Margo’s Travel Blog

Making diving fun

By Margo PeytonMargo Peyton founder of Kids Sea Camp

  1. Is becoming a diver a goal that your child requests or shares your interest in? Does she/he enjoy being in the ocean? Is she/he curious and eager to learn about marine life? Has your child asked to go diving with you? Do you and your child enjoy planning adventures together?
  2. Understand that being comfortable in the ocean is a big part of being a diver. Many kids are comfortable in fresh water, but don’t have enough experience or comfort level in salt water. There are a few differences, salt water has a different sensation than fresh water to the human eyes when opened under water, salt water requires more weight for divers because it’s denser than fresh water and divers are more buoyant, lastly, kids will notice the strong salty taste when salt water enters their mouth, unlike the comfort level of fresh water.    Some of the skills you can work on with kids in the ocean or pool prior to becoming certified are: swimming, floating, snorkeling and most importantly, learning to take the mask off underwater while breathing through the snorkel.
  3. Becoming a certified diver will provide your child with the tools and training through repetitive practiced skills with their dive instructor. The goal is to have them be a responsible, dependable and confident diver and dive buddy. A dive instructor knows when to assist and when to allow your child to think, act, and self-correct. For some parents, this is the hardest part of the process, but most important.  Your dive instructor should have prior experience and success in working with and teaching kids.  This is vital for a good first experience for you and your child.  Be a diligent parent and ask all the questions you would in signing your child up for any activities interview his teacher and make sure everyone is comfortable.
  4. Is your child ready for a dive certification course? My number one answer to this question is if he or she meets the age requirements and is begging you for it, then yes. Other important factors include good reading and comprehension which are vital and at the age of 10 not always easy or fun.  Many kids can master the skills, but will require good study habits and self-discipline for learning academic portion.  This is ok.  That is what PADI has created the E: learning program for, so kids can go at their own pace.  Your selected dive operator is available to you to ask questions or get added help.  I personally recommend for kids with special learning challenges, to go with a one on one with an experienced kids diving instructor Seal Team is perfect for.
  5. Take time to find a dive center or resort that specializes in training kids. Interview with the same diligent approach you would have for an employee, school or other activity for your family. Kids learn better with other kids as part of a group, they encourage each other and develop a team spirit. There are a few different training agencies out there, such as PADI which in my opinion is more geared for kids than others, so ask your local dive shop who they are associated with and what is best for you.   I am a PADI MSDT instructor and have been diving with PADI almost 30 years, so that was the choice for me when it came time for training my own kids.
  6. Ok you have found the right place, now the program. It’s important to introduce your child to the ocean in a fun and safe setting. Many kids age 5-7 start with the SASY program and then move into Seal Team at age 8 and 9. Then kids are well on their way and confident at ages 10 -14 to join the Jr. Open Water program.  If your child is ages 10-14 and never done any of the warm up courses, I highly recommend The Discover Scuba experience prior to formal enrollment.  Remember always celebrate each accomplishment and allow them to go at their own pace.
  7. Getting certified as a family can be fun and a great bonding experience for all. Include the kids in the decision making process, like doing your class and pool dives with your local dive shop, then heading off to Bonaire, Palau or Fiji to do your open water dives and complete your certification is also pretty cool! During scuba training, make sure your kids know the Instructor is the only person your is required to answer to in the water. He/she should not be concerned about you. Give the instructor the ability to develop a trusting relationship
  8. If your child has a medical condition, don’t omit ! — By failing to tell the Instructor, you are putting your child and others at risk.  Talk to your child’s doctor and ask if your child is approved for diving. Medical forms are required for all courses and if any condition does exist a note of approval is required from your doctor for certification.
  9. If your child has special educational needs, they can still in most cases become divers. Tell the Instructor up front; he or she is trained to help your child learn. PADI has great tools for learning, ERDP for dive tables, E: learning on line through video and tutorials and so much more.
  10. Lastly, if your child is not ready for an Open Water Diver Certification, encourage them to Consider the PADI Seal Team.

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A mothers love and never ending desire to inspire her son to find his passion and path in or out of the world she created.

