I thought it was about time I put together a little “Hiking with Kids post”, with a few tips from myself and a lot of inspiration from a few fellow travellers on how to ensure that you enjoy a memorable hike WITHOUT too much moaning along the way (from any member of your group!)…
As always feel free to add your own tips to the comments…
Let Children Help Pick the Route – Our children always help decide on certain aspects of all of our travels (how we ended up in the Cat Museum in Japan probably, and definitely how we ended up in Berlin’s Currywurst Museum!), so why shouldn’t we let them help decide on where to go hiking either? I recommend chucking your kids the guide books when you get to your destination, give them a difficulty level (ten year old’s are usually overly ambitious in my experience!), and on the day let them help with directions and the like (don’t rely on GPS, not everywhere on the planet has a signal!)…
Proper Clothing – if you don’t have the right gear, you might as well expect a miserable day… Decent Hiking Shoes are a must, as is a seasonally appropriate jacket/coat. Wear plenty of layers – there’s nothing worse than being too hot or too cold. Make sure whatever jacket you have is waterproof too for obvious reasons. Talking of waterproof, pack a plastic bag in each of your pockets, it’s always nice to have somewhere dry to rest your bum for a few minutes (just make sure you take it back with you…). You might scoff at the cost of hiking socks (especially for little feet that grow at a stupid rate), but they really help prevent blisters, and this in turn helps keep your stress levels to a minimum…
Pack Energy Boosting Snacks – Perfect for blackmail material, and for keeping any and all energy levels up – stuff pockets full with cereal bars, fruit, nuts, chocolate, anything that will keep you popular as a parent, and might get you to the next hurdle… I also recommend investing in something like a camelback water pack to keep everyone hydrated and to stop you personally from having to lug around gallons of water (like a camel)…
Baby Backpacks – Do your research – if you intend on lugging a toddler up a mountain on a long hike, it has to be comfortable for both them and for you, look for online recommendations, ask to borrow a friends before you invest, do a test run in a shop if they will let you… Look for ones that include sun/rain shades too, plus little pockets for baby/toddler necessities!
Encourage Budding Photographers – Give kids Cameras (making sure all batteries are full before you set out – cold weather drains batteries much quicker!!), or let them borrow one of yours (a much less loved camera perhaps!!). This will not only keep them quiet, it’s really lovely to see what they have taken at the end of your adventure (or perhaps not!)…
Distract with Games – you would be amazed at how engrossed children (and adults) can get if you suggest a game along the lines of my hastily thought up “spot the mushroom competition”… Be warned, this could lead to spontaneous sibling wrestling matches if you have competitive children like mine… Kept them quiet for around 3 hours though. Oh, and they both “won” in the end – which they actually fell for unbelievably!
Do your History Research Beforehand – or even better, get them to do it. Children take a lot more interest in their surroundings if they know a few interesting facts about the history and folklore of a place!
Safety – Go through what to do in case of an emergency – not just something overly dramatic like someone falling down the mountain, but something slightly less serious like someone getting separated from the group. Believe me, this is hardly likely with my mountain helicopter parenting skills that tend to kick in, but just in case people, just in case… Look at the map for the closest open guest house and talk about how to find it to meet there in an emergency. It might sound obvious, but we always tend to go for the safest route with kids – I could tell you some horror stories about experienced friends that suddenly realised that they were most definitely out of their comfort zones up one mountain or another…
Use Blackmail – Not in a horrible sense obviously – but in a “first one to get to such and such milestone gets this piece of gingerbread” kind of way. My favourite piece of Raphael Family blackmail to pluck out of our rule book is definitely “too much unnecessary moaning, and Mum gets to pick what you eat when we stop for lunch” – which, when it’s likely that there’s something like schnitzel and chips (a good case scenario!) on the menu is always guaranteed to get good results (works with adults too this tip!)…
Check Where to Stop – Talking of places to stop for refreshments – do check where is actually open along the way. Even in high season, variously places take turns with a ruhetag (a closed day!), and many are closed completely during the off season. There should be markers at the beginning of your route, but it’s best to know even before that (I have been known to call ahead before now!)…
First Aid – Make sure you have sunscreen (in the winter too!), plasters, antihistamine, pain killers, inhalers,
gin in a tin , and a pack of wet wipes in case of a scrape or two – all the kind of things you will be kicking yourself if you are half way up a mountain and somebody urgently needs one thing or the other…
An Open Mind – if this kind of hiking is new to you, my advice would be to keep an open mind. You might be taking a few more risks than you would in the gentler climes of the English countryside, but typically, these are the days that you will remember for the rest of your lives, as will your children , and for all the right reasons hopefully…
So, no matter how many steep inclines you have in front of you, remember that you will look back on it all fondly one day, no matter how much your legs are killing you, your back feels like it needs to be reconstructed, and your children are shouting about who has the most points in any “spot the” anything competition….
