Category Archives: Summer Adventure

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.

Visit Dracula’s Bran Castle in Romania

Travel Destinations, Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania

Want to take the kids on a spooky adventure forDracula's Castle in Romania Halloween that they’ll never forget? Haunted houses, ghost tours, hay rides, meh OK. But want to give them something to tell their friends about? How about a visit to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania

That’s right, the big Impaler, himself. Bran castle, one time prison of the infamous Vlad Dracul, is only a few hours from Bucharest, Romania. Truth be told, Bran Stoker took some liberties with the castle and the Prince of Wallachia, modeling his stories on both. But don’t let that dissuade you from a fun, spooky, educational adventure with the kids.

Vlad’s actual castle is nearby in ruins and you can hike to it and take a tour. The beautifully restored, medieval Bran Castle, was once a royal residence, and after many years under Communist rule, is open for tourists to get a taste of the rich culture and history of Romania.

Dracula's castle in TranslyvaniaThe area, rich in natural beauty is a great place to take the kids any time of the year but nothing says Halloween like Autumn in the Carpathian Mountains.

Tickets to enter the castle are about the equivalent of $6, US.

Visit Dracula’s Castle

You can take a one day tour to visit two famous Romanian castles.. Click here for more info on visiting spooky castles of Romania.

Tour Romanian Castles 

Prices are about $69 for adults, $35 for kids.

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

Mount Tremblant in Canada: A Great Family-Friendly Summer Destination

Mt Tremblant HAS Reviews some of the best skiing on the East coast and aside Is located in a beautiful, picturesque enclave skiing.   tremblingIt’s got everything you need for a weekend of fun and relaxation and plenty to do with the kids. In the summertime there are gondola rides, beach and tennis club, sledge racing and mountain biking is aplenty for the older kids. Check it out. 

luge

Water Safety: What Every Life Guard Wishes You Knew

As a one time 19-year-old lifeguard and now a, er, not so 19-year-old parent, I’d like to give you, my fellow parents, the straight scoop.

what lifeguards wish parents knewEven as a teenager, it amazed me  just how lackadaisical some parents can be about watching their kids around the water. And that’s putting it nicely. So here’s what I wished parents knew from my days of being on the frontlines of water safety:

1) Water can be deadly. It’s no joke. Kids can drown in a very shallow pool of water. Never take your eyes off them, even if they know how to swim (please don’t ever think they are safe because they have cheap, plastic floaties on their arms).

I know you really want to gab with your friends or chill by the waterside and read your book. But sorry, you have a kid with you. There’s a reason we require that small children be accompanied by a guardian. So put the book away. Listen to an audio book on your phone or listen to music instead so you can keep your eyes on your kids.  As for gabbing, you can still do it, just do that weird eyes on the water while talking to your friend thing that parents do. If your friend thinks you are rude for not looking at her while you are talking to her, get new friends.

2) I am probably a teenager, maybe early twenties, Capish? I know you are thinking, well the lifeguard is getting paid to make sure no harm comes to my child while I’m at the beach. She SHOULD be watching my child. But let me ask you this. Do you know me? Do you really know how responsible I am?

Chances are I’m very responsible but you don’t know that for sure. Even on a good day I might be a little distracted thinking about some guy or girl I’m crushing on, where I’m going to college, that party I’m going to tonight, etc. So you know that innocent creature you gave birth to, nurtured for years, invested in and will invest an immense amount more of your love and time, do you really want to just assume I am watching them like you would? Word to the wise, in your mind, pretend I’m not here and be your own lifeguard.

Keep your eyes on your kids the way you want me to. I’m probably doing everything right, but if I’m not, there’s no second chances. No do-overs. I screw up and miss your child drowning, not only do I have to live with the repercussions but you do too. Be smart and don’t put me to the test.

3) Don’t ask me to watch your child so you can go to the bathroom. Are you kidding me? Do you not see the 50 bobbing heads in the water I can’t take my eyes off of while you have to go pee. You are certainly taking your chances leaving them in the water while I’m watching the other 49 bobbing heads, but now you want me to watch your beachside kids too? And what am I supposed to do if they start misbehaving, or run off? Should I jump down from my chair to chase after them?

Use some commonsense. Don’t ask me to watch your kids. Take them with you to the bathroom, call them out of the water if you have to. Pack em up and take them to the bathhouse, sorry. I know it’s a pain, but if you don’t have another person with you to watch them, it’s what you have to do.

images4) Don’t put things in front of me, including yourself, that can block either my view or my way to the water. I need to be able to jump down as quickly as possible to get to the water and if I trip over your beach chair, it might mean the difference between life and death for a swimmer. One time I had two mothers who were annoyed because there was seaweed floating in the water. They took the time to gather it all up on a water float and then dumped it right in front of my lifeguard chair. One loudly told the other one, “now she’ll have to do something about the seaweed on the water.” I then called my manager and told him what they’d done. I looked at the women and said, “do you think I put the seaweed in the water? Now, what will you do if I have to jump down to save your child and I slip in the seaweed and break my neck instead? My manager came down, removed the seaweed while I watched the water and informed the two Einsteins that if they did that again and put anyone else at risk because of their behavior, they would lose their membership.

5) Keep track of your kids even when they are out of the water. If you lose track of your two year old who may have wandered up to the playground or into the woods, if you come and tell me that you can’t find your child I have to act. I must assume that she is under the water because if she is, she doesn’t have long before she drowns.

I can’t assume she’s just somewhere out of sight where she can breath. So that means I need to call everyone out of the water, call the other guards and systematically search the water. If we can’t see the bottom it will take some time to search. That means everyone has to stay out of the water until we’re finished. So if I’ve pulled everyone out on a 90 degree day to hunt for your child, and it turns out she was in the bathroom, you’re going to be super popular. And by the way, you don’t want her to be under that water where we can’t see the bottom. If she’s there, chances are really not good that she’ll come out of it OK. So don’t take your eyes off your kids.