Robbie Peyton has been on an amazing journey that has certainly helped carve out the path of my life. Since Robbie and J11930881_10153118586028697_699336944429800531_oen were born, I wanted to figure out a way to spend the most time with them while having to be a working mother to support them.

The creation of Kids Sea Camp came about because of that desire. Many of you know I have a wonderful daughter and son, but today, I’m writing about my son.

Robbie was born in Grand Cayman and grew up through the ranks of Kids Sea Camp. SASY, Seal Team, Jr. Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver EFR Instructor, OWIS instructor. His love and passion for the ocean and diving has carved out an amazing life for this fine young son of mine. I’m not sure sometimes if it was forced upon him by me, or if he truly had the passion for it like I did.

There were times I questioned if I was providing what he needed to be a well-rounded young man. Because of our travel schedule over the 16 years Kids Sea Camp has been in business, Robbie did not have the opportunity to play hockey or football or basketball and other school sports like most kids. He was never around for practices as we were traveling from May through August each year.

I sometimes doubted whether I made his life harder because he did not have a place to fit in at school without sports, or clubs and not having a local social life at home in the summers proved to be challenging to say the least. On the plus side, I so enjoyed spending all summer with my children, educating them about the underwater world, and introducing them to the most amazing families, children and instructors from every corner of the world. A trade off, I felt was worth it.

Living and growing up in a global outdoor classroom, had so many benefits, but for Robbie, it also made him more quite, reserved and craving the indoor world that many of his friends enjoyed. Funny when I say that, but when Robbie was a senior in high school he actually said to me, “Mom I’m 18 and I’m a senior and I’m not traveling with Kids Sea Camp this summer! I’m staying home and I’m going to hang out with my friends.” Those words broke my heart, I thought to myself, who would want to skip Palau or Yap or Galapagos? But he did and that lasted for 4 summers.

The fact that you only have really 17 or 18 summers with your children, 4 took a big chunk out of my heart. It took me a while to see how much he needed and wanted to fit in here at home, and although I knew how much bigger the world was and that here at home it was just a grain of sand on the worlds big beach. I had to stand back and let him figure that out. Robbie went to Coastal Carolina College for Marine Science, but decided after one year it was not for him. Sitting in a classroom and being indoors all day left him full of anxiety and impatience.

Robbie had grown up learning by traveling the world, by doing, seeing and touching, although he was an A student all through high school, he expected college to be more than sitting in a classroom, so he decided to take a year off. Tom and I sent him down to my mentor Nancy Easterbrook at Divetech in Grand Cayman where I once lived and where he was born. Robbie lived there for 3 months and worked with Nancy and Jo learning so much about a working dive shop, customer service and becoming a PADI instructor. He seemed to come alive being around the ocean every day. I think that was when he started experiencing diving as an adult.

Many times Robbie and I went round and round about working with Kids Sea Camp and through his push, Family Dive Adventures as Robbie felt he and many of the kids he grew up with during his Kids Sea Camp years needed more advanced adventures.  He inspired me to explore further, taking families to Indonesia, Philippines, Galapagos etc. Including sunken wrecks, shark dives and include educational presentations.  He has for some of the trips been teaching and guiding with me, the last few years, but it still did not seem to be enough for Robbie. He did not like being in the office and sitting at a desk. Robbie has travel and exploration as a foundation in life, and has been searching to find his passion and to figure out what his path should be. Of course being the mother that I am, I was full of ideas and suggestions, but Robbie rejected most anything I could suggest or offer to create.

My good friend and another mentor Fraser Purdon had some words of wisdom for me the best insight of anyone. He suggested, that Robbie needed to become his own person and needed to find him self and that he needed to create his own identity and create something of his own. Fraser said “Margo, he needs to earn respect and prove himself on his own merit.” He was so right.

Letting go and letting God for me. Robbies decision was the desire to find out what more did diving have to offer him? Tech diving, moves into realms like exploring depths beyond recreational limits, or inside shipwrecks, caverns, caves, and other hazardous environments as well as mixed gasses. Getting into tech diving is something I have never dabbled in. He flew out to Seattle to talk to another good friend Dan Keffler with Underwater Sports about Tech diving and a job and also talked with Augusto Montbrun and Mr. G from Buddy Dive In Bonaire about their Tech training program.

