The Family Mini-Adventure

A family of two parents, two young children, and their black Labrador Retriever crouch by a stream inspecting rocks.

Tips & tricks to make getting outdoors easy

Simon and Els know the importance of making time for mini adventures. Beneath the surface of what sometimes feels like an impossible balancing act, lie endless opportunities for connection, growth, and exploration through intentional adventures both large and small. Even when life feels like it couldn’t get any busier—Simon is the Orvis president, Els volunteers organizing local trail-building opportunities while also helping the company with a B-Corp audit, and the two of them raise two active children and four pups—they always find time (rather, make time) for getting outdoors with their 5-year-old daughter, Pippa, and 2-year-old son, Willem.

Simon and Els are the first to admit that often the hardest part of the mini-adventure is simply getting out the door. Thankfully they have lots of practice and great ideas for eliminating hurdles and positioning yourself and your family to be ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. One thing is for sure: even on the most hectic days, you are always glad you made time for the mini-adventure.

Simon & Els's Tips & Tricks for Making Space for the Mini Adventure

A family playing with their black Labrador Retriever on a rocky beach by a river

Dress for adventure every day

Versatile clothing that is comfortable for hanging out at home, looks good enough for the office, and functional for hiking and spontaneous canoe trips make it easy to get yourself and kids out the door quickly and easily. When we want to squeeze in adventure on a busy day, we don’t want to devote precious play-and-explore time to outfit changes.

Els’s go-to: DriRelease Long-Sleeved Tee and DriRelease ¼ Zip

Simon’s favorites: River Guide Shirt and Pro Hoody (for layering up on cold days)

A mom with a child in a carrier on her back, sorts through a nylon tote bag.

Keep outdoor essentials accessible & ready to pack

It can take a lot of time to organize and pack for adventures large and small, especially with kids. Spending ten minutes searching for your child’s missing water shoe and the sunhat that your toddler has hidden in the toy box can be the difference between getting to go outdoors and not. We never regret taking the time during quiet at-home moments to get organized for future mini adventures, and we are confident that this organization helps us get out the door more often. All four of us have our own nylon tote with extra layers, gear, and accessories for the activities we pursue the most. We keep our waterproof backpack easily accessible, so that when it is time to get out, we can pack the bag quickly without forgetting any must-have layer or piece of gear.

Four dogs peek out of the back of a car while a father and two small children gear up for an adventure.

Keep the snack cabinet well stocked

Adventuring requires that we never leave home without snacks, especially since sometimes our mini adventure can turn into a long afternoon outdoors. We keep grab-and-go items in a specific place in our kitchen, so we never forget to pack them in the daypack. We also never go anywhere without filled water bottles.

Four dogs stand in the back of a station wagon while their people gear up for an adventure.

Dog-ready your car

Dogs make all adventures better, so we bring ours along whenever possible. Car-seat or cargo protectors are a must for our family. They are so effortless and easy to hose off, so we don’t have to spend extra time cleaning our vehicles when we get home. Making cleanup easy makes us more inclined to go more (and muddier) places. Keep spare leashespoop bags, and a collapsible water bowl in your car.

A girl runs ahead of a group down a green trail with dogs.

Know your local spaces

The more familiar you become with the trails and rivers that surround you, the less time you spend doing research or battling indecisiveness. Knowing travel times, what shoes to wear (how muddy does the trail get?), what types of things you will need while out exploring (is there a stream or do you need to bring water bowls for the dogs?) make spontaneity more accessible.

A woman on a walk with a child on her shoulders in the woods.

Prioritize connection

Make the most of your mini adventuring by building in at least a few minutes to slow down, observe, and take in your surroundings. Small adventures, even the ones closest to home, are packed full of discovery. Once back at home, deepen this connection by setting aside time to reflect on your adventure and to follow your curiosity. Books, nature journals, bird guides, and local wildlife and wildflowers field guides, maps, and oral histories are all great ways to educate yourself and your children about the spaces you explore, and help establish deeper connections your next time out.

A child in yellow pants standing by a car with dogs peeking out the back.

Leave no trace

It is never too early to teach and model responsible behavior for your kids. Always leave the rivers and trails you explore better than you found them. And always keep a trash bag in your daypack so you can pick up trash while out adventuring.

A father, two young children, and  four dogs packing up the car together after an adventure.

Master the Post-Adventure Quick Clean Up

Simply taking five minutes to thoughtfully unpack and put things back in their place upon returning home will save you time later (when you don’t have time to spare). We always try to empty out the backpack right away—uneaten snacks go back in the cabinet, clean extra layers go back in the nylon totes (see tip #2), and dirty and wet clothes go in the laundry. We’ve built this into our mini-adventure routine and adding a couple of minutes on the back end of every outings always makes it easier to get out the door the next time.

The Art of the Mini-Adventure

So often, life's most meaningful adventures lie just beyond the backyard. Orvis's own Els and Pippa are on the go again, exploring the lazy rivers and wild environs of southern Vermont, and celebrating every new discovery, together.