Hiking with young ones can be amazing and it can be amazingly difficult. When our almost 2 year old (now 3 year old) reached his first real summit after two hours of sitting in his pack and exclaimed “woooow”, as only someone can who’s never seen a view like that, it was all worth it. Here are 5 tips for backpacking with toddlers.
1. Every step out is a step you need to take on the way back. Seems quite obvious, but when your young one is done with it all, the way back can seem like forever away. Build up on your distances to feel out how they do. You may be pleasantly surprised at how long they enjoy being out in the wild.
2. Be prepared, for it all. They may be perfectly content on long hikes until “it” happens. “It” can be anything: hunger, a bug bite or sting, thirst, too hot, too cold, or just boredom. Bring snacks (lots!), water, sunscreen, first aid and most importantly, talk to them a lot. Play “eye spy”, pick leaves, acorns and rocks for them to inspect on the ride. Also very important: dress them for the temperature based upon them sitting still in the elements. You may be warm in 50 degree temps but if you were sitting still, it would be a different story. Check their hands, ears, nose and toes to see if they are getting cold and watch for flushed faces, sweating and redness if they are getting hot.
3. Know your limits. You have to carry them, plus all of that gear that makes you a prepared parent…and carry it all back. Pulling a muscle or becoming fatigued puts you and your little ones in a dangerous situation. Just like you should build children up to lengthy hikes, you have to build yourself up to the hikes you plan to undertake.
4. With beauty comes danger. Every once and awhile we read tragic stories of children or adults becoming seriously injured on hikes because they took unnecessary chances. Many of the most beautiful locations on your hikes can be extremely dangerous to young ones. Use extra caution when your young ones are around. Be sure to never take an eye or hand off of them when they are out of the pack. No photo opp is worth the risk of injury.
5. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Even if you are feeling good and don’t need a break doesn’t mean your little one doesn’t need time to stretch their legs. Take them out of the pack for a while and let them explore. It will make each hike that much more interesting.
So the story goes, I grew up with my father and uncle saying several times a year that they should buy land upstate (NY). Over and over again they would say it without ever acting on it. They’d also say how the price just kept going up and that they should have bought last year.
20+ years later, I had just ordered the brand new car that I had been wanting for years. Elisa was pregnant with our first adventurer. I was watching tv one day when a commercial came on for buylandNY or some site like that. They were advertising 30 acres for 30,000.00. I stopped and thought…what am I doing? For the price of my new car, I could have a property that my soon to be son could enjoy for years.
I canceled the car and convinced Pops to start looking with me. The search brought us to a 20 acre lot with an 1800’s log cabin on it. It has electricity and a well (like the kind you throw a bucket into) and I love it. It’s our time to truly disconnect from our devices and connect with each other (no cell, no tv). Five years later, it’s our home away from home. The boys constantly ask when can we go to the cabin again and they cry every time we leave. It makes me think about all of the memories I wouldn’t have if I had bought the car instead. How many memories the boys wouldn’t have.
You’ve probably said and probably heard two dozen people say it. “I want to travel more next year” or “after I finish ( insert accomplished task) I’m going to start traveling more.” We used to say the same things. Now we travel whenever we can and I can only think if we knew these tricks sooner we would have started traveling so much more.
1. Don’t be afraid to be a weekend warrior. If your job doesn’t give you any vacation time don’t fret. You only need 1 or 2 days to explore a new location. We’ve traveled to so many locations but by far we travel in the north east the most because it’s our back yard.
2. Treat your vacation time like a paycheck. Don’t spend it all in one place. Extend your weekends multiple times a year. Instead of taking two 1 week trips a year, take five 4 day trips a year.
3. Don’t treat vacations like your favorite meal at a restaurant. Try something new. By saying you want to travel more, you’re saying you want to see new places. Even if it’s 30 minutes from the last place you’ve visited, it’s new!
4. Don’t let a budget hold you back. A trip does not have to have to be something you save up for and get to enjoy months later. There are so many options: camping, campgrounds, home (or better yet condo) rentals, and hostels. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, you don’t know what you’re missing. We’ve stayed in some amazing hostels for $25 a night.
5. Location, location, location. Flying on a regular basis is not normally an option for most of us. Point being, don’t be afraid to travel around where you live. In 5 hours you can travel to dozens of destinations. We’ve found amazing places we’ve never known about that were only two hours away. There is always a new adventure to be found.
We’ve been following these rules for a few years now and when we look back we can’t believe how many new places we’ve been to. The time to start traveling is now. Happy trails!