I knew Robbie would choose Bonaire mostly because of the warmer climate, and he did. Robbie is currently living in Bonaire, he arrived in March and has just completed his Tech 40 training and is on the journey to go from OWIS to Tech Instructor. He is learning to dive all over again in a way that challenges his mind, body and spirit.

He is not only learning about diving, but about himself and how important it is to stay physically fit and mentally fit. For first time in a very long time, I’m seeing the smile back on his face, and watching him figure things out. Robbie is on an amazing journey to become a tech instructor.

As a diver for 27 years, an instructor I’m very proud, as a mother, taking in the considerations, the pluses and minus of tech diving: What sounds thrilling to one person can seem frightening to another. How does squeezing through the decaying doorframe of a rusting jagged ship hull sound? Equipment malfunctions, poor or no visibility, silt outs — all are possibilities. On the flip side, you have the opportunity to discover places no man has gone before you, finding treasures that have lain untouched for decades. Cave divers unearth new passages and find fossils; tech diving takes discipline and serious study, and is therefore not for everyone. There are a myriad of underwater worlds to explore, and Robbie wants to go far beyond the one I provided.

So what every good mother would do, I made sure that if he was going to do this, he did with the people I trusted the most to keep him as safe as possible and who I felt would not cut him any slack. I called Fraser Purdon A true tech guru and he affirmed Buddy Dive would do a great job and Mr. G, Francesca, and Augusto were a great team. Fraser set him up with the gear most serious Tech divers trust, SCUBAPRO. I took him to the airport and kissed him goodbye and good luck. We Skype once a week, and just seeing my son happy and passionate is a blessing in itself. Robbie posts daily if you want to follow his journey. Thank you to all the people the grains of sand that made our beach. I’m looking forward to Kids Sea Camp Bonaire in June when I will get to see Robbie again. I’m so very proud of you Robbie. Thank you to Buddy Dive and their amazing team. Thank you to Nancy Easterbrook and Fraser Purdon, Theresa Kaplan,Drew Richardson, and Marc Bauman and Carolyn Pascal Guarino and Melissa Guarino for all the wind you blew beneath his wings.

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Tech Diving

2016 Equipment 101:

Starting with the BC: Buancy

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DIVE GEAR SHOULD BE AT THE TOP OF YOUR PRIORITY LIST WHEN TAKING YOUR FAMILY ON A DIVE VACATION.

I personally feel kids should own their own BC( Buoyancy Control Device) fins mask and snorkels.

Margo Peyton founder of Kids Sea Camp

BCD

Imagine scuba diving while hovering, weightless underwater – eye to eye with a fish. How is it possible? It starts with your buoyancy control device (BCD).

A BCD does exactly what its name describes – it gives you control in the water. Sometimes you want to float on the surface comfortably. Occasionally, you want to kneel or stand on the bottom, sometimes during a training course. Most of the time, you want to drift along effortlessly mid-water, observing the scenery. To do this efficiently, you need a BCD that fits you well, along with a weight system to fine-tune your buoyancy. The BCD also holds your tank. Visit your PADI Dive Center or call Kids Sea Camp to get advice about BCDs.

Standard BCD Features

  • Expandable bladder
  • Low-pressure inflator and oral inflation mechanism
  • Deflator mechanism and overpressure valve
  • Adjustable straps, buckles, bands or releases
  • Adjustable tank band and sturdy back plate

 

 

BCD Styles

  • Jacket style – most popular for recreational scuba diving. Some made specifically for women.
  • Wing (back-mount) style
  • Traveling BCDs – made of lighter materials
  • Technical diving systems combine wing-style bladders with harness setups
  • Sidemount divers combine a back wing with a harness system that mounts tanks to your sides.

Optional and Desirable BCD Features

  • Integrated weight system
  • D-rings, clips and hose retainers
  • Pockets
  • Alternate inflator regulator combines your alternate air source with the BCD inflator

How to Choose Your BCD

Choose your BCD based on where you’ll use it most, and then make sure it fits.

