Take kids on boating vacations

Looking for hot speckled trout action? Then cast your gaze to the nearshore areas, where love-struck trout gather for their summer-long party.

July is the most popular month for family vacations, when children are out of school and available to join the family on extended trips. As any parent will tell you, there’s a learning curve involved when adjusting to traveling with children, and that’s especially true when — as most fishing families eventually will want to do — you include boating as a vacation activity option.

We covered the tips for teaching a kid to fish last issue; this month, I’ll offer some advice for adults who will be sharing the deck with youngsters. With an eager 7-year-old of my own, and a dozen nieces and nephews to join me on boating vacations, I have learned a thing or two about traveling and boating with children. And as anyone who has ever been confined in an automobile with a child for an extended amount of time knows, the adventure starts the moment the tow vehicle is loaded up, hitched to the trailer and headed down the driveway.

Planning for an enjoyable boating trip with children should begin even before that.

Here are six tips for making this summer’s boating vacation with the children a success:

1. Choose an appropriate destination. Summer weekends at Miami’s South Beach, the Colorado River Strip off Parker, Az., or Lake Erie’s Put-in-Bay may be enjoyable for adults, but these popular boating destinations are probably not the best choice for entertaining children. Choose a destination offering something age-appropriate for each child you are traveling with, and allow the child to have some input during the destination selection process. And don’t even think about overnighting at a hotel that doesn’t have a swimming pool.

2. Establish the Rules of the Road. Before you even board the tow vehicle, let alone the boat, make sure each child has a clear understanding of what is appropriate behavior on the road, in the hotel room and on board the boat.

3. Let them pack their own travel bag. Make sure it is small enough that they can carry it by themselves and that the bag includes toys, games, books or other items they can use to entertain themselves during the drive or at the hotel room.

4. Pack sun protection, a first-aid kit and comfortable PFDs. Protection from the sun is paramount, especially around the water where the sun’s rays are reflected and where sunscreen can be washed off by swimming or contact with the water. A first-aid kits needs to be handy when you need it, and make sure it’s well-stocked with various size bandages and children’s pain reliever. A PFD designed for the child’s size is much more comfortable and likely to be worn, especially a model and color that he or she has helped select prior to the trip.

5. Plan plenty of stops along the way. “Daddy, my legs need to run!” is the way my son Ethan lets me know it’s time to pull over at the next rest stop, boat dock or beach.

6. End each trip on a positive note, doing something the child really enjoys. The key to developing a future fishing and boating partner is making each voyage fun for them, providing the child with a positive memory of the last trip so that they will want to join you the next time you want to hitch up the boat and go.