Try before you fly...
Whether it's cycling, climbing, canoeing or white-water rafting, a taster session (or three) of the activity that you are going to spend your whole holiday doing is a great investment for ensuring you're all prepared for your active holiday. Getting you and the kids beyond 'absolute beginner' level at your chosen activity will also mean that you can do more, go further and have more fun on the 'real' holiday itself.
To find day courses and facilities near you, your first port of call should be the relevant sport governing bodies:
thebmc.co.uk has lists of accredited climbing centres both indoors and outdoors, as well as guides for getting in to hiking and climbing.
Britishcanoeing.org.uk lists over 400 clubs and 170 outdoor paddling centres where go-canoeing taster sessions, kayaking courses or white-water rafting fun can be organised.
Britishcycling.org.uk lists traffic-free cycling facilities, clubs and tons of useful info for getting into cycling on and off road.
How young is too young?
In theory the smaller children are the more portable they are, with backpack child carriers and child cycling trailers must-have family adventure gear to help you go further, in more safety. We've explained Why You Need the child cycling trailer on page 89.
"We believe the best time to start taking children on adventure holidays is aged five," says Family Adventure Company's Tim Winkworth. "That's when they are curious about their new surroundings and physically able to explore under their own steam."
For more active adventures, with independent children's activities as part of a group, such as kayaking, climbing, off-road cycling, walking, and snorkelling, eight is the age at which most operators start their options.
Family tour operators
With a young family any travel at all can seem adventurous enough, even without adding in exciting activities once you get there. Booking through a UK-based family specialist tour operator is not just the safe option, it's the way to make your holiday more adventurous without having to stress (too much) about the risk. Family specialists have spent years tailoring their products to exactly what families like yours need and want, so going with one - especially on your first tour - is to be recommended. One of the best reasons to book with a family tour operator is that some - like Activities Abroad - will put together groups of similar aged children, thus increasing the chances of your children buddying up and making friends - a sure-fire way for everyone to have fun.
All the gear, no idea!
Whether your chosen family adventure is in Arctic Sweden or sunny Croatia, our advice is generally the same: buy clothes and rent gear. This is the other main advantage of booking with a specialist family operator, as the equipment and specialist gear - whether buoyancy aids for kayaking, or bikes for your cycling tour - come in all the right sizes and are fit for purpose. That said, there's nothing like a new bike helmet, sunglasses, or pair of gloves in precisely the right size to get a little one excited and 'bought into' the idea of their upcoming adventure.
Start small - start micro
For children especially, adventure is relative: it doesn't have to be extreme or expensive. "Get out of the mindset that adventure has to be extreme," says The Family Adventure Project blogger Kirstie Pelling. "We have canoed to the video shop, camped in a neighbour's garden and the hill behind our house."
It's no coincidence that explorer and adventure blogger Alastair Humphreys came up with the concept of the 'microadventure' once he started his own family too. Although aimed at anyone, of any age, the philosophy perfectly captures the spirit of family adventure: "A microadventure is an outdoors adventure that is close to home, it's cheap, simple, short, but still very effective because it captures the essence of big adventures: the challenge, the fun, the escapism, the learning experiences and the excitement," says Humphreys.
Where to go?
Undeniably some locations are more 'risky' than others. Some have dangerous diseases, high crime, and terrorism is an increasing worry almost everywhere in Europe... And of course there are always real physical dangers such as falling off high things or drowning. For terrorism, crime and disease, the most up to date and reliable source of travel advice is the British Foreign Office website gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
For physical safety, common sense applies: use qualified instructors and guides for all activities, and inspect safety equipment yourself. Don't be afraid to question anything and everything! Again this is where a specialist UK family tour operator comes into its own, as their staff and equipment will be subject to UK rules, regulations and liabilities.
SIX OF THE BEST FAMILY TOUR OPERATORS:
The Family Adventure Company
From Inca trail trekking for teens, to paddling over sunken ruins in Turkey's Aegean sea.
From northern lights hunting trips in Arctic Sweden, to kayaking in Croatia.
From dune surfing and camel trekking in Morocco to paddling in Greece.
From safaris in the African savannah, to snorkelling in Thailand
Smith and Family
Child-friendly hotels and luxury family holidays home and abroad
The family ski holiday specialist also does activity-filled summer holidays