Don’t Let the Cold Stop You: Get Outside With These Winter Family Activities

Staying active in the winter months can be tough; from an individual standpoint is one thing, but throw some kids and a couple of pooches in the mix and it can seem downright impossible. We all have our “excuses”: It’s too cold! There’s too much snow! I have so much to do! But maybe it’s time to change our perspectives.

Whether it’s the bitterly cold temperatures or dumping snow that once deterred your outdoor activity, the gloomy, grey skies and uninspiring lack of sunshine, or the business of the season – we get it, there’s holiday shopping, holiday office parties, kids’ holiday concerts…holiday burnout – we have a few winter activities for kids and the whole family that’ll keep you moving all season long. 

Plan ahead

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We know it’s cold out there, so planning ahead is a great way to set yourself (and kids) up for success. In our family, it’s easy to get the kids outside. The bigger challenge at times is keeping them outside. For us, layers are the answer! 

Go for a base layer (natural fibers like hemp will help wick away any sweat or moisture), a zip-up or half-zip like Toad’s Telluride Sherpa Pullover (to easily dump extra heat), and then a jacket (to keep them dry). 

Then, accessorize. Little fingers and noses can get cold! So find the gloves, hats and scarves/neck tubes your child is willing to keep on – and keep them in a designated location (so they don’t get lost!). We have dedicated “winter accessories” basket in our kids’ bedroom for easy access. To add a little more fun to the mix, consider letting the little one(s) pick the accessories they want to wear for that outing – having the opportunity to choose their favorite hat can help inspire them to get outside!

Remember to keep yourself cozy, too. If you’re cold and uncomfortable, it will be significantly more difficult to keep the kids happy. Layering and fun accessorizing isn’t just for kids!

Just keep moving

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The prep to get outside might take you 45 minutes or more (no shame here), but once that’s done, the hard part is over! 

If you live in town, walk or bike around the neighborhood to check out the holiday lights and decorations. If you live in a rural area, explore your own property or the side roads on foot (we also love using a wagon and each kid shares pulling the others!). And if you’re lucky enough to have trails right outside your door – use those!

If you need to keep the kids engaged, challenge them to fun games or have enticing destinations in mind. Playing “I spy” along the walk/ride is a great way to heighten their awareness (and distract them from saying “are we there yet?” ten thousand times). We also enjoy spotting and counting birds or other critters. And if the locale fits, plan a mid-walk break at a cafe (did someone say hot chocolate?) or the library to pick out a new book. 

And remember, even a short walk will do your body and mind some good. Staying active is a big part of staying healthy during the colder months!

Make snowpeople

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You’d be surprised just how much work it takes to build a snowman. Seriously, if you don’t break a sweat rolling snowballs, I’m impressed! Whether there’s 2 inches or 2 feet on the ground, take advantage of the fresh snow and get in it! 

This is also a great time to play in-snow games like tracking critter prints, and make other snow creations like snow angels.

Get crafty

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While arts and crafts are usually sedentary activities, it’s easy to shake them up a bit by taking them outside! In fact, many of our favorite craft days are nature-inspired.

Whether we’re making pine cone bird feeders, driftwood/tree branch picture frames or rock “art”, each craft starts with a hike to gather our supplies (cones, sticks, rocks). 

It’s also fun to bring along a warm snack or beverage to share with the kiddos. Cracking open our insulated thermos and pouring hot (warm) chocolate or sharing a tasty soup into trail-ready mugs is never a bad thing!

Tweak old & start new traditions

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From the foods we make during the holiday season to the way we share gifts, traditions are important to so many of us. But how can we take these family-honored traditions outside to help us stay more active? For us, it is a no-brainer. Our family goes Christmas tree “hunting” every year, but rather than driving the truck up to a tree, we choose to bike it out of the woods! 

If you have access to national forest lands (or state lands in some places), you can do it too! Or, if you live in the city, grocery stores, corner lots and hardware stores all carry cut trees this time of year. Grab your bike and a trailer (or borrow one from a friend), plan ahead and make a family adventure of it! 

Get the gear

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And finally, while you don’t need all the gear, adding a few pieces to your winter kit can help boost activity levels. From skiing to biking to hiking, our family has gathered gear from second hand shops, borrowed from friends and bought new over the course of the years, and it has definitely helped us diversify our winter activities. The gear you pick depends on the activities you really want to pursue. And when you’re looking for things to do with kids in winter, the gear can definitely help. 

For us, there are three must-haves in winter: adventure-ready stroller, bike accessories, and a trail-ready sled.

First, using an enclosed stroller helps get everyone in our family outside (and keeps our crawler cozy). We chose one with ski and bike attachments so our youngest could come along no matter the activity. 

