I know a lot of you might look at this and think "not for me" or "no room for a kayak" or "too expensive" or "too fatiguing". Well, I'm here to tell you, you're probably wrong on all accounts!
Let me address each issue one by one. Firstly! "Not for me...."
Do you like being outdoors in the summer? Do you like spending time with friends? Do you like NOT spending a fortune to do something with your kids? If you answered no to any of these questions then you're right, maybe kayaking isn't for you. But if you answered yes then maybe you might want to give kayaking a second look.
So often Brian and I would sit around on the weekends wondering what we could do with the kids that wouldn't cost a fortune. We would often go swimming at the local lake which was nice but the water was freezing and it was an hour away. We would take them to the playground or for long walks but that was hot and honestly, a little boring. We would take them out for ice cream but that only takes about an hour.
So far this summer we've gone on four kayaking excursions two of which were with friends and aside from the cost of the kayak we've spent nothing but the cost of gas, peanut butter sandwiches and bottled spring water and it's been just as much fun as spending a day at Hersheypark (honestly, probably more fun).
Second, "No space for a kayak...."
Brian and I use an inflatable kayak. We fold it up, put it in the car, unfold it, inflate it and we're on our way. When we're done we deflate it, fold it, put it in the car and then get it to the garage where it takes up a space the size of a large suitcase. I bet you hear "inflatable" and think the worst. HOLE! While yes, you can get a hole in an inflatable, if you purchase a quality inflatable the odds of that happening are significantly less. We use an Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak.
It's in the happy range where quality meets affordability. Some inflatable kayaks are more, some are less. This one is right in between. There are two heavy water resistant canvas layers covering the actual inflatable portion and there are three air chambers. You can inflate the air chambers to 2 PSI which is pretty solid! It tracks as well as a hard shell due to its aluminum ribs in the bow and stern. We also use the optional backbone which creates a nice V-shaped bottom that helps with rigidity and tracking (moving in a straight line). In all it weighs 52lbs which is heavy for an inflatable but still light enough to pick up and carry and even take on a plane! It meets the 50lb limit if you remove the floor and store in your carry-on.
If you look hard on Craigslist and are willing to travel within a 100 mile radius you can get a cheap tandem (2 person) kayak for between $250-$350. I even saw one for $50! But I haven't found anything that good since. Here are two currently selling on Craigslist that are close to my area. Each are only $250. Yellow kayak. Green kayak. Considering that it costs about $50 a day to rent a tandem kayak I think this is a pretty good deal. As long as you go more than five times for the life of the kayak you've saved money.
I've seen the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame model inflatable kayak go on Craigslist for $400 but you can buy it new on eBay for $650. We manage to fit ourselves and two of our children ages 6 and 9 in the Advanced Elements kayak. Advanced Elements also sells two less expensive tandem inflatables that I would recommend if you're not planning on using it in the ocean. The first is called the Lagoon 2. It's not as long as the AdvancedFrame so you probably couldn't fit any kids in it and it doesn't have the aluminum ribs in the bow and stern but it's lighter (which is better if you're backpacking with it). It also has two heavy layers protecting the third air chamber layer and you can purchase the optional backbone for better performance. I've seen them for as cheap as $125 on Craigslist but they typically go for $250. Some people try to sell them for more but if you buy them for more than $250 used you're not getting a good deal. The open deck model is called the Scamper II. The Scamper II has an open deck so if you have one small child you can try to fit them in. There's also clips to add in a third seat. The Scamper II can currently be bought for only $259 refurbished on AirKayaks.com. $259!!!! That's affordable to me.
Lastly, "Too fatiguing"....
I have to say I'm a huge whimp when it comes to physical exertion. I don't like long hikes even in the shade. I don't like standing in a hot playground. I don't like playing sports in anything above 80 degrees. But I can DO kayaking. On our second "excursion" Brian and I took the girls on a 10 mile trip down a creek with a slow current. And after we were done I was tired but I wasn't exhausted. I'd say 5 miles down a river or creek would have been ideal but even that's a pretty good amount of kayaking. The water does a good job of reducing heat exhaustion and if you bring snacks and have a decent current it can be pretty leisurely.
So are you convinced? Do you want to get out there and kayak as much as I do? Probably not. I'm pretty fanatical about it at the moment but if you want to at least half as much as me then I recommend giving it shot!