Intelligent Travel (Kids Sea Camp Palau) by National Geographic author Rainer Jenns

Amazing traveling with your kids

Intelligent Travel (Kids Sea Camp Palau) by National Geographic author Rainer Jenns

Anyone with young kids certainly knows about the lifestyle modifications that need to be made in order to raise children. Among other things, you just can’t go out as much or stay up as late as you did BC (before children). And when it comes to traveling, most parents somehow feel obligated to forgo their dream trips or favorite vacation activities for more family-friendly destinations and accommodations that cater to kids.
This seems particularly true in the case of scuba divers, who too often take a complete sabbatical from the sport while bringing up their kids. After all, how are moms and dads supposed to go diving with young children in tow?

My wife and I found ourselves in this boat after our boys were born, and although I still managed to finagle my way back in the water every now and then, Carol and I rarely”‘buddied up” underwater, and we certainly weren’t planning vacations that revolved around diving like we once did.

I learned that compromising our love of scuba diving for the sake of our two young sons proved unnecessary. Not only was I enlightened to the fact that children as young as 10 years old can now become certified divers, I discovered a tour company that catered to families like ours: parents who want a family dive vacation and the kids get a chance to make new friends and participate in their own underwater adventures.  Kids Sea Camp (KSC) was started 14 years ago by Margo Peyton, a travel consultant, dive instructor and mother of two who wanted to bring together like-minded people who love the ocean, diving, beaches, snorkeling, and travel, and offer them the opportunity to share their passion as a family. After initially launching with just one trip and one other family, KSC now offers hundreds of kids and adults each year the opportunity to learn and enjoy scuba each year.  In honor of her dedication toward helping kids and adults gain a greater appreciation for our oceans and creating family diving events around the world, Margo was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2009 and has contributed to 5,000 certified divers to-date.

It didn’t take a lot of persuasion to get Carol and the boys on board. After perusing The Kids Sea Camp list of itineraries, which now include destinations like the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Yap, Utila, Fiji, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Roatan, Australia, Greece, Florida and the Galápagos, we decided on Palau, which I had been told by the famous underwater photographer David Doubilet has some of the best diving on earth. We called Margo and booked the Palau family adventure.

One of the biggest draws to KSC is the fact that they can fully train and certify any adult or child ten years or older during their trip. Our original plan was to have the boys (who are now 11 and 13) go through the PADI certification program included on the trip. After all, how cool would it be for them to become certified in the waters of Palau, teeming with marine life and practically unlimited visibility?

We certified the kids over the summer so they could join the other teen divers on the trip and take full advantage of the amazing reefs surrounding this Micronesian island. Our kids had a fantastic time experiencing their first ocean water dives with their fellow certified teen divers; however, I did take note of the fact that the kids who were getting certified during the trip had done the PADI e: learning prior to arrival and didn’t miss a beat.

For children under ten, Kids Sea Camp also have programs there’s SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) with lots of underwater pool adventures as well as fun educational in ocean activities. Children ages 8-10 can participate in the PADI SEAL Team Program, a course that only with Kids Sea Camp includes dive time in the ocean where they learn the basics of diving. But regardless of how old they are, the whole point is not just to supervise them, but get them exposed to scuba diving and have them share the experience with their parents and other children their own age.

Palau has some of the best diving in the world, and the good news is that the hassle of getting there is more than worth it. Since we were traveling with Kids Sea Camp, the long flights and three layovers allowed us to get acquainted with some of the other families in our group. Since KSC has been in operation for 14 years now, most of the dozen or so families represented had been on one of their trips before. It didn’t take me long to realize why they returned. The kids, regardless of age, seemed to bond immediately, while the adults shared a quick camaraderie. This really was the best of both worlds for Carol and me: fun with the kids combined with the freedom to pursue our passion for diving.

One of the beauties of Palau is that its premiere dive sites are not particularly challenging, in other words, you don’t need advanced open water training or Nitrox tanks to enjoy them.  The water temperature was a balmy 84 degrees while the visibility on most dives was easily 100 feet.  Even when it rained, which could happen quite suddenly in this tropical region, it didn’t bother us too much since we spent most of our time underwater.

We signed up to explore the islands with Sam’s Tours, and our first stop as a group was to Jellyfish Lake. The marine lake is the bizarre consequence of thousands of years of evolution–over time millions of golden jellyfish were isolated in its waters and they migrate horizontally across the lake each day following the sun’s rays to capture their nutrients. What makes these jellyfish so unique, however, is the fact that you can swim freely among them, since they lost their stingers from never having to fight off any predators.