Second, for our skiing-loving, bikeaholic child, we picked up a pair of ski attachments for a balance-style bike. Biking is an easy-access activity for us; in our family, if we’re not walking, we’re pedaling. With the “bike skis”, he can push and slide along when we take the fat bikes or cross country skis on snowy trails! 

Third, when all else fails, attach a sled! We use our pulk/sled while fat biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s a great option because its fun, both of our kids (and lunch/extra gear) fit in it, and it’s lightweight!

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A Pennsylvania native and Colorado transplant, Ryan is a proud mountain mama to two wild outdoors-loving kiddos and a couple of equally wild cattle dogs. She’s also a photographer, writer and outdoorswoman. When she and her husband aren’t wrangling the pack – and more often, when they are – you’ll find them fly fishing, skiing or biking somewhere around their home in southern Colorado. 

Photography by Ryan Scavo and Sam Scavo.

Best Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Some of the best, most creative travel experiences happen when you’re maximizing your wallet. Determine what your budget is and stick to it. From food sourcing to local activities, there’s plenty to do that feels like more bang for your buck. Trust Kelly Smith, a digital nomad and writer who made the leap to work from the raod. Here’s his list of 8 easy tricks to stretch your travel dollar.

1. Fly Flexible

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, I flew my family of four from Portland, OR to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Ok, technically that’s not true. I really flew us from Seattle, British Columbia (yes, the Canadian one) to Singapore. We saved $180 per ticket on that flight — more than enough to rent a one-way car trip in the States and a luxury charter bus through Malaysia, plus hotel rooms on both sides. We saved a bundle and got more travel.

Flexibility around dates can save money for travel too. Bottom line: don’t have tunnel vision when you book your flights. Trying to get to Madrid? You might save loads of money by flying into Stuttgart, Germany (which has some stellar car museums, btw). Be adventurous and open and see what you can save – you might end up flying in and out of somewhere really cool. So two mini-vacations for the price of one!

2. Browse Incognito

Some of the travel aggregator sites — sites where you find the cheapest airfares across all airlines — will look at your browser history to figure out which locations you’re most interested in. Then they’ll bump the prices they show you as a result. Using the Incognito browsing function while you shop disables the tracking and information gathering that makes it possible. You can also use apps like Hopper which send you updates as prices rise and fall.

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The Cue Wrap Sleeveless Dress: Wrinkle-free and cocktail-ready.

3. Credit Cycle Your Recurring Bills

If you don’t have a credit card with rewards or airline miles, you’re walking away from travel money every time you put a purchase on your debit card. Set your recurring bills – utility bills, insurance payments, grocery, and gas — on your rewards or miles card. If you keep the payments regular, it quickly establishes a pattern of credit that ups your score… meaning you can qualify for better cards with more rewards and lower interest.

4. Groupon: Not Just for Your Hometown

This hack is so easy we’re amazed by how many people still get surprised by it: Groupon — that savings coupon site you use at home — also offers deals on trips and getaways, and is an international cheap activity resource. If you visit the website a few weeks before your trip, you’ll not only find savings on many of the things you want to do, you’ll see ideas for cool outings you never even thought of. Just browse the city you’re visiting and see what pops up. (And if if you want to keep the vacation going, look for local deals for services like house cleaning, yard maintenance or massage. Tack one of those onto your vacation during or after for a terrific homecoming experience.)

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Travel can be unexpected. Prepare for anything in the Mission Ridge Shorts.

5. Pack a Water Bottle

Or buy one locally on your first day. Either way, the water you pour into it from your hotel room/restaurants/clean bathrooms will be far, far less expensive (and way more sustainable!) than shelling out for bottled water. In many European and Asian countries, water is more expensive than alcohol! So save money and buy alcohol. But drink water — just not a plastic bottle of it.

6. Buy the Bulky Stuff

With airfares getting progressively more competitive, airlines are charging more for extra baggage fees. Solution: Travel light and buy what you need there. A lot of bulk in your luggage is because of the same handful of culprits: toiletries, hats, jackets. Even a case big enough to protect your sunglasses. Depending on where you’re traveling to, you can buy those things on site for less than it costs to carry an extra bag. Anything you’re not willing to buy on site probably isn’t important enough to bring anyway.

7. Make Your Own Meals

After your flight and your hotel room, dining out is often the biggest expense. Save money by getting a hotel or AirBnB with a kitchen. Every other day, follow this agenda: Eat a simple breakfast at your hotel, have a big lunch at a killer local spot, then cook dinner and relax from a busy day. Yes, cheese and bread and wine count as “cooking dinner.” 

