If you are planning a family vacation on bicycles, there are plenty of organizations that can help with everything from mapping out your route to riding tips.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (www.railtrails.org) has an excellent route finder, www.traillink.com. It allows you to search for a trail by location or by geography. The site contains general descriptions of the trails and usually has links to community Web sites that have more detailed activities and maps. Its main Web site is also a great resource for families interested in bicycling. In addition, its quarterly publication, Rails to Trails Magazine, features detailed destination information as well. It also distributes a brochure, Destination Rail-Trails, which describes some great trails for families.
The Adventure Cycling Association (http://www.adventurecycling.org), founded in 1973 as the Bikecentennial, features routes and their descriptions on its Web site. It is also a great resource with plenty of how-tos for novices.
To Rent — or Not to Rent?
Generally speaking it's better to bring your own bikes, especially if you're driving (shipping by air is expensive). Bike rentals can be of uneven quality and availability, especially for children. However, many bike trails carry information about area bike rentals, if you do opt to rent, research your options in advance to make sure your family gets the equipment it needs.
On the Trail
Biking is a demanding physical activity and parents should make sure they are adequately prepared. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recommends the following:
1. Snacks. Bring healthy snacks, such as granola bars and apples. 2. Water. Bring a lot. Even when temperatures cool, you'll need to keep drinking it, so fill bottles at every opportunity. 3. Identification. Carry your ID and consider bringing emergency telephone contact numbers and your blood type. 4. Cash. Little country stores might not take credit cards, this way you can buy some hot dogs and ice cream. 5. Directions. Bring a trail guide and map (see resources). They make it harder to get lost and easier to find scenic look-outs or good stopping off points. 6. First aid. Bring Band-Aids and a patch kit for your bike tires. 7. Sun screen and a hat. Harmful UV rays can burn or cause sun damage even on cool or cloudy days. 8. Cameras. You'll want photos. 9. Light. Bring headlamps (flashlights are okay but not as good) for going through the old railroad tunnels found on many trails. 10. Carry-out bag. Pack it in, pack it out. Be sure to bring a trash bag.
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