Family vacations aren’t just a great opportunity to spend time together and create new memories to cherish for years to come. An active trip can also introduce exciting ways to make fitness part of your family life. And this summer, it’s more affordable than ever to spend time exploring the outdoors: As part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, Parks Canada will provide free passes to all of Canada’s national parks to anyone who applies online.

Check out these 4 ideas for your next fit and fun family excursion:

1. Try a guided wilderness tour or trip

Want to try white-water rafting, explore Canada’s caves or take a rustic hike? A wilderness tour or adventure camp might be the perfect choice for your family. These trips with the supervision of an experienced guide – from hikes to boat tours to rock climbing – can help you develop your outdoor skills. They’ll also allow your kids to enjoy new experiences in a structured environment, says Barb Pontes, the certification operations manager at canfitpro, the leading certification for the fitness industry in Canada. And because the trip is scheduled ahead of time, you can choose one that suits your family’s unique tastes and experience levels, whether that’s a laid-back tour suitable for younger kids or something more active and challenging for athletic families with older children.

2. Get out on the water

In Canada, we’re blessed with an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams, and this summer is the perfect time to explore them. Paddling a canoe or kayak is not only fun and relaxing, it’s also great for strength and cardiovascular endurance, says Pontes.

If you’re new to boating, head to your nearest provincial or national park to give it a try; most parks let you rent the boat and lifejackets. Already experienced in a canoe? Try canoe camping or portaging for a more intense summer adventure.

3. Build fitness into your sightseeing

It’s worth noting that you can easily incorporate fitness into virtually any vacation. “Walk everywhere,” advises Pontes. “And take advantage of living like a local.” Most medium and large cities offer free outdoor fitness classes in the summer, so you can sightsee in the city’s parks as you sweat. Consider signing up for a family-friendly race during your trip, or for walking tours so you can soak up the local culture of your destination and learn about its history, while staying active at the same time.

4. Master the healthy staycation

A fit family vacation doesn’t need to be expensive or even require much travel at all. If you have young children or are only beginning to gain outdoor experience, a staycation can be satisfying and inexpensive: Enjoy a day trip to the beach or a national or provincial park. Cycle or hike a picturesque local trail. These mini-getaways can give you the relaxation benefits of a vacation, without the more involved planning (and higher cost) that goes into a full-blown trip.

Make the most of your summer travels

Here are a few tips to make your own summer vacation a fit and fun success:

  • Realistically assess your family’s fitness levels before you start planning. Taking on too much, too soon can put a damper on the rest of your trip. If your family is relatively new to camping, for example, try a short 1- or 2-night trip or a guided tour, instead of a week-long excursion on your own.
  • Train ahead of time. If you’re planning a vacation that is much more active than your family’s typical lifestyle, follow a training plan leading up to the trip. Consider working with a certified fitness professional to increase your fitness beforehand so that you can get the most out of your vacation.
  • Prepare logistical details in advance. Plan your trip early so you have plenty of time to get vaccinated, purchase travel insurance if you're travelling out-of-province and pick up any equipment you need.
  • Balance your vacation schedule. Non-stop activity can quickly become exhausting, so be sure to schedule downtime into your trip to avoid burn-out. Young children will often need extra rest, says Pontes, while older kids will likely benefit from a bit of quiet time between activities.
  • Keep safety in mind. Any outdoor excursion requires packing the proper safety equipment to protect your family. Read What to pack for a safe camping trip for a checklist of outdoor safety essentials.