My husband and I were divers for many years before we had children and certainly before those children were old enough to dive. As a couple, we would plan vacations to remote places with untouched reefs. We looked for resorts where the sole purpose was diving, and only stayed where we could get at least three boat dives per day and unlimited shore diving. We always went for a week and would log at least 15 dives. Since we only went once or twice per year, all we wanted to do was dive, dive, dive. But planning a family dive vacation is considerably different.
When Your Kids Dive
Once we had children who were divers, we thought we could plan our trips as we always had. We learned pretty quickly that diving vacations are different with children, though, just like they are with couples that include a diver and a non-diver. When it comes to planning a family dive vacation, keep a few considerations in mind to make sure everyone enjoys the trip.
Consider kids’ idea of fun
First, we learned that children think of vacations differently than adults do. When children envision a vacation, they imagine a TV commercial — everyone laughing and full of energy, airplane rides, hotel stays, no rules, sleeping late, going to bed late, room service, etc. They probably won’t have realistic expectations when it comes to the vacation schedule and how tired they will be or how rushed they might feel. When you’re planning a family dive vacation, it’s important to be flexible to account for different energy levels. Diving may lose its allure for your kids after a couple of days, or even a couple of dives. So add some variety to your schedule.
Plan other activities
To combat the dive-centric frustration, select destinations that offer other activities and plan just one or two dives per day. The activities may still be water-based, but children want variety to stay engaged and excited. Then, when planning dives, try to select different types of sites. Dive a wall today and a wreck tomorrow; try a night dive and visit sandy patches where they can spot flounder or sand dollars. Children will be more excited to see something different on each dive. Along the same lines, a liveaboard is not appropriate unless the children are older teenagers who are as interested in diving all day as you are.
Keep in mind that children tire more easily after diving, despite their normally boundless energy. They dehydrate more quickly as well. An opportunity to shower, eat, and nap can make an activity later in the afternoon or evening much more enjoyable than a 2 p.m. rush to the boat for the afternoon dives.
Let them be kids
The key to a successful family dive vacation means understanding that children probably won’t have the same passion for diving that you have. They tend to jump often and easily from passion to passion, and that’s just fine. Children want a changing landscape to keep them stimulated and engaged. They are still trying things and determining what they really love to do, so parents must be okay with that. This may mean missing dives or choosing a spot with childcare or alternate activities. You may simply agree to dive without the kids if they just don’t want to go. Planning a family dive vacation needn’t be stressful as long as you remember that it’s a vacation for everyone.