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Single Parents Travel Too: Tips for Vacations

It had been a successful trip to settle Grandma in Miami Beach. But back on home turf, clutching the hand of five-year-old Dustin, my husband began to negotiate the crazy airport re-entry scene at Pearson. An official approached. Could he please come with the child into a meeting room for a few minutes? Surely. “Where is your mommy?” the man asked our son. Then my husband caught on. They were making sure that dad was not abducting the little guy away from his custodial parent.

Luckily, Dustin was able to look him in the eye and say, “My mum’s at home—waiting for us.” And my husband was able to give the fellow our telephone number to prove it. But it’s risky to travel without papers these days—either a sworn declaration giving permission from the other parent to travel or custody papers.

We can laugh at single dad wannabe Hugh Grant, as he tries to charm his way into the arms of single mums in the movie, About a Boy. But for single dads—and mums—making sure you’re travelling with signed documents is just one of the obstacles when you’re travelling with your kids.

Often, on cruise ships or at resorts, single parents must pay as if the child was an adult (though their child barely fits onto the pillow of that second bed). At dinnertimes, a mom and youngster staying alone might be relegated to that tiny table beside the swinging kitchen door, where young Junior is even more liable to accidentally trip the tray-laden waiter. And what about playmates? For kids and parents.

Brenda Elwell, a single mother, realizes these problems. Her Single Parent Travel e-zine at www.singleparent.net dispenses practical advice and insider information from both her experiences and those of subscribers. Her guidebook, Single Parent Travel Handbook, to be released next month is available for pre-sale on her site. Recommendations in her newsletter range from single-parent-friendly properties in Venezuela or even Ontario (at Pinelands Resort on Georgian Bay, the child sharing a room pays a child rate) to Web sites of European all-inclusives or how to encourage kids to look after their own packing and suitcases (Tips: do a walking test run with your travelling youngster for two blocks before heading off.)

The good news is that respected travel gurus are starting to look at this segment of the industry. Here are a few folks working to offer single parents some relief:

SIGNATURE VACATIONS: The people at Signature promise that if you find the same vacation package for less in another brochure, they’ll match that price. And they’ve listed several Caribbean hotels that waive the single supplement. For instance, at the Holiday Inn Sunspree on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, between Jan 5 and Feb 8, an adult would pay $1369 for 4 nights but a child under 11 would pay a child rate. Other properties that offer a similar arrangement—the Royal Antiguan Beach & Tennis Resort in Antigua, the Radisson Cable Beach resort on white sand in the Bahamas, and Club St. Lucia by Splash, where kids can indeed make a splash in the five outdoor pools and water slide. Call 1-800-830-1111, consult your travel agent or visit www.signaturevacations.com

BEACHES: Kudos to the ultra five-star Beaches Resorts. They’ve declared September “Single Parents Month,” waving the single supplement and offering special activities and events for single moms and dads. Consistently voted “World’s Best Family All-Inclusives” year after year, the resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos are constantly adding kid-friendly amenities. One dad visiting at the Turks & Caicos Beaches property described it as a super fun park for kids complete with water slides, pirate ship, games, scuba diving, all-you-can-eat dining and unlimited video play. “You name it, they've got it,” he said. It’s pricey but it could be the trip of a lifetime. Helping the money equation is that Beaches is offering a current 35 percent off discount. Call 1-800-545-8283 or visit www.beaches.com.

CLUB MED: With Circus school, scuba diving (the new PADI Bubble Maker program for ages 8 to 10 is at St. Lucia and Open Water Junior for ages 10 to 12 at St. Lucia and Columbus Isle) crazy lab activities, cooking classes, tennis lessons and all manner of water sports and beach games, there’s a buzz of activities for single kids—and single adults— at Club Med villages around the world. Best of all however, is that kids in single parent families pay child prices, even at the newly renovated digs (such as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic with its family rooms), even if it’s just one mom and one child sharing a room. Even better is that children’s pricing has been extended to kids 15 years from the previous 12. For more information, call your travel agent or visit www.clubmed.ca.

OTHER OPTIONS: Often, smaller properties will waive the single supplement if possible. It never hurts to ask. As Mac Makenny, owner of the family-friendly Homeplace Ranch near Calgary, Alberta (www,homeplaceranch.com), says, “Children receive a 20 percent discount and we try hard to provide a private room at no additional charge even though our prices are for double occupancy.” Hear, hear!

Kate Pocock is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at kate@familytravelink.com.





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