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Many families are now looking for more adventure oriented destinations as part of a

Travelling with older children and teenagers brings a whole new aspect to the Family Vacation.  Adventure vacations are becoming a popular way for families to enjoy time together, broaden your horizons with new experiences and meet many fascinating people. 

The experience of riding on the open range, sharing a campfire meal, getting to know your horse and enjoying a real western vacation is something your family will never forget.

Activities at a dude ranch can include horseback riding, hay rides, learning to rope, cattle herding, campfires, rodeo and gymkhana activities.

These tips are designed to encourage families to consider a dude ranch vacation as a holiday destination that can offer many rewards. 

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Planning a Dude Ranch Vacation

Dude Ranch vacations allow families a chance to experience some of what the early pioneers and cowboys of the west experienced during the days of the Wild West.  The chance to ride on the open range, view spectacular unspoiled scenery, enjoy some down home cooking and spend time away from the pressures of modern life have lead to a resurgence of this vacation option for families. 

It is important to take the time to plan and research your dude ranch destination.  Each dude ranch is decidedly different, with their own special character and facilities.  Choosing the right ranch can give your family a once in a lifetime vacation that you will treasure for years to come.

Some tips to consider when planning your Dude Ranch Vacation:

  • Use the internet to research dude vacations.  Doing this will allow you to check out the different dude ranches, see what they have to offer and develop a list of questions that will help you to decide on a destination.  Check with area Dude Ranch Associations.  See Web Links for Dude Ranch Vacations.

  • Decide what type of dude ranch vacation your family is looking for - do you want a really rustic ranch where guests will be expected to pitch in with cattle herding or are you looking for a ranch that includes a pool, supervised children's programs, tennis and other activities.  Many ranches focus on the riding as the central activity while others have the horseback riding as just one of available activities.

  • Check ages for riders.  Typically ranches will not let children under 6 go on horseback riding expeditions.  If this is the case, are your children old enough to take part or do you need to look at child care or supervised activities being available.

  • It is a good idea to know what other activities are available so that you can plan on bringing the necessities for those activities.

  • Ask what the typical weather conditions are and also what the usual extremes are.

  • Are you flying or driving to your ranch destination.  This may affect where and how far from home you want to go.  Find out where the nearest airport is.  Will you be able to take a direct flight or do you need to transfer to a regional airline?  Will the ranch pick you up at the local airport or do you need to make arrangements such as renting a car?

  • Many ranches are located in very scenic areas that may be far from any stores or shopping.   It is a good idea to find out how far away the nearest town is and plan on what you need to take with you to the ranch.

  • Geographical areas can add very different elements to a dude ranch vacation.  Do some research into the area's history, climate, flora and fauna.  For example, if you would like an opportunity to maybe see a moose, you would want to select a dude ranch in a region that is more northerly located - say in North Dakota as opposed to Arizona, where you are more likely to see an armadillo.  This will also give your family some insight into the region before going there.

  • If your family has any special dietary needs it is a good idea to check with the ranches directly to see if they can accommodate your requirements.

  • Find out what is included in the ranch vacation package - are all meals and activities included.

  • Do accommodations have some cooking facilities or are all meals included.

  • Many dude ranch proprietors have a very hands on approach to running their ranches.  Their personalities form an integral part of the ranch's activities and atmosphere.  It is also their homes and as such you will be spending time with them.  You may even want to talk directly to the ranch owner before making your decision.

  • Have the ranches that you are interested in send you brochures and even ask if they have a guest guide to send you.

  • Ask if there are any times when a local rodeo may be taking place as an outing during your vacation.

  • Check out dude ranch web sits - see Dude Ranch Vacation Links

 

 

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Preparing Your Family for a Dude Ranch Vacation

 

Getting ready to spend a week riding, roping and experiencing cowboy life can be quite a change for most people.  Here are some tips that can help prepare you and your family to make the most of your wild west vacation:

 

President's Tip:  While it isn't necessary and most ranches are very good at taking green riders and teaching them the basics, I wanted to be a bit more prepared.   I took the time to have my sons become familiar with horses by giving them riding lessons.  This gave them an opportunity to become comfortable with the horses, their movements and their workings.  I also took some lessons in the months leading to our dude ranch vacation - while I rode a lot as a youngster it had been a few years and I wanted to remind my muscles what to do.

 

Remind children that horses can be unpredictable and that they must follow instructions from the wranglers at all times.   Children should never be near the horses or other animals unsupervised.

 

Discuss the vacation with your family.  That means all aspects of the vacation, from meals, the horses, your expectations of their behavior, facilities - and if you are camping out - using the washroom in the wilds can be a new experience that may require some adjustment, to safety issues such as wearing helmets and safety procedures around the horses and nature situations that you may encounter.

 

Helmets are a very important piece of safety equipment and should not be overlooked.  Many ranches may provide them or you will want to bring your own.  When you think about it, you are riding much higher than on your bike and you wouldn't want to ride your bike without a helmet.

 

Everyone should have a pair of boots that have a heel, a hat or preferably a riding helmet to wear for riding.  Long pants are a must as well.  Most ranches will provide rain slickers and some have helmets available.

 

It is great if you can get some books from the library that can teach your family about the gear you will be using - for example the parts of the saddle, bridle and horse.

 

 

 

 

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Packing for a Dude Ranch Vacation

 

Here is a list of some of the must haves to pack for your dude ranch vacation:

 

 

 

 

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Altitude Illness

This is something that a lot of parents are not aware of.  Altitude Illness occurs when the body does not adjust well to having less oxygen to breathe at higher altitudes.  Anyone can be affected by it, not just children.  To reduce the risk of this affliction, consider ascending to high altitudes in gradual steps to allow the body to adjust.  Dehydration can increase the risk of altitude illness, make sure everyone drinks plenty of fluids.  If any member of the family has a predisposed illness, check with your doctor before you go on holiday.  Medicines are available to help prevent this illness and you should consult your doctor.

Common symptoms of Altitude Illness are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.  

Other symptoms can include poor appetite, vomiting, and trouble sleeping as well as pale, cool skin.

Watch for changes in behaviour in children.  Children can exhibit symptoms more quickly and become much sicker than adults.

An unusual and uncommon form of Altitude Illness causes fluid to collect in the lungs.  If a family member exhibits a cough that becomes wetter, breathing becomes difficult and faster as well as a faster heart beat, IMMEDIATELY SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.

If you suspect Altitude Illness, SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.   You may need to descend to a lower altitude to relieve symptoms or mild symptoms may be relieved by rest and eating lightly.  

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Dude Ranch Vacation Links

Some of the tips on this page are courtesy of the following web sites.  These websites can provide you with more information on planning a dude ranch vacation.

www.veebar.com - we gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Lefty Cole and all those at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch for their assistance in making these tips possible and for giving us an opportunity to test them. Click here to learn more about the Vee Bar Guest Ranch.

All Tips are offered as suggestions only

While we have tried to provide you with a list of suggestions to help parents when travelling with children to keep them safe, unfortunately, we can’t think of everything and it is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children’s safety.

 

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