  • With a style in mind, try on the BCD for size. If in doubt, try on a few sizes. If you’ll wear a dry suit or thick wetsuit, consider wearing it to get the right fit.
  1. While wearing the BCD (and maybe gloves if you usually dive with them):
    • Tighten and loosen, clip and unclip every strap and release on the BCD.
    • Play with the inflator and deflator mechanisms.
    • Orally inflate the BCD completely and make sure it’s still comfortable, not restrictive.
  2. Check that the BCD’s inflator hose is compatible with your regulator setup.
  3. After trying on a few BCDs, narrow down your choice by fit and comfort. Then, make the final decision based on style, color, optional features and personal preference.

A BCD is an investment that should last for several years, so don’t sacrifice fit and comfort for price.

Take Care of Your BCD

  • Rinse thoroughly with fresh water after each use – both outside and inside.
  1. Let the BCD dry completely – out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

Partially inflate the BCD and store in a cool and dry place. Don’t leave weights in the weight pockets.

Have your dive gear serviced or checked once per year, unless its Scubpro, them generally one every two years with good care.  Make sure to test your gear prior to diving to insure it is working properly.

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10 ways to make your air travel a success:

1. Stay healthy, bring antibacterial wipes, wash hands often and avoid touching public railings

2. Avoid eating junk food, fatty foods, or fast foods, not only will this contribute to motion sickness, but will also contribute to jet lag

3. Travel in comfy clothing, remember socks for when you need to take your shoes off going through check points. Flights do tend to be cold, so bring a sweater or sweatshirt to stay warm.  Wear easy-on and easy-off shoes and a small back pack with fruits or nuts for kids who may get hungry along the way.

Bonaire, Kids Sea Camp, kids and diving

4. Consumption of alcohol: A drink with dinner is not an issue, however, both air travel and alcohol are dehydrating, and dehydration is a major contributor to jet lag (and hangover) symptoms. Alcohol also drives up your body temperature, which can actually make it more difficult to sleep in-flight. So to avoid ruining your dive trip before it’s even begins — drink lots of water and limit your alcohol consumption.

5. Long flights require movement on your part. Get up and walk around, stretch often.  Learn about DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)Try some in flight exercises that wont embarrass you.

6. Bring a book, travel games, cards, iPad, music, ear phones, ear plugs, and a blackout mask.

7 . Make sure you have a seat assignment when you confirm your reservations and check to make sure you and the kids are all sitting in the same rows together. This should also print out on your boarding bass.

8. Confirm you flights 72 hours prior to departure and confirm that your flight numbers have not changed, also make sure if you flight number has changed, more than likely the plane type did too and you may need to recheck your seat assignments.

9. Remember most airlines do not accept cash on board flights any longer, so you will need to bring a credit card for snacks and beverages. Running out of food on airlines is very common, they generally only have enough to provide sandwiches through row 15.  So if you are further back, then pack a snack for sure.

10. When your traveling with kids, remember you may get to board prior to zone 1.  Make sure your carry-on luggage will fit in the overhead or beneath the seat to avoid an expensive additional checked bag. Check on-line with the airline you are flying to make sure you know what the baggage limitations are.  Most airlines now charge for both first and second bags and require them to be under 50 lbs each.


Travel safe with your family this year

Your international trip requires careful planning.  Listed below are some important steps you can take to prepare for a safe trip anywhere outside the United States. In addition, you can contact Kids Sea Camp for more information on your destination. Read all travel documents provided to you by your travel professional as soon as you receive them to make sure all information is correct. Complete your forms and waivers promptly to avoid missing a day of diving or adventure.  Call with any questions you may have regarding your travel itinerary. Always book with a trusted travel source or professional.


