How to Adventure Without the Kids

At Tales of a Mountain Mama we are all about helping more families get outside together. We love providing you with information and inspiration for family adventuring, and we want to make sure the adults are covered too.

When adults get outside for some kid-free adventuring on any level, we are taking a break from actively parenting, while also caring for our physical and mental health, building our adventuring community, modeling for our kids, and, often, learning and practicing skills that we can pass on to our kids. 

Whether you are needing some inspiration for solo time outside, adventure dates with a partner, group adventures, or classes and training, we’ve got you covered.

A couple stands on a bluff above a river.

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Know the Why: Benefits of Kid-Free Adventures for Parents

Physical Health

On the first day of our ski season this year my husband and I agreed that we both got a decent workout in, but zero adult-level skiing. Between schlepping kids and gear, squatting awkwardly with our mini skiers between our legs, and all of the other crouching and bending and hoisting that comes with adventures with kids, I was sore the next day.

I’m not sure how much this counts as actual exercise and how much it counts as the mere physical nature of having little kids, but more and more my body seems to call for proper, adult-level exercise. Maybe it knows I need to keep moving to keep up with the little ones. Or maybe it’s because a lot of our time outside is spent moseying around, exploring, and stopping to investigate anything that catches the eye as we encourage our tiny explorers.

Whether it is a solo walk or cross-country ski, a couple of chairlift laps, or a kid-free hike I have realized how good it feels to push myself a little harder physically on adult-level adventures than I can with my young children in tow.

Mental Health

Have you ever gone outside with or without your kids and noticed that the fresh air and change of scenery calms everyone’s moods?

While this is certainly part of what makes time outside a parenting super-tool, imagine the boost you would get for yourself if this time outside lasted a bit longer, went at your pace, did not require you to be actively parenting, and came with the proven mental health benefits of exercise.

Kid-free adventure time can do great things for mama’s mental health, including giving a huge mood boost, a confidence boost that translates into confident parenting, and a connection to adventurous pre-kid identity.

Learning and Practicing Skills

Kid-free adventures offer a great opportunity to learn new skills or practice skills you already know. For starters, we are able to move at an adult pace which means we can push ourselves a bit harder. We also have the mental space to focus on what we are learning or practicing and to ask questions as they come up, as we aren’t multi-tasking with caring for kids, teaching them skills, and trying to pick up important knowledge for ourselves.

Building Community

As we begin to step into adventures without the kids, we will start meeting like-minded adults and building our own adventure community. I think it is a common experience that building friendships becomes harder the further into adulthood we get. Starting with common ground by taking a class, signing up for a skills clinic, or joining a running/hiking/skiing club ensures that you will be surrounded by people with that same shared love.

After making these initial leaps, having this community can be instrumental in holding us accountable to prioritize the activity or sport we love. This community can also provide us with opportunities to find a mentor or be a mentor for outdoor skills we are working on, and give us people to work through challenges with.

Modeling for Your Kids

When we are able to work kid-free adventure time into our lives, we are modeling for our kids how to take care of yourself, how to build community, how to continue to follow passions and interests into adulthood, and what outdoor adventure can look like in adulthood.

Just as we model other skills that speak to our family values- like healthy eating habits, charitable giving, and time management- we can remember that if outdoor adventure is part of our values we must model it in a well-rounded way if we want our children to truly learn and understand that value.

Having a Reprieve From Actively Parenting

For the first time, I committed to a kid-free, ladies backcountry ski weekend this winter. This felt like such a big step for me, as kid-free adventure up to this point has been either hot springs nights away with my husband or short stints of outdoor time solo or with a friend.

While I was debating going for various reasons, my husband reminded me that even if I don’t learn a ton of new backcountry skills, I will be able to meet other like-minded women and I will have two nights and days of break from my kiddo’s needs. As he highlighted this I realized how rejuvenating that will feel for me as a full-time caregiver for my kids, and how rejuvenating it would feel for parents who aren’t full-time with their kids but instead work all day and then pivot into parenting.

For parents in any circumstance, a break from actively parenting, even if it’s not for a multi-day trip, helps curb parental burnout, widens our perspective about parenting challenges, brings gratitude to our job as parents and time with our kids and to our moments to ourselves, and allows us to tune into our own individual needs and connect with parts of our identity and community outside of parenting.

A woman wades through a shallow riverbed.

