Pay to Play

In Good Hands
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The great thing about guided trips is you don't have to sweat the details. It's like having a mom and dad plan the trip and take you along. You just show up and have fun.

Will, our six-year-old, accompanied my husband, Jim, and me. We left behind our twin girls, age 15 months. Six is the minimum age (younger children would definitely have trouble keeping up with the pace and activities). We were sad to say goodbye, but frankly, the trip was a great break from Toddler World.

Our adventure started in Bozeman first thing on a Sunday and lasted through Friday. In between we hiked, biked, rode horseback, rafted whitewater, and toured Yellowstone National Park. In fact, so many activities were packed into our week that we felt as though we'd had a two-week getaway.

Joining us in Bozeman were Dan Austin, Adventures Plus co-owner, his 11-year-old daughter, Kasey, and three energetic and attentive 20-something guides: Traci, Reno, and Ryan.

We chose Adventures Plus because their tours rate among the lowest guide-to-guest ratios in the industry. This is particularly important on family trips, since the more adults available, the more options the adults — and the kids — have.

Rounding out our group was a family of four from New York City, and a mother and 14-year-old daughter from Chicago. Her 14-year-old pal, Lizzy, was the final youngster. Midway through the week Lizzy was joined by her father, Paul Lehman, the other co-owner of Adventures Plus.

Our gang quickly bonded into a fun-loving, easygoing tribe. Will was particularly delighted by Mike, a seven-year-old who was also a baseball fan. The duo kept each other entertained all week — one of the many advantages we discovered in guided trips.

We traveled from place to place in a comfortable shuttle bus, with gourmet meals and hotel rooms part of the package. Driving time was kept to a minimum, but even those miles whizzed by as Dan and Reno provided a running narrative of local lore, history, sites, and wildlife.

The Advantages of Guided Trips
Parents don't have to worry about anything. Everything is taken care of. You can have an active vacation and relax at the same time, something that's impossible to do without guides.

Kids have the company of other kids. They can make new friends and are less likely to get bored during "down" moments of the trip, such as drives and meals.

Parents have the company of other active adults. In addition to plenty of family time, you'll have the added advantage of adult time. Our trusty guides took the kids off on their own adventures on several occasions, leaving us to have adult dinners, and even a whole afternoon of adult hiking.

Your vacation will be much more efficient. It would be nearly impossible for us to maintain such an active pace on our own (for example, biking and whitewater rafting in one day). In essence, the trip was almost like two weeks' worth of activities packed into one.

Your child is less likely to complain about an activity or the day's schedule. The schedule is already set; there's no room for discussion about "What do you want to do next?" This means there's lots less occasion for "but I want to" or "I don't want to." During our week, Will complained on only one occasion, and that was because he was tired.

Jim was thrilled to keep me on a schedule. I'm a night owl and thus tend to be a late riser. He loved having a non-negotiable starting time for the next day's activities.

You'll always have a tour guide or guides on hand. Whether you're trying to figure out the flora or trying to manage a personal medical emergency, someone is always there to help. During drives and outings, our guides provided running commentary on the scenery and history, and they took us to the most scenic spots, the best restaurants and hotels. I loved not having to navigate the tremendous crowds at Yellowstone.

Need I say more?

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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