But perhaps Palau’s most famous dive, and thus most visited site, is the Blue Corner. Before swimming out to the corner itself, we descended to about 90 feet (the kids were limited to 45 feet) to see some magnificent gorgonian fans, anemones, giant clams and soft corals along the sea wall, which stretches thousands of feet down.

We were immediately greeted by a cruising gray reef shark, a precursor of things to come. We floated with the current like a bunch of kites in a strong wind. The concentration of marine life, including large schools of jacks, trevallies, and barracuda swimming all around you was just incredible.

Perhaps the only downside to our first family dive trip was that it set the bar incredibly high for the kids.  With time to savor the wonderful week we shared together and remind them not to expect marine life like that every time we go diving, which we all hope thanks to Kids Sea Camp will become a regular family activity for us from now on.

To read more about  Rainer Jens family travel :http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2011/02/09/family_diving_palau_part_2/

Travel with kids documentation information:

DAN TRIP INSURANCE              DAN DIVE INSURANCE

Travel with kids documentation information:

Adults that are traveling outside the U.S. with kids age 18 or under other than their own, must have a motorized Permission or Consent to Travel Letter from both of the minors’ guardians in order to leave and return to the U.S.

A child departing the United States and other countries, traveling with only one parent, a guardian, grandparents or other adults must have a written and notarized Permission to Travel Letter from both birth parents or legal guardians to enter many countries, even on a cruise ship’s shore excursions?

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reminds visitors that “Foreign officials and transportation companies are vigilant concerning documentation for children crossing international borders. Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children traveling with you, including any documents that might be required by the authorities of the country you intend to visit, and by U.S. and Canadian authorities on your return to the U.S. or  Canada with the child.”

Travel Documents Help Protect Kids

This requirement for an affidavit for children traveling outside their home country is due to the enhanced awareness of children’s rights raised by the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. As of July 2011, this treaty created to deter international child abductions is in force between the United States and 82 other countries and territories, including Canada and Mexico.

Nevertheless, international child abduction stories are in the news all the time. To stop these tragic crimes, and prevent the transport of runaways or children involved in child-custody disputes, American carriers have been told to require special documents such as Permission to Travel Letters from adults departing the U.S. with minors.

Additionally, rising health care costs and legal issues have forced many medical providers to deny medical care to minors without proper Medical Authorization forms. Increasingly, written permission or affidavits from guardians who carry the minor’s insurance coverage as well as proof of that medical insurance coverage are required at emergency care facilities.

The same regulations apply to minors under 18 who are leaving the United States with school groups, teen tours, or just friends on a vacation. Sports teams and academic study programs require a similar Minor Consent to Travel form.

Read on for tips on how to make this paperwork less of a burden, or just scroll to the bottom of this story to obtain sample forms.

Getting a U. S. Passport or Foreign Passport for a Minor

To enforce the Hague Convention provisions, the U.S. Department of State requires that every citizen, no matter the age, traveling outside the US by air carry their own passport and appear in person to apply for one. These very strictly enforced guidelines to get a passports for a minor require the presence of both parents, with photo ID and proof of parentage, or one parent’s appearance with a notarized statement of consent from the second parent or legal guardian.

Exceptions are made if there’s documented evidence that a minor has only one guardian; for example, divorce papers, death certificate, adoption papers or a lawyer’s letter would indicate that the presence of one legal guardian is sufficient. This is a complex issue, explained in more detail in the U.S. Passport Office.

If child custody issues are a concern for you, the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program provides notification to parents of passport applications made on behalf of minor children, and denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with the CPIAP. The Office of Children’s Issues will provide more information.

Citizens of other countries must check with their own country’s embassy, as passport issuance laws have become more strict all over the world. For more information on this topic, and tips for parents with children of dual nationality or different counties of citizenship, Michelle Higgins’ story in the New York Times Practical Traveler column should be of help.

If you’re planning your foreign vacation, start this process early. United States’ security and border regulations change frequently. The increased number of passport applications means backlog at the National Passport Center.

Visas & Travel Documents for Minors

In an era of heightened global security, many foreign countries are revising their visa procedures as well. Contact the embassy of your destination country or study the Consular Information Sheets provided at http://travel.state.gov to find out what that country’s requirements will be in terms of documentation, in order to bring a child into the country.”

