When you show up at the airport these days, just getting on the plane is an adventure. It reminds me of travel in parts of the third world where you need a pocket full of bribe money, extra time to get anywhere, the mental fortitude to patiently handle whatever you encounter - and a sense of humor.
Remember when air travel was fun?
First they ding you for your checked luggage. Ok, if we all travel lighter, the airplanes use less fuel. It also gives the marketing departments at airlines like Southwest endless advantage over the other carriers: they just advertise NOT doing what the other airlines are doing. Now Southwest advertises, “Your 1st and 2nd checked bags are free only with Southwest Airlines!”
More recently, Spirit Airlines unveiled a plan to charge for carry-on bags. Anything that goes in the overhead bin will cost passengers $45, almost double the cost of a checked bag. Some items will be exempt from the rule including “umbrellas, coats, cameras, car seats, strollers, medicine, reading material and food for immediate consumption. “ I can just see the new travel luggage that looks like a Burger King go-bag but is actually a high-quality roller bag, and jackets with pocket capacity for a 2-day trip.
Now Ryanair, a low-cost European carrier is taking the next step: charging passengers to use the toilet! And they are trying to get aviation authorities to allow them to redesign the cabin with only one toilet to make room for more seats. If passed, the new ratio will be 189 seats for one toilet! In an article in Business Week, the Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary rationalizes: "The purpose of charging for the toilets is to change peoples' behaviour," he said. The company sees profit in the theory that by giving people incentive to use airport toilets before they depart, it would be able to remove two out of the three toilets on each plane, making space for six additional seats. Seats they can sell.
Who are they kidding? Changing people's bodily functions? Everyone I know already tries to avoid using the cramped cabin toilets by using the airport toilets just before boarding. I don't know of anybody who waits to get ON the plane to use the toilet. I can just see Southwest Airline’s next slogan: “Use the toilet for free!”
Do you think this family is waiting until they board to use the toilet?
The nice thing for us at CMH is that these trends in the air travel industry make our all-inclusive approach and helicopter travel seem that much more refreshing. Just show up for a CMH Summer Adventure and we’ll take care of the rest. Sure, we charge additional for massages and alcohol, but everything else is part of our award-winning adventure travel package. We’re not about to start charging for the spa, nor do we charge rental fees for our fleet of comfortable hiking boots and warm jackets. We don’t charge for mountaineering or via ferrata equipment use during our high-flying summer adventures – or for using the toilet.
Photos by Topher Donahue
At first glance, it seems that kids are natural adventurers, but so many of our modern adventures entail adult-oriented elements like goals and schedules that seem, at first glance, to be incompatible with childhood. To get a bit of insight into how kids these days like adventure vacations, I tracked down Lyle Grisedale, a CMH summer guide who began taking people into the mountains in 1961 and has been doing it ever since. I figured if anybody knows about families having adventures together in the mountains, it is Lyle.
TD: First of all, how do kids do on adventure vacations?
LG: Kids do very well on mountain adventures. Kids from city environments are usually completely blown away by the experience. Kids from rural environments may have a better idea of what the mountain environment is like, but they too are really excited about mountain adventures. Of course the helicopter is the icing on the cake, I have yet to meet a kid who is not excited by a helicopter ride.
TD: What kinds of things can parents do before a mountain adventue to make sure everyone has fun?
LG: The best pre-trip thing a parent can do is to get the kids away from computer and TV and out walking, thus their feet and minds are toughened up a bit. Most kids use backpacks for school these days so carrying their lunch and an extra sweater is easy for them. However, if they don't use a backpack for school it might be a good idea to get one and have the kids wear it while walking around town just to get used to the way it feels.
TD: What kinds of tricks do you use to get kids into the mountain experience?
LG: Usually tricks are not required but sometimes they are useful, especially with younger kids who tend to have shorter attention spans. I have many games up my sleeve for these moments. Most kids are enthusiastic about learning about nature so I always incorporate teaching opportunities into the adventure. Stopping to investigate animal tracks, bear digs, identifying flowers and maybe sampling edible plants is just enough of a diversion to keep the kids enthusiastic about exploring the next ridge. One of my favourite tricks involves dental floss. When the horse flies are bugging us we'll catch a few and slip a little leash around their heads. Then each kid can have their own personal pet horse fly on a leash.
TD: If a family has never done any kind of outdoor adventure together before, is a CMH Family Adventure a good first step?
LG: A CMH Family Adventure is a great way to start them on a healthy and educational experience that can lead to a lifetime of fitness and learning. Mother Nature has the best classroom in the world and exploring this classroom is both mentally and physically rewarding. I'd say everyone should have a mountain experience, and heli-hiking and the rest of our summer adventures are the most comfortable way to get out there.
TD: What is your favourite part of guiding CMH Summer Adventures?
LG: One of the biggest thrills for me is seeing how blown away both parents and kids are on their first experience in the mountains. It’s not uncommon for our guests to have tears in their eyes when it comes time to go back to the real world.
I am an avid educator and it is very gratifying to expose people to the intricacies of the mountain environment. Of course meeting new people and having fun with them in the mountains is wonderful, I have good friends all over the world as a result of taking people into the mountains and working for CMH. Being a guide is the best job in the world!
These days Lyle guides summer wilderness adventures in both the CMH Bobbie Burns and CMH Bugaboos, but his experiences include most of the mountain ranges in western Canada including Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Glacier, Mt. Revelstoke and Waterton National Parks. He's not the only one who believes kids need time outdoors - check out this writeup on Nature Deficit Disorder.