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Dress them up. Dress them down. Dresses for any occasion.

8. Call Hotels Directly

Aggregator and accommodations websites are middlemen and will charge accordingly. National reservation lines can get you the best sticker price but aren’t empowered to find or give additional discounts. But the reservations person at the actual hotel where you’re staying? That person can get you the best deal — sometimes even fudging things a little to get you a conference or event discount you don’t technically qualify for. They’re also the best resource for how to get to the hotel, where to find the best cheap eats, and any free local attractions. The person answering the hotel phone will probably know more than anybody you talk to at home!

Final Thoughts

About a decade back, a research group released the results from a nearly 50-year study of what makes people happy. Few of their results were universal across all subjects, but one was: Experiences make us far happier than possessions.

They further found that travel is the kind of experience most likely to make us happy. So travel as much as you can afford. Tell em’ Toad sent ya.

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Kelly S. Smith is a digital nomad currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He’s a freelance copywriter and content marketer, contributing the occasional article on smart and affordable travel to help give his fellow travelers the chance to adventure around the world.

Wild Ideas Worth Living with Shelby Stanger

 

Have you ever had a wild idea but were afraid to act on it? Or maybe you started, but then self-doubt crept in, someone told you that it wouldn’t work, or you talked yourself out of it? Shelby Stanger is no stranger to both the fear of the unknown and the bliss of operating outside of her comfort zone. From deep in the world of corporate execs and renowned brands, Shelby took a plunge into the unknown to pursue her love of freelance journalism, photography and podcasts (spoiler alert: it was a total success). Her latest podcast,Wild Ideas Worth Living, is all about pursuing the dreams that live in our imaginations. Shelby interviews people from across the globe who have taken a leap of faith and just gone for it. From new business models to climbing rocks all over the world, Shelby highlights inspiring individuals who have followed their passions and transformed their lives. We’ll be adding a new episode every week, so sit back and get inspired. 


Weekly Episodes:

Week 1: Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Author of  Extreme You – Sarah is an adventurous business woman who has worked for Gatorade, Atari, and other notable organizations.

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Week 2: Norah Eddy, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood Norah is the driving force behind a sustainable seafood company with an innovative way of doing business.

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Week 3: Mark Lukach, Author of My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward  In his new book, Mark details his wife’s struggle with mental illness and its affect on their marriage. Through sacrifice, commitment, and courage, Mark boldly shares the often untold story of mental illness and it’s impact on the families involved.

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Week 4: Brogan Graham, founder of the November Project With the November Project, Brogan has disrupted people’s idea of fitness by creating awesome free workouts that build community around the globe.

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Week 5: Devyn Bisson, Documentary Film Maker As a lifeguard, Devyn worked to save lives in the ocean. Now, as a filmmaker, Devyn continues to help others through the art of film production.

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Week 6: Gretchen Bayless & Taylor Hood, founders of Roamerica Rentals  By starting Roamerica Rentals, Gretchen and Taylor have pursued their dream of being able to travel with ease while building and maintaining a successful business.

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Week 7: Izzy Tihanyi, founder of Surf Diva Surf School  Surf Diva Surf School was born out of Izzy’s determination to build a thriving business in her bikini. Now in it’s 20th year, Surf Diva continues to build a community around teaching women of all ages to surf.

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Week 8: Angela Davis, Fitness Evangelist and Motivational Coach As a former member of the USA track and field team, Angela Davis knows a thing or two about getting fit. These days she motivates all types of people to realize their full potential, both in fitness and in life.

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Week 9: Rebecca Rusch, Endurance Athlete and Adventure Racer Rebecca has sent a first female ascent on El Capitan, river boarded the Colorado River, and set records for endurance mountain bike racing. Aside from her impressive outdoor accomplishments, Rebecca exhibits a contagious spirit of positivity.

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Week 10: Grant Trebilco, Creator of One Wave Is All It Takes  After overcoming his own mental health struggles, Grant created One Wave Is All It Takes to help people cope with their own mental health issues through surfing and awesome, shared group experiences.

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Week 11: Emi Koch and Becky Mendoza, Environmental and Social Advocates Emi and Becky learned at a young age that you gain far more from giving than getting. With this mindset, they embarked on a mission to give back to communities around the world and create social and environmental change along the way.

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Week 12: Eric Wolfinger, Award Winning Food Photographer Growing up, Eric had the goal of creating his own dream job. But how to combine his love of cooking and traveling? Answer; Photography. Tune in to find out how Eric made his wild idea a reality.

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Make sure to check back next week for the latest episode of Wild Ideas Worth Living.