Originally posted in Macaroni Kid Family Travel, July 2016 issue
The mountains are calling, and I must go.
We are a family of hikers, mountain seekers, and lake lovers. Nothing makes our little family more content than hours spent in a kayak, or days chasing the next mountain summit. We are always on the lookout for a family friendly mountain destination that will be both entertaining for the kiddos, and provide a little fun for mom and dad (cocktails and kayaks anyone?!). Our latest travel adventure brought us to one of my favorite East coast states, Vermont… the land of maple syrup, craft beer and endless outdoor adventure.
The Basin Harbor Club is a century old resort that is situated on the breathtaking Lake Champlain (fun fact: Lake Champlain is over 124 miles long!). Nestled between the famous Green Mountain range of Vermont, and the Adirondacks, the view from all sides of the resort is pretty fabulous. Like, stare at it in awe, all day and night type of fabulous. Upon entering the resort, the one thing that struck me immediately was the beauty and tradition of the property. There are gardens and fresh flowers everywhere, and the buildings and lawn activities reminded me of a camp I wouldn’t want to leave (the 80’s kid in me felt like I was on the set of Dirty Dancing, and that made me pretty gosh darn excited).
We stayed in one of Basin Harbor’s 74 private cottages that are situated all around the large property. Our 2 bedroom cottage was adorable (& well appointed) and had a view of the lake, which we enjoyed at our 5:30 am wake up calls (from our boys, not the resort!). My kids (& equally my husband and I) were raring to go adventuring early in the morning, so after a local and delicious breakfast and copious amounts coffee in the main dining room, we headed to the waterfront. The amount of activities that Basin Harbor Club has to offer can keep an active family busy for days. The activities vary by the day, but there is definitely something to entertain all ages and interests. Stand up paddle boarding, golf workshops, flower arranging classes, Paint and Sip classes, and a tour of the lake on the resort’s boat, The Escape, are just a few of the activities that were offered during our stay. A must-do for all kid travelers is Basin Harbor’s Kids Camp- a summer camp type program for ages 3 and up that will keep the kiddos having fun and entertained all day by the resorts awesome recreation team (also, a perfect opportunity for mom and dad to enjoy an adult beverage and some adult conversation while relaxing on the waterfront!).
Boat rentals are available at the dock, but there are also complimentary paddle boats, paddle boards, and even kid sized canoes to use on the beach. The highlight of our waterfront experience was definitely taking a paddle boat out to the giant water trampolines in the center of the harbor, and practicing our cannon ball jumps off of them!
Basin Harbor also has some pretty amazing hiking right on property. We hiked the Button Bay trail, which was an easy and flat hike, that ended with some of the most spectacular lake views we’ve ever experienced as a family. There is just something about Lake Champlain, and the backdrop of the vast Adirondack mountain range that leaves you in awe. A perfect example of nature’s splendor!
Days of hiking and water activities are always followed by a treat (the maple creemees are SO good!), and a delicious meal! We were fortunate to be at Basin Harbor on a Tuesday night and got to experience the Tuesday night Harbor Fair. The special harbor fair dinner typically takes place on a beautiful dock overlooking the lake, but due to ominous weather they moved the buffet inside. After a delicious buffet, we headed upstairs to have fun with the resorts recreation department! The kids (ahem…and possibly the parents) bounced in a bounce house, had balloon animals made, and had their faces painted before playing some traditional lawn games that helped them earn tickets toward prizes. Everyone had a blast!
I overheard other guests of Basin Harbor talking about booking their reservations for 2017 before leaving this current stay. I can absolutely see why families return year after year. This is a place where electronics are turned off, nature is enjoyed and priceless family memories are created. A traditional, throwback resort nestled in the mountains is exactly what most families can use to decompress and reconnect (by disconnecting their devices!). I know we will be back, but, until then, we have priceless memories to reflect on and enjoy!
Our latest blog post for Deuter USA is about a fantastic non- profit that we are lucky to be branch ambassadors for here in NJ…check it out and share it with the outdoor families that you know!
Holden (my 4 yr. old): Uh, mom…there’s a baby bear at our door.
Me: No, sweetie, you probably saw a cat.
Holden: It’s definitely a bear mom, come look!
When you live in the country, sometimes you have surprise visitors show up at your door for breakfast.
Little bear was not pleased when he found out we were having yogurt parfaits instead of porridge.
We are one of those families with an endless itinerary. We’re always ready to go and explore.