But, just look at that view!!!
If you want to investigate a few more Austrian/Bavarian Hikes of ours – do check out “Of Marbles and Waterfalls – Hiking The Alpbachklamm“; The TeeHaus (a Hike to the Eagle’s Nest); The Partnach Gorge; Autumn in Eibsee; Troll Castles in Zillertal, the hikes we enjoyed in Carinthia, and our current most recent favourite hike along the Smaragd Weg in Halbachtal…
If you are looking for some family hiking inspiration from fellow bloggers a bit closer to home, then pop over to Trish from MumsGoneTo for a Scottish Hiking Post from Knockinaam to Portpatrick AND tales of a beautiful hike in Snowdonia. As the name might suggest, The HelpfulHiker has plenty of helpful hiking tips for the whole family… Daislikethis has a beautiful Walking in the Malvern Hills Post; FamilyAdventureProject suggests a Scottish John Muir Way Hike (where you can discover the John Muir Award!); HaveKidsCanTravel has plenty of ideas for a Yorkshire Dales hike in February; and finally Wander Mum ponders whether you can Hike the French Alps with a Three Year Old (and a starving husband!)… Enjoy!
Justina Kling says
This is a great writing from you. I am planning for a hiking trip with my kids. So this is helpful for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts to us.
Thanks Justina, glad you found it helpful! :)
Sarah Humphreys says
We have never been on a proper hike with the kids but we go for family walks often and I agree totally with your tips. I always have a little food bribe in the backpack and certainly agree that having the right footwear makes such a difference.
It really makes a huge difference! Thanks Sarah! (:
Rebecca | AAUBlog says
snacks are a must aren’t they? I know I needed to remember that thy are capable of more than we think when it comes to things like hiking – my two loved it last time we went
Definitely Rebecca, I think the rule is something like a mile for each year of their life over the age of 5 or something like that… :D
I’ve never been hiking before, but it looks like so much fun. I’d really like to give it a go with my two one day!
I hope you get to go! Thanks Louise! (:
Becca Talbot says
I can’t say I’ve been hiking with kids before (as I don’t have any of my own) – but I did hike a lot when I was a child myself, as I was a member of the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts :) I’d love for my children (if and when I have any) to be as keen on hiking as me! x
Thanks Becca! (:
I invested in some quality hiking boots for our Austria trip, plus some proper layers, and it proved such a wise decision. It’s amazing how far you can hike when you have the proper gear. And I’m also now sold on walking poles.
Thanks for including my hiking tales! x
Thanks Trish. Think you really needed sun cream and sunglasses for your trip! :D x
Candice Nikeia says
You have thought of every detail which is super helpful. I love all the photos that were taken on this hike. You are so right! This is a great activity for kids to learn and bond with the entire family.
Thanks Candice! (:
I have no doubt that my boyfriend would say that hiking with me is similar to hiking with a child so I might send this post on to him haha! Great tip to encourage budding photographers. I always think it bridges the gap for kids who love tech, but are new to the outdoors.
Thanks so much Jess! :D
This is such a great post for anyone planning on taking their kids for a hike. I wouldn’t have thought of half of these ideas so thank you for the future
Thanks Tanya! (:
Fritha Strickland says
Really good tips, I always find that not dressing right is the thing that lets me down! x
Thanks Fritha! :D
Agness of Fit Travelling says
Hiking is a great outdoor activity and doing it with family must be lots of fun. It’s a great way to enjoy the scenery and be active at the same time. Which are your favorite hikes, Emma?
