Everyone wanted to be in Doc’s Dory Boat, but there were only four spots.
For the uninitiated, Dories are small, 17-foot rigid hull boats that can navigate a river much faster than an inflatable boat.
We met Stephen “Doc” Nicholson, a retired dentist-turned-raft guide, on an OARS tour of Dinosaur National Monument on the Yampa River, the last undated tributary in the Colorado River system.
One of the best parts of a rafting trip is that we are so far from the grid that our biggest decision was where to pitch our tent for the night. You don’t have to worry about missed emails because there’s no cell service deep inside Dinosaur National Monument—211,000 acres of wilderness nestled between towering desert peaks and river canyons. There’s the adventure, of course – the rapids and sleeping under the stars.
There’s also the option of going off the grid with no work – someone else provides the food, cooks and navigates the rafts, and even entertains the kids. You just relax and enjoy without lugging a heavy backpack into the spectacular back country.
OARS, leaders in rafting vacations for more than 50 years, can give you at least 20 reasons why rafting is the ultimate family day out. OARS has just announced that there are still a limited number of spots remaining on several Grand Canyon 2022 rafting and dory tours in late summer and early fall. These trips usually book a year in advance. There are also kid-friendly off-season excursions, including the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon and the Green River through Desolation Canyon.
For the youngest adventurers, the rafting company ROW advertises with ROW Family Magic Rafting Tours. ROW’s Family Magic Rafting tours were designed by a family-run adventure tour operator and field-tested by their kids. Not only are they “family-friendly”, they are absolutely family-oriented. What’s her secret recipe? Firstly, you cannot join these family rafting adventures unless you are bringing a child, and they welcome children 5 years and older. There’s also a kids-focused menu and their signature “River Jester,” who leads nature-focused games and activities. Moderate rapids, warm water and idyllic camping conditions on vast white sand beaches combine to create an unforgettable family experience.
If you’re longing for a different late summer/fall getaway on the water – or already thinking about a future trip – there are plenty of options that won’t break the bank. (Our 51 great ideas for your best family summer with kids can give you more ideas.)
You can sail away on your own sailboat, with or without a captain. We’ve toured the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and even Tahiti. Think of it as camping at sea. But you can stop where you like and jump off the boat to swim or snorkel. Be met by a dive boat. We’ve had some of our most memorable times – and mishaps – sailing. The cabins are small and in our case we had to run the water heater for five minutes before it got warm and then pump out the water afterwards. There is no dishwasher (except for 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 had a lot of laughs, often spending the night away from others. We have rented from Moorings with charters everywhere from the Caribbean to Florida and Belize to Greece and Thailand; Click & Boat is like an Airbnb for boat owners who can negotiate directly with the owners whether you want houseboating, sailing, fishing or more.
Our family on a catamaran charter from Moorings in the British Virgin Islands in 2012. (Andy Yemma)
Charter a boat just for your friends and family (six to 20 guests on a small yacht) from AdventureSmith Explorations. They offer dozens of trips for families with age-appropriate activities, whether you’re dreaming of the Galapagos Islands, a different kind of Alaskan cruise (how about exploring Glacier Bay National Park aboard a restored WWII minesweeper), Belize or Costa Rica, among the options. A complete yacht charter can save 10 to 30 percent on regular cruise prices per person, and you can often choose the length, itinerary, and many other details to truly make the trip your own.
Sea Wolf Charter Ship, Alaska. (AdventureSmith)
For a more relaxed experience, try house boating. An average houseboat resembles a Winnebago motorhome mounted on two pontoons. Rentals range in length from 44 to 75 feet and the largest comfortably sleeps 12 people. You will feel at home. A good place to set sail is Lake Shasta in Redding, California, where and after August 19 prices are falling again. Note that the very popular Lake Powell, which begins in northern Arizona and extends into southern Utah, has unusually low water levels, however houseboating remains popular as fall is a good choice when the lake is calmer, fewer visitors and prices drop.
Booking.com, meanwhile, was promoting a number of Smiley Stays across the US 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 Miami Beach’s Mid-Beach area . After the Smiley Stays you can still book the yacht.
Rather than a river cruise, wonderful as it can be, you could steer your own barge past quaint villages in Wales, Scotland, England or, as we did, France, where we’ll visit small villages, wineries (they welcomed children) and local Specialties explored food, including freshly baked croissants for breakfast and cheese-filled baguettes for lunch. (I once tried to order the dog menu for my youngest by mistake, thinking it was a kids’ menu.) Le Boat is the largest operator of self-drive river boat vacations in nine different countries in Europe and Canada. If you’d prefer someone to do all the heavy (and not-so-heavy) lifting, you can charter a vessel from Croisi Europe River Cruises or join a fall departure for up to 50 percent off.
What is your choice?