With the huge range of activity holidays for families on offer nowadays, the choice of where to go and what new adventures to include on your trip can be mind boggling – but it’s a nice dilemma to face! In the warmer months (and it's always warm somewhere in the world), most activity holidays for families have a recurring theme: water. Whether it's to exotic destinations in Western Europe, North America, or The Caribbean, chances are you and your family are going to get wet and stay wet on your adventure – and love every minute of it.
Snorkelling is one of the more accessible pastimes that everyone – regardless of age and ability – can get involved in. If it's on the itinerary of your water themed family adventure, these packing tips can help make sure that you and the kids stay safe while snorkelling.
Mask & Snorkel
While of course you can rent equipment most places, if it's within your budget it's actually a very good idea to buy your own at home. A mask and snorkel can be purchased very cheaply, but it's important to make sure the fit is comfortable and that no water leaks in – which is the most common cause of fear or discomfort for younger children.
There's a huge range from which to choose, but some aspects to consider are shatterproof polycarbonate materials and defoggers for masks, and flexible snorkels.
Tip: Let the kids get a feel for their mask and snorkel in the bathtub at home before you leave so they know what to expect and are familiar with the gear.
Many experts consider a snorkel vest to be a standard piece of safety equipment – and this is especially true for children. Designed to slip over the head with a ‘horse collar’ design, the inflatable vests keep your precious children buoyant, not only ensuring their safety, but also allowing them to concentrate on the fun part of the activity rather than struggling to stay afloat.
Tip: Choose one in a neon colour so it's easy to identify your child in the water. Also ensure it has adjustable straps so the fit is firm.
In addition to a vest, inflatable water wings provide an even higher level of confidence for youngsters. They come in different sizes, depending on age, and take up so little room in your case you'd be crazy not to grab a cheap pair for each child. Once inflated they simply slip on to the upper part of the arm, allowing the child's arms to float easily on the surface.
Part of the appeal of a strap wrapper is that many on the market designed for children are in funky bright colours and prints - but really, apart from looking cool, their main purpose is to slip over the strap of the mask to ensure it doesn't get tangled in the hair. They can save a lot of complaining and even tears as the straps do have a tendency to get stuck in longer hair. They're super cheap and will take up next to no room in your suitcase.
Not only do fins help children look the part, they definitely make it much easier to get through the water when they're snorkelling! While you may be used to the smelly, cumbersome rubber fins of your own childhood, today's kids get to choose from a range of brightly coloured neoprene fins, which will pack down very small in the luggage. They're very light and easy to get on and, while the blades are solid, the rest is very flexible, making them more comfortable in the water for little feet as well.
Tip: Again, purchasing rather than renting will ensure a better fit, as they come in a range of adjustable sizes.
A pair of water shoes offers your child both comfort and protection in and out of the water. Made from soft neoprene with a moulded rubber sole, water shoes allow for excellent grip on sand and rocks – either on the beach or in the water. Specially ventilated to allow for free movement of air and water, kids don’t need to worry about taking them on and off: they simply become part of their outfit.
As an alternative to water shoes, lycra traction socks are a cross between a shoe (with a heavy neoprene sole) and a sock – offering flexibility of movement and protection for the soles of feet, but also extending to protect the ankles and lower shins from scrapes or coral. The vibrant neon colours and novelty factor of traction socks make them popular with children.
Many people who snorkel are so focused on what’s under the water that they forget to protect themselves from what’s above: the sun. Remember that your children will be lying face down in water so make sure you pack and frequently apply a high factor waterproof sunscreen.
Like for any other activity holidays for families, the more effort you're prepared to put in to your packing and preparation, the more relaxed and trouble-free your snorkelling experience will be. Invest in some reasonably priced gear and your kids will be safe, happy and confident in the water – and it just could be the start of a lifelong passion!
Richard Edwards is the Managing Director of Summit & Blue, an adventure holiday company offering independently crafted activity holidays for families to exciting destinations around the world, including France, Italy, Portugal, the USA and Canada. With unique itineraries and exciting activities like biking, hiking, white water rafting and canoeing, we create holidays for those looking for an experience a little more off the beaten track.