Active Vacations with Extended Family

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Backroads Biking in FranceHaving Fun and Growing Closer

I just returned from a biking trip through Brittany and Normandy and hiking trip in the Alps with extended family and was once again reminded of the ways a vacation like this brings families together.

Backroads has been offering family trips since before I had kids (and my oldest is now 22). Why did we start them? Well, Backroads is just such a naturally positive, amazing environment for families to have a great time together that it didn’t take us being rocket scientists to see their potential. Once my wife, Liz, and I had our own kids, the beauty of designated family trips became even more obvious.

Removing the “Having Fun” Barriers

Extended Hale Family on a Backroads Trip

If you’ve traveled with kids, you’ve been there–someone’s whining that they’re bored, parents are arguing because they’re lost and no one’s relaxed. Let’s face it, family travel can be difficult.

The beauty of a family trip led by Backroads is that multiple trip leaders are responsible for the infinite number of details and logistics needed to feed, entertain, house and move everyone. Which means, the family gets to focus on one thing, and one thing only: having fun.

Our group on this trip was 9 adults and 11 kids. We started out on our own in Paris for a few days. Imagine five individual families trying to do things together, with too many people trying to take charge while wanting to make everyone happy. While it all came together and we had a great time exploring the sights, there were definitely moments of chaos and stress.

The minute we joined our Backroads leaders, that dynamic disappeared. They just took over so we could focus on enjoying each other and our activities. And once the hassle of logistics was out of our hands, the joy of being together really intensified.

Organic and Healthy Fun

It was such a pleasure to watch everyone–our kids, aunts, uncles, cousins–get reacquainted and build relationships in a totally natural way. Conversations developed organically and comfortably. We all felt united because we faced similar experiences. As a parent of teenagers, it’s sometimes hard to find common ground on things we can do together. (Maybe you also have a teenager with a bit of attitude?) But I tell you, when everyone’s riding and laughing and enjoying the amazing sights and food, there’s no shortage of topics and no lack of joining the fun.

“I like seeing my parents unwind on these trips and enjoy the same things as the kids. When we talk about our day over dinner, we’re tired and excited, and it’s so fun to relive what we saw and did.”
– Georgia Hale (age 14)

On top of that, no one was heads-down in a cell phone and responding in disinterested grunts. We all got to know each other even more in a really naturally vibrant sort of playing field, literally.

Backroads in the Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Don’t Just Take it From Me

The kids had a blast when I told them about this blog and they all wanted to weigh in on how they felt. Here’s some of what they shared with me.

“I like experiencing new places with my family.”

“It’s fun to see another side of my parents, aunts and uncles.”

“We have so much more freedom than we do at home! We went off and did our own things in town. We stayed up late. And we took different routes that were a lot easier.”

“Pushing yourself can actually be fun. I want to ride more because everyone else is and the exercise doesn’t feel like work. Everyone’s yelling out their encouragement. I’m proud of what I’m doing every day.”

“We have so many new things to laugh about.”

What I saw was the sense of pride and wonder on their faces every day. I appreciated how much they learned. I was humbled to watch their transformation and see our family coalesce over a roadside picnic or a particularly steep hill. Did I have the time of my life? You bet.

If you’re not sure you and your family are up for an active trip, I challenge you to give it a shot. Whether you travel with Backroads or simply get your family out on a road trip, the time you spend together–outside of your routine and disconnected from all the usual distractions–will be worth it. So make it happen. It’s something you will never regret.

Backroads in Normandy, France

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Tom Hale

Tom Hale

Founder and President at Backroads
A native of Moraga, California, Tom Hale possesses a passion for two seemingly divergent interests—business and back roads—which he has powered into the world's most successful active travel company, Backroads. It was the back roads that first attracted him, as a competitive runner at Campolindo High School (where he still holds the two-mile record at 8:57.2) and at the University of Oregon, where he was a teammate of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. Armed with a Masters in Environmental Planning from UCLA, Hale was six months into an environmental planning position in Las Vegas when the back roads called again—big time. A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business. Settling in Berkeley, Hale washed fondue pots by night and built his fledgling travel company by day. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all—designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog.
Tom Hale

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