The US Airways website confirms that they enforce this during the check-in process with the posted rule: “If adult passengers do not have the proper documents, as defined by the U.S. Department of State guidelines, boarding is denied in order to comply with international regulations and the foreign immigration process.”

Some countries require a notarized original copy of the Permission to Travel Letter before even accepting a visa application for minors. Many countries also require that the authorization notes are in the national language of the country and notarized and authenticated by the nation’s embassy or consulate. For information on the requirements for travel to a specific country by an American citizen, visit US Department of State and navigate to the International Travel Information page. When in doubt about the information, it’s best to call the Visa Section of the embassy or consulate of your intended destination.

 What Permission To Travel or Consent to Travel Letters Do

A consular officer at the U.S. Office of Children’s Issues (888/407-4747) verified that many countries require a Permission to Travel letter with parents’ notarized signatures, plus identification for the child (certified birth certificate or passport), and that both are essential.

Consular Information Sheets issued by the U. S. Department of State (which does not make these regulations) often carry this warning: “In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.”

U.S. Customs & Border Protection recommends that all travelers read the helpful booklet “Know Before You Go.”  Although minors under 16 may enter Canada from the U.S. by land or sea with only a photocopy of their U.S. birth certificate, the CBP notes that children under age 18 must carry notarized travel permission letters if they are traveling without their parents.

Childrens Travel Permission Letters Required for Cruises Too

Such concerns apply not only to air and land travel, but to liveaboard cruise travel as well.

Obtaining a Free Permission to Travel Letter Form

We recommend you download FTF’s sample “Permission To Travel” letter from the next page, so you can print it out, fill it in, have it notarized, and carry it with you on all future international travels. We are often asked if notarizing the document is necessary, especially by Canadian families, who pay much higher notary fees than those in the U.S. According to the Canada Consular Affairs Office, “It is strongly recommended that children travelling alone or with one parent carry a consent letter for every trip abroad. It is advisable to have the consent letter certified, stamped, or sealed by an official with the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration so that the validity of the letter will not be questioned.”

Tip: Notarize several copies of the Permission to Travel Letter at the same time if you are applying for foreign visas. Carry two copies with you on your vacation in case a border official at either end asks to keep a copy.

Regardless of where you travel outside the United States, when you are crossing a border by land, sea or air you will need to have proper identification documents for each traveler in addition to the above letters.  Please see the Department of Homeland Security Site if you are unsure about the type of ID documents you and your family need.

Travel Prepared to Avoid Confusion

Thorough documentation is especially important in situations such as travelers or guardians with different last names than each other or the minor. We  also recommend that birth parents who have different surnames than their child carry a photocopy of the child’s birth certificate while traveling, providing legal evidence of “guardianship” in case of trouble.

Same sex couples, and adoptive, divorced or widowed parents should carry certified custody or death certificates, adoption papers, or other proof of sole custody, as well as photo identification for themselves and the child.

Although travel agents and, occasionally, the fine print on a brochure, are supposed to notify families that airlines, cruise lines and bus tours may require proper documentation — or deny boarding — the paperwork can, and often does, slip between the cracks.

travel insurance- trip-protection that we feel is essential (and many  vacationers are reluctant to purchase) – is a must to get!

For more information, contact your attorney or a professional travel agent. On vacation, travel prepared. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Get Blank Permission to Travel, Minors & Medical Authorization Forms

Remember, having these essential documents for travel with minors could save your next vacation.

Safe and easy travels, Margo Peyton

Kids Sea Camp Utila

WHEN I WENT ON A NIGHT SEAL MISSION  IN UTILA WITH ANGIE.

 I was 9 years old and a PADI Master Seal, when I went on my first night dive mission with my friend Joeb and our instructors  at Laguna Beach Resort, in Utila.  I felt super excited, diving in the shallow salt water lagoon that Mr. Troy created!!! I saw my very first seahorse and two flounders, along with a stingray.   

I spent ages – well, at least thirty seconds – trying to find the seahorse.  I was so confused when Angie pointed it out under the dock in 5 feet of water, I thought it was a piece of coral; then I finally I saw it thanks to Angie shining her light on it. 

When we were done looking at the seahorse Angie took us over to these HUGE silver fish, and I mean HUGE (they were tarpon, which I didn’t know at the time).  Then Joeb (who was doing a night snorkel above us) called us up, he said he wanted to snorkel around the dock with his instructor.  So Angie and I continued on with the tarpon swimming about 6 inches from us.  