 

Getting There: Travel Alerts and Warnings

The State Department issues Travel Warnings to recommend postponing travel to a country because of widespread civil unrest, dangerous conditions, terrorist activity or, in some cases, because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the country and may have great difficulty in assisting U.S. citizens in distress. Travel Alerts disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats or other relatively short-term or transnational conditions that could pose significant risks to you and affect your travel plans. U.S. embassies and consulates send out security or emergency messages to alert U.S. citizens to fast-breaking events, such as demonstrations, coups, approaching storms, and crime.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  When you enroll in STEP, we can update you with important safety and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact you in the event of an emergency.  You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information to include a current phone number and e-mail address.


 

Do You Have All Required Travel Documents?

Most U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to travel overseas and reenter the United States. A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to issue U.S. passports.

Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver’s license, but all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States.

If you are traveling by land or sea, you must provide evidence of both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you reenter the United States. For many land or sea trips this means you can travel using the new U.S. passport card instead of the normal passport book.  Read more about U.S. passport requirements.

What about your children?  Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s).  Visit our child abduction country information pages for information about your destination.

When does your passport expire? Some countries require that a traveler’s passport be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of the trip. Contact the embassy of your foreign destination for more information. Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found in our Country Specific Information pages.


 

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Make sure you have the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are going. Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas and in Washington, D.C. Contact information for U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas may be found in our Country Specific Information pages. If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency at home or if they are worried about your welfare, they should call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours). The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country where you are.  The consular officers will then try to locate you, pass on any urgent messages, and, if you wish, report back to your family on your welfare.

You can read more about what the Department of State can and can’t do for you in an emergency here.


Do You Plan to Drive Overseas?

If you plan to drive overseas, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP).  Many countries do not recognize U.S. driver’s licenses without an accompanying IDP, and it is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most places.  You should check with the embassy of the country where you plan to travel to find out more about driver’s license and car insurance requirements.  If you will be residing overseas for an extended time, it is a good idea to obtain a local driver’s license as soon as possible, since IDPs have a limited validity.  Foreign countries may also require that persons considered resident obtain a local driver’s license if they are going to drive.  To renew a U.S. driver’s license while abroad, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your home state.

For more information, please review our page on Driving Abroad.

  • Pack Smart!
    • Pack light so you can move more quickly and have a free hand when you need it.
    • Carry a minimum number of valuables and plan places to conceal them.
    • Check your bags, clothing, and vehicle to make sure you are not carrying any banned items or substances, such as weapons or ammunition, into your destination country.  Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity and nationality.
    • Avoid packing IDs, tickets and other vital documents in backpacks or other locations you won’t be able to see at all times.
  • Do You Have Photocopies of Your Itinerary and Travel Documents?

Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency or if your documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a great idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with you stored separately from the originals. Documents to make copies of include:

  • Passport ID page
  • Foreign visa (if applicable)
  • Itinerary
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Airline ticket
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit cards brought on the trip
  • Scuba certification cards

Your Safety

  • Prepare to Handle Money Overseas
    • Check and understand the exchange rate before you travel.
    • Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions that you are going overseas.
    • Avoid carrying cash and consider using traveler’s checks or major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted at your destination before departing on your trip).
    • Change traveler’s checks only as you need them.
    • Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
  • Learn about local laws and customs

While traveling, you are subject to the local laws even if you are a U.S. Citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own and it is very important to know what’s legal and what’s not. If you break local laws while abroad, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution, and the U.S. Embassy cannot get you out of jail.


 

Do You Need Any New Vaccinations?

Vaccinations Are Required for Entry to Some Countries

Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow Card) or other proof that they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country.  Before you travel, check the Country Specific Informationand contact the foreign embassy of the country to be visited or transited through for currenty entry requirements.

Health Experts Recommend Vaccinations for Travel to Some Countries

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can provide you their recommendations for vaccinations and other travel health precautions for your trip abroad.


 

Do You Know How to Find Medical Help Abroad?

Get Help With a Medical Emergency Abroad:

  • Does Your Health Insurance Cover You Outside the U.S.?

Learn what medical services your health insurance provider will cover overseas.  Although some health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for a medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost up to $100,000, or even more, depending on your condition and location.  Regardless of whether your insurance is valid overseas, you may be required to pay for care when you receive it.

