Everyone wanted to be in Doc’s dory, but there were only four places.
For the uninitiated, dories are small, 17-foot-long rigid boats that can make a river flow much faster than an inflatable raft.
We met Stephen “Doc” Nicholson, a retired dentist turned rafting guide, on a rowing trip through Dinosaur National Monument on the Yampa River, the last undammed tributary of the Colorado River system.
One of the best parts of a rafting trip is being so far from the grid that our biggest decision was where to pitch our tent for the night. Don’t worry about missed emails because there’s no cell service in the heart of Dinosaur National Monument – 211,000 acres of wilderness across high desert peaks and river canyons. There’s the adventure, of course — the rapids and sleeping under the stars.
There is also the possibility of going off the grid without any work – someone else supplies the food, cooks and sails the rafts, even entertains the children. You relax and enjoy without carrying a heavy bag in the spectacular backcountry.
OARS, the leader in rafting vacations for over 50 years, can tell you at least 20 reasons why a rafting trip is the ultimate family getaway. OARS has just announced that there are still a limited number of places left on several 2022 Grand Canyon rafting and dory tours in late summer and early fall. These trips usually book a year. There are also kid-friendly end-of-season excursions on the Colorado River via Cataract Canyon and the Green River via Desolation Canyon, among others.
For the littlest adventurers, the ROW rafting company boasts Magical ROW Family Rafting Tours. Designed by a family adventure tour operator and field tested by their kids, ROW’s Family Magic rafting trips are not just “family friendly”, but totally family oriented. What is their secret recipe? First of all, you can’t go on these family rafting adventures if you don’t bring a kid, and they welcome kids as young as 5 years old. There’s also a kid-focused menu and their signature “River Jester,” which leads nature. games and activities. Intermediate rapids, warm water and idyllic camping conditions on huge white sand beaches combine to make for an unforgettable family experience.
If you fancy another getaway on the water in late summer or fall – or are already thinking about a future trip, there are plenty of options that won’t break your budget. (Our Bringing the Kids 51 Great Ideas for Your Best Family Summer may give you other ideas.)
You can sail on your own sailboat, with or without a captain. We have sailed to the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and even Tahiti. Think of it as camping at sea. But you can stop wherever you want and jump out of the boat to swim or snorkel; a dive boat is waiting for you. We had a few our most memorable moments — and misadventures — sailing. The cabins are small and in our case we had to run the water heater for five minutes before it warmed up and then pump the water out afterwards. There is no dishwasher (except us) and no matter what we did the food seemed to freeze in the fridge. The good news: frozen grapes are delicious! But we had to work as a team and we laughed a lot, often spending the night away from others. We rented from Moorings with charters all over the Caribbean in Florida and Belize, Greece and Thailand; Click & Ship is like an Airbnb for boaters who can deal directly with owners whether you want to houseboat, sail, fish or more.
Charter a boat just for friends and family (six to 20 guests on a small yacht) from AdventureSmith Explorations. They offer dozens of family-friendly trips with age-appropriate activities, whether you’re dreaming of the Galapagos, a different kind of Alaskan cruise (how about exploring Glacier Bay National Park aboard of a restored World War II minesweeper), Belize or Costa Rica, among the options. A full yacht charter can save 10-30% off regular cruise fares per person, and you can often choose the length, itinerary and many other details to truly customize the trip.
For a more laid-back experience, try the houseboat. A medium houseboat is similar to a Winnebago motorhome mounted on twin pontoons. Rentals vary in length from 44 to 75 feet and the largest can comfortably accommodate 12 people. You will feel right at home afloat. A good place to set sail is Lake Shasta at Redding, California, where and after August 19, rates fall again. Note that the very popular Lake Powellwhich starts in northern Arizona and stretches into southern Utah, has seen unusually low water levels, but houseboating remains popular, with fall a good bet as the lake is calmer with fewer visitors and prices go down.
Booking.com, meanwhile, boasted a series of Smiley Stays across the United States in honor of the Smiley Company’s 50th anniversary, including a getaway at sea with the Smiley Stay at Sea with Lumar Yacht Experience in the Mid- Beach of Miami Beach. After the Smiley stays you can still book the yacht.
Rather than a river cruise, however wonderful, you could drive your own barge passed quaint villages in Wales, Scotland, England or, as we did, France, where we explored small villages, wineries (they welcomed children) and savored local dishes, including freshly baked croissants for breakfast and cheese-stuffed baguettes for lunch. (I once mistakenly tried to order the dog menu for my youngest, thinking it was a kid’s menu.) The boat is the largest operator of self-driving riverboat holidays in nine different countries in Europe and Canada. If you’d rather have someone do all the heavy (and not so heavy) work, you can rent a houseboat from Cruise Europe River Cruises or join a fall departure with up to 50% off.
What is your choice ?