Geocaching with kids

How to turn your next family holiday into a treasure hunt that'll keep the kids happy and entertained for hours

7 mins

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure hunt where participants use their smart phones to find containers, or caches, hidden all over the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container with a logbook that you sign to show you have found it. Larger containers often include items for trading, like toys or trinkets. After signing – and trading – the cache is placed back in the exact place it was found, for the next person to discover.

A good place to start is the official website. This is where you create your account and download the app for your smartphone, essential for discovering caches. Also, take a look at our guide for first-time geocachers.

Once the app determines your location, it will show you surrounding caches. Click on any cache to be given coordinates, hints and read about other people's "activity" in searching for the cache. Once you find a cache, you mark that you "Found it" or "Did not find" on your phone and, if you like, leave a comment.  Sometimes the comments left by others are more helpful than the hints left by the person who originally hid the cache.

Our first cache was less than 500 metres from us. My girls used the compass that forms part of the app to guide us, and soon, thanks to the hints from other cachers, we were off in the right direction.

A cache (Aimee Nance)

Each cache is a different size, with the size indicated on the app. After a bit of searching, we found our first cache hidden under a bush. It was an old film canister wrapped in camouflage tape, with a paper scroll inside for us to sign. We wrote our names on the scroll, clicked "Found it" on the app and moved on to the next. We were hooked!

We could have easily spent the day geocaching, but I had errands to run so I decided to combine the two. With all of us in the car, we'd run an errand, geocache, run another errand, find another cache. Eventually, geocaching won out, with my daughters riding shotgun shouting instructions like "Turn left!", "Slow down!" and "You missed it!". More often than not, the instruction was just "Stop!"

Geocaching comes into its own, however, when we travel. Now, when the girls' interest begins to flag we indulge in a bit of geocaching.

For example, we geocached on a recent picnic at Balboa Park in San Diego. The park is beautiful – and huge – and geocaching took us to parts of the park we'd never seen before. In the end we spent eight solid hours of geocaching there and covered most of it!

Geocaching is a great way to discover more of the place where you already live, or to get more acquainted with a new area.  It's awesome on a long road trip, helping to break it up, and can be a reason to visit a new place in itself.

So the next time you see a family rummaging through the bushes, don't be alarmed. They're probably just geocaching.

Aimee Nance is currently 'cruising' around the world with her young family. You can follow their adventures on Sailing with Terrapin.

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