Last year, our collective family travel itinerary included 13 trips, and our suitcase was a staple in our bedroom because it was being packed and unpacked so often. As any parent knows, traveling with kids is an amazing adventure, although it’s not always relaxing. I read somewhere that after you have children, “vacations” become “trips” for a little while. That being said, my husband and I like to try and get away alone at least once or twice a year for a little true R&R (SLEEP!), romance and a little adventuring without the kids in tow.
Saratoga Springs, NY, is a town that totally caught me by surprise in the best way possible. As frequent visitors of the Adirondack area, I thought we would be visiting another sleepy mountain town with beautiful views. But when we arrived in the historic town and pulled into Saratoga Spa State Park and up to The Gideon Putnam hotel, we knew we were in for a treat. The Gideon Putnam is grand, and instantly played into a nostalgia that was way before my time. I could easily picture elegant people in beautiful hats headed to the races, drinking juleps, and eating cucumber sandwiches. I quickly wanted to get settled into our room so we could do what Saratoga Springs State Park was calling us to do… explore!
Saratoga Springs offers so many activities to choose from, including golf, hiking, biking, and the famous Saratoga Horse races. The Gideon Putnam even offers a complimentary shuttle service into town where you will find dozens of amazing restaurants, beautiful boutiques (and incredible hat shops), and a movie theater (I mention this, because I was so excited to go see a non PG rated movie!).
But with all of the things that Saratoga Springs has to offer, the gems are truly the State Park, the springs themselves and the absolutely amazing and famous Roosevelt Baths. If you are desiring a getaway focused on wellness, healing and relaxation, this is the place to come. Built in 1935, the Roosevelt Baths are still home to the original tubs where you can experience a mineral bath with water collected directly from the natural Springs in the park. There are 18 active mineral springs still in the park, and at Roosevelt Baths, the naturally effervescent water is captured cold from the underground springs and then mixed with warm fresh water. Our private bath attendant made sure to explain to us that when the mineral water hits the fresh water, it oxidizes and turns brown… and good thing she did, because the muddy and almost rusty looking water would have definitely surprised us otherwise! Now, a disclaimer: I am not a bath person. It takes me a long time to relax (like most moms), and I usually do not enjoy them. I. Loved. This. Bath. The effervescent water mixed with the salt buoyancy made me feel like I was floating on air for a 20 full minutes (PS — there is trace evidence of natural lithium in the spring water… so maybe…). After our bath, we were treated to an amazing massage. I then relaxed for an additional 40 full minutes in the relaxation room alongside my husband and a cup of tea. Heaven.
I’m not quite sure how, but we floated back to our room (during our walk back we were able to hear an entire sound check for a Counting Crows concert happening at the Performing Arts Center inside the park!). We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, snacking on some French fries and juice for dinner, and then heading back to The Gideon Putnam for an exquisite 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
After a long morning of hiking the grounds of the State Park, we decided to attend one of the Roosevelt Bath’s walking tours of the active Springs. Our tour guide explained to us the different benefits of the different springs (and which would go best with our favorite whiskey drink!) and we left with a newfound respect for nature, and a few jugs of the healing water to bring back home.
Our retreat to Saratoga Springs left my husband and me feeling recharged, rekindled and extremely relaxed. We both said we could not remember another time that after only 48 hours at a single location we felt like we were away for much, much longer. Never underestimate the power of some time alone as a couple, a healing spa experience, and a snazzy new “races” hat.
The outdoors have always been an important part of our lives. Back in the day (“the day” being the late 90s when Matt and I started dating) you could always find us at a local park lying on a picnic blanket with our boom box in tow, trying to backpack on the Appalachian Trail (note that I said try; we actually packed canned food and gallons of water on our first attempt…rookies) or taking a walk along one of the beautiful rivers in our area. It wasn’t until our first child was born that we both really felt the mountains calling.
More like shouting, actually. We knew that raising our boys on the trail was incredibly important to us in this day of excessive screen time and overly planned schedules. So at 6 months old, into their carriers they went and up the mountains we climbed. We’ve learned many things in these past four and a half years since becoming parents and many of them we have learned both on trail and from our kids. Here are a few to note:
Take it slow.
My husband is a bit of a speedy hiker and you just can’t do that with a preschooler and toddler in tow. Slowing down and taking in the surroundings makes every adventure more pleasant. Looking at the outdoors through your child’s eyes will make every hike more memorable.
The more you go, the more it just becomes your way of life.
Just like any scheduled activity, hiking becomes part of the kids normal routine that they look forward to.
Use every teachable moment.
Sing songs, play I spy, tell stories… But also use the trail to talk about Leave No Trace and animal habitats.
Take the time to dream.
