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The perfect 5-day family U.S. adventure trip

Including biking, hiking, kayaking, and surfing!

Three months ago, I was feeling that overwhelm of needing to make a decision, but not sure that the one I was going with was right. But because of the urge to have something decided, I was going to do it anyway.

My family and I would be homeless in a matter of weeks. We’d sold our home and had a contract with a builder to start on a new one, but in the meantime, we needed a place to stay for six to eight months. I hadn’t been successful in our search to find a rental house.

Finally, I found an apartment renter who needed to get out of their contract for six months. It wasn’t ideal; I would have to take my dog down two flights of stairs to use the potty, and most of our stuff would have to be in a storage unit. But I had an appointment to tour the apartment and sign the contract the following day.

I didn’t want to. I wanted the perfect scenario. But I was willing to settle for way less because of the circumstances.

Are you currently feeling a little like that regarding your vacation this year? Like you were really wishing for things to be different, with everything open and available, and no restrictions?

I’m going to let you in on a secret: you don’t really have to settle for something sub-par. I have some AMAZING trips available, some right here in the U.S. The one I’m highlighting today is a five-day family adventure which involves biking, hiking, surfing, and kayaking, plus some in-depth foodie adventures!

This is a small-group guided trip. What I love about sending families on guided trips is that it ends up being a vacation for everyone. Mom & Dad don’t have to do all the entertaining. They get a chance to relax and enjoy the experience as well, so that everyone feels like they’ve had a vacation. This trip includes three experienced trip leaders, including a dedicated kids’ adventure leader. It’s perfect: you enjoy a combination of parent time, kid time, and family time, and activities designed with the whole family in mind. It’s perfect for kids age 9 and up, although 6 and up can enjoy most of the activities as well. Included are two or three vehicles for transportation, plus a trailer for luggage. It’s super fun for everyone! (I love the idea of a family trip being relaxing and fun for the parents too, not just the kids!)

Day 1: Santa Barbara, California: start your trip with your first bike ride!

First you meet everyone, and the guides outfit everyone with a personalized bike just for them.

You can choose to take the family bike path (10 miles), the Butterfly Beach extended route (18 miles), or the Butterfly Beach with the Montecito Loop route (27 miles).

Stop by the harbor where you can grab an ice cream cone or check out the Ty Warner Sea Life Center. Then continue on along the breathtaking coastline on an oceanfront bike path where palm trees, bougainvillea and stunning views of the amazing ocean accompany you as you make your way to Butterfly Beach.

Follow the crashing surf a little further and you’ll arrive at your home for the next two nights, The Biltmore, a plush Four Seasons property.

Day 2: Santa Barbara: hiking, surfing, biking

The adults start the day with a hike in Rattlesnake Canyon Park, named for its elegant serpentine curves (not for its rattlesnakes!). Depending on how much elevation you'd like to take on, both hiking routes take you through meadows and gullies interspersed with oak trees that offer shade.

Meanwhile, kids 6 and older hit the waves with a surf lesson from expert local instructors.

After those activities, everyone meets for a self-guided tour of the Santa Barbara Mission and then enjoys a delicious lunch. The afternoon is filled with city exploration by bike. You can cruise down State Street, make a stop at an old clock tower for a 360-degree view of the city, or enjoy art galleries, surf shops and tasting rooms. Or maybe grab an ice cream. Of course, you can bike back to the resort anytime, and soak up the sun by the pool or take a dip in the ocean and play in the sand.

This evening adults enjoy dinner at the resort while the younger set is off to a special kids-only meal at a local café followed by beach games.

Day 3: Rincon to Ventura

Fuel up with an amazing breakfast at the hotel, and then get into your kayaks to explore the Santa Barbara harbor & surrounding water. You’ll see sea lions sunbathing on buoys, and maybe dolphins and seals.

After kayaking, enjoy a picnic lunch on Rincon Beach, then hop on your bikes and set off for the Ojai Valley.

Follow the Highway One Pacific Coast bike path, and then head east on the serene Rails-to-Trails path, passing through the beach town of Ventura. Ride or bike the final miles into the charming town of Ojai. Explore a little bit before checking in at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. After settling in, you can try one of the resort’s three pools, or get a spa treatment before dinner.

Day 4: Explore the mountains and the town of Ojai

After breakfast today, ride (in a vehicle, not a bike) into the Los Padres National Forest to explore the mountains behind Ojai. Hike up a small shady canyon, where you’ll see oak trees, chaparral, and wildflowers. Enjoy lunch on the trail before heading back.

The rest of the afternoon, explore downtown Ojai, or enjoy the resort activities. Ojai is known for Bart’s Books, the largest independent outdoor bookstore in the country, and also for their frozen yogurt! Resort activities include yoga, swimming, spa treatments, hiking, tennis, golf, art lessons or tile painting.

Day 5: Final bike adventure, or relax and get ready to depart

The last day begins with a pleasant bike ride east of town through Ojai's famous Pixie tangerine orchards and olive oil farms. Along the route, stop at the Ojai Olive Oil Company for a tasting. Then continue pedaling along back country roads to see what life is like for the ranching families of Ojai before heading back to the hotel, where you have a chance to freshen up before lunch.

Or if you'd prefer to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a relaxed morning at the inn.

After a final lunch, take the shuttle back to Santa Barbara, where your trip ends.

The best ages for this trip

The recommended age for kids’ surfing is six and up, kayaking is age six and up, and the minimum age to ride your own bike is nine. Trailer bikes are available for younger kids, so it’s totally do-able if you have little ones! “Kids” are included to age 19, so bring your teenagers for this great trip.

Does this sound like a perfect trip? I’ve got this version, for families with younger kids, and also one for parents with teens, or an adult version. It can be modified to suit any group!

What it includes

· All breakfasts, five lunches, and four dinners, plus snacks between meals.

· Available bikes: performance titanium road bike, touring titanium bike, e-bike (electric bike), kids’ bikes (24” and 20”), and trailer bikes. At an additional cost are pro carbon road bikes ($400 more) and tandem bikes (for experienced tandem riders only, $400 more).

· Helmet and accessories

· All gratuities at hotels and restaurants

· Equipment and experienced guides for kayaking, hiking, biking, and surfing

· Park and other entry fees

· Baggage transfers and porterage

When is it available?

This trip is available for a scheduled week in March (spring break), in June, July, and August, and again the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It can be customized for other dates as well, if these don’t fit into your schedule.

Back to my decision…

The day I was ready—I’d made an appointment with the renter who needed to be out of their contract—my husband got a text from a neighbor who knew we’d been desperately looking for a place to live. The text told him about another neighbor who had just lost their renters. Maybe it would work out for us?

We went and looked at the rental home that evening, and moved in about three weeks later. To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have looked at it if we’d seen it advertised, because it’s further away from where we wanted to be. But other than that, it is a good fit for us and our two kids that are still living at home. Most importantly, it has two things that the apartment we almost rented DOESN’T have: a garage, and enough space to keep all of our stuff, so we don’t need a storage unit.

What we ended up with is different from what we started out wanting. In a perfect world, we’d have wanted to stay close to our current location and rent a home, not an apartment. We got a home with space and a garage, although in a far different location that we were originally wanting. I’m so glad we didn’t settle for the small apartment we thought we’d have to take!

Like my current home situation, your family vacation this year may look a little different from what you’d hoped. The good news is that you can still vacation, and it can be amazing. It’ll just possibly look a little different from what you thought you wanted originally.


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