Traveling with Kids | Geocaching
First, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful, healthy and happy 2014. Hopefully it will also be a year filled with wonderful travel experiences for you and your families. I am already busy planning our trips for 2014 and excited to share lots of my new travel-related experiences, stories and tips throughout the year.
Today I wanted to kick off the Traveling With Kids column by writing all about our new favourite family hobby, geocaching. We may be latecomers to hop on the geocaching bandwagon but we are seriously hooked and have become their biggest promoter. The fact that it’s something we can do both at home and while traveling is icing on the cake.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with geocaching, it is a recreational outdoor activity that involves hunting for and finding hidden objects with the help of GPS coordinates and/or smart phones. The official geocaching site refers to it as a “real-world treasure hunt with over 2 million active geocaches and 6 million geocachers worldwide.”
Caches (the treasure sought) are usually to be found in airtight containers such as old film roll canisters or even Tupperware. Inside the containers, which are categorized in three different sizes, there is always a miniature log book/paper for you to log yourself into as well as to see who else has been there. The caches can be hidden in stone walls, tucked under branches or rocks, inside trees, strategically placed on ledges or in any little spot that is safe from the weather or people mistaking it for litter. There are some that are quick and easy to find and others that you’ll spend ages searching for and not find (and that will keep you up at night thinking WHERE COULD IT BE?!). To get started you simply have to register a free account with the official geocaching website and download the free mobile App . These will give you access to the whereabouts (locations) of almost all of the hidden cashes in your area as well as around the world (this is where geocaching can tie into your family travel).
Today I wanted to share our top reasons to become a Geocaching Family:
It gets you outside.
This is really one of the most important parts of geocaching for us. We’re a family who loves to be outside walking in the woods but have noticed over the last while that the motivation to get out and do our same old hikes hasn’t been received with as much enthusiasm as it used to be. So that extra little incentive to get us all out the door to search for a new cache is a big motivator for everyone.
It’s a great way to discover and rediscover your local area and region.
As much as we adore traveling far and wide and discovering new and exciting cultures, I also really love finding new and interesting places where we live. So far we have found caches in places we’ve frequented for years (oblivious to the fact that there were hidden treasures there) and also discovered new and gorgeous spots that have been literally right around the corner from our home.
It’s exciting for all (even those hard to please tweens and teens).
I know the words geocaching and exciting don’t really seem to fit together but I promise you they do. While looking for a cache and slowly seeing on the app that you’re getting closer and closer that sense of excitement really starts to kick in. And the fact you have to do it relatively secretly so as not to signal what you’re doing to any nearby muggles
(name for non-geocachers) makes the whole game even more fun. You should have heard me last week nervously whispering under my breath to my kids “mayday mayday, muggles approaching!!”. Ridiculously nerdy but amazingly exciting! Another aspect that my kids love is the fact that geocachers often leave tiny little objects in the caches which can be exchanged for other tiny objects. My kids always have pockets full of miniature Smurfs or old foreign coins and they spend ages (I mean ages!) deciding the best thing to leave for the next geocachers to discover. A few weeks ago they found one cache that had a tiny toy from a Japanese women who had just passed the day earlier.
Don’t tell your kids but aside from being a lot of fun geocaching is really educational. Kids learn to read maps and find destinations and routes, they learn about direction and distances as well as how to think outside the box and solve little riddles that people add in order to find caches. We also learn about the history behind all these spots thanks to the detailed description that is included on each cache location on the App.
It gets the family creative together.
After finding our first caches we discovered that there are lots of geocachers that had special tag-lines, stamps, stickers or personalized cards that they would sign the log book with or leave in the cache. This really intrigued my kids who immediately decided that we had to come up with a family motto as well. So we brainstormed and discussed what would be the perfect way to sign-off on our found caches and made a stamp and miniature cards which we leave in the found caches. My kids are also really excited to eventually create and plant our own geocache. For weeks they have been discussing possible interesting spots in our area, where it could be hidden, in what it could be hidden and how we could make it original and fun for other geocachers. One of their ideas was to hide one in our garden and then serve all the geocachers tea and cookies (they were crushed when we said no). Love all those creative thought processes geocaching brings out!
Great family travel activity.
As much fun as it is to search for and find caches in our local towns, cities and regions I think the fact that you can extend this hobby to new places and travel destinations is one of my favourite parts of geocaching. Over Christmas we were busy planning the route of our upcoming trip to Mococco when one of the kids mentioned that we absolutely had to find some caches while there as well. So off the three kids went to search on the geocaching maps where the various caches are located in Morocco. To make a long story short, we ended up diverting our planned route by hours so that we could visit some spots that have several hidden caches. Totally worth it because it got the kids enthusiastically involved in the travel planning process. Whether on a city trip or visiting a new country and culture, I think geocaching will help make family travel more fun and oriented towards kids and their keen sense of adventure.
Have I managed to convince a few of you to become geocaching families? If you are already a geocaching family I’d love to hear about your experiences, suggestions and what the kids enjoy the most about it. As a family we made a New Year’s Resolution to find a minimum of 100 geocaches found in at least 5 different counties in 2014 (easy to do when you live in Europe!). Wish us luck!
Here’s a cute video that shows you in 2 minutes what geocaching is all about…