simply against the law of physics to attempt to orchestrate the perfect outdoor adventure? Unless you can influence the weather. Or really don’t like rain and choose a destination like Death Valley, where it’s pretty unlikely to drop any kind of precip on your party. But even if you could control the clouds, you’ll still have the unexpected to deal with. And that’s what everyone will remember. For years to come.

My point is this – start with a framework of where you want to stay & how to get there, and let the details unfold on their own time. For instance, if you’re heading out beyond the reach of your legs, car or private jet (you don’t have one of those??), then booking plane tickets ahead of time might be helpful. Getting last minute airfare should only be done for a business trip or funeral. And this is neither, so get on the web and start shopping. Note: this is best done when the weather at home really stinks and you can’t wait to get outta there.

Perhaps you want to score a coveted campsite with a view of the ocean. Well, let me tell you, so do several thousand other professional travelers, including the retired couple from Des Moines with the 40 foot bus towing a small SUV. They’ll all be hitting at the same time as you, the minute, no, the millisecond the reservation window opens. They’ll have as many computers logged in as Wall Street does on a busy trading day, and the best sites already listed in priority order in case they don’t get their first choice. How do I know this? Because that will be me, minus the RV. And if you happen to grab site A13 at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park when I’m trying to book it, I will never forgive you. And this will be the last time I share any of my travel secrets with you.

Once you have the basics covered, now I want you to imagine the absolute worst weather possible. Or maybe a plague of locusts while you’re at it. Picture something just short of the Apocalypse, with horses galloping at full speed towards your party. Did you head out for a walk dressed only for a little sprinkle, or could you handle being soaked in a downpour? What will you eat if a gang of raccoons with opposable thumbs finds their way into your cooler and every last one of your Sweet Mandy B’s cupcakes are suddenly gone? What happens if precious little Johnny* starts projectile vomiting the moment the airline crew latches the door for a four hour flight? Or a magnitude 6.0 earthquake hits when you’re camped in California?

I ask because these things have happened to the Boyles. Well, not the locusts or the horses. But it does help to have a backup plan in case things really go to yogurt and you just need to bail. You’re on vacation, remember, and driving to the movie theater might be a better option than sticking it out in awful conditions. There are no points awarded for making everyone miserable, folks. And you’ve already established your limits when you came up with this idea. So hope for the best all you want, but when the sun does shine, you’ll be prepared for the chance it won’t.

Next up: Um, what if I don’t have the right stuff?


©Jeff Boyle


©Amy Boyle Photography


©Amy Boyle Photography


©Amy Boyle Photography

About the author

     Jeff has been wandering around the woods since his loving parents first told him kindly to “Go outside and play!” at the tender age of 4.  About the same time, he climbed his first mountain in New Hampshire without being carried the entire way. A few years later, he married Amy, a wonderful and adventurous professional photographer, and the two of them raised four boys together.  He soon understood why his folks had encouraged him to spend so much time outdoors as an energetic youngster…  

     In Amy & Jeff’s two decades of togetherness, they’ve gone from camping mainly ’cause he’s frugal, to realizing they actually enjoy spending time in the “five billion star” resort called the great outdoors.  Both have been active in Scouting, and their own boys have mostly had no choice but to come along.  From lugging the heaviest car-camping gear ever made several miles into the woods of northern Wisconsin, to flying their latest slimmed down but still comfy adventure kit to the west coast, they’ve gotten better at getting around.

     Just about the world’s worst storyteller, Jeff has decided it’s more effective to write and share photos about what he’s learned through many years of family outdoor travel.  Like Mark Twain supposedly said, “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”  Hopefully his sarcastic New England style doesn’t put everyone off, especially all the nice folks he’s met in the Midwest that he’s been so lucky to have called home for what feels like forever.

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