What are single parents looking for when planning family travel?
Like most parents, they want minimal stress and maximum time together during their family vacation. (And maybe a little "me" time)
Here are five possibilities:
1. Consider a farm vacation.
Slow down at Feather Down Farm, one of three working farms in the United States and 50 in Europe that welcome families interested in learning about sustainable farm practices, healthy eating and life with chickens, goats and lambs. A parent might head out for a hike or settle in with a book, while the kids learn to churn butter or collect eggs for breakfast. Visit the Honesty Shop where family members can peruse local produce and other items, sign up for what looks interesting and perhaps craft a dinner from their purchases. Spacious tents, with authentic detail, offer a private room for adults as well as a cozy “cupboard bed” where kids can tuck away for the night.
2 International adventure.
Single mom Michelle Kingsley O’Neill and her triplet sons spent a month exploring Ecuador and brushing up on their Spanish skills. With a rental home on the beach in the coastal town of Olon as their home base, the family of four took language classes and enjoyed side trips to Cuenca and other sites of interest. They also sampled local cuisine and learned to surf and zip-line.
With high school on the horizon, O’Neill agreed to the boys’ request for home-schooling the following year so they could fit more travel into their education plan.
Contact: www.ecuador.travel www.theseagardenhouse.com
3 It’s all included.
Board a cruise ship or check in to an all-inclusive resort for a stress-free getaway. You’ll have a clear idea of how your travel budget will break out while knowing there will be plenty of activities and dining choices for everyone in your clan. More companies like Disney Cruise Lines and Beaches Resorts are putting extra energy toward making single parents feel welcome.
Efforts include group dining, waiving single supplements and special social events. In no time, kids will converge through sports, on the beach, and during arts and crafts, thus finding age-appropriate friends with whom they can share new experiences. The bonus: solo parents discover a window for relaxation.
Solo parents checking into the all-inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit will have the single supplement fee waived when traveling with their children. In addition, one child will stay at a 50 percent discount. Expect a state of the art kids’ club and airport transfers, as well as day and evening beach, eco and sporting activities that will engage adults and children throughout their seaside vacation. Ask about current promotions and special offers.
Contact: www.Beaches.com; www.DisneyCruise.Disney.Go.com www.rivieramaya.grandvelas.com
4 Ride the rails.
Train excursions provide one parent traveling with kids a relaxed and stress-free opportunity to enjoy one another’s company. On board Via Rail, Canada’s premier passenger rail service, kids will love visiting the panoramic dome in the Skyline or Park car for a unique vista. They also can join other junior explorers for movies and games. With discounts available for children, choose from cross-country adventures or itineraries that offer some gorgeous scenery.
Contact: 1-888-842-7245; www.trainpackages.ca; www.thetrain.com.
5 Ranch relaxation.
Adventuresome parents eager to share their passion with the next generation will welcome a stay at this secluded guest ranch in central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Choose from activities that include fishing in the Salmon River, an overnight pack trip, swimming in a pool fed by hot springs, cycling and river floats. Evening children’s programs enable mom or dad to carve out quiet time or join in weekly barbecues, while the kids enjoy new friendships. The ranch is open mid-June through mid-September. Visit the dude ranch site below for other ranch vacation ideas.
Contact: www.idahorocky.com; www.duderanch.org
Lately, I have been thinking about and discussing with friends, family, and colleagues, the delicate balance we seek when managing risk, fear, preparation, wisdom, loss, knowledge and exploration.
Perhaps our formula is different when the situation involves our children.
Consider a fully catered, guided tour in sunny Baja California, Mexico. During four to six day trips, family adventurers will maneuver two-person kayaks through the Sea of Cortez, the winter home of blue whales and among pods of dolphins. Later snorkel in Loreto Bay National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site before camping under the stars on secluded beaches. Ask about special deals. Contact: 800-616-1943; www.seakayakadventures.com
If you yearn to see and experience the Inside Passage, a part of Alaska, a new option is now available.
Activity-rich, yet affordable journeys on a 49-passenger expedition vessel will enable you and your family to kayak among whales and near glaciers, hike in forests with naturalists, visit native villages and try new activities such as the stand-up paddle board and the polar plunge. The eight-day, seven-night voyage travels between Ketchikan and Juneau. Ask about similar trips to Mexico.
Contact: 1-877-901-1009; www.innerseadiscoveries.com
With opportunities from Montana to Malawi, there is a volunteer vacation to suit every family. Here are five organizations to consider when planning your next family voluntourism trip.
Help build a house in Mexico, save the turtles in Costa Rica or teach young children to read in Malawi. More than 61 million Americans dedicated 8.1 billion hours to volunteerism, according to a recent report from the Corporation for National & Community Service. And now Americans are increasingly taking their charity on the road.
Voluntourism, the concept of doing good while having a good time, is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.During a recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon region, my school-aged sons and I, along with two family friends, traveled 90 miles by speedboat deep within the jungle. There we delivered much-needed school supplies to several communities along the river. In return, we enjoyed the students’ songs, dances and original poetry. Their creativity and energy were among the most memorable aspects of our adventure.
I-to-I offers volunteer vacation experiences in Honduras, India and Costa Rica working with sustainable, locally run community, educational and environmental projects. Its travel advisors will provide specific information about each country and project so that you can make the best decision for your family. Tel. 800-985-4852, www.i-to-i.com.
Founded in 1984, Global Volunteers offers short- and long-term opportunities in more than 20 countries. Popular family projects include working with the Blackfeet Indians in Montana, teaching conversational English, assisting in orphanages and working on building projects in Costa Rica. www.globalvolunteers.org
Craft your own family volunteer vacation from hundreds of opportunities provided on this Web site. You’ll find connections to projects and causes around the world. www.GiveSpot.com
Students gather for a group picture with their host families from the Tanzanian village of Itete.
American Hiking Society
On an American Hiking Society volunteer vacation, family members visit stunning backcountry locations to construct or rebuild footpaths, cabins and shelters. You’ll meet other volunteers while exploring and restoring some of the most beautiful outdoor places in America. American Hiking Society members qualify for discounts. www.americanhiking.org
Amazonia Expeditions subscribes to the philosophy that tourism companies have an obligation to invest in the well-being of the environment as well as native people. Dolores Arevalo Shapiama de Beaver, a native of the Amazon and the owner of a wilderness lodge, has worked to identify individuals with special needs who could benefit from medical or educational intervention. Visitors can provide and help distribute school and medical supplies, as well as clothing, while learning about the native people, conservation and the rainforest habitat.