Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Snorkeling for Kids - Use the Right Mask

Children's Snorkel Mask

Junior Masks
It is very important for your child's mask to be comfortable and water tight.  A junior mask that has a flexible rubber type seal will feel softer against your child's face.  It will also create a better water-tight seal.  A good mask depends on a good mask fit, instead of a really tight head strap.

Small Mask
I have ordered masks online and have purchased masks at our local sporting goods store.  Both have worked well, but it has been important to request that my child try on the mask.  For sizing, my 4-yr-old still clearly needs a junior or child mask.  However, my 8-yr-old, is now big enough to wear a small adult mask.  Being able to use an adult-sized mask gives him a wider range of products and features... such as the valve in the nose of the mask, which adds better functionality.

Valve in Nose of Mask

I've not seen one brand of mask perform much better than another for children.  But, also, children tend to be tougher on their snorkel equipment.  So, masks are bound to get scratched, dropped, and casually tossed in the sand.  We are always careful to wash ours out at the beach and to wash them up at home, but we buy them with the intent to use them... wear will happen.

Prescription Mask for Far-Sightedness

A change for us, that has impacted our snorkeling, has been my son getting glasses in kindergarten.  By this point he was a good snorkeler and had a great fitting mask.  But, suddenly he wasn't seeing everything that we were seeing in the water.  Unfortunately, his eyes are bad enough, that it is very important for him to wear his glasses.  Thanks to a fabulous idea from a friend, for our last vacation, we purchased a prescription snorkeling mask online.  It worked amazingly well and made seeing all the underwater life so much better for my son. (We purchased the adult size mask, and it fit our 8-year-old.) http://www.snorkel-mart.com/detail.cfm?ProductID=121&AllocatedProductID=120#.UUkvPlfm8Z0

We have tried many things to keep our masks fog-free, but have found a fantastic solution (thanks to some experienced divers in Hawaii)!  We mix 1/3 baby shampoo and 2/3 water in a small spray bottle, and use this solution to lightly spritz the inside of the mask.  Rub the solution over the lens surface and quickly rinse in the ocean or lake water.  This works super well and is safe for eyes!!  We keep the spray bottle in a small zip-top bag that travels with our snorkel gear. 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Snorkeling for Kids - Using a Wetsuit for Your Child

A Necessary Snorkeling Item for Kids - A Good Wetsuit

Snorkeling is one of our family's favorite activities.  We only usually check two bags, at the airport, on a vacation, and one of them is packed with snorkeling gear!  That being said, good snorkel gear is very important in our family.  Through some trial and error, we found that the biggest thing that ends children's fun when snorkeling --- is getting cold.  Being chilled will make nearly every child want to stop snorkeling and head for the beach.  Because of their smaller size, children become colder much faster than adults.

The solution to this problem is a great fitting wetsuit.  We have tried renting them, but have decided for our family, the best choice is to buy.  Currently, my son has a very nice suit that was picked up second hand for $15 and my daughter has one that we purchased from a a great online shop for $35.  http://www.wetsuitwearhouse.com/wetsuits/category/kids-juniors-wetsuits.html

Wetsuits with Easy-Use Back Zippers

Our vacation destinations are usually lovely tropical islands, with warm waters.  However, even the warm tropical waters chill most children before the adults want to stop snorkeling.  A snug-fitting, thick neoprene wetsuit can double the amount of time (in our experience), that your child, will comfortably be able to snorkel.  When considering how much money is spent to take a vacation, an extra $15-50 for a wetsuit is a tiny investment.  The wetsuit will make your child more buoyant, keep them warm, and make snorkeling more enjoyable for everyone.

Our preference is the shorty wetsuit, which allows your child plenty of freedom of movement.  A full wetsuit can be restricting and then your child will likely not be inclined to wear it.  If you have a very young child, we highly recommend a warm belly wetsuit!  It is super cute and works exceptionally well and is one of the only thick wetsuit sized for a young child.  http://www.warmbelly.com/

Hang to Fully Dry
Once you own a great wetsuit, it is important to care for it properly.  At the beach, rinse well in fresh water (in Hawaii there are usually always open-air showers available).  And, once home, we learned the easiest way to clean them up (from a great snorkel tour group), simply fill a bath tub with some fresh water and a little bit of baby shampoo.  Then make sure to fully wash them off, inside and out.  Once rinsed well with the soapy water, rinse with fresh water, and hang to dry.  When fully dry, store for the next vacation.  A good wetsuit, will keep everyone in the water longer... and for our family, that is a great thing!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snorkel Gear for Kids - Best Flippers

Soft Foot Pocket for Little Feet

Snorkel Gear for Kids - Finding Great Flippers

Both of our children (4-yr-old and 8-yr-old) are snorkelers!  It is an exciting hobby and fun activity that our family shares.  Our son first tried his snorkel gear in the open ocean with us at a snorkel site off of Maui... the gorgeous Molokini, when he was only 2 1/2-yrs-old.  It was a rocky start, and he ended up bobbing along, cradled safely in my arm as I snorkeled.  But, by 3 1/2-yrs-old, he was snorkeling better than many adults on our vacation in Mexico.  It is very important for kids to have good snorkeling gear to give them confidence in the water.  That being noted, it is incredibly difficult to find quality gear that will work for little faces and little feet.
XSmall Size Flipper

Through much trial and error, I have finally found a good flipper for little feet.  They are a softer rubber material, have a nice foot area, stay on in the water, and are made well.  Both of my children used these flippers for 2 weeks in Hawaii and the flippers still look brand new.  The flippers helped them maneuver easily through the water.  Also, the flippers were easy to slip on in the water, and they stayed on their feet!!

XXXSmall Flipper
Check these out, the price cannot be beat and the shipping was quick.  The one downside is that they are only available in one color per size.  My daughter, who wears a toddler size 9 1/2-10 1/2 fit the XXXSmall (solid blue) perfectly, they were a little roomy, but stayed on perfectly.  My son, who wears a youth size 2 1/2- 3 fit the XSmall (blue and orange).  They are available on the Swim to Win website (link below) in many sizes and my price was $12.99/each with free shipping.  Try these for your little swimmer - happy snorkeling!


Ordered for BetterTimes Swim Fins:

  • Size: XXXS - 8-11 Child
  • Size: XS - 1-3 Child

California Adventure: Best Places to Eat for Young Families

  • CA Adventure
  • Corn Dog Castle (California Adventure)
  • Rancho del Zocalo (Frontierland - Disneyland)
  • Pacific Wharf Cafe (California Adventure)
  • Princess Breakfast - Ariel's Grotto (California Adventure)

  • Tiki Juice Bar (Adventureland - Disneyland)

Best Places to Eat for Young Families - Disneyland Frontierland

Best Places to Eat for Young Families - Disneyland Frontierland... 

And a super yummy treat that shouldn't be missed on Main Street.

Disneyland Where to Eat - Frontierland & Main Street

  • Rancho del Zocalo - Frontierland
    •  Kids Chicken Taco
      • My daughter loved this and ate most of it.
    • Chicken Tortilla Soup
      • My son did not like this, it was not tasty and is not a good choice.
    • Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter
      • It was good, filling, and able to be shared some with our son, because the portion was bigger.
    • Soft Tacos Monterrey
      • Ordered these as chicken tacos and they were decent, taste was mild, but really worked well for sharing with the kids.  Plus left us all full.
    • River Belle Terrace - Frontierland
      • Tennessee BBQ Pork Sandwich
        • Flavor was good, portion was great, plus the sandwich bar stuff was wonderful.  It was easy to add some extra lettuce and tomatoes, making this plate stretch to feed both me and my daughter.
      • Mississippi Turkey Breast
        • It had a little more of a processed lunch meat taste and my husband thought it didn't taste as good as it looked.
      • Smucker's Uncrustables Sandwich
        • Not great and super pricey, plus not filling and left my son sharing with my husband.
      • Chocolate Cake
        • Super yummy and was a nice treat for us that day.
    • Golden Horseshoe - Frontierland
      • Fish & Chips
        • Little greasy, but good flavor and filling lunch.  Was recommended to us by one of the Disney employees as his pick of all the restaurants for food quality and value.
      • Corn Dog
        • We don't typically eat corn dogs, but these are really good.  Love that they are fried to a really dark golden brown and feels like an upscale 'fair food' item.
      • Candy Treats - Main Street 
        • We keep daydreaming about these incredibly delicious handmade toffee bars, that are covered in chocolate, and rolled in chopped pecans.  Our family bought one little package to enjoy at the park and one to take home.  Super delicious!!  