Probably the Smaragd weg one, although the hike up to the top of the Eagle’s Nest is pretty stunning as well… The view over Konigsee from the top is just beautiful! :) Thank you…
Sarah Ann says
Some fantastic tips. I think getting kids involved in route planning is a great idea – gets then excited from the get go!
Helps with the husband too! :D Thanks Sarah Ann!
Bread // Queer Little Family says
Some great tips. We don’t really hike but my son goes for a walk every day.
Outdoors is always good wherever it is! (: Thank you.
Emily Leary says
Loved the list right from the first item, we do this quite a lot (from planning what we do on holiday to which way we walk through the park) and I think we all end up having a better time for it.
Thanks Emily! :) Helps to stop any stress doesn’t it? :)
Rachel Evans says
I can’t wait until my nephew is old enough to come on walks with us. Great idea about ‘blackmail’ – it sounds like fun!
Thanks Rachel! (:
I love hiking an can’t wait to take my daughter with us in the Cartier next year. Suitable clothing and snacks are a must.
That sounds wonderful! Thanks Dannii! :)
I think that hiking with children is a great idea but I also believe that it is hard if your kids are not prepared. Letting them chose the route is a great idea, as they will know what to expect!
Oh definitely. My children are well used to it, but we didn’t start off with huge hikes straight away, just gradually built them up! :)
Tanya Brannan says
Such great tips here! I recently got a great dslr camera and a Chow Chow puppy so our walks in the country have increased so much!
I wish i had the kind of locations that you do though xx
Thank you Tanya, sadly we don’t have them on our doorstep anymore, but England has some great countryside to explore while we are at home! :) xx
Ali Rost says
My husband and I love to go hiking with our grandchildren. I love the idea of letting them be a photographer. Although I have to admit every time I do, we end up with lots of photos of the ground, or dogs, or my grandson’s shoes. Too cute.
Thanks Ali. My children have taken some interesting photos in the past! :D
I love the game tip. My mum use to do a ‘can you spot all the things on the list game’ when I was on walking holidays as a kid. It taught me a lot about nature!
Thanks Charli! :) x
Nichola - Globalmouse says
Aw great tips and I definitely think it helps to get them involved in the planning. Great to get kids loving hiking though, very inspirational.
Thanks so much Nichola! (:
We rely on the bribery method. We keep a packet of gummy babies in our pockets and bribe them with a sweet at the top of each hill, without moaning, lol! Great tips though, and less damaging than the sugary sweet way we opt for!
You live in a part of the world I would love to hike in! Maybe one day! Thanks Elizabeth! (:
Rhian Westbury says
To be honest most of these tips are perfect for me. I need distractions so I don’t worry about how long there is left to hike haha x
That helps me too! :D Thanks Rhian! :) x
lisa prince says
im not very energetic and im not very sporty but i do love to walk and especially when its in the countryside i can walk and walk for ever we love little hikes like this
Thanks Lisa! (:
Fantastic tips here. Hiking can be so much fun but you definitely need to be well prepared – even more so when you have kids. My son is still a little young, but I can’t wait to get him out there.
Thank you Christy! (:
Some really useful advice here. Letting kids choose the route is a good one as they will feel much more involved and less like it’s a chore x
That really does help! If you can let them think it’s their idea, they are not going to complain as much! :D Thanks Melanie! (:
Ive never been hiking with kids. In fact ive never been hiking at all. Some great tips here
Thanks Hannah! (:
melissa major says
I love hiking but I have never taken my kids before, these are some very helpful tips
Thanks Melissa! (:
five little doves says
Hahah use blackmail!! My number one tip for parenting in general! We inadvertently ended up on a 10 mile hike with the kids (3, 4, 5, 13) last month and it was horrific. Non-stop screaming the whole time!! If only I had read this first!
Oh gosh, that sounds quite an ordeal! I hope it didn’t put you off!? Thank you. x
Joanna Bayford says
Great tips I’ve not been hiking with kids its something i like the idea of doing when my son is a little older.
Thanks Joanna! (: