Traveling With Children

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Foggy Weather

Pacific Ocean Safety

Playing in Snow


Kids Spending Money

Playing on the Beach

Planning for Summer on the West Coast

Baker Beach
Running on the Beach
Foggy Coast
How to Prepare for Foggy Weather
Surfing, cruising and endless sunshine; that is what California is all about right? Yes, California and the rest of the west coast is sunny in the summer, much sunnier than say, Michigan. However; it is not sunny right on the coast for much of June through August.

In the summer, you will find fog hugging the coast from Ventura, California to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. (The fog turns to rain on the Olympic Peninsula. They don't call it a rain forest for nothing.) This span of coastline includes San Francisco and the surrounding area.

What is coastal fog like? It can be thick enough that you can't see the ocean from highway one. Fog can be cold. Even though it may be close to 100 degrees F. in the Sacramento Valley, the fog keeps the coast cool. San Francisco can see high's in the low 60s in July.

How to Prepare for a Vacation in the Fog

  • #1: Mentally prepare the family for the possibility that when you are on your only vacation of the whole year, on the beach, hoping to soak up the sun, there may not be any sun. Set expectations accordingly.
  • Bring a sweatshirt and wind breaker everywhere.
  • Don't stay in the hotel room just because it is foggy outside. You might not ever go outside.
  • If you are camping, bring enough bedding and bring even more warm clothing. We bring fleece hats.

Good Things About Fog

  • When there is fog, it is much less likely to be windy. A foggy day in the 60s is warm enough to romp and play on the beach in a swimming suit (at least warm enough for kids) and much more pleasant that dealing with wind and blowing sand.
  • If you are a photographer, fog provides opportunities to take photos with much less contrast and glare. It is also very nice for taking pictures of star fish in tide pools. The fog prevents the sun from reflecting off of the water and allows the sea life to show through.
  • Also if you are a photographer, photos of a partly foggy sky are much more interesting than a photo of a totally blue sky.

Ocean Safety: Visiting the Pacific Ocean With Children

Boggie Boarding

Skim boarding

What to Expect When Visiting the Pacific Ocean

When planning your vacation to the west coast, keep in mind that although the beaches are beautiful, many of them are not safe for small children. There are however, many safer beaches, you just have to choose your beach carefully. First, look at the beach to see how large the average waves are. Remember that every so often waves will be much larger than the average wave.

If your children are going to go into the water at all, choose a beach with very small to no waves. Choose carefully, even if you have pre teens or teens, if they are not used to the ocean.

After a day in low surf, and everyone is used to the rhythm of the ocean, you might want to try a beach with some larger waves to play in. Confident swimmers can boogie board or even try surfing. Learn more about ocean safety at California Junior Lifeguards website.


Water Activities

When visiting many coastal areas there are established surf shops as well as small kiosks that rent water equipment by the hour and by the day. Check the internet for local conditions and rental locations like the Local Surfer's Page in Santa Cruz.

Fun rentals include boogie boards, surf boards and skim boards.

What To Wear: Staying Comfortable and Safe

Walking on the log over Little River

The Right Shoes for Children to Hike In

Hiking: Bring a good pair of athletic shoes for your children to wear when hiking in the summer. It isn't necessary for them to wear expensive hiking boots unless you are going to hike on rough trails for more than one day. The biggest problem we had with our children is when they insisted on wearing flip flops on a long day of walking. Soon they were complaining about blisters. Leave the flip flops for the beach and hike in real shoes.

Day at the Beach: Children will not need any shoes at all for much of their time at the beach. Most beaches are covered in soft, cool sand perfect for running bare foot. If it is a hot day, be prepared with slip on sandals to avoid burned feet. Many pacific coast beaches have interesting rocky tide pools to explore. Bring an old pair of athletic shoes that can get wet or a pair of water shoes for climbing around tide pools. If you are going to try surfing or boogie boarding wear something to protect your feet when walking on rocks. The best footwear for any long term exposure to the ocean north of Pismo Beach, California, are insulated booties that can be rented with a wetsuit.

Sun Protection

Sunny or foggy, the sun can cause sun burns. The best protection against the sun is by covering up your skin. Get your children used to wearing hats when they are young. Discourage them from going shirtless. One alternative, especially for girls is to buy them a cute UV protection shirt. These are available in surf shops. The surfers use these rash guard shirts under their wetsuits.