Our family always comes up with our craziest and most fun ideas while we are out in the woods. It must be the abundance of fresh air or something, but somehow we always finish a long hike with a new travel destination in mind.
It’s not about the summit.
Say what?! Ok, I love an amazing summit view just like every other hiker (including my kids!), but when you are out there with your family, that is not always what it’s about. It’s about the the journey and the adventure, not necessarily about the destination. It’s all about making memories, growing as a family, and appreciating this beautiful world that we have the privilege of living in.
Check out our latest blog post for Deuter about one of our favorite places to visit on the East coast!
ROAD TRIP! Baltimore!
The Fall is here, and it’s time to start planning those fun getaways! Flying anywhere with a family is expensive, so in my family, we are always looking for places that we can Road Trip to for a few days of fun.
Only a short 3.5 (or so) hour drive from our Morris County area, Baltimore is the perfect place for a family friendly 3 day weekend.
When choosing a hotel, my first choice, if possible, is always a Kimpton property. We stayed at the Baltimore Hotel Monaco for 2 nights, and we were very impressed with this property. As we usually find with Kimpton properties, the hotel was spotless, absolutely beautiful, and incredibly accommodating to families with young children. Upon check-in (after walking through the amazing lobby in all it’s white marble glory) our concierge led my 18 month old son to an adorable treasure chest, and allowed him to pick out a toy to keep. This was his favorite place to go upon our stay! We stayed in a Bunk Bed Suite, which had a separate kids bedroom with bunkbeds, a tv, xbox, beanbag chair, and a giant mural of a dog on the wall… it was perfect! The Kimpton Kids program goes above and beyond to accommodate your kiddos- they provide everything from kids bath robes to playyards upon request, to a resident goldfish for your stay. And no worries Mom & Dad…Hotel Monaco has free wine happy hour just for you every day as well.
Going out to dinner with little ones is sometimes more hassle then it’s worth…so we always feel lucky when the hotel restaurant is decent. In this case, it was great! We had a truly fabulous meal at B&O American Brasserie. Kids menu for my son, and a very sophisticated, yet comforting menu for my husband and I. Every course that we had was pretty amazing, but the Brussel Sprout in their mustard cream, was one of the most delish veggies I have ever tasted!
Baltimore has so many things to do that are family friendly. You can take in a baseball game at the famous Camden Yards, visit the fantastic Port Discovery Museum , or go to to the fabulous National Aquarium which is located right on the Inner Harbor. The Inner Harbor has tons of restaurants, and shopping, or you can take a paddle boat ride in the harbor itself!
We visited the Port Discovery Children’s Museam is a short walk from the harbor…and boy was it worth a visit. This Museum has tons to do for all ages. Older kids can climb, crawl, jump, and slide through the three-story urban treehouse, KidWorks and little ones will have a blast in the Tiny Tots room or playing with Water in the Water works room.
If you have older kids (or a science nerd of a hubby like me)- definitely check out the Maryland Science Center which is located right on the Inner Harbor. I’d compare this to our own Liberty Science Center, which we all know is tons of fun! The dinosaur exhibit was a favorite of ours (no surprise there!). The Science Center also boasts an IMAX 3D theater and a Planetarium. Perfect for a rainy day too.
I think the fan favorite in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has to be their amazing Aquarium. What a fun experience to get to view the sharks in Shark Alley, the aquariums amazing and unique 225,000-gallon, ring-shaped exhibit. The dolphin show at the aquarium was our favorite because we could come and go as we pleased! There are set demonstration show times, but the Dolphin Discovery is open all day and the beautiful Dolphins are always in full view. Your children will also love the 4D theater- right now they are showing Happy Feet! Before visiting, be sure to visit the Plan your Visit portion of the Aquarium’s site. It gives helpful planning info (like, NO strollers allowed! But, they have baby carriers available to borrow- so great!).
As you can see, a Baltimore vacation has so much to offer! Take it all in, and be sure to eat some yummy crab cakes while you’re there too!
We are one of those family’s with an endless itinerary. Always going, always exploring, always traveling.
From the month of April to this upcoming October, we will collectively have gone on 11 trips, and our Deuter Helion 80 suitcase is a staple in our bedroom because it is being packed and unpacked so often. As any parent knows, traveling with kids is an amazing adventure, although it’s not always relaxing! I read somewhere that after you have children, “vacations” become “trips” for a little while. That being said, Matt and I like to try and get away alone at least once or twice a season for a little R&R (SLEEP!) and a little adventuring without the kiddos in tow.
