Our family attempted geocaching a few years ago. I thought it would be a fun activity to do together, and the hidden treasure aspect was exciting for all of us. But alas, the kids were a bit too young, and our phones were a bit too outdated, and we flew too close to the sun. It was a disaster. We may have built the expectations up too high, because the kids were bent on finding all kinds of buried toys, and all that was really happening was two adults arguing over whether or not there was a way to auto-refresh our google maps while the kids whined about being bored and tried to run through mud puddles. At some point I tweeted:
We picked it back up this spring, though, and hit a sweet spot. The kids our old enough to have the patience and stamina the activity requires, and (more importantly) we now have GPS-equipped phones. It has become our favorite family activity, and it’s something that everyone enjoys equally.
Before I talk about why we love geocaching, let me do a quick explanation for the uninitiated. The short, humorous description for geocaching is “using billions of dollars of military hardware to find Tupperware hidden in the woods." This video explains it well:
Ultimately, geocaching is a cooperative urban treasure hunt, with thousands of people across the planet coming together on a single website to coordinate hide-and-seek containers called "caches". A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook which the geocacher signs. Some containers may be larger and can also contain items for trading, usually toys or small trinkets. Although my kids have found some fun toys, it really is more about the process than the treasure. We usually hit up the Target dollar bin for small things to leave in the caches we find.
We’ve found geocaches in any number of containers, from an Altoid tin to a water bottle to a PVC pipe hidden among real pipes.
We even found one hidden on a plastic snake!
To start geocaching all you really need is a smartphone and the official Geocaching app. Armed with this, you can geocache from wherever you are. And I mean wherever . . . there are literally geocaches everywhere in the world, from your local bank parking lot to Macchu Piccu. You can find them in urban settings and rural settings alike.
Here are some of the reasons geocaching is an ideal family activity:
1. It promotes activity. It is sometimes hard to motivate my kids to go hiking or for a long walk, but with geocaching, they have a goal that keeps them going. Geocaching gets us moving and usually my kids are so focused on the hunt that they haven’t even noticed the physical activity.
2. It’s a family bonding experience. We love geocaching, and it’s something that kids of all ages can do together. We have a wide age-range of kids in our family and it can be difficult to find something that appeals to their varied developmental stages. But I’m happy to report that everyone in our family enjoys this experience equally. We’ve even taken our toddler neighbor along – she loved it, too!
3. It gets you into nature. It can be so easy to spend our days in the suburbs, but geocaching encourages us to explore local parks and hiking trails. We’ve discovered areas in our town that we never knew existed. It’s a great way to explore the outdoors.
4. You can do it anywhere. Have you ever had an awkward 30-minutes between school pick-up and practice, with not enough time for an actual errand? Enter geocaching. We’ve found it’s the perfect short activity, and it’s also a great motivator. We sometimes offer a quick geocache as a reward . . . for example, good behavior in the grocery store might earn a quick search of any geocaches in the parking lot.
5. It’s relatively free. Aside from the purchase of the app, and maybe a few trinkets if you choose geocaches that have a treasure, it’s a free activity. It’s the perfect hobby for families on a budget.
Have you ever gone geocaching? Do you have any tips or fun stories?