Category Archives: How To

How To Dress for Winter Sports

How to Dress for Winter Sports

The key to enjoying winter sports is to dress right. There’s nothing more miserable and potentially day ruining than letting your child get cold, wet and uncomfortable kid. It’s important to also take into account what your activities are, what the weather predictions throughout the day will be and since most of it will change from hour to hour, you need to dress in layers. And layering in the right gear is also important.

whistlerFollow these guidelines and you’ll be good to go for a full day of family adventure.

First, what are you planning on doing? Will there be a lot of hiking up a mountain, skiing, duck walking up to the lift line? Will you be Alpine or Nordic skiing? What I’m getting at is, how hot do you expect to get under all those layers? If you think you’ll be sweating that’s important to know.

Dressing Your Core in The Winter

Base Layer (top and bottom):

A good moisture wicking, tightly woven, flexible technical fiber will keep you cool and dry. Keeping dry is important because while you are hot while you are sweating, if you don’t get rid of the moisture you just shed, it will make you colder than when you started out. Remember why we sweat in the first place? We sweat to cool our bodies down by evaporating the moisture off our bodies. Getting soaked even in your own sweat is just as bad as if you accidentally got wet. So, moisture wicking is key.

Also keep it flexible. The more flexible your under layer is the more you’ll enjoy yourself. And try to find the thinnest, with the most protection that you can. It can be a bit more costly but it’s so worth it when you are out there in the elements. Cold weather gear is not the place to cheap out.

For really cold days, you can add a layer of fleece on top of the under layer. Make sure that’s flexible as well for both your torso and legs. You want to be free to move at your own pace. Remember the kid in Christmas Story that looked like a marshmallow? Don’t be him.

Your Core Middle Layer:

We’ve already talked about Fleece but there are a number of technical fabrics you can use to layer up over your base layer. Wool is also a good choice as long as it’s flexible. This middle layer is the part you will want to remove and add as the weather changes. So for really cold days one more thin layer that can be easily taken off and stuffed in a bag if the sun comes out, might not be a bad idea. Just don’t make this layer a big heavy one. Stay away from the big cable knit sweaters. A turtle neck is fine to throw over your base layer but try to avoid cotton. Make sure if you do put anything cotton on, that it’s sitting on top of your base layer (as opposed to touching your skin directly–neck is OK) and you can peel it off easily.

Your Core Outer Layer: 

First it MUST cut the wind. It’s not worth anything unless it cuts the wind. I don’t care how pretty the jacket is, you’re not going to care if you are miserably cold. Tight fibers like Gortex and other types of material are good for blocking wind and water. You want a nice, water and windproof shell. This way even if you do get sweaty under there, the wind won’t be getting through to evaporate the sweat. You can get a super heavy duty jacket that has goose down or layers of insulation that will keep you super warm standing still. If you will be standing around watching an event or minimally active outside, this is a good choice.

For skiing, or hiking I’d recommend a mid weight shell with air vents and plenty of pockets to hold your stuff. If you think it might be super cold out, I’d go with yet another fleece layer with a shell on top of it, than a very thick jacket. The weather can change on a dime and when you are skiing hard or Nordic skiing (which you’ll find yourself dripping in sweat even on the coldest days) you will get hot. If you have a fleece layer that you can remove and a shell with vents under the armpits you can better regulate your body temperature. If you only have a big honking goose down jacket to remove, you’ll be stuck with either freezing or sweating your brains out. Or you’ll be putting it on and taking it off every five minutes. One important thing to remember about technical fiber, don’t stick pins in it. No name tags, no stick pins. If you push a pin through that fiber, you’ll start to ruin the whole “wind-proof” part of it.

