The Frugal Traveler: Adventure Travel With Kids

A jungle ride through a natural reserve on a Mexican island served a dose of adventure for children traveling on an otherwise serene cruise to Mexico. On another expedition, wet suits, water shoes and head lamps were standard equipment for a 90-minute tour of crystal caves.

Children love adventure. Including activities with wow factor on your next family getaway is a sure bet against boredom.

Flexibility: Mike and Catrell Cooney ( took their three teenage boys on a world tour. When the family missed the road to Brisbane in Australia, they traveled through a national park, which provided sightings of platypuses in the wild. The unscheduled detour added about 1,000 unplanned and unavoidable miles to their trip, but produced a trunk-load of valuable memories.

Details: Attention to detail can also yield financial savings. The Cooneys, for example, saved big bucks at major attractions around the globe because their three sons qualified for student discounts. Erika Henderson of The Active Explorer recommends layers for family caving trips, as temperatures can remain cool inside even when outside temperatures become balmy. Henderson also stresses footwear with good tread to avoid slips and spills.

Location: Select locations that have built-in adventure. Angkor Wat's jungle temple, featured in the film Tomb Raider, adds wow factor and takes a basic archaeological outing to the next level, especially for children and movie fans. The Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort on Costa Rica's Pacific coast is strategically located near numerous adventure spots, giving teens and younger children a chance to hike in the rainforest, go white-water rafting or experience wildlife up close.

Activities: Break up sightseeing with adventure activities. For example, if you plan to spend the day at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, after seeing the Sphinx and pyramids, do yourself a favor: Buy camel rides for the kids, and finish the day with a faluka (small sailboat) ride on the river. And don't overlook the mini-camps offered at many resorts and cruise ships, said Kristen Braynen, of, which provides concierge services for travelers. Kids' activity clubs are free on some cruises. During a mid-December cruise, Braynen enrolled her toddlers in a free program with childcare experts who changed diapers, fed and entertained young travelers for no extra cost. This allowed the adults to enjoy adventure outings unencumbered.