Letterboxing with Kids- Adding a New Element of Fun to Family Travels


We had a week off of school for Spring Break, but with no extra money to go on a vacation, we decided to stay home. What could we do with 4 kids, aged 2-9, and a mom and dad who wanted adventure and fun? Letterboxing!

My mom had told me about letterboxing several years ago, but like a rebellious teenager, only one word came to mind – “CHEESY.”  Now, as a wiser mom myself, I realized I had to find fun where I could and make the most of any opportunity. So during this revolutionary spring break, we found ourselves letterboxing. We followed clues that led us all over the place – hunting behind a mermaid statue, traveling through hidden tunnels, walking on a pristine beach, and digging under fences – all to find little boxes hidden by other letterboxers.

Letterboxing is a popular pastime of treasure hunting in parks, forests, and cities around the world. Seekers use clues written by other letterboxers to find the hidden box, which contains a rubber stamp, usually a hand-carved creation. Letterboxers then place the stamp image in their own personal journal. They sign in to the logbook found with the letterbox with their own signature stamp and perhaps add a note about the weather or their own adventure.

We have come to love many things about letterboxing. Four things stand out to us as being great reasons to embark on your own letterboxing adventures.

Letteringboxing: See new places in town

My husband and I have lived in Orange County, California, for about 15 years. We have been parents for 10 of those years. In general, I thought I was an expert on all of the great places to visit and explore in our area. Wow, was I wrong. During our spring break week we went to a beach, a remote wilderness area, a wildlife nature preserve, and to a scenic lookout. All of these places were new to us. We were so happy to have a new activity that was taking us to places that we had not yet discovered.

Letterboxing: Have new adventures in routine places

How many times had our family been to the park just down the street? Too many to count! When you don’t have a new place to visit, searching for a letterbox can bring a whole new sense of adventure to routine places. Parks and locations near us have become fun places to visit again because we get to go on a hunt.

Letterboxing: Learn about local history

On a recent Saturday, our family took a letterboxing tour through Old Town Tustin in California. It’s a city full of history, with many old buildings from the late 1800s, and other quirky features. There was even a miniature church – it only seats eight people – in the parking lot of a shopping center! We took this walking tour thanks to a series of four letterboxes and a clue-giver who included local history in his description of how to find the boxes. Many clues are rich with history on the area where the letterbox is placed.

Letterboxing: See new places on road trips and vacations 

When we drive to Fresno to visit my mom and dad, we need to break up the five hour drive for the sake of our little ones’ legs and bladders, not to mention our own. Since letterboxes are hidden all over the United States – and in many other countries as well – there are bound to be boxes to hunt along the way. This makes for a fun activity to do during pit stops. During a recent family vacation to Alaska, letterboxing became a favorite activity of ours. We visited a cemetery, the town square of Fairbanks, and a beautiful field with migrating sand cranes as we were looking for letterboxes. The hunt took us to popular tourist locations and to favorite spots for Alaskan locals. We really got to see a lot of beautiful Alaska this way!

Since our first “Letterboxing Spring Break” we have found nearly 60 letterboxes. We have introduced our nieces and nephews, relatives, and friends to our new hobby. We have carved our own stamps and hidden our own letterboxes. Our boys have even written down clues to locations where they have hidden their own letterboxes for other eager finders. But the best experience was walking the trails near the Griffith Park Observatory on a hunt with my mom and dad. I know she was happy to have successfully passed on a fun, adventurous activity to our family.

 What you need to start your letterboxing adventure

  1. A personal journal to collect stamped images. Most letterboxers prefer a small size (4” x 6”) and unlined, but anything can work!
  2. A rubber stamp. This is your “signature stamp” that you use to stamp your image in the logbook that you find. Some people just stamp their fingerprint in the logbook in place of a stamp. Many people have carved their own personal stamp. It’s great to start with a store bought stamp to begin your adventures.
  3. A pen. To sign your name or your handle (if you prefer to not use your name), the date, the city you are from (optional), and a note (optional) in the logbook you find.
  4. An ink pad. You need this to ink the stamp that you find so you can stamp it in your journal. You also need to ink your personal stamp so that you can stamp it in the logbook from the letterbox you found.
  5. The clue! Use www.atlasquest.com or www.letterboxing.org to find clues in your city, your next road trip, or your next vacation. 
About the author

Michelle McCoy is Trekaroo’s Lead Travel Expert. She and her husband love traveling to National Parks and going camping, but when life with 4 young kids keeps them home - especially now with a high schooler - they find their fun in traveling to the local beaches in Orange County, CA and hiking in the wilderness areas nearby.
14 Responses
  1. GBK Gwyneth

    My mom is a geocacher. Rob geocaches. The kids sometimes do it. But I’ve never found much appeal in it. I wonder if I’d like letterboxing more?

  2. Michelle

    Glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks!
    GBK Gwyneth… I’ve never tried geochaching but I’ve heard good things about it. But unlike following GPS locations, I enjoy the written out clues for letterboxing that take you to a specific place. Sometimes they are mystery clues that you have to solve riddles to find. Really fun!

  3. Ooooh…sound like a ton of fun. We don’t really have a GPS and I think my kids would have fun decoding the clues. Must try this the next chance we get. Perhaps for spring break. It’s coming up soon!

  4. Katie

    This sounds amazing! I have been a scavenger hunt lover for years and am always frustrated that if I plan the activity, I can’t experience it with the rest of the group in the same way.

    I can’t wait to use your sources and start doing this with my family.

    Like LiLing, my spring break is coming up soon as well and this could be completely fantastic! Thanks!

  5. Noelle

    I have been letterboxing since 1997. I’ve mostly boxed in PA/NJ and other states in the East. The farthest has been in AZ. Now that my daughter is 2 1/2 I’ll take her out this summer.

  6. michelle

    We have not been letterboxing yet although we have stumbled on a few of them while out geocaching. The clues for letterboxing sound like my kids would really enjoy the hunt. When we pick geocaches we always pick ones with a treasure…it gives the kids something to look forward to when we are on our journey. It always amzes me how you can find these treasures hidden across the country. We even found some in the Virgin Islands!!! Looking forward to supplementing our geocaching with Letterboxing!!!Thanks for the websites!!!

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