Preparing Your Head for the Cold

If you grew up under a rock you might have missed the fact that 70% of your body heat leaves through your head. That includes if you have a thick skull or a thick head of hair. So ladies, I know I hate them too, it’s hat time. Granted if it’s not super cold out, you can get away with a fleece headband or earmuffs but a hat is your ticket to long term fun. I have always hated hats, but I’ve come to Jesus about it and found a better way. Instead of a hair flattening, stupid looking hat, I bought a neoprene full head hood. I look like I’m ready to dive off a pier but it has this great affect of keeping my head warm, plus my hair stays relatively intact. It’s similar to when you put your clothes in a suitcase still wrapped in the dry cleaner plastic. My thick hair is flattened out and tucked away so it’s not getting stuck under my goggles, so it makes it easy to put on my helmet (also another item I finally grew up and started wearing).

Ski Helmet:

If you are skiing, helmets are not just for kids anymore, everyone should be wearing a helmet. It took me awhile to get over the dork factor, even though I’d think nothing of wearing a bike helmet, but seriously, there are rocks out there, and ice as hard as rocks. When you think about how crazy it is to be strapped to a board sliding down the side of a mountain…on snow… it’s kind of crazy that we didn’t always wear helmets. So invest in a good one. Make sure it comes from a reputable company and make sure it fits comfortably on your head. Air vents are also a nice feature to have. Another nice feature are the kind that come with cushioned pockets that let you drop little speakers in. Make sure to replace it every few years and for kids, check every year to see that it still feels comfortable or go get a new one. Never use a hand-me-down helmet. Treat helmets like you would car seats.

Mounting Things on your Helmet:

I know a lot of people like to mount cameras on their helmets. I’m not an expert on them by any means, but something about drilling through or attaching mounts to a helmet never sat right with me. If the helmet comes with a mount that’s a better choice. When I read that the formula one racer, Michael Schumacker’s freak off-piste ski accident, which left him in a coma, was possibly caused by his Go Pro mounting, that kind of made sense to me. It’s just good policy not to modify safety equipment after market.

Ski Goggles:

My least favorite piece of equipment. I am yet to find the perfect pair that never fogs, is dark enough for sunny days, and still lets me see the dips and peaks of a very gray/white looking terrain. Depth perception is the bane of my existence when the sun is not out. And I want ones infused with Google Glass or something like that, that shows me where to go and how to hit the mogul…and an arrow pointing to the lodge, but I digress. If you are a heavy breather like me, invest in a pair that leads with no fog as their key feature. They even have ones with fans in them. Truth is, it’s best to have a couple of pairs ready, one for sun, one for clouds, or a set that allows you to change lenses. And it has to fit your face or you’ll be miserable. There’s no easy win with Goggles, do your research and take your time to get them fitted. This is one of those items (unlike Swaravski- encrusted ski jackets) where the more you spend, the better the gear will be.

Keeping Your Neck Warm

Scarves are Ok in a pinch but if you are planning to be active at all, invest in a neck gator. It’s a nice round, usually fleece scarf that stays snug around your neck (not too tight of course) and you can pull it up over your face when you need.

Try to have at least one of your layers zip up your neck. You want to make sure there’s no way for air to get down your shirt, or blowing on a naked neck. When skiing your chin gets cold because along with your nose, it’s one of the first body parts heading into the wind. So at the least a gator, at the most, something that zips up completely covering your neck.

Scarves are also bad because they get caught in chair lifts and under skis. They’re kind of deadly actually, so if you have a scarf tied around your neck, be very careful about loose ends.

Keeping Your Legs Warm During Winter Activities

The same as mentioned above applies for pants. My recommendation is get the most flexible, comfy pair you can find. They can be baggy as long as they cling to you on the inside and are water repellent. Unless you don’t plan on ever falling, ever, or it’s warm enough for you to ski around in wet drawers, only invest in water resistant. The more waterproof, the less flexible they tend to be, so try to strike a balance, or don’t plan on falling down. And no sitting in the snow while waiting for your less than perfect friends to catch up either.

