Taking a family sailing holiday with children can be a magical experience and create lasting memories that they will recall for a lifetime. Here are some top tips that will help to abolish any concerns you may have, and allow the whole family to enjoy a carefree sailing holiday.
Choose your vessel wisely, catamaran wins
By far the best choice for a sailing holiday with small children is a catamaran. The inherent stability of the duel hull makes them much safer. Catamarans also have significantly more room, so children have plenty of areas where they can play while the boat is sailing. The nets between the hulls provide a great place to enjoy the thrill of the waves with the occasional exhilaration of being doused in water! For further insights into the relative benefits of the catamaran see How many hulls? Yacht vs catamaran.
Realistic routes with short sails
It is sensible to select a route with short hops to keep the sailing fresh and the children engaged. The beauty of sailing in Croatia is that there are so many islands; 79 on the Dalmatian coast alone, plus a further 500 islets. These run parallel to the coastline and it is easy to choose a suitable voyage that everyone will love.
From the Split/Trogir area, consider a week sailing to Šolta, Hvar, Vis & back. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and plunge into the warm, crystalline waters of the Adriatic sea, so this sailing adventure stays fresh and exciting.
A one-way trip down the coast from Split to Dubrovnik will also work well and, without the restrictions to return to base, is easily customized to cater for all desires.
Further north, routes around the Kornati archipelago feature lots of short hops, so the kids have plenty of time to play in the sea.
Sea toys, snorkels and SUPs
For a kid, to be able to dive into crystal clear waters from the back of the catamaran whenever they wish is truly heaven. The freedom to splash about round the boat, chase fish and conquer the nearest islet, Captain Hook style, is unforgettable.
If your child is not the strongest swimmer or is less confident in the water, by the end of the sailing week they will have come on leaps and bounds. Every boat is equipped with life jackets, which are great fun to bob around in, in the water. Of course, they also serve an important safety role while under sail, enabling the kids to sit in areas where the skipper would otherwise be less comfortable with them being.
Stand-up Paddleboards (SUPs) are a great addition to a family sail and will keep the kids entertained for hours. SeaBobs are available with some catamaran as well. These are funky and fast underwater scooters that allow you to dive like dolphins or cruise around the surface. Check out what optional extras are available when you book your catamaran. All kids should be equipped with snorkel and mask so they can revel in the delights of the underwater world. Consider saving up any leftovers from meals as well and letting them feed the fish, pizza works really well!
Things to do on the boat
Make sure to pack some toys for the children to play with during sailing, just a few key items in case they get restless. That said, be fully prepared for them to be very happy to search the horizon for pirates and be fixated on the skipper instead! Sometimes all they need is a length of rope to practice their knots, or a compass to check the heading.
The scenery is spectacular and would inspire anyone to reach for their drawing equipment. Packing a few pencils and some paper is a great idea. Draw the islands, the boats or make a treasure map! Cards and dice are good for kids and grownups alike, while a couple of favorite books are perfect for some quiet time in the shade.
Safe sailing for all ages
There are no age restrictions on sailing and children can enjoy sailing from early in life. In many ways, it is akin to camping. Kids just love to be outdoors and will be in their element surrounded by natures playground. They will sleep like babies at night because they’ve been in the fresh sea air and active all day!
If you are considering sailing with a baby, it is worth bringing along a supply of age-appropriate baby food as it is not found in all supermarkets. It may also be more comfortable to moor in marinas and harbors where you can take advantage of their facilities.
Safety nets can be put on the edges of the boat. This allows toddlers and smaller children to move around with more confidence. It is the responsibility of the accompanying adult guests to monitor young children. That said, skippers are safety and first aid trained if needed.
The safest cabins are situated in the front of the boat so try to allocate these to the children. While sailing, be sure to find a safe play area. The cockpit tends to be a relatively sheltered position; on a catamaran there are more suitable places than on a yacht. Catamarans also have more shaded areas, which is important for delicate infant skin.
The sun is twice as powerful on the sea as the UV rays bounce off the surface. Make sure to pack the factor 50 and find shaded areas for the kids to laze in during the height of the day. Bring extra t-shirts that they can wear in the sea and as cover-ups. If they fall asleep with the soporific motion of the boat, cover them with a cotton wrap to make sure they don’t get caught in the sun if the heading changes.
Travel bands help to offset kids prone to travel sickness. It is also worth packing some sickness pills just in case; however stable catamarans are, it is better to be safe than sorry! All boats are equipped with a basic first aid kit. That said, it is best to bring a small supply of liquid paracetamol/ibuprofen if your child does not swallow tablets. Anti-mosquito spray and antihistamine cream are advised, as you will likely to head to shore at dusk; prime mossie time.
Make sure to provision with plenty of kid-friendly drinks to keep them hydrated during the sailing week as well as tasty snacks. The fresh air and constant swimming are guaranteed to raise the appetite!
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