Introducing guests of any age to the rivers we call home is easily the best part of our job. Still, nothing really competes with watching the excitement of a kid who just conquered their very first rapid!
Families make up a big bulk of our summer guests–especially on the Rogue River! While some of these families may be experienced rafters or campers, most of our guests are brand new to the experience. While we know you and your family will love our river trips, we understand that there can be some extra stress in the planning process when it comes to coordinating multiple schedules.
Parents and guardians have the toughest job on the planet. To (hopefully!) help ease the worry of joining a multi-day rafting trip with kids, check out these tips on how to prep for your first family trip with a professional outfitter!
1. Make sure your kids are ready for the adventure!
Have you ever seen those videos of parents picking their kids up from school and surprising them with a trip to Disney? As amazing as it would be to surprise your family with a rafting trip the day of departure, this is not a tactic we recommend using on kids (or most adults if we’re being honest.)
A multi-day rafting trip can be overwhelming for kids if they don’t know what to expect. Some kids may be brand new to sleeping outdoors and eating around a campfire. Others may just be especially shy around large groups of adults. Let’s face it, meeting a group of 20 strangers in a place you’ve never visited can be anxiety-inducing for anyone! But kids especially may have a harder time adjusting to such unfamiliar territory.
Having a conversation with your kids about the trip in advance will give them time to ask questions and express their (hopefully positive!) thoughts before they meet our guides. This will also give you time to assess whether or not a rafting trip will be a good fit for your crew. While even the most apprehensive of kids usually shake off their nerves as soon as they meet our guides, we understand that it may not be for everyone! If you need some extra time to convince your kids to join, we will always be here to answer any questions!
2. Plan ahead!
If you’re a solo traveler, it’s relatively easy to hop on a trip last minute. When you’re juggling school schedules, soccer tournaments, science camps, and your own personal life (treat yourself), advanced planning will be your best friend.
Summer dates on the Rogue are popular and tend to book up about four to six months in advance. Trips on the Middle Fork book up about one to even two years in advance for summer dates. If you are wanting to join us in June or July, start looking at your calendar early and double–no–triple check your schedules to make sure a trip actually fits in with your plans.
Once you select a trip date, you’ll need to purchase travel insurance (please), book hotel rooms, schedule flights, and/or arrange a car rental for your roadtrip. Depending on where you’re traveling from, we recommend dedicating one day on either end of your trip to travel. Though not always necessary, an extra day on top of that may be good for any kiddos (*cough* adults) that need a rest day before jumping back into a normal schedule.
3. Pick the trip that is right for everyone.
Will your kids love camping for three nights, but not five? Do they want to see more “sporty” rapids, or would they prefer to take it easy? Are they more keen on summer weather, or are they down to bundle up during the spring and fall?
Picking a trip may seem super easy, but it does take a lot of background research! You’ll want to consider details such as trip length, river difficulty, and time of year. As an outfitter, our main limiting factor is our trip age limit. In general, our absolute minimum age limit is 7, but we do have more specific age limits on trips like the Middle Fork based on rapid difficulties, weather, and a variety of other variables. Before you book, confirm the age limits of a trip.
For first time rafters, we highly recommend the Rogue River as it is a shorter trip (4 days/3 nights), has a ton of side activities (hikes, waterfalls, jumping rocks), and has some great wildlife! It’s a super family-friendly trip, and a great way to introduce your kids to rivers! Still, if you’d like to consider other trips, feel free to check our guide on selecting the perfect multi-day rafting trip!
4. Spend some extra time outside.
We LOVE introducing families to the outdoors, but we understand that kids may be a bit more apprehensive about that whole “wilderness” thing.
To help prep your kids for the adventure ahead, get them outside! Find some local trails for short hikes or try taking a weekend camping trip at a local state park (pro tip: car camping is a great way for beginners to start!). You most definitely do not have to complete Bear Grylls level tasks, but introducing your kids to some aspects of the outdoors when there is free time will make the trip far less intimidating.
As a plus, this is also a wonderful way to try out any new gear you may have purchased for the trip. Brand new river shoes or hiking pants may take some getting used to on multi-day rafting trips. Practicing in advance will boost your kid’s confidence and prep them for what’s to come!
5. Pack some favorite snacks.
Not to brag, but our food is pretty awesome! Steak and potatoes, dutch-oven lasagna, pancakes and breakfast sandwiches…yum yum! We plan meals that are filling, nutritious, and approachable for everyone.
Still, we know some kids may be a bit more picky about what goes on their plate. If your kids are picky eaters (or have snacks they can’t live without!), it may be worth it to bring some food you know they love! In the past, we have had guests bring boxed mac and cheese or cereals, but we will make room for whatever you’d like to bring! Just let us know in advance in case we need to make extra room in our coolers!
6. Be a guardian.
Amongst their many responsibilities, our wonderful river guides are in charge of leading incredible trips, cooking up tasty meals, and (most important of all) maintaining everyone’s safety. Though our guides are multi-tasking experts, “professional babysitter” is not included in the river guide job description.
That said, please do not expect the guides to watch your kids while you go on a side-hike or relax in camp. If you want to take a side adventure, take your kids with you or have another member of your party keep watch. Our guides will LOVE spending time with your little ones when tasks are done; they just can’t commit 100% of their attention to watching kids when other responsibilities are calling.
Similarly, make sure your kids understand that the guides are in charge. Your kids will need to be able to listen and follow guide instructions as directed. We want your crew to have fun, but we most definitely prioritize safety on our trips!
7. Trust the process.
Planning a rafting trip can be difficult for anyone, but parents and guardians have especially full plates when kids are involved! Just remember that this trip is also your vacation. Part of multi-day river trips is learning to let go and (quite literally) go with the flow.
Our office staff and guides have been running river trips for years, and most of our guides have made river running their lifelong career. Each trip is unique, and our team will ensure that the experience is memorable for your whole family.
If at any point you have any questions about the trip, give us a call or send us an email! We are here to help you out and offer advice when needed. Plus, we would love to get to know your family before the trip! As long as you plan in advance and complete your registration forms early, the rest of the trip should be smooth paddling!