If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, consider purchasing a short-term policy that does.  Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


 

Passport Requirements for Children

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

The United States does not have exit controls on its borders.  However, most airlines require each passenger to present a passport before boarding a flight headed for an international destination.  Additionally, most foreign countries require each person to present a passport before entering the country.  This makes preventing a passport from being issued to your child without your consent very important.  Generally, if your child has a passport, it can be difficult to prevent the other parent from removing your child from the United States to another country without your permission.

U.S. law requires signatures of both parents or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16.  To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians.  If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody or is the sole parent of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).

EXCEPTIONS: The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement:

  1. For exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of the child, or
  2. When the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.

Read more: Passport Requirements for Minors

The Privacy Act and Passports

Passport information is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (PL 93-579) passed by Congress in 1974. Information regarding a minor’s passport is available to either parent. Information regarding adults may be available to law enforcement officials or pursuant to a court order issued by the court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with (22 CFR 51.27). For further information regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, please contact Passport Services.

Passport records:

Parents interested in obtaining passport records of their child/ren should submit a NOTARIZED letter to the Department of State, Research and Liaison Section, 1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20524-1705. The request must contain the full name, date and place of birth of the child/ren, address and telephone number for the requesting parent, as well as your reason for needing the information.  If you are requesting a copy of the issued passport application, there is no fee.  If an authenticated copy of the passport application is requested the fee is $30.00 for the first copy and $20.00 for each additional copy.  The telephone number for information is 202-955-0447. The Research and Liaison Section does not accept fax requests.  Please note that passport records requested from this office can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to be completed.

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www.familytravel.org

 

 

 

 

 

New U.S. association aims to be family travel resource

By Michelle Baran

After taking a one-year leave of absence to travel the world with his wife and two sons, Rainer Jenss, a former publisher of National Geographic Kids, returned with two observations: American families don’t travel as much as their global counterparts, and there is no authoritative travel resource in the U.S. for families.So Jenss set out to resolve both with the formation of the Family Travel Association, an organization that launched last month with the intention of bringing together the fragmented, multibillion-dollar family travel industry.The organization’s mission is to inspire families to travel and to advocate travel as an essential part of every child’s education. It will be focused on education, promotion and simplification of family travel.As such, each member will be vetted to ensure they meet certain standards of quality and service, including complying with industry safety standards, enrichment, interaction with nature and adult programs.Jenss serves as founder and president of the Nyack, N.Y.-based association, and Peter Bopp is director of consumer insights and membership benefits.The group’s 15-member board of advisers includes Keith Bellows, the former editor of National Geographic Traveler; Sven Lindblad of Lindblad Expeditions; Pamela Lassers of Abercrombie & Kent;  Charles Scott, founder of Family Travel Guy, Margo Peyton of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures… see othersThere are 26 member companies currently listed on the group’s website, FamilyTravel.org, including Afar Media, Travel + Leisure, Expedia, A&K, Lindblad, several Hilton and Westin properties and the Family Traveler, an agency specializing in family travel.Membership rates vary, but Jenss said that a sample corporate rate is $2,500 per year.Asked what members should expect in return for that investment, Jenss said, “We can’t say you’re business is going to grow 10% because you’ve joined the association. But your product will be promoted to consumers, and you’re contributing to creating an industry voice.”Jenss said he modeled the Family Travel Association after the Adventure Travel Trade Association, an organization that since its creation in 1990 has grown to more than 900 global members.“Too many travel suppliers don’t market or communicate well to parents,” he said. “Parents need to be spoken to differently. If parents are more aware, they’re going to book more trips.”Ultimately, Jenss said, he would like the Family Travel Association to be a resource for consumers as much as for the trade.

As for whether the organization plans to court family travel heavyweights like Disney or Carnival Cruise Lines, Jenss said he didn’t launch the organization with them as charter members “because they are obvious.”

But ultimately, if Disney doesn’t join, “I’ll be a bit embarrassed,” Jenss said. “They’re definitely on the hit list.”

The association’s first major event will be a conference at the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Montana next September.  Margo Peyton will be speaking on safety when traveling with kids.