It felt so nice to get to stay in the water at night even though Joeb left,  We saw so much more stuff, that I can’t name it all. Right at the end of our night Seal dive I was cold, but I still didn’t want to get out because it was just so amazing!!!!!   The last thing we did was turn off all our flash lights just for a minute. We saw lots of little green and white dots lighting up the water when we waved our hands, the Seal Team Night dive in Utila, WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!! I had so much fun! It was one of the best experiences of my life! So if you’re reading this Angie… THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Holly Wakley

Kids Sea Camp has special waivers to take Seal Team kids on a dive in the salt water with pre approved permission to do so. Conditions are pool like and 1 instructor to 1 student ratio in no more 12feet of water.   This was a confined salt water lagoon filled with marine life located at Laguna Beach Resort Utila.

Wakelyfam1

Tips on taking care of and upkeep of your scuba gear

Taking good care of your scuba gear is as important as taking care of your self, your car, your home, and anything else that keeps you alive and well.

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Your scuba gear is responsible for life support while your diving.  Your BC is managing your buoyancy during your dive, your regulator is taking care of your airflow and your gauges are in charge of making sure you can safely monitor your depth, time and direction.  Your fins, mask and snorkel are most important for vision, movement and surface breathing with ease.  Of course there are lots of accessories like your dive computer, your wetsuit, your hood, boots, gloves, cameras, tanks, weights and belts that also require attention and care.

Keep your scuba gear in tip top shape!  Most scuba gear comes with instructional manuals describing manufacturer recommendations for care and maintenance, but here are some general suggestions to help keep your scuba gear in tip top shape:

•One good thing about scuba gear is that because it’s waterproof, you can wash it. In fact, all scuba gear should be rinsed in clean, fresh water after every dive. Then, it should be dried before storing it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

•Remember to dry and firmly replace the regulator’s dust cap before rinsing the regulator to avoid any water entering the first stage. Ideally, rinse the regulator while it is still attached to the scuba tank and pressurized. That way no water will enter at all.

•Have your scuba gear and equipment serviced regularlyUse clips and other attachments to keep all hoses and gauges close to your body while scuba diving. This prevents them from dragging across sharp rocks or coral. This also keeps them from or getting snagged or dirty.  By regularly, I recommend once a year.  This is very important so that you can feel confident that your gear is ready to serve you when you jump in.  Don’t wait until you are on location in the much awaited dive trip to the Galapagos, Palau, or the Cayman Islands to name a few before you figure out that you regulator is not working properly or your BC is leaking or wont inflate.   Although most PADI dive resorts around the world that Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures selects to send you too, all have state of the art equipment and gear rental, it can be costly to rent gear by the day for the whole family.   Having your own gear, is less stressful, more comfortable diving with and if its kept in good condition, will last for years of enjoyment.

•Handle scuba tanks with care. They are heavy and you shouldn’t leave them standing up unattended – they can fall over and damage the valve or nearby toes.  Remember when you have used a tank, to keep the cap off, that lets the dive shop know that tank has to be attended too.  Always make sure your tank is strapped in securely on the boat you are diving when your gear is hooked up.  A fall can break or crack a valve and permanently damage gear.  Change your own tank over between dives, and make sure to check your pressure gauge to assure you have a full tank when beginning a dive.  Make sure to read the numbers on your tank, if your diving Nitrox, you should have a Nitrox label on the tank with the information on the label.  analyze your own mix and make sure to record the information.  If your diving air, make sure your dive computers are set properly pounds, or bar, Nitrox or air.   Never dive air with your computer set for Nitrox.   Make sure to always examine your tank before a dive.

•You should rinse both the inside and outside of your BCD. Make sure to drain the water, then always store your BCD partially inflated.  Make sure your BC inflates and deflates easily.  It should fit comfortably, not too big floating up or too tight and cutting into your skin.  If you have outgrown your BC, its well worth the investment to purchase a new one.   ScubaPro makes BC’s with comfortable back plates for people with bad backs and kids that need extra support from the tank.  The new BC’s have pockets and integrated weight belts and Air 2’s designed to be more streamlined in the water and much lighter weight to travel with.  Check out the ScubaPro Knight Hawk, LightHawk, and Go for the guys, the LadyHawk and Bella for the girls and for kids, the SubGear rebel is my number one choice.

