1. Sun Protection. Your kids won’t know that the equatorial sun is brutal and can ruin their trip (and yours) if they get burned. Vigilance is key. Have a talk with your kids before you leave and line it out for them: it’s no fun to be stuck inside, in pain, when everyone else will be playing in the pool or catching waves. Buy each of your kids a sun hat they like and get them to commit to wearing it every day. Do the same for yourself—goofy fun for the whole family! I also always buy a new tube of SPF 25 lip balm and make a necklace of it using electrician’s tape and grosgrain ribbon (I have girls, so boys might like p-cord better) and make sure they wear it and use it frequently. I actually have a shorter version of one attached to the key loop on my go-to pair of board shorts. And of course, don’t scrimp on the sunscreen. Reapply regularly.

 

  1. Food. My kids have allergies to foods like dairy and gluten. I wish I could tell them to “get native” and try the street tacos, but such a risk would flop miserably. When we go to Mexico, they eat a lot of fruit (washed, of course!), tortillas, eggs, beans, and stuff I bring from home like granola bars and almond butter. I bring special treats to snack on when we go out to eat so they don’t come unglued while we’re waiting. Sure, it can dampen their appetite and thus their enthusiasm for trying the huachinanago but they’re on vacation too.

 

  1. Entertainment. For the plane, sure, bring the iPad. But then, make it off-limits. Being in the water and interacting with the locals is the best part of a surf trip. I’ve told my kids their devices don’t work in Mexico, and they’ve accepted it without question. My oldest is extroverted and makes friends with anyone so she’s completely in her element when we travel. My younger is a thinker who is quite shy, but enjoys the peace and space we experience. I also make sure that there’s paper, colored pencils, and time for drawing and writing. As a writer, they see me journaling all the time, so this is something they see as a natural part of adventuring.

 

  1. First Aid. I teach wilderness first aid courses and have a background in leading wilderness trips with kids. My kit is a collection of items I cannot live without and is backed by years of experience. Here are 5 must-haves: A) BandAids, in all sizes. I like the fabric vs. plastic. They stay on in the water better and are more comfortable. B) Athletic tape. Great for sprained ankles, adding security to wound dressing, and it’s impossible to buy in third world countries. C) Op-Cite wound kits. I make a kit with one Op-Cite and a package of steri-strips. These are available at Rite-Aid or other drug stores, or online (amazon, of course). Op-Cites stick to skin for days, even in the water, and are see-through so you can monitor the wound for signs of infection. D) Baby soap. Don’t clean your wounds with real soap or dish soap. Baby soap is gentle and safe and won’t prevent healing the way the super-concentrated regular soaps will. I take a tiny Nalgene bottle (the 1 oz) and fill it with unscented baby liquid soap. Even though it’s gentle, I use it sparingly. E) Meds. You gotta have: kid/baby Advil and adult Advil, kid/adult Benadryl (the kid form is a liquid and is bulky, Pepto-bismol (I like the chewables), Imodium (use only in emergencies, like for travel days, otherwise, unless you or your patient is at risk of severe dehydration, let the bowels flow). If you have a family doctor who is willing, asking for a prescription for Cipro and a mild narcotic (for adults only, if your kid is that sick or in pain call for a helicopter evac) isn’t a bad idea.

 

  1. Gear. Bring any kind of board you think your kids might like to try. Even if they haven’t started surfing yet, they may get inspired. Boogie boards, longboards, foam boards, plus yours. Laird Hamilton once told me, “to get your kids to surf, teach them to swim.” So hopefully you’ve done the groundwork. To get them to love surfing, be wiling to give up a session or two in order to show your kid the ropes. Also bring your patience! So many kids give up on learning a new skill because the environment is hostile. Don’t be that parent. Let them explore, try, and then celebrate their successes, even if it’s just wading into the shorepound to jump waves 100 times, or swim with you beyond the breakers. Connecting with the ocean, in any way, is the best gift you can give them. That and your smile after you come in from surfing. That smile will make them curious, and hopefully lead to a desire to join you in the lineup someday.