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Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat

Travel

Travel Tips For The Single Parent

Travel as a single parent gives one the opportunity to strengthen the bond between parent and child, and leave the complications of divorce behind. Taking a vacation does wonders for getting rid of stress and returning rejuvenated. When used to having a travel partner (former spouse), it can be unnerving to go alone with the kids. Having to watch the youngsters 24/7 without a break can be tiring, however there are ways to meet everyone’s needs. Enlist a family member to go with you. My mother went on a Hawaiian cruise with my sons and I at the beginning of my turbulent divorce. I got much needed alone time when she did a few activities with the boys on shore. All of us were happy. Some siblings and their offspring have taken trips together or shared a holiday home. An adult took a turn watching the cousins, so the other one could relax.

What works for many single parents is selecting a hotel with a kid’s or teen club. The wee ones are busily engaged learning songs, crafts and games while their single parents can relax with a book or enjoy the facilities. In Nevis, my boys learned about Caribbean traditions and marine life, while I headed off to the gym. There are resorts with great kid’s clubs globally, in Greece, Mexico, the Caribbean and so forth. A divorced friend likes the Club Meds where the children are occupied in their groups and she interacts with adults. They also do enjoyable activities as a family. She prefers the all-inclusive resorts so there are no financial surprises. This is one reason why I like cruising – I can budget my trips and know what the cost will be.

Cruises are a fun way to see many destinations without packing and unpacking. Most have clubs for the little ones and their teenage siblings. There are numerous activities, sports and shows on board that can be done as a family. After my divorce, my sons and I wanted to start fresh with holiday rituals. The three of us sailed around New Zealand and made several stops in Australia over Christmas and New Year’s. The décor, food and concerts were fabulous and I did not have the usual holiday stress. Ships provide an easy way for us to see the world and experience different cultures.

Various travel companies have tours for families, such as safaris in Africa, with child centered activities. They are slower paced and are also ideal for grandparents. These tours give adults an opportunity to have time without the kids, while they are engrossed in an activity. My teen and twenty-year-old did fine on a regular tour to India. Teens like trips packed with interesting sites, such as ancient stone fortresses, colorful bazaars, and activities that are not available at home. If you can time a trip around a festival or cultural event, that adds excitement. For example, we went to a Hindu Temple in Delhi on one of their holiest days of the year.

Consider only having one or two places to stay on a trip, particularly with very young children. Have that be your hub and plan day trips or primarily see the sights around your location. Changing hotels frequently with much travel is tiring and can be stressful. Going to a Dude Ranch and riding horses for a week can be memorable. There are hikes, campfires and outdoor fun. Kids enjoy farm stays and playing with the animals. A city break such as London, has many kid friendly museums and historical sites, like the Tower of London. My sons loved feeding the ducks in the various large parks and I liked sitting on a park bench reading. Orlando is another example where a single parent and kids can stay put in one hotel and enjoy the many amusement parks in the area. Trying to see too much in a short time is exhausting. On a trip to Burma (Myanmar), I crammed too many destinations and hotels into our itinerary. My young sons got cranky and I ended up sick. Spending a week at a beach, lake or mountain cabin is a lovely way to unwind.

When planning a trip post-divorce, there are practical aspects to remember. Inform your ex-spouse before taking your children across the state line. Get written permission that is notarized by the other parent, when taking youngsters out of the country. You do not want to be accused of international kidnapping, plus the airlines may ask to see this letter. Both parents must be present for a child under sixteen to obtain or renew their passport. A notarized letter giving permission from an absent parent will suffice. Make sure that each of you has at least six months left on your passport before it expires or another country can deny entry.

View travel as an adventure. Yes, things will not always go as planned, so be flexible and pack your sense of humor. Something that goes terribly wrong can be a funny story for years to come. Enjoy your single parent vacations, as your children will grow up too quickly. Bon Voyage!

My article was originally printed in DivorceForce   www.divorceforce.com/   Affected by Divorce? Join DivorceForce, the online community committed to empowering those affected by divorce. Many helpful articles for those facing divorce.   @divorceforce (Twitter)

Far Flung Adventures With Breath-Taking Scenery- Bucket List Part 3

Australia  australiaBeautiful beach in Australia (Lucky Bay)

Australia is  captivating and  possibly the best country in the world for a road trip. World class beaches, ancient rainforests, safe roads, well maintained walking paths, friendly people in the most remote places (Australia is actually recognized as having the most remote city in the world: Perth.), incredible wildlife, ancient wonders and a historic fascinating indigenous culture. I lived here for around two years and really can’t praise the place enough. I didn’t know what to expect when I first embarked on the long flight to this huge island/continent nation, although the culture is similar to mine the country is different in unimaginable ways. The sheer size of this place is mesmerizing, the vast majority of it expanses of nothingness, desert and wilderness. . I spent time working in an aboriginal community, learning about the history and way of life as well as their vicious mistreatment is an enlightening experience.

There are some many unique places and species of wildlife here it would be impossible to name them all, you could spend years in this country and only scratch the surface. Naturally pink lakes, the opportunity to swim with great whites and dolphins in the wild, underground cave dwelling communities, and 20 foot crocodiles, the weird and wonderful is present and plenty in Australia.

Lastly of all I’ll say is don’t be afraid, yes there are deadly animals native to Australia but the danger is massively exaggerated. The last person to die from a spider bite was in the 70’s! The world’s most deadly animal here is actually the cow (road traffic accidents). In two years of camping in the wilderness, hiking out in the bush and going to the most remote places possible the only deadly animal I saw was an octopus that someone snagged on a fishing line out at sea.

