The LowDown Chart


Family Vacations, Summer 1997


The LowDown Chart


Whitewater Rafting | Mountain Biking | Kayaking | Backpacking/Hiking | Boardsailing | Snorkeling | Rock Climbing | Horseback Riding | Canoe-Camping | Fishing
Whitewater Rafting
Age Guidelines: Five is the minimum age most guides will accept. For bouncier Class III rivers, age seven is best. The jump to Class IV is considerable; kids should be 12 or older. Class V and above: Forget it!
Muscle Factor:
Little muscle activity
Word From the Wise: On guided trips expect five-star dining--salmon in bëarnaise sauce and chardonnay. And don't forget the PFDs.
White Knuckle Quotient:
Hair-raising
Kid Endorsement: "I went rafting down the Rio Grande with my family. I liked the rapids and these waterfalls we flew down. Our raft would ram into waves and we'd all get wet." --Cole Merrick, 8
Tips for Getting Ready: Other than letting your kid douse you with the garden hose, there's really no way (or need) to prepare. Rafting's pretty much a get-up-and-go proposition.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $ $ $ $
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Mountain Biking
Age Guidelines: Even beginner terrain requires riding skill and leg power. Eight is a good age to begin; nine-year-olds can really crank. By ten, kids will be waiting for you at the top of a rise while you eat their dust.
Muscle Factor:
Start flexing!
Word From the Wise: Bring more water than you think you'll need. And don't forget helmets, eye protection, and a tire-repair kit.
White Knuckle Quotient:
Hair-raising
Kid Endorsement: "Once you try dirt, you'll never go back to asphalt. There you just sort of pedal, but on the trail you catch air, bounce around, skid out. It's great."--Mary Carroll, 9
Tips for Getting Ready: Practice rides get your lungs, legs, and arms in shape and let you gauge how much ground you can cover comfortably in a day. So ride, captain, ride.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $
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Kayaking
Age Guidelines: Infants and toddlers can snooze in the third cockpit, and kids can easily paddle a double with an adult. But don't expect extended locomotion until about age 13. As for whitewater kayaking, over age 12 is best.
Muscle Factor:
Some muscle activity
Word From the Wise: If you can't read a compass or a map, commission a guide. Kayaks are easy to pilot, but the sea, or a river, is nothing to trifle with.
White Knuckle Quotient:
Watch your step
Kid Endorsement: "I went sea-kayaking with my dad. What I liked was how you ride so close to the water. You sort of feel part of the ocean, and it wasn't hard. When I'd had enough, I let my dad do the work." --Ben Markum, 10
Tips for Getting Ready: Kayaking is booming in popularity, so even if you live in landlocked Iowa, chances are you can find a YMCA that holds classes in a pool.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $ $ $
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Backpacking/Hiking
Age Guidelines: You can pack your infant in a carrier and light out; otherwise, only kids eight and up can handle a real hike. The ages in between can test your patience, so keep daily mileages low and your patience high.
Muscle Factor:
Some muscle activity
Word From the Wise: Think diversionary tactics. Tell stories, sing songs. And there's no shame in bribery: Hershey bars can work wonders with tired kids.
White Knuckle Quotient:
No problem
Kid Endorsement: "Hiking's not boring at all, and when I get tired I just stop, have a snack, and take a rest. The best part is getting to the top. It makes you proud to look down and see how far you've come." --Lindsay Wilwol, 8
Tips for Getting Ready: Break in your footwear. Send for maps, plan routes together, and take practice hikes. Pitch the tent and spend the night in the backyard. Anticipation is almost as much fun as the trip itself.
Most You'll Spend:
$
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Boardsailing
Age Guidelines: It's ideal for teens, who at times long for less togetherness. But because of its physical demands, it's not an option for anyone under ten. Twelve is even better. Let your teens cut loose with this oh-so-cool, challenging sport.
Muscle Factor:
Start flexing!
Word From the Wise: It's a hard sport to learn, and lessons don't come cheap. So if you must, stick to snorkeling or rent Jet Skis.
White Knuckle Quotient:
Watch your step
Kid Endorsement: "When I took my first lesson, it was hard to get the sail up at first. But it's like snowboarding: You try and try, and then suddenly everything comes together. It's a great feeling." --Wyatt Thomson, 16
Tips for Getting Ready: It's imperative that you log some time skiing, snowboarding, or skateboarding--any activity that requires balance at high speeds.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $ $
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Snorkeling
Age Guidelines: Blowing water out, then breathing air in through a snorkel is tougher than it sounds. While some six-year-olds can do it, eight is a better age to take the first plunge. Even then, expect some coughing jags initially.
Muscle Factor:
Little muscle activity
Word From the Wise: Slather on the sunscreen--SPF 15 at a minimum. And educate your kids on which fish to avoid--jellyfish stings hurt.
White Knuckle Quotient:
No problem
Kid Endorsement: "My family went to Maui, and a boat took us out to this place where sea turtles hang out. The ocean is like this whole different world. It's really quiet and the fish are bright and colorful."--Austin Tenn-McClellan, 8
Tips for Getting Ready: Find a swimming pool (you can always check in to your nearby Holiday Inn) and let the kids snorkel around and get used to the breathing techniques.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $
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Rock Climbing
Age Guidelines: Some four-year-olds scuttle up rock walls like a gecko, but panic when they reach the top. By eight, kids can tackle a multi-pitch route. Confidence is an important factor, so start them on some easy routes.
Muscle Factor:
Start flexing!
Word From the Wise: Climb with reputable guides. Is the equipment state-of-the-art, or are you on belay with baling twine?
White Knuckle Quotient:
Hair-raising
Kid Endorsement: "Yeah, it's scary. That's why it's so fun. You get this rush when you're on the route and you're hanging on. And then comes the rappel down, the scariest and best part of all."--Jeremy Bisagnia, 11
Tips for Getting Ready: Sign up for a class at your local climbing gym. These gyms are crawling with kids and instructors who know how to teach kids; your own will be transformed into wall rats in no time.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $ $
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Horseback Riding
Age Guidelines: The key is leg length. By age eight, kids' legs reach far enough down the horse's side to control it. A Western saddle is the closest you can come to a Barcalounger; falling off is harder than you think.
Muscle Factor:
Little muscle activity
Word From the Wise: Dude ranches are used to the foibles of city slickers. So wait until you're in their capable hands instead of trying out some rent-by-the-hour outfit.
White Knuckle Quotient:
Watch your step
Kid Endorsement: "I just love horses. They're so big and beautiful, but gentle by nature. Don't be afraid of them. They only bite or spook if you do something to them first." --Amani Congdon, 8
Tips for Getting Ready: Good dude ranches anticipate your every need, and most of what you need to know you'll learn once you get there. All you need do is rent Silverado and read Louis L'Amour.
Most You'll Spend:
$ $ $ $ $
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Canoe-Camping
Age Guidelines: It's a bit like asking what age is best to ride in a car. Anyone can just sit there. And as with an extended car trip, wise parents bring along games and distractions to keep the young ones occupied.
Muscle Factor:
Some muscle activity
Word From the Wise: Keep your PFDs strapped on tight, and invest in dry bags. The right gear is essential for comfort and safety.
White Knuckle Quotient:
No problem
Kid Endorsement: "The canoe part is fun. I like to paddle. But the camping is really great. We use two small tents instead of one big one. I don't even mind the work--washing dishes and stuff."--Annie Dickens, 12
Tips for Getting Ready: Avid canoers are usually ex-hikers who tire of the trail's spartan existence. Canoes can hold more than a backpack, so indulge yourself--bring along wine, books, art supplies, whatever.
Most You'll Spend:
$
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Fishing
Age Guidelines: If your kid is old enough to grasp a pole, fishing is possible. Adult supervision is mandatory, however, for kids under eight. As for fly-fishing, wait until age 12.
Muscle Factor:
Little muscle activity
Word From the Wise: PC-types should repeat after me: Catch and release. It's the activity itself, not the end result that really counts.
White Knuckle Quotient:
No problem
Kid Endorsement: "What I like best is when you feel the tug of the fish on the line. Then you have to reel it in really fast. Waiting can get boring. But not too boring, I guess, because I keep on fishing. And I like it."--Jebb Norton, 6
Tips for Getting Ready: Casting in the backyard is always fun. Also, go to your grocery's fish counter and learn which fish are what size. That way you won't get caught in a lie about the size of that trout you hooked.
Most You'll Spend:
$
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