•Regularly inspect your mask strap, fin straps, snorkel and regulator mouthpieces and hoses for any sign of wear and tear. Sunlight, stretching and teeth easily damage these items so you might need to replace them sooner than expected.  These are very important pieces of equipment.  You would want to be comfortable in hiking shoes if you were hiking or tennis shoes if you were playing tennis right?  Well diving is just as important.  The wrong fins could give you leg cramps and blisters.  Make sure to go down to your local dive shop and try on a pair of fins.  For diving, you want a longer fin, not a short one, those are meant for snorkeling, not diving.  I personally like the full foot fins, as they fit comfortably like a slipper on my feet, but most men prefer the clasp fins with booties.  Your choice.  Fins should be kept in a place where they can hang or be completely flat.  If you throw them into a bag or stand them in a box or closet, they will bend and curve and lose their shape.

•After rinsing your wetsuit, wash it with a wetsuit soap or scrub, hang it up to dry inside out on a wide hanger. Handle your scuba gear with care

Regulators and computers:  Treat these as well as you do your laptop!  I do not check these in when traveling but carry them with me.  Always rinse properly and put in their own separate case or bag to prevent damage.  Make sure your battery in your computer is full and working and make sure your reg-system has been serviced and is working properly.  For those looking for something new this year, I highly recommend the MK25 with the A700 ScubaPro regulator system and the Galileo Luna wrist computer, this is a hoseless air integrated computer, for avid divers.  I outfit my kids in the Luna’s, because I like the programed safety stop information, the dive log ability and the larger screens.  The all new Chromis wrist sport watch computer for kids or the Maridian dive computer/watch for adults that do not want air integration.

 

•Consider completing the PADI Equipment Specialist course to learn more about caring for your scuba gear

Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures has been taking families diving for 15 years.  If you have any questions or would like some advise on your dive gear needs or care, please give Margo a call.

803-419-2556.  5000 certified divers and counting!

Two weeks are better than one

Two weeks vacations create better emotion, physical and workforce health

Margo and I have made a business out of taking vacations. We are experts in the business of taking time off. Along the way we have observed a lot about people on their retreats from the normalcy of life over the years.

Kids Sea Camp, Family Dive Adventures, St. VincentHow our families act on a Kids Sea Camp vacations at the beginning is much different, than at the end. This year, Margo and I were able to get away for the Yap to Palau trip with about 12 other families or about 60 people. It was the normal wonderful Kids Sea Camp adventure, great diving, families, food and lush accommodations.

But, it was more than that. I noticed a change in people attitudes at the beginning of the second week of the two week vacation of island diving bliss. They lost sight of the work the needed to get done back at the office. They were swept up in the relaxing personal bliss of the Rock Islands and Yap.

Most of the days on were on dive boats for a good 30 to 45 minute travel to the dive site. Cell phone or internet just doesn’t seem to work well in the middle of the Pacific ocean. And, as far as diving, forget texting your sister back in Nebraska while you were on 60 feet hang dive surrounded by white tip sharks. Our vacations force you to unplug and relax regardless if you want or not.

By the end of the two weeks most of clients was calmer, much more peaceful and fully relaxed, dare I say blissful.  I decided when I had time to blog about how important I thought the two week period was, then I stared doing research.  I found out my personal bliss was a scientific study. Researchers had discovered what I realized in Yap and Palau—two weeks of not working is better than one.

Here’s some facts from the American “Families and Work Institute” that could make you think differently about your vacation time:

The two week vacation:

The average number of paid vacation days employee have is 16.6 days. The average taken is 14.6 days.

More than 36% did not plan to take their full time off.

37% take less than a 7-day vacation

Only 14% take a vacation of 2 weeks

On average employees say it takes three days for them to relax (That’s half the time of a seven day vacation)

The longer the vacation the better psychological effect than a shorter one.

Most people feel better about there lives and work after taking time off, and are more motivated to achieve their goals.

Other studies have shown 

70% of healthcare costs are stressed related.

80% of all workers experience stress on the job.

The human mind performs better for short intense periods of time and then a short break.

Every 90 minutes our brains shift from an alertness state to fatigue state. 

Time off allows for the mind and body to relax.

“Vacations make us happier than material things, because they can’t be compared to anyone else’s experience. The create lasting memories that fire off multiple parts of the brain and, as a result, stick with us. It’s our memories that tell us we like our lives.” — Leaf Van Boven, the University of Colorado

“Getting away helps to distance yourself from stressful parts of your life. It can help restore your perspective, give you new viewpoints, and allow to develop new strategies to cope.” — Dr. Mel Borins