Taking The Kids on A Whale Watching Adventure Canadian Style

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gone on at least one whale watch in your life. Maybe it was a big tour boat, while at the Jersey shore. But if you are ready to up your game in some serious adventure-quality whale watching, then you need to take a ride to Les Escoumin in Quebec. It’s about a 12 hour drive due north of New York City so a four day weekend, is definitely doable.phbaleine7

Les Escoumin is a little town of about 2000 people located on the St Lawrence River that offers so much for the adventure seeking parent. It’s one of the oldest “high north country” towns on the river. There’s fishing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, scuba diving, kayaking, and blueberry picking, but today we’ll focus on whale watching. In my opinion, whale watching is particularly awesophacc1me in Les Escoumin. For starters you can take a ride in a zodiac, the kind you see GreenPeace zipping around in to get between the whaling ships and whales. They are rubber dinghys with a motor and they allow you to get super up close to whole pods of whales.  Here’s a good video I found that shows what you can expect. The boat launched from a nearby town. 

For your adventure you’ll don an survival suit (The St Lawrence isphcroi2 super cold with Arctic water). Yes, a survival suit. The next thing you’ll do is zip out with the crew to find the whales. There are minkes, blues, beluga, orca, dolphins, and seals. When I went I didn’t know which way to look first. If you really want to get eyeball to eyeball with a whale this is the place.phzodiac3

At LES ÉCUMEURS DU SAINT-LAURENT, the season is from May 30 to early October. Prices at start at $48 Canadian for adults and $38 for kids under 14.
When you are finished with your amazing whale tour, you’ll be happy to know you are in French Canada. And what are the French known for? Food! There are wonderful restaurants, cafes and bakeries in Les Escoumin.To book a room or find out more about Les Escoumin, click here.

More places to book a hotel and tour.

 

 

 

 

Biking with the Kids in San Francisco

There are some great kid-friendly bike trails all around the San Francisco, California area. Here’s a great round up of ideas. If you are from out of town it’s easy to rent a bike or take a tour. Or if you have your own bikes, by all means, get out on them with the kids and ride.

Kid Friendly Bike Trails Around San Francisco

Enjoying the Outdoors with Your Kids as A Single Parent

single parent with kids outdoorsWhen you were younger you had dreams of when you had kids of your own, you and your spouse would go camping, biking and hiking with your kids. You’d spend the day as a family exploring nature and tag teaming it together to share the burden of schlepping gear and prepping. But that’s not how it turned out.  It’s all on you. And let’s be honest, prepping to take even a short hike with your child, can be a bit of work. And when it’s just you and your child out in the great outdoors, the decisions are all on you.

You might be finding excuses for not going, and telling yourself you’ll wait until your kids are older and can handle themselves better in the woods. Don’t wait. Life is short and don’t cheat yourself or your child out of the experience because things didn’t turn out as you planned. Here are some tips to get it done and enjoy yourself with your child

Go easy on yourself. Don’t try to do it all. And take the breaks when you can find them. For example, don’t beat yourself up that you’re not up to taking them deep woods camping and doing all the cooking yourself. Do the cushy camping thing, with a nice campsite with lots of activities for the kids, restaurants nearby and clean bathrooms. They may not be experiencing what it’s like to be in the middle of nowhere, but so what, you’re outside and you are having fun together.

Invest in good carrying gear. Pay a little more for the lighter gear, and a backpack that can help you carry more while not killing your back.

Rent when you can. Don’t schlepp beach chairs or a beach umbrella if you can rent it.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid. You can do this. You are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Single parents are a resourceful lot when it comes to raising kids, why should getting out in nature be any different.

Post it! It may be a little lonely having no one to turn to to point out the latest cool thing your child just did, but don’t deny yourself this joy. So post it to your friends and family on Instagram and FaceBook. Let your friends and relatives gush about how adorable your kid is sitting on that rock or splashing in a spring. We read enough about everyone else’s adorable kids, so why should yours be left out. It may seem a bit silly, but it really does help get over the lonelies to read that “OMG she’s so adorable,” and “Wow she looks like she’s having a great time,” from your friends who care about you but don’t have the chops to be there in person.

And remember, you are not half a family just because it’s you and your child. I’ll admit it’s times like these that I feel guilty for being the one to end my marriage and making it fairly impossible for my daughter to explore nature with both of her parents at the same time. But then I remember I did it for a good reason and my daughter has a much happier single parent than she ever had as a married one. Then I remind myself, we are a whole family, even if it’s just the two of us. You deserve the same fun and experiences as other families have and it’s your job to make sure your kids make great memories with you. It’s a little extra work, but you’ll be glad you made the effort and so will they.

 

Getting Ready for a Hike with the Kids

hiking in nature with kids
While hiking with my daughter, we came across this pretty little deer.