Common Barriers

If you are feeling like there is one barrier after another to getting outside to adventure without your kids, you are not alone! I think it’s safe to say that every single adventurous parent encounters barriers they have to overcome to get some adult-level adventuring in. A few common barriers to adventuring without the kids are:

  • Time
  • Childcare
  • Budget
  • Social and Emotional, including community, identity after kids, and guilt
  • Physical
  • Skills and Knowledge

Overcoming Common Barriers

Just as we need lots of information and inspiration to keep getting outside with the kids, so it is to get outside without the kids. Many times, the same tips and tricks can apply to both types of adventuring. Check out our post with 20 Tips to Get Outside More, and let’s take a look at some ideas for overcoming these common barriers.

Time

Carving out time for ourselves as parents can feel like a monumental challenge when there are so many demands on our time.

Just as with fitting in adventures with our kids, sometimes the easiest way to start is with the micro-adventure. If lack of time is holding you back, start super small. If you only have 10 minutes, take a solo walk or run around the block and build up from there.

These little bits of solo time will help you get into the habit of prioritizing time outside without the kiddos so you can start building up to bigger adventures.

Childcare

Coordinating childcare for adventures without the kids can be a big added layer for so many parents. If you have family members nearby or other consistent childcare options outside of your work hours, start utilizing these resources for building up your kid-free adventure time.

If you are going adventuring without your partner, set up a system for making sure you each get some solo time. This could mean one weekend morning each month each parent gets time slotted for outdoor adventure while the other parent hangs with the kiddos.

This works great on a smaller scale as well and on family adventures where parents want some adult-level time outside. This can be trading off on ski days so each parent gets at least a couple of runs in or going on a solo hike or bike ride for an hour on a family camping trip. In my marriage, sometimes this means one of us grabbing the time opportunity when it arises, but most of the time it means setting up systems to make this work. Make a plan ahead of time together.

Our most frequently used trade-off system right now is for ski days. Right when we arrive, one of us jumps out and gets a couple runs in while the other bundles up the kids and gets them and gear to the lodge or the meeting place we decided on. Then we do one-on-one with our kids as one is skiing and the other is still too young. We meet back up for lunch. The parent who skied first feeds the kids while the other parent skis a couple runs. Then we swap our one-on-one, or hang out all together and play in the snow.

A woman in a helmet in goggles in the snow.

This is sure not the carefree run-after-run ski days of our pre-kids life, but with communication and trial and error this system has worked to afford us both some ski time every time we go, even with a one and four year old in tow.

You can also consider this type of childcare trade system with adventurous friends so you and your partner can get some time outside together, and next time your friend can get that time while you watch his or her kiddos.

Budget

When we consider budget barriers to outdoor recreation, there are usually two big ones: having the money for the gear you need, and having the money for other parts of the adventure like training, lodging and food, or group fees.

As we mentioned with overcoming the other barriers, starting with basics applies to budget barriers too. If you are starting by building the habit of adventuring without the kids and finding time and systems that work for your family, you can start with the most basic gear that you already own. You can build the habit of kid-free time outside by taking a walk, run, or a quick bike ride.

If you are trying a new outdoor activity, do some research on where you can rent or borrow gear near you. Check out:

  • REI or other outdoor retailers
  • Ski and bike shops
  • Community centers or recreation centers
  • local moms group online or ‘active women’ groups

If you have the goal to set out on bigger adventures but are lacking the funds, consider starting an ‘adventure fund’ within your family’s budget. This is the same idea as the envelope system, but can be done digitally. Instead of putting a small amount of money in an envelope to save for one certain thing, consider opening an additional account and setting up a small auto transfer. It’s amazing how quickly even 50 cents or a dollar per day will add up that is then earmarked intentionally for your kid-free adventure time and gear fund.

Social and Emotional

Social and emotional barriers to outdoor adventuring run through such a wide range. Here are a few common ones.

Building community

Building your community of like-minded adventurers will go a long way in helping you achieve your goal of getting out without the kids. Having a community makes outdoor adventures a social affair and keeps you accountable for doing what you have set out to do. You will also often connect with people of varying skill levels within your outdoor adventure community, which means you might benefit from finding a mentor, or from being a mentor.

You can do a few things to kickstart building your community. Check online for any ‘active women’ groups in your area and keep an eye out for classes and workshops offered at gear stores, REI, the library, community center, community college, or ski area. Put yourself out there to other adults you meet that like to play outside too; it may be that you are both looking for an adventurous friend.

Identity and Confidence after Kids

For many mamas, the identity shift that happens after kids can feel really intense and can often mess with our confidence in certain areas of our identity. It can feel uncomfortable to get back to doing things we did before kids and to get back to time to ourselves. This can feel like an even bigger leap if we are starting a new sport or type of adventure.

