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Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


For us, family vacations are really just forest adventures. I’m honestly not even sure if, as a family, we know how to have a more traditional vacation. We find so much joy, pleasure, and fun in simply going to a state or national park that to go on a more traditional vacation would likely be un-fulfilling for us.

So, how might we plan a forest adventure vacation, you might ask. Here’s one way we’ve done it before, which mayn’t always be possible or (frankly) the smartest way to go about it (we’ve gotten better, read on).

1. Pack a change of clothes or two. If you like water, have a “water bag” with items needed to get wet – towels, bathing suit/shorts, waterproof camera, etc. (This step not necessary and we’ve done without once or twice)
2. Grab some snacks.
3. Put it all in the car and head to a green spot on the map!

Our water bag is packed all year round!
Our water bag is packed all year round!

Truthfully, this is pretty exactly how we’ve “planned” more than one of our ‘vacations’! It work out alright, but when you don’t really have a destination in mind and you don’t really pack food (I mean more than sunflower seeds, almonds, and a jug of water), you’re likely going to spend way more money than you need in actually eating food and possibly even gas. Yes, we’ve had a blast taking trips this way, but eventually I came to my sense and said to Hun, “Hey, we need to do this better in order to maximize our fun.” Which, of course, he agreed. Besides, if Mama Bear says this isn’t so smart and there’s a better way, usually Mama Bear’s listened to. At least in our family!

A better way to have a forest adventure consists of the above, though it’s slightly more thoughtful. For our most recent forest adventure, we decided we wanted to go somewhere. What this means for us, no matter how vaguely it’s said, is that we want to go forest adventuring. After discussing how we’d get away, we decided that it’d be best to pick a place, get the car packed, take a nap, and leave early in the morning headed to our not destination-destination (more on this in a moment). Next, we looked for a state or national forest park not too far away (a few hours) that had water and water activities. (We love getting wet in a river!)

river walker 5 mths
Baby Boy was only 5 months old here!

After a starting point was chosen (that’s the beauty of a not destination-destination in a state or national forest), I got busy in the kitchen. I chose what meats we’d take (see, we were going to grill this time, instead of eating fast food or spending money at a restaurant – it’s all about planning), gathered some other ingredients, made a couple PB&J sandwiches for the road/snack, cut some vegetables, and filled many bottles with water and juice.

2014-05-25 11.12.51Since our car is usually tremendously cluttered and (frankly) filthy (Hun would very much disagree with the filthy part), we cleaned it out and trashed the random papers that were strewn about. There were a few things we needed to gather at the store, so that was next. We picked up swim floaties for Baby Boy, ice, and some charcoal. After all this, it was straighten up the house and go to sleep time.

Setting a couple of alarms to leave around 6am, off to bed we went. The alarms went off, we packed the car with the last of the items needed (food cooler), and headed off into the sunrise!

There was so much beauty on the drive up to Sliding Rock. The day seemed as if it would stay sunny and mild. When we arrived, we read that the water’s temperature was around 50F! We decided to continue and brave it out. Sliding Rock is wonderful in that there are actually lifeguards on duty during the day starting the weekend of Memorial Day. This means that there is a $2/person entry to the park, but we thought it was well worth it.

After about 30 minutes of playing with Baby Boy on the water’s edge (he couldn’t go down the slide, as he can’t yet swim), it started to drizzle. Hun went first down into the bitter cold water, I went next. Despite the frigid temperature and the beginnings of a rain shower, we had a blast! Since it was only around 11 or so, we had plenty of day left to explore the surrounding Pisgah National Forest.

We stopped at the Cradle of Forestry, going through the discovery and learning area, walking the path of the Biltmore Forest School, learning some forestry school history, and viewing the Cantrell lodge.

We also swung by Buck Sprigs Gap Overlook.

Buck Springs Gap Overlook - Blueridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest
Buck Springs Gap Overlook – Blueridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest

After stopping at Looking Glass Falls, we sought an outdoor grill.

looking glass fallsLooking Glass Falls

The rain let up long enough for us to grill and eat our food. We hung out around there for a bit and then headed home. A successful, less costly, yet fun-filled, entire day of adventure foresting. And that’s how we leave it all behind, which is usually the point of a vacation, right?!

first forest grilling

How do you vacation? Have you ever thought of doing forest adventures? Tell me about it in the comments.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia’s Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don’t take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don’t just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you’re a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki’s post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our “Western Adventure” — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look “picture perfect” to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan’s recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers “behind the scenes” so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family’s new “beach house”!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier – and your kids happier – and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won’t make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents’ station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!

How We Leave It All Behind – Vacation Style
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18 thoughts on “How We Leave It All Behind – Vacation Style

  • Pingback: Conviction and compromise on the road | Crunchy-Chewy Mama

  • July 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

    What a cool idea! We do camping in the forest each year and always pick a site by a creek and the ocean (we love water play, too!), but we haven’t done a day trip adventure like that — sounds fun! I love those sweet pudgy baby photos. 🙂
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Happy 3rd & 7th!My Profile

    • July 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Yes, we chose to miss out on the most recent potential adventure (house hunting and all), but I can’t wait to plan another forest adventure soon! Especially with the water being a bit warmer than late fall/winter 🙂

    • July 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Yes! We love it. He ab-so-lute-ly loves loves loves being outdoors. He’s now very fond of picking up stick and rocks, leaves and pine cones to share with us. We are beginning to have an assortment of rocks and sticks in the car from all sorts of laces (yes, just a neighborhood park, too! 🙂

  • July 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    That looks like a fun family forest fiesta! 🙂 My favourite type of vacay is definitely in line with your first plan (leave home, see what happens) but I, too, have realized the impracticality of that. Still fun for a quick weekend getaway though!
    onebreath recently posted…I passed!My Profile

    • July 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Yes, so much fun! We’ve done that more than once or twice. We always have a great time, until we get home and I look at the budget and have to move things around 😉

    • July 9, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks so much! We love these trips. I can’t wait for our next adventure and more photo taking 🙂

    • July 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Yes, make a plan when you can, and go deeper! It’s so much fun. We often don’t go too deeply (time and a little one, etc.) but love to go on trails for a couple hours though, it’s such a blast! I always leave refreshed, re-invigorated, relaxed, and full of life and love!! 🙂

    • July 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      At the next opportunity, try to get a little deeper in the woods. A few hours is about all that’s needed. Sometimes it takes us awhile just to get a little ways up a trail because of stopping to view our surroundings, let Baby Boy explore a bit, and just simply relish in the awesomeness of nature! 🙂

    • July 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for the compliment. I’m really glad you like the photos. I do try to get some good shots of where we’ve been for the visual reminder of our memories! Go on a forest adventure at your next opportunity (that’s my gentle nudge)! 🙂

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*This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through, I may earn a small commission. Your price will never be affected by my affiliate link. On occasion, I also write sponsored posts, which help to run the blog as well. I thank you for supporting this space, so I can continue to share my journey and our family adventures. For more information, please visit the full disclosure here*

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