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Tips for Taking Kids on a Summer Sail

Here's what parents should know if you're planning on taking a boating adventure in Michigan

Flanked by Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Huron to the east, Lake Superior to the north, and a spot of Lake Erie to the southeast, our Great Lake State is full of boating opportunities. Add to that the many rivers and lakes in between, and it's no wonder Michigan packs plenty of different family cruises around the state. So if you're looking to add a little something different to your family vacation this year – or maybe make a birthday celebration even more memorable – why not add a boat ride or two into the mix? But before you embark, make sure your family is prepared for the high seas.

Preparing your little sailors

So much of the joy of a vacation comes in the anticipation – especially for kids. To help fuel their excitement, do some research before you sail. Pick up this month's issue of Metro Parent, for instance, which includes a list of family-friendly boating opportunities in Michigan. Visit the website of your chosen cruise with your child. Take a look at the ship's route and what you can expect to see. Once you know where you're going, take a trip to the library together and check out books about the area you'll be visiting. You can also find books on sailing, the Great Lakes and Michigan.

Beyond getting your kids excited about the trip, you should also let them know what to expect onboard. Explain that they will need to listen carefully to the ship's crew and stay close to parents instead of venturing off alone.

Staying safe and comfortable onboard

On most family cruises, safety vests are available for each passenger, but you aren't required to wear them onboard. In fact, Kim Biocchi, director of administration and operations at Inland Seas Education Association, notes that their vessel's large L-shaped vests, which aren't like the ones you may be used to, can impede a passenger's movement, making them cumbersome to wear them while sailing.

But just because you aren't wearing life vests doesn't mean that you aren't safe. Crews aboard family cruise ships are trained to work with little visitors. You can help them out by being careful about keeping your children nearby and a few other hints to keep kids cozy. On the water, the winds can make you feel cooler than on land. So even if it seems hot ashore, make sure to pack a light jacket and plenty of sunscreen for your little crew. Kids may get wet with the ocean spray, so an extra change of clothes is always a plus.

Shoes can make a big difference, too. While flip-flops reign in the summer months, they're not good for sailing. The ship's deck can get slippery from water – save the flip-flops for the beach and encourage your children to wear shoes that will stay on their feet and that have a little bit of a tread to grip slick surfaces.

Avoiding seasickness

Biocchi offers a few suggestions to keep little tummies in check. The crew has gingersnaps at the ready to queasy passengers – ginger helps ward off nausea. She explains that since her program offers so many activities onboard, usually there's enough distraction to help keep kids' minds off motion sickness. She cautions parents against trying new medications for the sail. "You just don't know how your kids might react to the medication." Her advice is to look into commercially available motion sickness bands, or to just accept that a little seasickness might be part of the adventure.

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