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Faith Mulvihill & Gil Zeimer
When family vacation means trying to satisfy both kids and a diving habit, travel is a little more complicated than just packing the minis into a station wagon and heading for the nearest kids programs and organizing adventures that will appeal to the toddler learning to swim, the pre-teen learning to snorkel and the parent seeking buoyancy at 100 feet below sea level. Rest assured, diving moms and dads have traveled from Belize to the Bay Islands, proving that, with a little research and planning, rewarding family dive/snorkel vacations are not only possible, but probable. For the most part, its just a matter of asking the right questions.
Q. How do I begin
selecting a destination and resort?
When choosing a destination, look for a place that is within pleasant traveling distance. If you plan to fly, make sure you can get a non-stop flight, especially if youre traveling with infants and toddlers. If you below to a dive club, ask divers with children where theyre gone and how they like it. Similarly, call local dive shops to ask the operators and divemasters where theyve traveled with their children. Tell them what youre looking for and solicit suggestions. Unless your children are old enough to enjoy diving, diving and more diving, steer clear of live-aboards. Never underestimate the boredom factor. Look for a destination that offers something for everyone.
Then take your ideas to a dive travel specialist a travel agent who has been trained in researching and selling dive travel. Go over pamphlets and information as a family, until youve come up with some realistic possibilities. When you finally decide on a destination, get the kids interested with books, toys or games that introduce them to the wildlife, culture or history of the place.
Q. Does the all-inclusive
price really include everything, like day care, snorkeling lessons and
Q. What about baby-sitting?
When looking for a sitter, ask plenty of questions. How qualified are the providers? Do they speak English? Would the travel agents put their own children there? How have their other clients responded to a particular service? One travel agent told me honestly that one resort destination in the Caribbean with day care and baby-sitting sounded great on paper, but she would no longer recommend it to her clients because of a change in management. Look for a travel agent with this type of candor.
When organizing the sitter with the resort or your travel agent, be absolutely specific about your requirements and needs. List age preference, language, time and activity requirements, and price range.
Demand a sitter with swimming skills and basic first-aid training. Call two or three days prior to arrival to make sure your requests have been met. Ask the sitter to meet your family at check-in for introductions and a briefing. When discussing wages and schedule, dont be surprised if your sitter indicated that the rate is up to you. Many sitters expect to receive tips for helping with the extras, like handwashing clothes, keeping toys organized and repacking kids suitcases. Tip generously, this is their livelihood.
Before you leave your kids with their new friend for an extended period of time, let the sitter take the kits to the pool or playground while you unpack. Observe them from a distance and get your kids feedback. If everythings OK, leave written instructions, discuss what to do in case of emergencies, bedtime, meals and where the kids can be after dark. Dont take anything for granted. Treat the sitter with the same precautions you would at home.
Q. What kind of
major hotel chains offer in the way of kids' activities?
Q. Should you buy
snorkel gear for your kids before you go?
Q. Are airline/hotel/meals/sports
Q. What's the best
time to go?
Q. How can we get
the most out of family time?
The Bottom Line: By asking specific questions, doing lots of up-front research, and talking candidly with travel agents, friends and hotel staff, you can find the right destination to fit any need or any budget. And if your family experiences a snorkeling/diving vacation, your kids can come home with more than a cool T-shirt. They can return with cherished memories of an unforgettable vacation, as noteworthy as your first dive.
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