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How to Plan a Kayaking Trip With Kids

Updated on October 4, 2012

River Kayaking Trip

Our family kayaking trip on the Duck River.
Our family kayaking trip on the Duck River. | Source

Kayaking with Kids

You have always loved being outdoors and kayaking down the river is your idea of a good time. Now that you have kids, are your adventures out on the water over? Absolutely not! With a little planning and organization, it is possible to have a fun and stress-free kayaking trip that the whole family will enjoy.

Planning a kayaking trip with your kids for the first time can be a little scary for any parent. You may be wondering about a few questions such as:

  • How do you plan out the route?
  • What should you pack?
  • What are some water safety tips to keep in mind?
  • How do you prepare the children for the trip?

For the answers to these questions and so much more, read further to learn some helpful tips for preparing and organizing a family kayaking trip.

Our Family's Favorite Kayaking Route on the Duck River

Cortner Mill:
200 Cortner Mill Rd, Normandy, TN 37360, USA

get directions

Dement Bridge:
Dement Rd, Normandy, TN 37360, USA

get directions

Planning the Route

Before loading up the kids and all your kayaking equipment, my best piece of advice is to plan out the route for your trip. Testing out the waters is extremely important when taking your kids out for the first time. This kind of planning ensures the safety of your family by pointing out any tricky spots in the river and helps you to plan those much needed breaks to avoid any potential meltdowns. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when mapping out your kayaking trip:

  • How rough is the water? - For your family's first kayaking trip, you want a route with calmer waters. Finding a route with minimal currents ensures the safety of your children and helps them to get comfortable with their kayak.
  • How long is the route? - With smaller children, you definitely want to keep your trip within 2 to 3 hours long. Be sure to include any food and bathroom breaks in this length of time. Keeping it within this time frame helps to avoid any potential meltdowns and ensures a future kayaking trip with your kids.
  • Where are some good places to stop for a break? - While mapping out your route, look for some good spots to stop for eating, using the bathroom, playing, and exploring. Kids, especially little ones, tend to get a little antsy in the kayak so be sure to allow enough time in your trip for them to get out and stretch their legs.
  • Where are the tricky spots along the route? - Writing down or just keeping a mental note of all the tricky spots along your river route helps to ensure the safety of your family. You need to watch out for the areas that the water currents get stronger and where the river is more shallow to avoid getting stuck on a bed of rocks.

Lunchtime on the River

Stopping for a picnic on the river.
Stopping for a picnic on the river. | Source

What to Pack

Packing for a kayak trip is a very important part to planning a successful day of fun for your family. You need to make a list of all the important kayaking and safety equipment you will need, gather up enough food and drinks to keep the family happy, and have an extra set of clothes on hand for each member of the family. To avoid any of these items getting wet, be sure to store them in dry bags and safely pack them into the interior wall, also known as the bulkhead, of the kayak. Refer to the table below for a complete list of what to pack for a kayaking trip on the river.

Items to Pack for a Kayaking Trip

Cell phone
Personal floatation devices
Wide-brimmed hat
Car keys
Safety whistle
First aid kit
Headlamp or flashlight
Garbage bags
Camping gear (if overnight trip)
Extra set of clothes
Dry bags

Staying Safe on the Water

Our son sporting his life jacket on the kayak.
Our son sporting his life jacket on the kayak. | Source

Water Safety for Kids

Keeping your children safe while out on the water should be every parent's number one concern. The first line of defense is a personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a life jacket, for every member of the family. Make sure that each PFD fits properly and that the latches in front lock securely into place. For infants and toddlers, purchase a PFD that has an additional strap that fits in between their legs and a protective neck guard to prevent them from slipping out of the device.

Another concern for parents should be protecting their kids from the sun. Before your kayaking trip begins, be sure to apply a waterproof sunscreen to all areas of the body. Wearing a pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat can also help to shield your kids from the sun's harmful rays. For children with extremely sensitive skin, make sure to dress them in UPF rated sun-protection clothing.

Packing a well stocked first aid kit is another important safety tip while being out on the river. These kits come in handy for any kind of cuts, scrapes, or medical emergencies. Since you will be outdoors for an extended period of time, it is also a good idea to stock up on allergy medicines in case of a reaction in the middle of your trip.

The last tip for water safety is making sure your kids stay hydrated throughout the trip. The sun can be particularly draining on little ones, so be sure they are drinking plenty of water and eating snacks to keep hydrated.

Safety Tips for Kayaking Video

Kayaking Fun Facts Quiz

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Preparing Your Kids

Before taking off on your kayaking adventure, take the time to prepare your kids for the trip. It's a good idea to let them sit in the kayak and play around with the paddle while on land to help them get familiar with the equipment. Let them try on the life jacket and explain why it is so important that they keep it on during the duration of the trip. This kind of preparation cuts down on the chance of a meltdown right before the trip even begins.

Clearly state the rules and go over the water safety tips with your kids. Be sure to tell them that they must stay seated in the kayak at all times. Let them know that standing up or rocking the kayak back and forth will not be allowed. When your kids know exactly what you expect out of them, it will lessen the chance of a potentially dangerous situation.

I hope this guide for planning a river kayaking trip with your kids has been helpful. If you have any questions, comments, or additional tips for planning a successful kayaking trip, feel free to leave these in the comment section below. Enjoy your trip!


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    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much teaches12345! Happy to hear this article will be useful to others planning a family kayaking trip. Appreciate your support, for the vote up, and for sharing!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Great hub article and so helpful to parents planning such a trip this summer. Voted up and shared.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much jpcmc! My husband loves to kayak so he is the one that got me started. I have to admit that I was a little nervous the first time we went but he found a great route for the whole family to enjoy. Hope you get the chance to try it out sometime! Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is a great guide for parents. Kayaking is fun when everyone is safe. I've never tried kayaking before and it looks fun.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Laurinzo! Appreciate you stopping by!

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Very informative hub. Thanks alissa.

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Outbound Dan! So happy to hear that I covered it all. I definitely agree that it is very alarming how many people go out without a PFD. Even with calm waters, you just never know what could happen out there. Appreciate you stopping by and for adding your comments!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Rebecca! I am definitely the planner of the family while my husband is the fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. It is safe to say that we totally balance each other out lol :) Appreciate your visit and for adding your kind comments!

    • alissaroberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Alissa Roberts 

      7 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much RTalloni! I was so nervous taking our boys out for their first kayaking trip but they both handled it like champs. It definitely helped that my husband has been floating that river for many years so I felt comfortable enough to venture out with them. Appreciate you stopping by and for your kind comments!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      7 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great guide! As a kayaker myself, you covered all the bases. The one thing that irks me is when I see parents and children paddling without PFDs.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You covered everything! What a great, practical guide.This would also encourage parents of young ones to pre plan ANY big event or trip!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A great planning guide for a kayaking trip with kids. Your points are important for success with fun and safety. They can also give confidence to first-timers!


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