Outward Bound

The 5280 field guide to taking your child’s learning outside of the classroom—and into the world. 

August 2015

—Jan Von Holleben / Trunk Archive


After six weeks in Costa Rica with two kids under the age of six, Boulder mom Sabina Mackay dishes on what her family learned along the way.

1. Pack a set of PJs instead of extra clothes. They are infinitely more comfortable and easy to squash into a backpack, and people love seeing kids running around in jammies at any time of the day. 

2. Bring a lightweight, hands-free baby carrier, such as the Boba 4G Carrier, instead of a stroller. It’s easier to carry your kid kangaroo-style and let her walk when she wants than to haul around a four-wheeled anchor. (Plus, you can often rent a stroller at your destination.)

3. Skip the suitcase of stuffed animals in favor of lightweight coloring books and paperbacks, and scavenge for toys when you get to your destination. Paper plates can become art canvases. Solo cups help mold sand castles. Or let the kids play dress up with your clothes. 

4. Rent a house and cook in whenever possible. It helps kids get into a routine and ensures fewer restaurant meltdowns. 

5. Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all vacation. Your teenager may want to trek through a humid rainforest while your toddler just wants to play in the wade pool. Ask older kids to pick one activity that is really important to them. Make sure that happens—and encourage them to offer the same courtesy to the rest of the crew. 

—Courtesy of Sabina McKay


One Denver kid visited four countries during his first year—and he was just getting started.

Name: Mateo De Pril

Age: Six years old

Countries Visited: Seven (Greece, Denmark, Costa Rica, France, Belgium, Mexico, and Italy)

Biggest Adventures:

  • 10 days of harvesting olives in Greece
  • Ordering “moules” (mussels) in France at the age of four
  • Sleeping in a “palapa”—an open-side dwelling—in a Mexican jungle

Next Trip: Machu Picchu in Peru

Words from Mom: “I don’t get the sense that any of these things feel daunting to him,” Heather Nielsen says. “I think he is beginning to see the world. I’m not daunted by taking him. It’s just an adventure for us. As a result of all of this, I don’t know what kind of person he is going to be, but he’s adaptable.”