Visiting the Snow with Kids

Winter Clothes

How to Dress to Play in the Snow

If you are traveling to the mountains from September through May in the western United States, it could snow while you are there. To enjoy the experience, bring supplies to keep your whole family happy. Prepare your kids to play in the snow.

  • Gloves: Mittens are warmest. Buy dollar store knit gloves to wear underneath for extra warmth. The outer glove needs to be water repellent.
  • Pants: Assume your kids will end up sitting in the snow. Bring water repellant pants. If it is very cold wear long underwear. If you don't have any, big pants with sweats underneath will work.
  • Hat: The best hat will keep your ears warm and protect your eyes from snow and rain.
  • Shoes: Tennis shows will become wet very quickly and even if your child doesn't complain today, she certainly will tomorrow when she discovers her only pair of shoes are wet. Bring boots and many pairs of warm socks.
  • Neck Warmer: If it is likely to be very cold, bring neck warmers. Our favorite is Turtle Fur.
  • Jackets: Any jackets will do as long as you are wearing enough layers. Fleece makes a nice under layer and something wind resistant for the outer layer.
Playing on thin ice Winter Safety

You have probably heard about hypothermia. You know not to get wet when it is cold. The dangerous part about winter is how you react to the unexpected.

These boys are playing on an icy pond in Yosemite National Park. They are about 1 mile from the parking lot, so no one's life would be in danger if they fell through to the shallow water.

This is just a reminder that if given the opportunity, kids will find a way to play in the most dangerous place in the area. Even for short hikes, take extra socks.

Play Life Or Death on the Discovery Channel Website
Surviving in the Wilderness

As your children grow they can go on longer hikes and may start backpacking. Most urban dwellers do not receive specific training on how to survive in the wilderness. Teach your children to survive if necessary. Start by reading Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. That should put them in the mood to learn basic survival techniques.

The Discovery Channel has useful information about how to survive in the wilderness. We enjoy watching Survivorman, a new TV show about how to survive. It is too scary for younger kids, which means it is great for older ones.

There have been too many examples in the news lately of people who were lost or stranded in the wilderness. If you want to avoid making the national news, prepare for the worst and bring a Survival Kit with you on every hike; no matter how short.

Even on easy hikes every hiker should carry a survivor kit on their person. (Imagine throwing your back pack down to distract a bear. If your survivor kit is in the backpack, now the bear has it and you don't.) Here are some examples of small but lifesaving items that would fit into a Band-Aid box.

  • Lighter, metal match, waterproof matches, flint with built-in striker.
  • Snare wire.
  • Signaling mirror.
  • Wrist compass.
  • Fish and snare line and fishhooks.
  • Candle.
  • Small hand lens.
  • Oxy tetracycline tablets (diarrhea or infection).
  • Water purification tablets.
  • Solar blanket.
  • Surgical blades.
  • Butterfly sutures.
  • Condoms for water storage.
  • Lip balm.
  • Needle and thread.
  • Knife or multitool.

I Want That: Learning How to Manage Money on Vacation

Shopping in New Orleanes

Shopping in Hawaii

Spending Money

Children like spending money. Admit it, so do adults. We all like buying things even more when on vacation. When my kids were small we paid them an allowance. The year we went to Disney World, we discovered a neat way to teach a couple of lessons about how to manage money, while we were on vacation.

Learn to Save:

Tell the children that you will match all of the money they have saved by the time we started our trip. There is a catch. Once you match their savings, you don't give them any more money on the trip. They have to buy all of their own treats and souvenirs. When they know they can double their money by saving their money they quickly improved their ability to save.

Learn How To Handle Money:

The children now have their own money on the trip, but it is probably more money than they are used to handling. Teach them how to travel with their money. How much should they take with them each day, and how much should they leave in their luggage? How should they carry their money? How should they check to see that change is correct?

Learn to Shop:

With full wallets you might think that your children will go on a spending spree, but we found that they don't. When it is their money, and they know it has to last the whole trip, they are much better at budgeting then when they were spending their parent's money. Our kids took almost the entire vacation to decide on what souvenirs to buy. The best part is they quickly learn that begging for candy and treats is futile. They have their own money to spend.



Weekend Destinations

Helpful bits of information about places we have been and things we have seen.

Food Fun

Recipes for Road Trip Food, Camping and Hiking Food

Traveling with Kids

How do Happy Families Do It?


Packing Check List

Don't leave home without these kitchen and outdoor gadgets.

Travel and Gear

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