Cheap Summer Activities: Hiking

With school either over or almost over at the end of the month, many parents and children are gearing up for some holidays and a few short trips. There are tons of amusement parks, zoos, and venues to go to and they will all mean a lot of cash just to get through the front gate.

I personally know this because I just priced out a one weekend, 2 day trip to Niagara Falls. Before I even count meals and gas, I’m looking at close to $400 for the hotel room, tickets to Marineland, the Butterfly Conservatory and a journey under the falls. Sure I don’t really need to do all of this but even without the tickets to various amusement parks, there will still be a large amount of money being drained from my bank account.

With that kind of money going into a trip, and a whole bunch of summer left after those 2 days, I have come to realize two things.

  1. I should probably wait until the off season (probably in the fall) before I visit Niagara Falls and
  2. I need to find a few more things to do that won’t take such a large chunk out of my wallet.

I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in this and over the next few weeks, I will make a few suggestions on some nice family trips for low costs. This week, I would like to look at hiking.

Hiking is a big pastime for my family and me. We enjoy setting out on the trail, the soft sounds of nature smothering out any sounds of the modern world. The countless animals that we see and the good conversation that we enjoy as we walk. The hikes are pretty short right now, considering the age of my kids but I have been hiking with them since they were both 6 months old. First in a backpack and then on their own.

Hiking is fairly inexpensive and it can take a full day with lots of stops and time to look at the world around you. Most children love a good stroll down a hiking path and the older they become, the more advanced your hiking can also become. This last weekend, my family and I hiked a total of 3 km on an easy wilderness trail at a provincial park. The grade of hills was low and by the end, even my youngest, who is three, was not even winded. We wrapped it up with a quick swim in the lake before heading home.

If you are going hiking as a family it is important to be prepared. Bring a backpack and fill it with the following items.

  • First Aid Kit: this is always important to have since you never know what will happen on the trail. Even small scrapes can become infected if they are not properly cared for at the time of injury.
  • Water: Bring along lots of water to make it through the day. I like to freeze a few bottles overnight and also have some refrigerated. This way, the frozen bottles will be thawed by the afternoon and there will be a full day of nice cool water available.
  • Lunch: Pack a light lunch. You don’t want to have anything too heavy for several reasons. One of these is the weight of your backpack and the second is that you want a light meal with a few light snacks during the hike. Too large a meal and you will begin to have stomach problems.
  • Sunscreen: An important must for hiking since there will be spaces along the trail where you have little or no shade.
  • Bug Spray: Another definite must. Make sure you have bug spray for both adults and children and that you have enough to reapply.
  • Cell phone: Depending on where you are going hiking, it is good to have a cell phone (if you can get a signal) or a radio of some kind. If something happens, you can call for help. Keep it turned off while you are hiking and only bring it out if it is absolutely necessary.
  • Compass: I know this may seem a little extreme but I personally have been lost on a fairly straightforward trail system. You take a wrong path, miss a marker and suddenly you have no idea where you are, add to that coming nightfall and things can get very serious.
  • Watch: Keep track of time and make sure you give yourself enough sunlight to get back to your vehicle.

These are the basics of what you should pack and you will need more depending on how hard the trail or how remote it is. Just remember that this can be a great outing for the whole family and can involve a nice picnic in some remote meadow. You will be surprised how great the exercise feels and just being able to spend time with those you like all for about the cost of a packed lunch and a few dollars for gas.

So if you are looking for a fun day activity, why not search out some nice hiking trails near you, I know I will be.

Sirena Van Schaik

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