Free Adventuring for 4th Graders All Year Long.

Do you know a fourth grader better yet do you live with a fourth grader?  If so then you are in luck. Starting today every fourth grader in the US is eligible for a pass that provides free access to all federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries.

Every Kid in a Park Pass

We come and go, but the land is always here and the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it for a little while. Willa Cather

The new federal initiative with the moniker “Every Kid in a Park” offers the possibilities for ready-made family adventures. The program is expansive, inclusive and I think terrific. No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a site within two hours of your home. Think about stargazing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or hiking to an ancient pueblo at Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff.

Next year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and this program makes it easy to select a park and celebrate with a visit. The pass is valid for the 2015-2016 school year and grants free entry for fourth graders and three accompanying adults (or an entire car for drive-in parks) at more than 2,000 federally-managed sites.

Grant Kohrs Junior Ranger Program

Grant Kohrs National Monument in Montana connects kids with the spirit of the American West.

From Boston and Philadelphia to Yellowstone and Yosemite the possibilities are endless. From hiking within the shadow of Mount Rainier or taking selfies at Mount Rushmore to air-boating in the Everglades or snorkeling within the US Virgin Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the choices for a world-class family adventure are many.

Fourth graders are invited to log onto  and complete an entertaining, educational activity in order to obtain and print their paper pass. The paper version may be exchanged for a more durable one at participating federal locations nationwide.

Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument

The ancient pueblos of Wupatki National Monument are perched between the Painted Desert and Ponderosa highlands of Northern Arizona.

Parents visiting the new website will find additional links for more information on planning trips to nearby public lands and some of the most remarkable places in America. Grant Kohrs National Monument demonstrates the cowboy spirit typical of the American frontier. Think about walking in the cloud forest of El Junque in Puerto Rico or counting roadrunners in Saguaro National Park near Tucson.  Fly a kite on Cape Hatteras in North Carolina or kayak within Acadia National Park in Maine.

So many great ways to celebrate 100 years with or without a fourth grader.

Nancy Nelson-Duac         Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.



Coolest Campgrounds for Families – No Tents Needed.

Camping vacations still offer contact with Mother Nature but no longer require sleeping on the ground to ensure the camping experience is real. The coolest campgrounds deliver extra vacation punch either with spunky family activities or unique accommodations. It is possible to stay in a hobbit house, sleep in teepee (tipi), snooze in a covered wagon, dream in a treehouse or snuggle with your kids a railway caboose. How cool, right?

Yogi Bear Hug at Jellystone Camping Resorts

Jellystone Camping Resorts are located in some of the coolest family vacation spots and Yogi adds extra fun to everyday.


Coolest campgrounds offer the potential for unique family camping experiences and effortless fun.  Gone are the days when family camping meant a cozy tent, a collection of slightly damp sleeping bags, soggy matches and a lantern. New age family camping includes extra cool sleeping spots and plenty of unique vacation activities to share with your kids.

From teepees (tipis) and treehouses to rail cars and bunkhouses the coolest campgrounds offer families green space, unique sleeping options, and earth-friendly ways have fun with your kids.

Abrams Creek Teepee

Abrams Creek Campground in West Virginia offers teepees for the perfect family camp out.

Just as no two families are the same, no two family camping vacations will ever be the same. My list of the coolest spots favorites features variety.

  1. Maple Tree Campground in Maryland – Sleep in a hobbit house for your family and hike Appalachian Trail.
  2. Abominable Snow Mansion near Taos, New Mexico – Snuggle in a summer teepee and trek with a llama.
  3. Country Woods Inn near Glen Rose, Texas – Reserve your own Santa Fe rail car and walk where dinosaurs roamed.
  4. Rancho Oso Camping Resort near Santa Barbara, California – Snooze in a covered wagon and enjoy daily trail rides.
  5. Bruneau Dunes State Park and Observatory near Mountain Home, Idaho – Rent a frontier log cabin and stargaze with astronomers.

And for more summer family camping vacation ideas view the Camp Out folder from the homepage of

Just add the s’mores.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff


Screen-Free Family Vacations with No Apps Needed.

With the energy of social media providing coaching and reminders, you may already know this is international Screen-Free Week. It’s an annual celebration to expose communities and perhaps more importantly parents, grandparents and children of the possibilities for fun beyond the screen. It’s a nine-day segment of the calendar year devoted to the concept of life unplugged.

The Lonely Planet Travel Book

The Lonely Planet Travel Book offers a delightful way for kids to discover facts about the world, dream of new places and imagine adventures.

The idea is to engage in non-commercial, non-digital entertainment allowing free time for playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with each other, no mouse or channel changer needed.

But why stop at one week a year? Why not establish your own screen-free family traditions and make them part of your family culture.

How about a screen-free family vacation? The extra value of creating a screen-free family vacation loaded with non-commercial activities cannot be measured in dollars and cents because many of the best things to do with kids are free. The value of any family experience is increased when electronic tethers disappear. Screen-free family vacations mean less distractions and more possibilities for sharing quality time with your kids doing things rather than watching someone else have all of the fun.

When activities happen in real time the uniqueness and the memory value multiplies tenfold yielding one-of-a-kind memories. From sharing a book together or listening to storyteller to stargazing or counting tadpoles in a brook, living in the moment and learning to imagine takes practice for all ages. There is no app needed for whitewater rafting or ziplining, canoeing or horseback riding, beach combing or cloud stories. On a family vacation, screen-free family fun is limitless.

Our Green Spots folder offers oodles of ways to break free with your kids.

I am logging off now because everyone needs screen-free time every day.

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.


Family Vacation Camps Offer Uniquely American Summer Vacations.

Just like the kids version, family vacation camps provide ways to socialize with other families and share unique bonding experiences with new friends. For many it is an economical way to getaway, have fun together, and mom does not have to cook or clean up.

Kingsley Pine Family Camp in Maine

Why should kids have all the fun? A Kingsley Pines family camp vacation is like taking a land cruise in Maine with all the fun included.

No two family camps are the same but all guarantee summer family fun so expect plenty of outdoor shared activities during the daytime, with sing-a-longs, s’mores and campfires at night.

The best family vacation camps, sometimes dubbed “multigenerational camps”, offer simple lodgings with meals included and dozens of terrific activities meant to be shared with other families at camp. In fact in many cases traditional kids’ summer camp locations designate “family camp” weeks.  Family camp locations vary including lodges, hotel rooms, cottages, cabins, and sometimes tent cabins with no electricity. Some provide private baths while others offer shared bathhouses.

Just as varied as the sleeping spots, the activities define the experience. From banana boat rides and sailing classes to performing arts and studio families can easily have fun together. Family camp experiences make it easy to achieve a sense of community sharing family fun with multiple generations.

For the full list of family vacation camps go to the Camp Out folder featured at the Family Travel Files.

Why should kids have all the fun? Really.

Nancy Nelson-Duac                  Curator of the Good Stuff for the Files

USA: Family Camps – Why Should Kids Have All the Fun?

Family camp is similar to summer camps for kids but for the whole family gets in on the fun. The lodgings are basic, meals and many activities are included and the experience is easy on the family vacation budget.

The family camp concept is the perfect example of a high value, low cost family vacation experience. Ideal for creating family memories no two camp locations are the same but all guarantee family fun. Expect plenty of outdoor shared activities during the daytime, with sing-a-longs and campfires at night. Family camps sometimes dubbed “multigenerational camps”, offer simple lodgings, with meals included. In many cases traditional kids’ summer camp locations designate “family camp” weeks. Continue reading