Keeping Your Feet Dry and Happy

Winter Socks:

Wool, silk or technical fiber socks. No cotton. Repeat. No cotton. They can come in different thicknesses so choose them based on how cold you think it will be. Keep in mind what boots you are going to be wearing. I usually go with thinner. My boots are pretty well lined and hopefully stay water proof (but even the best boots can manage to get water in them). Feet sweat too remember. Avoid doubling up socks unless you have to. And did I mention, no cotton?

Boots–for Winter Hiking

Waterproof, covering your ankle is preferred. In summer I’d say a lighter shoe is fine, but when there’s a potential for any snow or slush, you want something covering at least your ankles, preferably up to your calf. You want a good grip on the bottom of your shoe. If you hit ice and there’s no tread on your shoe, down you will go unceremoniously. If it’s really icy, invest in a pair of crampons, it makes exploring in icy areas, so much easier. They are not just for ice climbing. Any hiking trail that gets trampled in the snow is going to get icy.

Boots–for Specialized Winter Sports

With any specialized boot you need to get fitted properly. Nordic, Alpine and Snowboarding boots are all different, so you need to get fitted by an expert and discuss the features that best work for you. Most importantly, they should feel comfortable even with a pair of mid grade thickness socks on as it’s likely that’s what you’ll be wearing. Don’t try them on with light, dress socks. Make sure your toes are not jammed in there and that if they lace or buckle up, they can handle your calf. For front entry boots for example if you have big calves, you might need to have the buckles moved. I’ve never tried the molded fit boots but they sound fabulous, but can be pricier. The idea behind them is the less wiggle room between you and the boot, the better control you’ll have over your equipment. I’ve also heard complaints from people who say the fitting wasn’t done right and it’s too tight out on the hill (which is just the worst). So you’ll have to explore that one on your own with a qualified sales rep.

Also, this may sound weird but make sure you clip your toe nails. If you are in between pedicures your nails might not be bothering you in regular sneakers as you walk around but you’ll find that if you are in a pair of boots and hiking, walking, running or skiing downhill and your nails are a little long, it won’t take long before they start cutting into each other. This can be really painful, so don’t underestimate it. Clip them good and lace up tight before you head out.

Keeping Your Hands Warm

 

Gloves

This is a key item. The first things that will get cold are your hands and feet. Invest in a good, waterproof, windproof, insulated ski glove. If you need to, you can also buy inserts as they can wick sweat away and keep your gloves dry for days of skiing. Just make sure your gloves still fit when you put them on. You don’t want your fingers to be too tight in them, or cut off your circulation. The last thing you want is less blood flowing to your fingers, since as it is, it will be making a mad dash to protect your core as soon as you get a bit chilly. Even with the best gloves, your fingers are likely to get chilly. Go inside when you need to, or take the time to warm your hands up, even if it means sticking them under your armpits. My recommendation, especially if you have kids with you, buy a big box of hand warmers, the kind you shake and they heat up. They are the best thing in the universe when you are out skiing and the only thing making you uncomfortable are your bitter cold hands. There’s no shame in them. I have them for the boots as well but they tend to bunch up in my ski boots and end up hurting. It really depends on the shoes and socks you have on so try them out before you go.

How to Handle Kids and Cold

Now I’ve written this with an adult in mind, but everything applies to a child even more so. When you are with children in the cold, remember they get cold faster, and are less tolerant that us adults. Keep checking on them, ask them how they feel because they may not always tell you, and be ready to carry their layers if they need to take them off or put them on. Keep an idea in your head of where all the good spots to warm up will be, and be realistic about how much you can push them.

Having a kid have a melt down because they are cold and miserable in the middle of nowhere on a cold, snowy day, believe me, can be a bit scary. I know because it happened to me. It was late in the day with a zero wind chill factor and my daughter threw a tantrum and refused to move, half way down the hill. Luckily I convinced her to move, but it was frightening to think what do you do to keep them from freezing. So cold weather is not the time to push them, even though you are dying for one more run, or to check out that ridge just a little further up ahead.

