Junking With the Little Ones
Your exhaustive, step-by-step manual for whippin’ up a cub-friendly junkscapade this summer…
Judging by the soaring temperatures, blasting A/Cs and the ever mounting piles of sweaty laundry, it’s safe to say that another summer is here, and in Hong Kong, that means … JUNK TRIP TIME! For many of us, it’s an annual tradition to get together, soak up the upcoming stretch of lovely weather and enjoy the picture-perfect views of Hong Kong’s coastlines and islands while bobbing up and down on a plush, kitted-out boat at sea - and for the little ones, it’s too much fun to handle! So, before we plunge straight into long streaks of ideal junk trip weather, we suggest you use these rainy days to get your first junk trip of 2016 all planned and booked! Allow us to assist you in gathering and summarising all of the info you’ll need...
Steps & Preps:
Juggling all the components involved in planning a successful family junk excursion with all the safety measures in place for the youngsters, is a lot of work, no matter how much time you have to prepare. So as we do, GeoBaby is here to help you overloaded parents - there’s no need to waste your precious time browsing the net and looking for this website and that phone number. We’ve gathered all the main bits you’ll need. Plus we enlisted Managing Director Irene Moore from Lazydays, to kindly give us a hand to ensure it’s all current and correct, and to drop in a few insider tips. You’re sorted!
When's the adventure?
Stay protected from the hot summer rays!
Before your big day far out on the deep, blue rolling waves, refresh your memory with tips from GeoBaby’s helpful guide on how to be safe in the sun...
“Right now!” is what the little monsters would scream excitedly - but only after Mummy makes a few phone calls, settles a few bills and sorts out each step outlined in this guide, will the adventure begin! So, let's start by reviewing your family's schedule get a rough idea of when this fun-filled outing can take place. Taking tots out on junks is not easy, plus trips are too expensive unless you share the costs with a group of chums. So why don't you invite a few fellow Mummies and their kidlets to join you? Then, consider the following three factors:
Which day of the week? Keep in mind that it’ll get increasingly difficult to book weekend excursions due to the many groups of junkers who work Monday through Friday, so shoot for the week if you can.
What time? Though nighttime junks are also available, the best time for families with young’uns to head out is in the morning. Aside from getting more bounce for the ounce, you’ll find more child-friendly options on offer and you won’t have to deal with tired and grumpy tots.
- What's the weather forecast? “Most companies will only postpone or cancel a trip for black rain or T3 and above,” says Irene, “the trip will still go ahead for T1 and other poor weather conditions, so cancelling in these situations means you’ll forfeit any payments made.” The best you can do is keep a close eye on the Observatory's weather reports and hope for the best - good luck!
Remember, junking is on practically every Hong Konger’s mind at this time of year, so the earlier you get started on bookings, the better.
Book the boat!
Don’t get stung by no-shows!
No-shows for all-inclusive junks will still be charged, so unless you don’t mind covering their share, you best collect everyone’s share in advance, once they RSVP with a “yes.”
Moving on to the most important step; let’s weigh the options. Firstly, are you leaning towards a self-catered or an all-inclusive junk trip? The former is much cheaper as you’re paying only for the boat, but you must bear the hassle of organising and lugging all the food, drinks, ice and so on, yourself.
As the name implies, the latter means the charter company will sort everything out for you, from food and drinks (adult juice too), to music, onboard staff and any special requests you prearrange with them. Even so, as with any jaunt with the sprogs, you’ll still have plenty of items to bring with you, so GeoBaby recommends you bag an all-inclusive deal. They are offered at a fixed price per person (tots under the age of 4 are generally free of charge). Reserving for a multi-family bash? If so, you’ll need to provide the charterer will the total headcount in advance, so they can prepare the correct food and drink quantities.
Whichever way you go, you’ll need to sign a booking form, plus pay a deposit that is generally non-refundable. Company policies vary, but usually a surcharge is included in the total costs for certain destinations and sometimes even for pick-up points, so be cautious of any hidden costs. “Don’t hesitate to ask questions,” Irene insists, “it’s important to understand what you’re getting into.” (We agree!)
Child-friendly junk charterers that offer all-inclusive packages:
Known for its flexibility in accommodating its customer's needs, Island Junks offer a range of fully comprehensive packages with ultimate party menus. Extra services include: Thai massage (go for it, Mum!), BBQs or buffet-style lunches, free-flowing drinks (bubbly, wine, beers too), onboard waitresses, and anything else you wish - if it’s do-able, Island Junks promises to do it! Plus, the little ones will be over the moon with the box of toys, bean-bags, vast playing areas and more. Even children’s parties and clowns can be arranged. (See package prices here)
Keeping it simple with the all-inclusive deals is Lazydays with their Fun Package, which includes a breakfast selection with tea / coffee to recharge, a lunch and dessert buffet, an ample supply of drinks and snacks for the whole day, water inflatables, masks and snorkels, and if Dad can watch the little ones for an hour, massages and nail spa services too! And these are just some of what’s available - day or night, Lazydays can arrange all sorts of memorable events from themed and birthday bashes, to even weddings!
What extra features or services do some junk hire companies offer?
- Banana boats, wakesurfing, wakeboarding, kayaks, speedboats
- Slides, water inflatables, masks, snorkels, inflatable island loungers
- X-Box, DVD-player, sound system, BBQs
- Massages & beauty treatments like manicures & pedicures
With a selection of nine all-inclusive packages, HK Yachting really caters to almost every group of customer. The most suitable one for you and your blood posse is the Traditional Junk (30-40 people max.), that comes with a scrummy choice of menus or the Jungle Jane & Tarzan deal for a huge inflatable side, sunbeds, beanbags, king sunbeds and so on. Check out the fleet of junks, cruisers and yachts here.
With a fleet of three quality wooden junks (capacity of 25 - 40 people), HK Junks caters to families with its child-friendly extras like beanbags, noodles, face-painting, and even banana boating and wakeboarding for the older kids. Want to know what’s for lunch? Click here to see the menu.
The fun starts when you jump aboard are greeted with free-flowing drinks, music and a mouth-watering variety of appetizing nibbles. Millionaire’s Bay is where Jaspa’s usually drops anchor and after a session of chatter, playtime and fun, lunch will be served. A laid-back surf ’n’ turf BBQ, with salads and a yummy kid’s menu with all their favourites. Don’t get too full though, as you’ll miss out on the fresh pizza and brownies for the ride home!
First come, first served!
According to Irene, most companies confirm bookings only after the booking form is signed, and the deposit paid; boats are booked on a first-come, first-served basis so hurry and sort it out before you lose it!
Munchies & Juice
If you opt to rent only the boat, there are plenty of food caterers around that can help you with 90% of the work - browse around and find an extensive list of popular caterers in our GeoExpat article “Junk-ing it in Hong Kong.”
Alternatively, for multi-family get-togethers, how about organising a potluck so you can minimise costs and get everyone to contribute? Split the type of food to bring between the Mamas - lunch, desserts, snacks and little nibbles, drinks (non-alcoholic / sodas and booze), drinking ice and items like cutlery, paper plates, plastic cups, napkins and so on. Ask your charter company about food storage and refrigeration - you may need to bring a cooler box with ice for the drinks.
“It’s a bit hit-and-miss on getting the right quantity of food and drinks,”Irene says, “it tends to result in a shortage of drinks.” Arrange more than you’ll need, especially non-alcoholic drinks and water as it’s easy to get dehydrated in the heat. Oh, and don’t forget the cutlery, paper plates, napkins, plastic cup and so on.
Let your baby catch up on the Zzz’s...
Even with spacious loungers and tanning decks onboard, the big kids will most likely end up around the table for most of the trip. So we suggest you bring along a sling, car-seat or stroller (that your baby is familiar with) so your bub can fall asleep right by your side.
"Are we there yet...??"
According to Irene, these are the top 5 pick-up points where the exciting day begins...
Central Pier 9&10 - everyone in town knows where the Central piers are and how to get there so you won’t have to deal with guests getting lost and party-time delays
Causeway Bay Noon Day Gun - Causeway Bay may be the definition of hell for claustrophobic people, but the pick-up point at the harbour is calm and not too crowded. Plus, the pier is close to the MTR station
Aberdeen - another calm area as it’s in the typhoon shelter, and ideal for southside sailing if you want to avoid the choppy waters of Vic Harbour
Tsim Sha Tsui / Kowloon Pier - a central meeting spot for Kowlooners, but the downside is choppy waters as the area is unprotected from the wake of passing ferries and large vessels, so boarding can be tricky
- Pak Sha Wan Pier (near Hebe Haven) - it’s in Sai Kung, so you won’t have to sail far to find some beautiful coves and beaches
… and the top 5 destinations to drop anchor…
Southside (Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay, South Bay) - a scenic area of Hong Kong island and is usually much sunnier that other areas
Clearwater Bay - generally boasts clean and clear waters and is a nice sailing distance; not too long so you can have more time for swimming
Millionaire’s Bay, Sai Kung - the pristine white sands on the two sheltered beaches make you feel like you’re on a tropical holiday, but the area gets very busy during the summer and the waters will be crowded with boats
Bluff Island (or “Ung Kong Wan”), Port Shelter, south of Sai Kung - just like the beaches at Millionaire’s Bay, Bluff Island is gorgeous and therefore, a crowded hotspot!