Here on the East coast, there is no shortage of stellar places to visit within a few hours of where we live. We are fortunate to be able to drive a short distance to a beach, to some amazing cities, and most importantly, to some awesome mountains, complete with summit vistas that just take your breath away. Matt and I decided to head out to PA, and spend two days in the Pocono region. We heard some pretty great reviews about Skytop Lodge…and I thought it would be a nice change of pace to sleep in a wonderfully appointed suite after a day of hiking and fun! Skytop Lodge gives you a feeling of grandeur the moment that you pull up to entrance via their circular driveway. But as fancy as this property feels (you have to wear a jacket in the dining room at dinner…), there is no shortage of outdoor activities right on property that will get you right in the middle of nature at its finest. Kayaking, biking, paddleboarding, and hiking can all be done on the 5,500 acres of pristine Pocono land. I think we could stay a whole week and not get bored!
The Adventure Center at Skytop hosts a rock climbing wall, paintballing and a ridiculously awesome Zipline and Treetop Challenge course. Disclaimer- I am stupid afraid of heights. Making the decision to attempt the Treetop Challenge course was kind of a conquer my fears type of decision…and, that I did. In spades. The course was challenging, fun, exhilarating, terrifying (for me) and kind of oddly romantic. My Deuter Speedlite 15 was on my back the entire course holding my water (which I needed on the regular…climbing 30 ft. ladders is hard work!), my bug spray (since we were getting eaten alive out there), snacks, and our camera. It was actually the first time I used the Speedlite, and it has now become my go-to bag for all of our activities where a larger pack just won’t work, or when we only need to carry a few necessities.
I was so happy that we spent that we spent those 4 hours up in the trees, leaving our comfort zones (which we try to do often) and feeling very alive. Another bucket list item crossed off the list!
After a pretty fantastic night of sleep in our gorgeous suite, we woke up and headed back to our happy place….the woods! We hiked the West Rim Trail on the Skytop Property and hiked out to Upper Falls. There is just something about a waterfall that makes me so at peace. Hiking into a waterfall is even better.
Leaving Skytop was not the end of this 24 hour adventure for us. We stopped at the Delaware Water Gap to hike to the summit of Mount Tammany. I’ve been hiking at the Gap for a long time, and I have never done this hike! It’s a pretty popular trail, with some moderately steep rock inclines. This trail is definitely one where you’ll see other day hikers…and we saw some other hikers with Deuter day packs! We love talking Deuter shop whenever we’re on the trail, so it was fun to chat about the Speedlite, and my ACT Trail 22 SL (people LOVE the Petrol/mint color).
The summit of Mt. Tammany didn’t disappoint. The rolling green mountains of the Delaware Water Gap, NJ and PA are always so awe-inspiring to me. Sitting on the cliff of rocks overlooking pine trees as far as the eye can see is like meditation. It’s a different vista than the dramatic mountains of the west coast for sure, but the layers of green just give me such a sense of calm.
Gotta love NJ. For reals though, challenge any “NJ is the armpit of America” nay-sayer to hike Mt. Tammany and still feel that way…nope, not going to happen.
So, here we are, loving life… This Spring and Summer have been one for the record books so far- let me give you a rundown of my April to upcoming October: Partied in Vegas, spent 8 days in my native Sicily on one of the greatest trips of my life, going glamping in upstate NY (and planning on drinking some Ithaca beers), solo backpacking trip for Matt (only 29 more peaks to go!), hitting some high peaks with the kids, an amazing trip to a historic property in Saratoga Springs where we will hike the park and drink from the actual springs, some PA- AT hiking and adventuring, northern NJ hiking, a trip to Shenandoah National Park, lots of ADK love, and a beach trip to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a Macaroni Kid meetup. Add to that our other summer fun; waterparks, swim lessons, zoo trips, daytime movie outings, and ice cream on the daily…..yeah, our life does not suck this summer. I am beyond excited and thankful to have all of these memories to be made and miles to be trekked with my boys (all 3 of them!)
And then, something even more awesome happens…Our little Rispoli family is one of the newest families to be chosen to represent our favorite hiking pack company, Deuter. Deuter is one the leading backpack brands worldwide, and I am so excited to represent and promote them, especially to the East Coast. We will be taking their amazing Kid Comfort 3 kids carriers with us on our upcoming treks and trips and I know the kids will be just as excited to ride in them as we are to carry them! Seriously, they are like the Cadillac of Kids carriers. So, stay tuned for our reviews and our adventures. We are excited to share our experiences and memories with ya’ll and super stoked to share the Deuter love.