It’s time to put the MindCraft down and get outside. But hiking with kids changes the game a bit. Here’s what you need to know in order to have a safe, fun, educational hike.

1) Dress appropriately. Use layers. If you are going to be high in the mountains the weather can change pretty quickly and can go from rainy to hot and sunny and back again on a dime.  Remember cotton gets wet and stays wet, so to wick sweat away it’s best to use wool in cold weather or technical fiber year round. A light windbreaker can save a hike on a windy day and keep you from calling it early because of a chill.

2) Shoes. Good treads are a must. Trail runners or hiking boots are ideal. Something that will protect little toes from the rocks along the trails.  Sneakers will do in a pinch for a light hike, but if you are going to get serious about spending time with the kids outdoors, invest in a decent pair of shoes for hiking. Waterproof is preferable

3) Be realistic. You may be an avid hiker and five to ten miles is no big deal to you, but remember, kids are little. They get tired, they get whiny, they get hot. Don’t push them to do more than they can really handle. Start out slow and keep an eye on your pace. If it’s taking them longer than you expected, don’t try to push to get to that waterfall and back before dark. Pick trails that are easy to return to the car from, should your little one have enough sooner than planned.

4) Remember, this is about them. Yes you want to get out, and bond with your kids and get in touch with nature. But you are the parent. You are teaching your kids right now. Your number one goal is to impart your love of nature to your child. You want them to go home excited and wanting to do it again. If you push them and they hate it, you could turn them off to hiking for a long time.

5) Munchies. You gotta have munchies. Gorp, goldfish, apples, carrot sticks, crackers, plenty of water, plus throw in a few juice boxes. Bring things that you know they’ll eat. Now is not the time to focus on their eating habits. You want to avoid an out-in-the-wild, low blood sugar melt down at all costs.

What else to bring:

Cameras, notebooks, sunblock, bug spray, change of socks, GPS or a map app., a paper map, bathing suit, map, flashlight, tissues, diapers, wipes, sunglasses, plastic baggies (take whatever you bring in, out with you).

By the way, always bring a flashlight, even if you only expect to be out for a little while. You never know, and if you end up getting back later than planned, believe me you’ll thank me later.

 

Traveling on an Airplane with Kids

Traveling with kids on an airplane doesn’t have to be a drama. Sure, airports, security, all that, can make for a stress inducing start to a trip, but accept that you’ll get through it and you’ll be fine. Here are some tips to make it easier to get to the finish line–usually a beach somewhere or Grandma’s house.

Consider packing one carry on just for snacks. Since each child can have one carry on as well as you, pick one piece of luggage to store snacks, wipes, plastic forks and spoons, toys.

1) Snacks– Good snacks for the plane:

fruit if allowed (apples, oranges, pears, peaches, bananas), granola bars, Kind bars, cheese (I brought a big chunk of cheddar and a plastic knife once and that got us through the first half of a trip to Hawaii.), Oatmeal cookies

Good but can be messy

Crackers, Cheeze Its, cookies, raisins and other kinds of dried fruit, seaweed snacks, graham crackers,  pretzels, nuts,

3) Toys–Toys without lots of small parts, books, cards, stuffed animals (only take a few-they take up space and are easily left behind), simple crafts that can be done on a tray table and don’t have a zillion pieces, or require scissors, better yet, unless you see something that works, skip the crafts. 🙂

4) Electronics–God bless electronics. DS and other handheld games, Ipad, mini DVD players, laptops. Remember to charge everything up ahead of time and download the movies you want to see. You might be able to get wifi on the plane but it usually doesn’t allow movie streaming. Invest in a juicebox type charger that will allow you to add additional charges to your gear. Don’t forget the headphones and if the upgrade to first class is doable, consider it on long flights as many of the seats now come with charging stations. Check first.

5) car seats. If your child is very small you’ll need to bring a car seat on the plane if you don’t want them sitting in your lap. Many car seats convert to airplane travel friendly. It’s not counted as luggage. Strollers can be checked at the gate and that’s handy as it will be waiting for you on the other side.

6) Safety harness. I had one on my daughter at customs coming back from Turks and Caicos to JFK and it was a God-send. Long lines and little kids don’t mix. I could let her wander around and she couldn’t go very far, but I had the comfort of knowing she could move around a little without disappearing in a crowd–where I’d have to lose my place in line to go get her. I say get over the leash thing. People may frown upon it but who cares. It’s your child’s safety. And if you don’t use it anywhere else, consider taking one if you have a potentially long customs line waiting for you. After awhile I found the only place I ever really used a leash/harness was on long lines.

7) Safety temporary tattoos are awesome. Put them on, write your phone number on the tattoo with the special pen and you’ve got one less worry