Planning a whale-watching trip on your next vacation? You won't regret it. There's nothing like seeing a whale in real life, swimming in its natural habitat. But organizing such a marine adventure may feel intimidating — especially when there are little kids involved. Here's how to prepare for a whale-watching trip that your whole family will enjoy.

Know your limitations. Here's a big question to consider before you book your trip: Do you or does anyone in your family have problems with motion sickness? Chances are, if you get sick on car rides or roller coasters, you'll also have a tendency to get queasy on the sea. But even people who are prone to motion sickness can enjoy a day of whale watching with a little extra forethought. Skip the small, Zodiac-style boats and look for a whale-watching operation with as large of a boat as possible.

Ask lots of questions. Thanks to social media and the Internet, you can check out online reviews of most whale-watching operations before you book anything. When you call the company, ask about policies for inclement weather and what kind of guarantees they have on spotting a whale. No operation can guarantee that you'll see a whale that day, but many of the good ones will offer a comp ticket for another trip if no whales are spotted. Here are a few more questions to ask:

  1. How many people will be on the tour?
  2. Will there be a naturalist or whale specialist onboard?
  3. Are food or beverages available?
  4. Are there bathroom facilities on the boat?
  5. How long will the tour last?

Have a plan. Seasickness is a drag. And it's hard to enjoy the whales when you know you have several more hours of nausea to endure. Have a plan for dealing with motion sickness so that you don't feel panicked if it strikes. It's not a bad idea to take some medication before you even embark on your trip. For the medicine to work properly, most brands recommend that you take the product an hour to 90 minutes before you go. Look for non-drowsy medications so you won't sleep through the whole trip! If you start to feel sick while you're on the boat, sit out on deck and stare at the horizon. Don't go inside and lie down no matter how good you think it will feel. Trust me, it will be much worse. If possible, sip on ginger ale or water and nibble on some crackers. An empty stomach makes nausea worse. And try as hard as you can to search for whales to take your mind off your ills.

Pack a day-trip bag. It's likely that you will have to spend an hour or more on the boat just getting to the best spots to see whales. Depending upon the age and temperament of your kids, this back and forth might captivate their attention the entire time or for just a few minutes. Be prepared with the normal items that you might bring on a road trip: snacks, coloring books, small toys or even electronic gadgets. It's also a good idea to bring a few extra layers of clothes and a rain jacket. Even if it's warm and sunny on land, it could be cool and misty out at sea. Here's a quick checklist of things you'll want in your bag:

  • Snacks and water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra layers and rain jacket
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Non-drowsy motion sickness medications
  • Blanket

Have a blast! You may have seen them before in movies, on television, or in books, but there's nothing like seeing a whale in real life. They are awesome in the true sense of the word. And this is one activity that you and your family will cherish and talk about for the rest of your lives. Take it all in and enjoy.

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5 tips for newbie whale watchers
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