The Best Family Vacations Are Just Outdoors

This guest post is by Dana Hilmer, the founder and editor-in-chief of 

Dana Hilmer Family SkiingI didn’t grow up with a family that did much in the way of outdoor activities together, unless of course weeding the garden could count toward enjoying the great outdoors. But I did grow up in a day when my mom would say girls “go out and play” and play we did.

My sister and I would disappear for hours making forts in the woods, building jumps for sledding, biking around the lake and playing tennis. We canoed, picked berries, skated, and climbed trees. We enjoyed ski club and hiking and camping were my favorite Girl Scout activities. We spent most of our joyous childhood playtime outdoors.

I wish my parents took us skiing, went bike riding and played tennis with us, that they took the time to play with us outdoors. Instead their weekends were full of house projects, the tennis racquets collected dust, and the family walks to the lake down the road rarely took place.

The exception to this was at my grandparents “camp.” We went to camp for a week or two every summer, it was a modest lake cottage, but rich with joy. Time at camp was family time, outdoor time, and it was always special. It is our time at camp that to this day conjures up my favorite family memories. My grandpa loved to take us sailing and I took great pride in being his crew in the weekend regattas that we rarely won. My grandma would cook and laugh, bird watch, walk and gather the most wonderful group of friends.

One of my favorite memories with my dad is the countless hours that he flipped my sister and me, giggling, off his back into the water below. There was no TV and at night we’d go for walks, catch fireflies and chat over the blaze of a beautiful fire. It was there that my parents relaxed and were truly present enjoying time with us. It was all great fun.

Now I have three boys, ages 9, 7 and 5 and as a family, we’re “in the sweet spot” — they’re great ages to do fun activities together and they are young enough that they still want to be with us! I want to savor this time, enjoy lots of “camp” moments together. I don’t want to make the mistake of being so caught up with my many projects that I miss the boat on this wonderful time.

But at home, despite the fact that we have good family time together, the never-ending list of things that need to be done is always in the background. It’s like a timer, ready to go off as soon as the game is over. It’s when we get outdoors together that the do-list disappears, that I’m most present and relaxed with my family.

When outdoors we laugh and we truly play. We’ve enjoyed camping, hiking and even fishing and the little daily stuff like our jaunts to the park, nights grilling out, our spontaneous games of tag and soccer are some of my favorite memories. No matter how busy our life gets I try to remember that this little “vacation” is just a step outdoors. And this past weekend a dream came true — I went skiing with my family for the very first time.

Dana HilmerDana Hilmer is the founder and editor-in-chief of and the host of The LifestyleMom Radio Café. Her mission is to inspire, entertain, and motivate moms to create and live a life they truly love for both themselves and their families. She lives in a small beautiful shoreline town in CT with her husband and three young boys.