You can start integrating your mama identity and your adventurer identity by starting with familiar activities and sports, and starting small.

One of the wonderful things about getting back to some of those pre-kid pieces of identity is that you connect with a part of yourself that may have been dormant and you get a chance to integrate the huge new piece of your identity (mother) with aspects of your identity that were there before.

This alone can be such a huge confidence-builder; there is just something satisfying about being able to be who you have always been, then go home and get to be a parent too.

Guilt

Guilt is a very common barrier to parents getting time away from the kids. Those guilty thoughts might show up for you in the form of doubting if this is truly the best way to spend your time and money, if this is fair to your partner and kids, or if your kids needs will be met if you are not the one meeting them.

There is a lot of advice out there about how to set aside mom guilt. For our purposes of letting go of guilt so you can get outside, this is another barrier where starting small can do such big things. When you head out for 30 minutes outside without the kids, you will likely come home and find that many of the fears causing your guilt did not come to fruition. As you see this time and time again you will gain the confidence to let go of the guilt around taking this time for yourself and your guilt-free mama adventures will expand.

To take the initial leap even when you feel nervous and guilty, mark your adventure on the calendar and commit to it, get a mama friend on board to hold you accountable and be a listening ear for your struggles, and check out our affirmation cards for getting outside.

A woman smiles while hiking in the forest.

Physical

You might be perfectly comfortable on a toddler-paced hike, a long stroller walk, or a few short ski runs but find that when it comes to adult-level adventuring your mama body and energy level is much different than it was pre-kids.

Remind yourself that this body has done incredible things, whether it is growing and birthing a human, breastfeeding, surviving your kid’s sleep struggles, or schlepping them and their gear on adventures.

Work with where you are and build up from there. If you have the goal of taking a yurt trip with friends or running a trail race, give yourself ample time before your adventure to get to a fitness level you feel comfortable and confident with.

If you are facing ongoing physical challenges related to birth, even long after birth, talk with your doctor and consider seeing a pelvic health physical therapist. These professionals can help with cesarean scar and tissue mobility, pelvic floor health, back pain, and much more.

Skills and Knowledge Barriers

If you are feeling like you need to add to your skills and knowledge in any adventure area, keep an eye out for classes in your area. Some super helpful classes to look for are:

  • Wildnerness First Aid
  • Wilderness First Responder
  • Ski and Snowboard lessons and clinics
  • Avalanche awareness classes and clinics
  • Paddle Clinics

How to Adventure Without the Kids

A couple stands together at a mountain lake.

Know Your Common Barriers and Solutions

As you start to look at the logistics of adventuring without the kids, it’s helpful to take a look at any patterns you see in the barriers specific to your family and brainstorm solutions with your partner, a friend, or other family members.

Choose Your Top Priority Adventure

As you establish the habit of adventuring without the kids, spend some time thinking about your top priority adventure. It may be that you are working toward a goal, like running a race or setting up a multi-day boat trip with friends. Or it may be that you want peaceful time in nature, no matter the activity that gets you that.

Choosing one area to focus on as you start will help you use resources like time and childcare efficiently, help you set a plan for small steps to reach a bigger goal, and help you really get your systems down for that specific type of adventure or goal.

Set up Your Systems

Address Specific Barriers and Solutions

Although there are a lot of common barriers to getting out without the kids, each adventure may not come with the same barriers. As you start planning your priority adventure, taking even 10 minutes to think through or write down any barriers to this adventure will help ensure that you find solutions.

I would recommend running through the list of common barriers above and brainstorming a solution for each. Childcare might be easy for a certain adventure but you may need to take a class to build your skills in that area. Or maybe you have expert-level skills for the adventure you are planning but you need to find some extra money in the budget for it.

Set a Date or Build in Regular Time

Part of adventuring without the kids is taking bits of time as they arise, and part of it is planning and setting a date, especially for bigger adventures. While finding spontaneous time and childcare for a 30 minute run or a few chairlift laps might be do-able for your family, even something like a half-day hike will take more forethought. And, of course, overnight trips away will take a lot of planning.

It can feel so easy to utilize the time we have to give our kids a chance to be outside and grow their skills, and to let our adult-only time fall through the cracks. It can help to remember that taking this time for ourselves, even if we could so easily make it a family day, models for our kids what lifelong adventuring looks like, lets us grow our skills, and gives us a chance to turn our brain off from actively parenting.

For some families, setting a date for any level of adventuring without the kids, and putting it on the calendar, can work really well.This also gives you time to wrangle a friend and make sure gear is up to date.