- Kau Sai Wan, Sai Kung - a picturesque bay with a small waterfall and crystal clear, turquoise waters
Remember, Safety Always Comes First!
There’s no harm in checking with the junk charterers, but know that just ‘cause they offer kiddie-friendly services or even birthday parties for the little ones, it doesn’t mean they provide a full range of lifejackets in all sizes. Often, you’ll have to find one yourself for the rug rats - here are several options:
- Island Junks - this is one charterer that does provide child life vests)
- Ap Lei Chau Main Street - try one of the many marine and watersports shops
- Storm Force Marine - approx. $700-800
- Sky International - approx. $700-745
- Order online from EBay or Amazon
Note: for those of you who didn’t know, lifejackets and life vests (PFD - Personal Flotation Device) are NOT THE SAME - life jackets have much more buoyancy than PFDs and is designed to keep you facing up in the water, allowing you to breathe. LIFEJACKETS are the best choice for little ones who cannot swim or are weak swimmers. Life vests were designed for use in recreational boating and are a good choice for those who are confident in the water.
Boat Rules & Regulations
Always, always, ALWAYS wear a lifejacket on board - get them to wear their vests BEFORE boarding and let them know they mustn't take them off
Give the mini ones a serious talk about safety on the boat - remind them that the Captain is the boss and anything he says, goes
- Follow the junk rules: No running! No sitting on the sides (railings, dashboards platforms, or tanning roof) especially when the boat is moving! Stay seated while the boat is moving!
One thing's for sure, and that is you don’t want to be dealing with wailing youngsters because of jellyfish stings! Ask your skipper to take you to a safe destination that is protected with shark netting (this also keeps the jellyfish away) Double check with the hire company and again with your skipper, that the destination is safe with netted perimetres and lifeguard services, like Stanley Bay. But just in case, bring with you a bottle of vinegar.If, by sheer unluckiness, somebody gets stung, remove the tentacle with tweezers (don’t touch it with bare hands) and rinse the area with vinegar for a minute or so. Don’t cover it up; let it breathe and make a doctor’s appointment when you return home.
Any last tips?
We doubt there’s any need to remind you loving, attentive and responsible GeoBaby Mamas to keep an eye on all the children. The excitement of being on the boat will make them extra hyper, so you may want to have a team of adults for this!
- Not to be a party-pooper but it’s advisable that at least one adult on board volunteers for the role and responsibilities of Designated Sober Supervisor. Of course all the adults (tipsy or not) will be watching the kids, it’s just safer to have at least one person who can make rational decisions and be more vigilant.
A Handy Checklist - What To Bring?
- Drinking ice, large cooler box and standard ice to chill drinks (check with hire companies as they may provide these)
- Catered or homemade food
- Water (lots), soft drinks, alcohol and other non-alcoholic drinks, cocktail equipment
- Cutlery, paper plates, bowls, plastic cups, napkins, plastic take-away boxes
- Paper towels, wet-wipes, a few large rubbish bags & plastic bags for wet items
- Fully-charged iPod or music player with playlist, chargers
- Plenty of towels, tanning mats
- Sunscreen, Aloe Vera after-sun gel, hat, protective clothing
- Sea-sickness medication
- Basic First-Aid kit & bottle of vinegar (for jellyfish stings)
- Charged camera
- Snacks & juice
- Swimwear, flip-flops or sandals
- Snacks + juice
- Swimwear, flip flops or sandals, sunglasses, change of clothes
And for the little one:
- Swim suit, towel, spare change of clothes
- A hat, sunglasses, baby sunscreen with SPF 50+
- A sling, car-seat or stroller with blanket, black-out screen
- Change kit, swim diapers
- Toys, DVDs (most junks are equipped with DVD players)
- Baby food and feeding kit, bib, towel, bottle etc.