6) Don’t give me a hard time if I make your kids sit out for a time as punishment for bad behavior. I don’t want to spoil people’s fun. But if your kid is misbehaving it can be distracting and put other kids’ lives in danger. If I pulled them out and make them sit on the beach or pool-side, it’s for a good reason. Take that as your cue to discipline and manage your children so that I don’t have to.

7) Back me up. If I tell your child to stop doing something, make sure they don’t do it again. And don’t you do it either. Don’t argue with me in front of your child. I am an authority figure on the beach and I have to maintain order. There are a lot of people watching. I’m not going to just let it slide because that will mean losing respect from the other beach goers and kids in the water. Even if you think I’m wrong, respect my role.

Talk to me or my manager afterward, but don’t start a confrontation with me while I’m in the chair. I can assure you I’m not going to allow it. I’ll ask you to leave or call security or the police if I have to, and I don’t have time to debate with you. I have people’s kids to keep safe.

8) I’m not just paid to sit in a chair all day. Don’t be jealous. I know I have an awesome tan and I look good in my lifeguard uniform. I look good probably because I got up this morning and swam or ran or did whatever I’m required to stay in shape in case I have to rescue you. Please understand that I spent all winter training so that I was ready for this job. I’ve got a pocket full of safety certifications. This winter I likely renewed or received a certification in lifeguarding, first aid, water safety, basic life support, and anything else required by your state. And lifeguard training is rigorous. I’ve learned how to drag a guy twice my size out of the water, handle all kinds of emergencies and I’ve swam a lot. Give me some credit. I’m more than just a pretty face twirling a whistle.

9) People don’t yell, “help I’m drowning!’ when they are drowning. They go quiet and keep their mouths shut trying to save that last bit of air. So keep your eyes open especially in the ocean or lake, or anything with an uneven bottom. A kid standing in the water can walk off a ledge and start to struggle in the water. There are countless tales of kids drowning right next to their parents while they chatted away right in the water.

10) If you see someone struggling in the water, let me know. Don’t just head in and be a hero. I am trained to handle the situation and I can handle it likely better than you. For example I know that many drownings turn into double drownings because someone went in to try to save someone.

When someone is drowning they are not in their normal state of mind. They are in survival mode. They will grab you and climb on top of you to get to safety, but instead both of you just go under. They also become very strong. The last thing you want to do is let a drowning person get their hands on you in the water. There are ways to get them out of the water safely, for both of you. So I appreciate you want to help, but if you see something, say something. Please. And by all means, think about taking a water safety class so you too can potentially avert a crisis someday if there’s no lifeguard present.

 

 

Summer Adventure Ideas For Families

Summer Family Fun

Summer of course, is a perfect time, no matter how big your family, to take the kids on an adventure. Here are some ideas on what to do when everyone’s out of school and the weather is great.

1) Take a hike

Yes this is an easy one but it’s often overlooked, or put off because “we can do it tomorrow.” But time goes by fast in the summer, so there’s no time like the present. Check your local area for trails, what parks are around? Pack a lunch. Put some decent hiking shoes on, slather on the sunscreen and bug repellent, print out a map and just go. Don’t forget to check the weather.

2) Go kayaking

The world is filled with lakes, streams and oceans and kayaking is a great way to not only get exercise, but access to things you might normally not be able to from a road or even a hiking trail. Check out your local kayak, sports or outrigger shop to get ideas on where to take the kids.

3) Watersports

There are so many take your pick. Rent a waverunner and put your child on the back. She or he will think you are the coolest parent ever. Rent a sunfish and go sailing. Learning to tack together is a great way to bond and get some rays in.  Kids will love to be able to be in control of a vehicle. That goes for sailboards as well. Renting a boat and doing some waterskiing is also a great way to spend some time on the water. Check out your local boat shops for information on where to rent or take waterski lessons together. For those who don’t just can’t figure out how to get up on skis, well there’s always tubing.

4) Biking

A family that bikes together, gets out and has fun together. Bikes are just the perfect vehicle. Whether it’s a road bike or mountain bike, it’s a faster way to get where you are going and to see the sites. Now more than ever cities are installing bike lanes and really paying attention to their bike loving visitors and citizens. Check your local city or area online and look for bike trail maps.  As for mountain biking it gets your whole family out in the woods, burning up some extra summertime energy that collects when the kids are geeking out on their video games and computers. Just remember the bug spray as Lyme disease is no joke. And neither is getting lost so bring a printed map as back up even if you have a GPS enabled device.

5) Swimming

It’s a great way to beat the heat whether you are at the beach, in a pool or a lake. Just make sure to use common safety practices. Don’t assume the lifeguard is watching your kids. No one will be more diligent about your kids than you. If you are not a strong swimmer, make sure your kids at least are and get them in a water safety program and swimming lessons. And then get yourself in one as well.

 

 

 

Take The Kids to The HighLine in New York City

The Highline has been one of the best things to hit New York City in recent years besides zipcar. It is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Check it out. There’s nothing else like it. I don’t know how they keep it so beautiful and clean but they do.

High Line Kids Programs Kick Off in July

Your favorite High Line Kids programs are back for the summer! In July and August, families are invited to build, play, and explore during weekly drop-in programs. Explore the natural world through hands-on activities during Wild Wednesday, Wednesdays 4:00 – 6:00 PM; enjoy a delightful morning of storytelling, sing-alongs, bubbles, and blocks during Lawn Time for Little Ones, Thursdays 10:00 – 11:30 AM; and create sculptures that turn, move, and roll during Arty Hours, Saturdays (except August 30) 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

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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.