Whether they're your young children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, you can make your next
dive trip a family adventure. The excitement of an exotic trip overseas will fill children with countless
amounts of energy. But because those under age 15 aren't old enough to do standard dives, you'll have
to plan for this trip differently than you would for yourself and other "old timers." I have a few suggestions
Include them in your trip research. Let them look at maps and learn about the destinations you're considering,
allow their opinions in the decision-making process. Give them input into daily planning, shopping
and choosing activities.
Prepare them for dives. Is attaining diver certification on the trip a goal for your child? Many kids are
comfortable in freshwater but don't have enough experience or comfort level in saltwater. Some skills you
can work on with them prior to the trip are swimming, floating, snorkeling and most importantly, learning
to take the mask off underwater while breathing through the snorkel. Take time to find a dive resort that
specializes in training kids. Interview with the same diligent approach you would have for any other family
activity. Kids learn better with other kids as part of a group; they encourage each other and develop a
Pick the right program. You found the right resort, now pick the right dive training program. I'm a
PADI instructor, so that was the choice for me when training my kids. Many children ages 5-7 start with the
SASY program, then move into Seal Team at ages 8 and 9. Then kids are well on their way and confident
enough at ages 10-14 to join the Junior Openwater program. If your child is ages 10-14 and hasn't done
any of the warm-up courses, I recommend the Discover Scuba experience prior to formal enrollment. Or encourage them to consider the PADI Seal Team program or SSI's Scuba Rangers as a good place to start
the process; it's perfect for introducing kids to scuba in a low-stress, fun environment. Remember, always
celebrate each accomplishment and allow them to go at their own pace. If your child has a medical condition,
don't keep quiet about it. By failing to tell the instructor, you're putting your child and others at risk.
Talk to the child's doctor and ask if she or he is approved for diving. Medical forms are required for all
courses, and if any condition does exist, a note of approval is required from the doctor.
Stock up for the trip. Be prepared with plenty of entertainment for flights -- paper, crayons, a book or
board game. Prepare for flight delays and cancellations by packing snacks and a change of clothes to take
Remember the medical gear and travel documents. Be prepared to handle small cuts and bug bites, and
provide plenty of sun protection. Remember travel vaccinations, medications, swimmers' ear prevention,
and carry these items in your carryon. Give yourself plenty of time to get the kids' passports in order; it
takes approximately three weeks.
Have them keep an online scrapbook. I never realized how much children had to say until I started
traveling with mine. Create a website, and encourage them to write about their adventures each day, to post
along with their pictures. It's a great way to have a lasting memory for the whole family.
Margo Payton is president of Kids Sea Camp, a summer program for children to learn about diving. For more information, go to http://familydivers.com