      Monday, March 4, 2013

      Big Island - Kona - Best Dessert - South Kona Fruit Stand

      Try the South Kona Fruit Stand

      Fresh Fruits and Delicious Desserts

      We were very excited to find a true little gem on our last trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.  The South Kona Fruit Stand is amazing!!  We stopped there multiple times and enjoyed each and every little treat that we tried!!  http://www.southkonafruitstand.com/

      Some of the delicious items that our family loved are the following:
      • Mini Macadamia Nut Pies were the best choice and we are still thinking about them, hoping to figure out a similar recipe we can make home.
      • Tropical Carrot Cake had a lovely pineapple flavor mixed in with the carrots and macadamia nuts and the cream cheese frosting was delicious.
      • Brownies with Shaved Coconut were rich, dark, and slightly chewy... the perfect brownie and our children's favorite dessert.
      • Coconut Macaroons with Dark Chocolate and Toasted Macadamia Nuts were beautiful to look at and a fabulous flavor combination.  Plus, they are huge, my husband and I shared!  
      • Fresh Fruit Smoothies were absolutely delightful... fresh fruit blended in an excellent flavor combination.  My personal favorite was the Pineapple-Banana with coconut milk - Awesome!!!
      We were very impressed with their incredible fruit selection, the helpfulness of the staff, and the great coffee!!  Also, they have a really wonderful little product from a local person that makes a honey and beeswax lip balm, a fun little souvenir.  We highly recommend trying the South Kona Fruit Stand for a new fruit (be sure and try the native apple-bananas!!) and a yummy dessert to enjoy.

      Saturday, March 2, 2013

      Disneyland - Best Places to Eat - New Orleans Square

      Best Places to Eat in Disneyland - New Orleans Square

      These are the places that our family enjoys dining at, in the Disneyland Park, in New Orleans Square.  We love the ambiance of the Blue Bayou and think it is a 'must do' during each Disneyland vacation.  Be sure and get your reservations early.  Also, please note that we have tried supper there many times.  We are not impressed with the higher food costs and lack of our favorite entree.  Side Note- If you want to sit by the water, expect to wait for your table... even with a reservation.

      Disneyland - New Orleans Square:

      • Blue Bayou for lunch - New Orleans Square
        • Monte Cristo Sandwich
          • Super yummy, both kids loved it!  Think ham and cheese, french toast type bread, and a great jam sauce for dipping.  It should be noted that this is a pricey lunch at nearly $24/entree at the time of our visit, but two entrees fed our family of four.  It is only available at lunch time (important to note, this is our favorite item on both lunch/supper menu, and is the least expensive).  This is a great way to experience the fun of dining in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  Our kids love it!!!  Make reservations well in advance.
      • Harbour Galley - New Orleans Square
        • Clam Chowder
          • Served hot in a bread bowl, this soup is good.  The bread bowl is excellent.  But, neither of our kids enjoyed the soup.  They both wanted the top part of the bread bowl as a snack and we had to get them meals from the French Market, next door.
      • French Market - New Orleans Square
        • Macaroni and Cheese
          • Extremely simple 'Kraft' style macaroni and cheese, with fresh veggies and fruit, served in a Mickey Mouse shaped plate.  Not a lot of food, but seemed fresher and hotter than some of the other kid entrees.