Do you ever feel like you don’t belong when visiting general family travel sites or reading adventurous travel stories on social media? Do you want something more low-key and just plain F-U-N for your family? When you take family trips, do you prefer spending your days taking easy hikes and exploring the parks or participating in mostly free or low-cost outdoor tourism. Do you like playing outdoors in nature like a local?
That’s what I like to do, too! I’m Michele Whiteaker, founder of FunOrangeCountyParks.com and inventor of #AdventureCheats.
This is where I reveal a simple and time-tested recipe to make family life fun. The ingredients? A daily dose of nature, even if just for a moment. A sprinkling of play, even for the adults. And, finally, a topping of family trips to plan and work towards. The nature and the play are low to no cost. The trips can be adjusted to fit different budgets. Even the mundane can be an adventure for those of us without the stamina or desire to conquer a summit or devote ourselves to an outdoor sport! Being outside is a beneficial pastime for everyone.
Through 15+ years of experience navigating parenthood, I spent more than half of those years recording my tips on my local parks and play blog. Some tips work beautifully — and some failed miserably. Through it all I’ve discovered the things that make life make sense. The things I’ll remember for a lifetime and hope my kids will remember. The things that cut out “the noise.”
- I know how to find outdoor fun in 5 minutes or less.
- I know where to find the free stuff – or how to modify trips to fit your budget.
- Sorry, can’t help with sleep deprivation. (But I can point you in the direction of simple activities that don’t require a whole brain. Maybe just half a brain?)
- Who needs more parenting guilt? Not me! If I tackle issues, I’m going to help you make a plan that works for YOUR family.
- Guess what? I like it when you’re bored. When your kids are bored. Boredom is a gift that lets the mind wander and be creative! But with all the stories and ideas I’ll have coming at you, you won’t be bored for long.
I consciously choose to place meaningful pauses in our family life. It’s work. It’s not easy to take a stand to protect childhood. And saying “no” to birthday parties and full schedules is not always the popular thing to do. But I know that the choices I make are the best choices for MY family.
Have you heard about the Slow Family movement, something called Simplicity Parenting, the practice of mindfulness, or the work to “connect kids to nature”? I don’t really fit into any one of those categories either. I’m not all crunchy and granola. I don’t do outdoors to the extreme. I don’t even have a big backyard. I just take the parts that work for me and fit them into my regular, everyday, ordinary family life – especially our family trip planning. You can, too!
There are doubters. But I figured out I CAN give my kids the childhood I remember by making sure they get a good dose of:
- Nature. Not even the extreme hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking crazy distances kind of stuff. Hey, it could be as simple as spotting a weed with a flower growing from a crack in the sidewalk on the way to school!
- Play. Childhood is mandatory. Why the rush to grow up? And it’s good for us parents to play, too.
- Trips. Going new places keeps me sane. I don’t need to tally up countries as a world traveller. I kinda want to leave some adventures for my kids to discover on their own when they are grown. I’m happy driving an hour away or even 5 hours or 20 hours over multiple weeks! When we hop on a plane it’s to places like Yellowstone, Alaska, or more recently Europe. Looking forward to and planning our next adventure — far or near — makes my day-to-day more enjoyable.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? I think the stories you read here are a little different from everything else you read out there, because I am tapping experienced contributors — like Debi from GoExploreNature.com and Melynda from TravelingMel.com — who both write with you in mind: families. Nature. Play. Trips. is not just for moms, either. It’s for dads and grandparents, too. Heck, you can even choose to be a kid again while adventuring through our advice! I love it when that happens.
My home base is about an hour south of Los Angeles in Orange County, CA. I live here with my husband of 23+ years and two children – one boy and one girl. I enjoyed a Southern California childhood with parents who let me and my sister play outdoors. I’m looking forward to sharing my #AdventureCheats in the form of play trips that make family life more fun.
Find me on Instagram @natureplaytrips