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Taking the Kids -- on an adventure when they're in college

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

What a choice!

We could choose a 30-plus-mile cycling route that was hard (lots of hills!) or really, really hard (more climbing and more hills!) in Bavaria.

"This is what you've been training for all week," said our always enthusiastic Backroads leader Evan Thompson. At least it wasn't raining or 100 degrees. We'd cycled through both earlier in the week in Austria. I was struck that no one complained about any of it. In fact, those tough days added bragging rights to the trip.

"It seemed kind of mystical," said Jacqueline Clemons, celebrating her 18th birthday on this rainy day. "It added to the adventure."

"This was the first time I saw 30 people voluntarily bike in pouring rain," observed my daughter Reggie Foldes.

Welcome to a Backroads Breakaway trip. Besides the biking, there are special walking tours in various cities and lunches in out-of-the-way local spots. For decades, Backroads has been a leader in active and adventure vacations, including those for families. Now that some of the families who enjoyed their trips cycling and hiking have older kids, the company has begun offering these Breakaway trips, capitalizing on the trend of grown or nearly grown kids continuing to travel with mom and dad. They are offering more of these trips in 2018 -- everything from multi-sport trips to Croatia to heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies to camping in Utah's national parks -- more than 200 trips in all. Consider that just six such trips were offered in 2014.

(Families and friends can put together their own groups too and with 10 people, it might turn out to be cheaper than a scheduled departure. (Mostly all-inclusive, trips start at under $2,000 per person and go up to more than $6,000. Price isn't a deterrent, Backroads said, with bookings up more than 50 percent since these trips first launched.

There is something else unique about this trip. Rather than changing hotels every day or two, we are staying on the sparkling year-old AmaWaterways' AmaStella river cruise ship as she floats up the Danube from Budapest to Vilshofen, Germany. On such a trip, it is possible for non-cycling family members to share the vacation -- as one set of grandparents have, enjoying the ship's complimentary excursions. We also could opt for their excursions, as I did one day (more about that in another column.) Though among the most expensive offerings, there will be three AMA Waterways Breakaways trips next year, as well as three for those with younger kids. The company hopes to sell them all out.

Backroads takes us far afield to places we wouldn't otherwise see -- through orchards ripe with apples and pears in Austria's Wachau Valley, past sunflower fields on Szentendre Island in Hungary famous for its artists' village, crossing the Iron Curtain from Slovakia to Austria, and joining locals outside of Vienna on Danube Island, even jumping in the river on the hottest day. We return to the ship to relax and do laundry (luckily very inexpensive onboard) before dinner. (Read more about our adventure in my trip diaries at www.takingthekids.com.)

We have two high schoolers, seven college and graduate students and four 20 and early thirtysomethings out of school and working among our group traveling with parents, including my daughter, Reggie, and her husband, Dan Foldes. They came from Atlanta and California, New Jersey and Connecticut, Washington state and Washington, D.C. Many had been on Backroads trips before, including a single dad traveling with his college-freshman daughter and a single mom with her 26-year-old daughter. Everyone gets along famously -- even siblings.

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