Five Must-Ask Questions When Selecting an Outfitter for a Family Whitewater Rafting Trip

A whitewater rafting trip with kids is one of the best active family vacations around. These trips are available around the world, so you may not have to travel far to join one. A bigger issue is deciding which company to trust for the experience. I’m using the word “trust” intentionally here. Whitewater rafting trips involve real risk and selecting the right outfitter is serious business.

Add kids to the mix and the decision is more complicated. Not all outfitters are created equal when it comes to ensuring that a trip is kid-friendly. We had a phenomenal experience rafting down the Main Fork of the Salmon River with Middle Fork River Expeditions. Our fun, safety, and comfort was 100% due to the quality of our outfitter.

I asked James Ellsworth, the owner of Middle Fork River Expeditions and a longtime rafting expert, for his suggestions about the must-ask questions when families choose a whitewater river outfitter. Here’s what he had to say:

guides for a family whitewater rafting trip

Excellent guides are the key to a successful trip

Essential Questions When Selecting an Outfitter for a Family Whitewater Rafting Trip

1.  How long have you been in business and what is the average of the years your guides have been guiding?

You want to go with an outfitter who has a track record and moreover, a company that uses experienced guides. Middle Fork River Expeditions’ guide average is 15 years.

2. Do you have a kid-friendly menu?

There are no other options outside the food that is provided on a rafting trip so it’s important to have a selection of adult and kid-friendly fare. Too gourmet doesn’t work and too simple means the parents will be bored with the food.

3. Do your trips cater to families?

Catering to families means having kid-friendly supplies and a game bag for camp, as well as having guides who understand that kids need special attention.  A mix of younger guides is great for teenagers and guides should be excited to organize everything from freeze tag, musical chairs, i.e. fun for kids during the time off the river.

4. Do you provide everything for the trip, including all camping gear?

Middle Fork River Expeditions has extremely nice equipment from the rafts, to the tents, to the sleeping bags. They provide everything which makes it easy for families to participate without a long list of additional expenses. If you do plan to use sleeping bags provided by an outfitter, make sure they are washed after every trip.

5. Are you’re your guides swiftwater rescue certified?

Adequately trained guides are a must. Visit Wilderness Rescue International for more information.

Family-Adventure-Vacations-Guide-Cover

Get More Tips Around Family Adventure Vacations

The Smart Parents Guide to Family Adventure Vacations is an excellent source for information on how and why to take an adventure trip with kids. Some of these trips are active and some just involve heading to remote destinations. Either way, our guide provides a great foundation to get the planning process started.

Photo by Amie O’Shaughnessy

Relevant Links:

 Middle Fork River Expeditions homepage

Family Adventure Travel on Ciao Bambino

3 Comments

  1. One crucial question to ask on any group adventure vacation is, “What are the gender and ages of other children signed up?” The right social dynamic can really aid any rafting trip (for the adults as well as the kids). On our OARS trip on the Rogue River, the OARS scheduling office helped us pick just the right trip dates based on our kids’ ages. We ended up on a trip with all boys ages 8-12…perfect for us! For those shopping for great rafting trips, here’s our review: http://pitstopsforkids.com/2013/07/guided-rafting-trips-rogue-river/

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