Diving and traveling with your kids
The advice you should know when diving and traveling with kids (Part 1)
By Margo Peyton, PADI MSDT Instructor & owner of Kids Sea Camp
I have spent the last 3 decades of my life diving and traveling with families from around world. I created a company called Kids Sea Camp that takes families with kids age 4-18 on mostly off the beaten path vacations to experience and learn more about the underwater world. My business is personal and I pride myself and my team on the level of friendliness, safety, and service we provide to each family. As I’ve have been diving, traveling and teaching kids and adults, I have picked up a few good bits of advice and tips along the way.
I strive with each family, to create memories that will last a lifetime and that is my tagline because that’s what I’m told Kids Sea Camp does well.
There is never a day that I don’t learn from the moms or dads that dive or learn to dive with Kids Sea Camp. I have enriched my knowledge and life from the children I meet.On each trip I challenge myself and the amazing dive pros I have the privilege to work with around the world each year too. I’m a humble person by nature and honored to be given the incredible amount of faith and trust that parents and grandparents put in Kids Sea Camp. I take the greatest pride in assuring a fun-filled and safe day of learning in the ocean with their kids.
My greatest moments are turning frightened and anxious mothers face into a calm and confident smile. Seeing 3 generations of divers enjoying diving together as a family. Taking special needs kids out of the only world they have ever known and showing them the magical zero gravity world of water for the very first time. I take very seriously the lives I am entrusted with not only for the week but for the knowledge, skills, and education they take away with them to become the next generation of global thinkers and doers.
Each year I get families asking me great questions, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share some of my wisdom for planning a vacation.
What is your top destination choice for SASY and Seal Team kids age 5-8 and why?
I created Kids Sea Camp in the Cayman Islands because my son Robbie was born there. It’s a place I love and hold close to my heart and knows well because I lived there for many years. Its calm seas, clear water, and climate are perfect for the little ones. I have been taking Kids Sae Camp to The Cayman’s 15 years this year. The islands have stunning white sand beaches; it has multiple flights daily from the US. It’s not expensive to get too. The islands offer biking, snorkeling, skateboarding, fishing, hiking, windsurfing, museums, art galleries and a plethora of food and spirits for all to enjoy.
I chose the Cayman Islands for its ease of diving and abundance in diversity. SASY and Seal Team kids can dive into the ocean and enjoy learning about marine life in a confined like setting. Cobalt Coast in Grand Cayman would be my top choice in Grand Cayman. The resort offers one and two bedroom suites and the dive team there is very kid-friendly. The GM is a dad himself and loves KSC.
Cayman Brac, Brac Reef Beach resorts. has a 140,000-gallon pool sitting right on the ocean for the little ones to do their aqua missions. Its all one bedroom hotel room style so I feel for a family with one child the double rooms are perfect. The resort also has four rooms that can connect to house larger families.
I would have to say Buddy Dive in Bonaire is the best for SASY and Seal Team. They do these programs every week of the year and their team is well trained. They have the best jump off the dock marine life for the kids and I would say hands down the best dive team for the little ones.
What is your favorite destination for large families?
Buddy Dive Bonaire has 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas and is a great value for large families. The air is the biggest expense and if you book earlier you can get a good deal. Bonaire is easy diving and caters to all levels of diver. My second choice, if you’re willing to travel, would be the Philippines. Pura Vida Homes Resort in Dauin Dumaguette is spectacular! They also have one, two and three bedroom villas. And for your diving dollar offers the best diving in the world, easy and very reasonably priced.
What destination do you feel is best for families with older kids that have been diving a while and want something a little more big kid like?
Galapagos would be my first thought. We use the Galapagos Sky and the Majestic Explorer for our trips. I’ve been taking kids to the Galapagos for now 14 years. We are the only company to do so and that’s because I charter the dive yachts with an additional crew to make it perfect for families. We dive from panga’s so the kids and adults roll off the side, but its big animal interaction, big turtles, wild dolphin, giant manta, marine iguanas, and tons of sea lions. We always travel in June or July which is peak Whale Shark season. Honestly, this region is one of the last diving frontiers and I feel like every time I go it’s a trip of a lifetime. I truly feel if you want to share the rare and off the beaten path with your children, then take them to the Galapagos.
