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Taking the Kids: Creating memories on less than exotic trips

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

“Get up, Mom!” my daughter commanded. We were nearing the end of an exhausting and iconic 14-mile hike from Crested Butte, Colorado, to Aspen, up and down the famous Maroon Bells, navigating steep terrain, rock scree and rain.

I’d slipped crossing a stream and started crying. “You are going to finish this hike with a smile on your face,” my daughter Mel said.

I couldn’t help but smile, and get up. I don’t know how many times I had said that to Mel — and her older brother and sister — when they were young and unhappy on a particular vacation outing.

Got a vivid vacation memory?

It doesn’t necessarily have to come from a bucket-list trip, though some might — coming face to face with a giant sea tortoise in the Galapagos Islands or watching a bear from a kayak snack on salmon in Alaska.

A lot of travel memories, I was reminded recently, come when you get out of your comfort zone with those you love most and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. For several years at our Connecticut home in the summer, we hosted Enesi, a young Albanian immigrant living in the Bronx. Enesi came to us courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund, a more than century-old program designed to get disadvantaged children away from cities in the summer.


Enesi joined us on some travels — to a farm in New Hampshire where he gathered eggs for the first time, to Maine where he ate lobster for the first time and tried paddle-boarding and to New Hampshire in the winter where he zip-lined over the snow-covered trees. Later, we arranged for him to go to Camp Nebagamon in Wisconsin, a boys’ wilderness camp my son had attended, and which offered scholarships.

“I think of those experiences all the time,” Enesi told us recently. Now 23, he is finishing college, living with his parents while working. “I did things and saw things I could never do at home. As soon as I finish school, I want to show my girlfriend some of those places.”

That made me think of memorable trips with my kids. And though we have been privileged to visit some far-flung locales, some of your fondest memories are closer to home, including the trip that started Taking the Kids.

In 1987, I was covering national news for the Chicago Tribune and my two kids were three and one. My third hadn’t been born yet. The travel editor asked if I would do a story about a weekend family getaway not too far from Chicago. Why not, I thought. Remember, this is before Tripadvisor or any way to look up destinations on the web. I took the owner’s word that he liked kids and had plenty of room in his guest house and outdoors.


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