Oh and those hand and toe warmers? They are fantastic for shoving down a pair of kids ski pants if needed. They work magic. I just stockpile them each winter and bring fistfuls with me on every outdoor trip.

I’d love to hear about your outdoor winter adventures with your kids. Feel free to share below in the comments section. –Chris

Getting the Right Ski Boots for Your Kids

How to find the right ski boots for kids

So parents have for years had a love/hate relationship with kids’ ski boots. Yes it is the vehicle that helps keep their kid ski walking in bootskids out on the hill and exercising every weekend, all winter long, but the downside is of course, those pesky growing feet.

There are several options modern parents have to get the right boot on their kids feet to keep them happy, healthy, warm and tearing up the mountain.

Types of Ski Boots Available

boots

First let me explain the types of boots you need to know about. There are two major types, rear entry and front entry boots.

What Are Rear Entry Ski Boots?

rear entryRear entry boots are what they sound like, boots you enter from the rear. They fold forward and then once your child has placed his foot in the boot, he leans back and you crank the binding until it’s tight enough. The plus to rear entry is that it’s easy to get in, so great for little kids that need some help getting their boots on. This is easier on moms and dads’ backs as they spend less time hunched over trying to get a boot on a little kid’s foot.  The downside is that as kids advance, there are less points to fit the boot against the foot leaving some play inside the boot, which can make it harder for kids to stay in control of their turns and edging.

What Are Front Entry Ski Boots?

Salomon-T3-kids-ski-boot
Solomon T3 Front Entry boot for kids

These are boots that will give your child a better fit overall, the more buckles, the more fit. Buckles help you fit the boot to your child’s foot by adding multiple points to close the gap between the boot and your child’s foot. This means there’s less leeway when making turns. The better the fit the more responsive the ski will be to your child’s foot and leg.

But remember, every buckle you have on your child’s boot, means, one more buckle…to buckle..and unbuckle…every time you go in and out of the warming hut. So usually three or four buckles should be the max.

Where to find ski boots for your kids

Rent at the ski area

You have a number of options when renting skis and boots. Here’s my breakdown of how to get them:

You can rent boots at the ski area where you are going, usually. If you are renting boots you’ll really need to rent the skis there as well. Not sure how many places just rent boots and if they do, don’t expect them to fit the ski bindings to your boots. Many ski resort rental areas won’t touch someone else’s skis. Bring your own screwdriver to set your bindings, and that’s only if you are sure you know how to do it.

The downsides to renting at the area you are skiing at? Well, it’s usually a zoo and lines can be long, especially on weekends. There’s a chance your size might not be available when you get there, screwing up your whole day. It also eats up time on the hill that you are paying a lot of money for.

If you have friends with you who have their own skis, they will kind of hate you if they have to stare at the mountain and wait for you while you get your kids’ skis. It’s an icky way to start the day off at a mountain. It’s infinitely better to walk up, get your ticket and hit the hill. Or better yet, have your tickets sent to you in advance. Then with skis in hand, you simply walk onto the hill. It’s like the feeling you get with TSA PreCheck at the airport, only times a thousand because you are standing on a ski mountain instead of staring at a security line. But you get the point.

Renting boots and skis at a local ski area near the mountain

How to choose the right ski boot
You can get great ski boots to rent in ski and snow sport shops near your local ski area

This is far more civilized than trying to rent at the mountain. Call ahead, reserve your boots and/or skis at a shop on the way to the mountain. Tell them your child’s size and they’ll have your skis waiting for you. They will likely be a better price, and can probably sell you discounted ski area tickets. Not always, but make sure to ask. You get more one on one attention and you know they’ve reserved what you need. It still eats into your time on the snow as you’ll need to spend a little time making sure the skis fit. But it’s worth it, especially if you are skiing for a few days. This way you only have to do this once and it’s like you have your own skis for the stay. If you can, time it so you are picking up your skis the night before you’ll need them so you can spend your whole day on the hill without stopping to fit your skis. Use the morning to eat a longer breakfast if you like.