What is your top choice for families with non-divers, that want to be apart of the day and have great things to do each day too?
St. Lucia at Anse Chastanet is my number 1! We offer spa, jungle biking, volcano hiking, paddle boarding, sailing, snorkeling, chocolate culinary classes, cupcake making, shopping and local sugar plantation walks, as well as a jazzy sunset cruise. Lots of time together as a family and many fun activities for non-divers to meet and become friends.
Second, would be Palau. Palau offers Rock Islands kayaking, World War I and II history tours, museums, shopping, spa, beautiful beaches.
What about Kids Sea Camp makes you Special Needs Friendly?
We have successfully for the past 6 years been taking special needs adults and kids diving around the world and meeting or exceeding their expectations. I have a team of dive instructors that are experienced in areas such as high functioning Autism, deaf, handicap, ADD or ADHD and even elderly divers that just need a little more hand-holding and some Valet Diving Service to make everyday diving details easier and less stressful.
We can provide private 1 on 1 instructors or dive masters for people that need a little bit more professional assistance. We have smaller tanks and BC’s for smaller adults and kids. We have destinations that can cater to needs of dive platforms and wheelchairs. We can and do help people with gear off in and out of the water. If families give me enough notice and tell me exactly what we need to have in place, for the most part, we meet those needs. If I can’t then I say so and I will recommend another destination. The most important factors are that the doctor who is treating the special needs participant has given authorization for that person to participate in scuba diving activities. I am not a doctor and cannot say if someone can or cannot dive. I am someone that will go above and beyond to put in place what someone who can dive needs to do so. I require at least 6 months notice and a few good in-depth conversations about the needs.
What is the most important advice you give parents and grandparents of new divers?
Know your kids depth limits and profile restrictions. If you are not a PADI pro or other dive pro, and not an avid up-to-date diver, then make sure when you dive with your kids, always request to have a dive master or instructor leading you on your dives. Many parents have enough on their plate taking care of themselves in the water and when you add kids to that it can become very stressful. Kids move around faster and you can’t just talk or yell at them underwater. So parents and Grandparents should make sure they have had a refresher course and know their signals and skills well so that they can assist young divers when needed. I also want to remind parents, that your kids watch you and learn from you when you dive with them. So lead by example. Make sure your gear is streamlined, check your gauges early and often, ascend and descend slowly.
Plan your dive with your kids and dive your plan with your kids.
Always let someone else know your going diving and make sure you have a slate to write on. Things happen, currents come up and you need to be able to communicate with each other. Its fun for families to come up with some of their own signs and signals. Kids should not assume that parents know the same signs or signals. Go over those before your dive. Make sure you do a weight check prior to diving and know the type of dive you are going to do. Make sure you are not forcing your child to dive. If he or she is scared or not wanting to go, then discuss whats going on and make it ok not to dive. The worst thing you can do is force a child or adult to dive when they do not feel safe or well. Don’t try to impress your child or show off, I promise they will try to do what you do. Just enjoy your time in the water and enjoy the zero gravity like kids do. Remember diving should not be like the military; you kids want to have fun! They enjoy playing with zero gravity and doing summersaults and being upside down. Make some of that ok, teach them when its ok to have fun and when it’s not.
DO NOT GIVE YOUR KIDS OVER THE COUNTER MEDICATIONS BEFORE A DIVE.
I say this all in capitals because if I had a dollar for every time a child told me their parent loaded them with an antihistamine before a dive, I could go out to a nice restaurant for dinner. That can be very dangerous to do. It can cause reverse blocks and also cause panic and anxiety depending what you gave them. Most common is dehydration. Diving is very dehydrating anyway, so adding a decongestant before a dive can make it 10 times worse.