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August 2013 Issue
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Planning your next family walk

Joining with other families often means you have a range of ages to accommodate. Photo: Angus McIntosh
Great Walks, roadside ambles, overnight or multi-day? How do you choose the right walk for your next (or maybe, first) family tramp? These five questions should help you decide

1. How experienced are the adults?
Answering this will underpin all decisions on where, when and how far you go. If you are relatively new to the outdoors, you shouldn’t undertake anything too arduous. Success is important when starting out so choose walks that are easy, manageable and safe for everyone.

2. What is the weather forecast?
Will you go if the weather is bad? Is there a hut? Are all rivers and side streams bridged? Are you prepared to tent in the rain or wait whilst flooded rivers drop? River crossings will be harder with children and they won’t tolerate being wet for hours. You can’t always avoid the rain, but you can pick a trip that keeps you as safe and comfortable as possible.

3. What is a realistic walking time for children?
Everything takes longer with children. This applies equally to an afternoon walk or a multi-day trip. More rest/bad weather days than usual must be factored in if doing a long trip and for a day trip, remember that kids will want time to play. Plan enough time so that no-one will feel rushed.

4. What’s the trip objective?
Do you want the trip to be easy or challenging? Does it matter if you don’t complete the trip? Are you with other families and have to accommodate a range of ages? Quite often you’ll have to compromise your own goals and expectations to fit in with your children’s abilities, but this doesn’t mean your trip will be any less enjoyable.

5. What’s your patience level?
Your level of tiredness and stress will impact greatly on the success of a trip. Are you up all night with a teething baby? Is life extra busy and stressful at the moment? If so, be kind to yourself and create your own little wilderness at a road-end campsite with pillows, coffee plunger and easy meals. Sometimes just 24 hours out in the bush can make a big difference to sanity levels. Remember, no matter how hard it feels, it is always worth making the effort.