Renting boots and skis at a place near home

This is a nice option if you have a place near you at home that rents skis. If you are flying or spending a day just driving, make sure to compare what it will cost you to what it would cost you near or at the mountain. Even if you are not skiing, if you are spending a few days to get there and back, you’ll still have to pay for those days. You’ll also need to schlep them, either in the car or on the plane. The nice part is you can pick them up at your leisure early enough before your trip so that you are not eating into snow time.

Renting boots and skis for the season

This is my personal favorite and what I do every year. For about $100, I get my daughter fitted at Miller Ski and Sports in Warwick, New York in August. I get an early bird discount, and as soon as the first snowfall, they’ll have her skis ready and I’ll have them for the whole season. Bring them back at the end of the season and you are good. If you are going to ski more than three or four times in the year then it’s definitely worth it to have this option.

Now, you do have to schlep them the same as you do when you own your skis, so that is a consideration. And if your kids can carry their own skis, or you don’t mind, that’s not a problem, but if you are a single mom like me, I used to have to make sure I could carry my skis as well as my daughters. A double ski bag solved that problem for me. But the benefits to renting skis for the season from a local shop are you get one-on-one attention, you get your own skis for the season as if you owned them, and you can get fitted at your leisure.

The only time I’d say this really wouldn’t work for you is if your child is such a high performance skier, or in the racing program that he needs his own, top of the line skis. Now when I was a ski instructor, we had racing teams come after school and about half of them had season rentals and they seemed fine enough. But again, if your kid is racing and needs the best of the best and you can afford it, then ski swaps or buying new might be a better bet.

Finding gear at ski swaps

Every ski area and community usually has some local ski swap, usually in the late summer or early Fall. Parents of kids who belong to the local ski programs often run these ski swaps hoping to make better use of the short lived fitting of perfectly good ski boots and skis. Aside from that there are also online places to try. Ski swaps or used gear sites take a little more effort to find just what you want, but you can get some awesome deals on ski products. They also often have other things like pants, gloves and jackets, also expensive gear that children grow out of. Here are some sites to try. Many of the big, local ski swaps can offer both used and new gear.

Purchasing your child’s boots and skis 

This is the easiest one of course. You have several options. In person or online. If you have ski shops near you, by all means check in, and do so in the Fall when the boots first come in, or end of season to see if you can get lucky on next years. I’d be a little careful with boots though for end of season deals, as kids feet do grow. So end of season is good for skis and clothes, but boots for children, you don’t want to have a growth spurt over the summer that will ruin your new boot purchase. Don’t wait too long past Christmas though to purchase as pickins get slim.

There are of course, ski shops on the mountain itself but if you wait until then, plan on paying top dollar–and getting what you get. You really want to do your research if you are buying new, so picking out of whatever’s in the shop doesn’t seem smart to me. Unless you shatter your boots on the mountain (which I have done once in my life–it was amazing to see your boots just shatter around your feet–they were old) I can’t imagine a reason for something like boots or skis right on the mountain. Maybe I’m wrong but someone will have to convince me why that makes total sense.

Here are some links to some very decent sources of gear. A lot of little local shops also carry gear so I recommend doing your homework.

How to Choose the Right Ski Boot Video Gallery

Here are some good videos to help show you how to get a good fit for ski boots.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

How To Hike with Kids and Stay Sane

First off, get over the idea that you’re going to hike like the animal that you were before you had kids if you are bringing said kids. It’s not all about you and how far and how fast you can go. It’s about making sure the next generation is exposed to the outdoors and will remember what an awesome parent you are for taking the time to do it. Your kids are lucky they have a parent that wants to do this stuff with them and even if they whine now, they will remember it when they have their kids…and the circle of life, yadda, yadda.

hiking with kids and staying sane

But in the here and now you need to be practical.  So here are my tips for having fun hiking, staying sane and making sure everyone wants to do it again.