You can also consider you and your partner each having one standing chunk of time each month for adult-level time outside. For example, you can set up a system where each of you can count on one weekend morning a month set aside for an outdoor adventure solo or with friends. You can set up this same type of system for adventures with your partner so you know well ahead of time that you will have an adventure together every month/ quarter/ season.

Prep like You Would with Your Kids

Just as when we are planning to get out with our kids in tow, the more we can do ahead of time to ready ourselves for adventures without the kids the smoother our exit will be and the more time we get to spend actually outside. Even for an outing that we consider a micro-adventure on the adult level, being well-prepared is essential. Here’s a quick prep list to reference:

  • Make sure you have planned your outing thoroughly, knowing the location, weather, and any unique circumstances in the area like road work. Also know specifics related to your adventure, like water levels if you’re getting on the river and the avalanche forecast if you are heading into the backcountry.
  • Communicate your plan to a partner, friend, or family member.
  • Lay out your clothes the night before.
  • Gather your gear and pack your pack the night before, including your ten essentials.
  • Pack your food and drinks the night before.
A woman stands near a large rock with a hiking pack on.

Ideas to Get You Started

There truly are so many adult-level adventures to choose from, and if you are an outdoorsy parent and family this is probably not news to you. However, sometimes we get so deep into kid-level adventure we forget what’s out there for ourselves, or we are at a loss as to what might work during this season of life when we do have more barriers to getting outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Solo Adventures Without the Kids

One of my favorite things about solo adventures as a married woman is that the childcare barrier disappears because my husband can watch the kids. This is also a great way for me to clear my head and be with my own thoughts, which often helps me reset and prioritize. And lastly, for someone that never played outside solo before kids, every solo adventure outside feels like a big confidence boost. Solo adventures without the kids might be:

  • Take a walk, run, or bike ride
  • Go for a hike
  • Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing
  • Take a few chairlift laps, or a whole ski day
  • Go backpacking
A woman stands in a wooded area near a waterfall.

Adventures With Your Partner

Adventuring with your partner is such a nourishing way to reconnect and, if you were both outdoorsy before kids, to reminisce and to rekindle that part of your pre-parenting identity together. If you are friends with another outdoorsy couple, consider setting up a childcare swap so you can all get some time outside with partners. If your kiddos are in daycare or school, try for a weekday adventure with your partner without the kids in tow. While any of the above ideas can be great fun with a partner, check out these awesome date ideas for outdoorsy couples, and add the ideas below to your list too!

  • Visit a hot springs together for the day or overnight
  • Picnic in any season. Bring a nice picnic board and drinks on a bike ride, hike, cross-country ski, or canoe adventure.
  • Go rock climbing or to a climbing gym.
A couple soaks in a mountain hot springs.

Adventures With Friends

Again any of the above ideas are great adult-only adventures, but some adventures really lend themselves to groups. If your priority adventure involves a community and/ or overnighting away from the kiddos, check out some of these options.

  • Take a hut or yurt trip in any season.
  • Go camping
  • Go bike-packing
  • Go backpacking
  • Go alpine or nordic skiing, or snowshoeing
  • Go rock climbing
A group of adults cross-country skis in the forest.

Best Gear for Adventurous Adults

Before you head out for adventures without the kids, check out our posts on gear for adults to make sure you have everything you need.

As a community of outdoor families, we highly value getting outside together. This brings so much opportunity to bond as a family, to be nature stewards together, and to learn and practice tons of skills.

We encourage you to identify and overcome your personal barriers to adventuring without the kids, find and outdoor community just for you, and take the time to rejuvenate your body and mind, and level up your own outdoor skills.

Your kids will benefit from seeing what lifelong adventuring and learning looks like, and from having a parent fulfilled, with their personal needs met. Trust us, they’ll thank you later!

A group of women relaxes on snow tubes.

How to Adventure Without the Kids

© 2024, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author. 

Author

    by
  • Cece Romanyshyn is a Colorado native currently living in Baker City, Oregon with her husband and two sons. She grew up camping and skiing with her family, and kept adventuring through adulthood. She has enjoyed camping, hiking, skiing, and boating in the western United States, hiking in Ecuador, DIY safaris in East Africa, boating on the rivers of Southeast Asia, and exploring nature and culture during Peace Corps service in Mozambique. She loves connecting with her little family on all sorts of adventures from daily walks and river play to ski days to camping road trips, boating, and hut trips. With the confidence, joy, and well-being brought about in these spaces, time outside together has become a parenting power tool for her.

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