1) Take it easy on yourself and give yourself every advantage. Charge the phone and the juicepack. Make sure you have a map as a backup, or download them on your phone before hand. Don’t be a martyr. Download some apps that can give you details on flora and fauna as you hike in the area. Also do yourself a favor and download some pics of Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak. You’re welcome.

2) Dress according and bring extra clothes. Weather changes on a dime and a cold or overly hot kid, is a miserable kid and a miserable hiking buddy. Bring T shirts and an extra sweater and depending how long the hike, extra socks etc. Cold weather requires multiple layers. Think Under Armor.

3) Bring food and water. Duh, you say but how many people go out without enough water. Remember you’re bringing not just for yourself but the kids too. Snacks, snacks, and snacks. And throw in a few Hershey’s kisses and get over it. A low blood sugar meltdown in the middle of the woods has it’s own special place in hell.

4) Wear the right gear. Suck it up and buy the kids the best hiking boots you can afford. You don’t have to go crazy, but get some kicks with serious all terrain treds. I moved to NYC and went on a three day trip with my daughter’s fourth grade class. I thought I’d see 40 pairs of overachieving, top-of-the-line hiking boots that could handle Everest, lined up outside the bunks. And there were some. But I was surprised at how many kids were hiking in rubber rain boots. Don’t do that. The kids managed but the steep slopes were extra treacherous. I’d rather they were in sneakers.

6) Ticks. I can’t emphasize enough how much you don’t want your kids getting bit by a tick. As someone who suffered a long time with Lyme Disease, it’s not fun, or pretty, and can be expensive. I hate telling kids to wear long pants on a summer hike, but if you can, do. And if you don’t hike in long pants, make sure you cover everything with bug spray including the hair lines and socks, then hose off or shower and do a good tick check under the arm pits, behind the ears and knees, ankles afterward. And be diligent even for a good twenty four hours afterward.  If you do see an embedded tick, save it and take pics of it if you can. Oh and a word on DEET. If you have a homeopathic bug spray that works, go for it. Me personally, I go for the strongest thing I can get my hands on. Yes, it was so powerful it peeled the ink off the marshmallows package and transferred it to my legs where it touched (my legs were covered in Deep Woods OFF), but I’m willing to take that. And the freaky thing was, the only way to get the imprint of the marshmallow label off my legs was more bug spray. I know, I know. I don’t like all the chemicals either but I like Lyme disease even less.

6) And bring these other things accordingly:

Hats, sunscreen, diapers, bottles, backpack, baby carrier, baby food, towels, swim clothes, swimmies, band aids, neosporin, and don’t forget the aspirin, you’re probably going to need it.

Surfing Lessons for the Kids (and You) Waikiki Beach, Honolulu Hawaii

Surfing is a great sport for kids. It gets them out in the fresh air, surf and sun, teaches them balance and is something the whole family can do. But you don’t want to take them out into the big surf without being prepared. Waikiki Beach in Honolulu Hawaii is where surfing was invented. There’s a great section of the beach that for all intents and purposes makes for a perfect bunny hill for wave riding. There are non stop lessons going on everywhere you look.  We visited Waikiki to check out the surf and we weren’t disappointed. We got together with friends and took lessons through Big Wave Dave’s Surf Shop. It was a great day of mom and daughter bonding. At one point we even got up on the boards at the same time. That’s something we’ll never forget. Big Wave Dave is where my friend, a Hawaii local takes her kids for lessons and I couldn’t recommend them more. Prices are reasonable and you can get a package of professionally shot photographs (with a long range telephoto lens) to capture the moment. Click here to sign up for surfing lessons   kids learning to surf Hawaii Waikiki Beach

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.

 

 

 

 

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