New Zealand 10857156_10203512395350974_8529118397825822705_oHikes displaying stunning scenery like this

For me this place may be unrivalled in natural beauty. So accessible and traversable as well! The home of Lord of the Rings boasts jaw dropping scenery and some of the friendliest people. A great family holiday for lovers of the outdoors. My personal highlights would be a light aircraft flight over snow-capped peaks, bungee jumping, sky diving, hang gliding and the numerous hikes amongst raw nature. New Zealand is another perfect country for marine wildlife and swimming with dolphins. (In the wild, not in some horror show like sea world!)

There are plenty of tour options and bus travel options, alternatively it’s the perfect self-drive camping holiday, you can see the whole country more or less in 3-6 weeks. The mix of glaciers, mountains, lakes, islands, volcanos, thermals, beaches and rolling British-like countryside in such a compact country make this a really striking and memorable place.  

Unique Sights

The Northern Lights

Now, the Northern lights are really unpredictable. I would suggest visiting a destination such as Norway, Finland or Iceland for what they have to offer besides the lights and then if you get to see them it’s just a bonus! Anyway those 3 countries really are beautiful and worth a visit at any time of year in their own right.

The lights are best seen on a dark, clear night so visit between April and September check with locals and weather forecasts (also aurora forecasts) prior to and during your visit. Your best chance at seeing them is in perfect conditions and looking to the north but nothing is guaranteed so in the meantime enjoy these snow covered landscapes with your family and indulge in some activities! There are multiple snow sports plus trekking in search of polar bears! (With a guide of course.)

There are companies with experts who can help search for the lights and although your best chance to spot them may be out in the country side they can be seen from main cities like Reykjavik (Iceland) and Tromso (Norway) as well.

Belgium- Charming fairy tale backdrops, architecture and chocolate

Bruges (Belgium) is like stepping into a fairy tale. Home to charming architecture and arresting scenery, plus most importantly chocolate! Dad will be happy with the ancient brewery tours and unlimited beer options (up to 300 different types of beer in some bars!) plus the children will enjoy the parks and shops full of handmade chocolate treats. It’s a great little town to just wander around admiring the buildings and waterways; it’s a great place to spend a few days as part of a longer European trip.

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Machu Picchu- Peru

Incan history is enthralling and Machu Picchu is the number one attraction in South America for a reason. After seeing ruins throughout South America I wasn’t expecting to be blown away in quite the fashion that I was when I visited here in 2016. The scale and remoteness of the site offers a dimension and experience that is unmatched. When gazing down at this ancient and wondrous structure from above, you get a feeling that can’t really be duplicated. Machu Picchu, due to its location, wasn’t re-discovered until 1911. However the human race is making up for lost time and there are now limits on tickets due to the sheer volume of people travelling to visit this unique place.

Book your tickets in advance and I’d seriously recommend getting the exclusive tickets to hike Huaynu/Wayynu Picchu (only 400 people allowed up each day) to witness the best view of Machu Picchu. It’s a steep hike but definitely doable (I reached top second, a 60 year old Chilean man beat me to it!) not to mention worth it for the 360 breath-taking panoramic. Something to keep in mind is that this historical site involves a lot of walking and gets very busy it’s better to take the earliest bus possible to arrive at dawn. Whilst not a typical family holiday hotspot I saw plenty of children and adults of all ages enjoying this lost Incan city and world wonder.

thumbnail_IMG_0488A beautiful and peaceful view over Machu Picchu

That concludes my series on family bucket list destinations, hopefully you will have some ideas for the future and make some memories in an interesting country!

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources.

 

Guide To Family Travel Destinations – Wildlife Hotspots

1 bucket listLagoon filled desert trekking (north-east Brazil)

Here are  prime destinations for wildlife spotting, as children are fascinated with animals.  For all these destinations remember  to take your binoculars and a camera with zoom. Additionally do thorough research into any potential travel vaccinations you may need before travelling to these areas.

Wildlife Hotspots

Brazil

It was in this highly diverse and wonderful country that I was blessed enough to see the most majestic of creatures in the wild. A Jaguar! Truly beautiful and incredibly elusive. Living in the mighty Pantanal and taking to the river by boat each day paid off. In jungle environments the majority of wildlife flocks to the river and this is where you have the best opportunity to see birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and unique mammals such as capybara! Jungle treks can be fun but most of the critters will be hiding in the canopies, plus it’s not a great environment for children, I’d recommend going by boat.

The great thing about Brazil is that it has something for everyone, one of the longest coastlines in the world with stunning beaches, tropical rainforests and wetlands, multiple islands, big cities, stunning wildlife, desert oases and probably the world’s most beautiful waterfall. The mighty Iguazú/ Iguassu/Iguaçu Falls.

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   Lagoon filled desert trekking (north-east Brazil)

 African Safari

You really are spoilt for choice for potential wildlife spotting paradise locations in Africa and I don’t have time to go into them all. If you’re looking to spot Gorillas and Chimpanzees then Uganda and Rwanda are the go to locations. If you’re more interested in a general safari experience I can recommend a few countries and national parks.

African safaris are notoriously expensive but there are deals to be found and many solo travellers opt to volunteer at centres for the chance to do a budget safari trip. As a family South Africa’s famous Kruger Park could be a great choice, self drivable options make this affordable and November is a time of year I’ve been recommended to visit. Botswana Chobe park (teeming with wildlife year round), Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park (home to Africa’s largest annual migration event) and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve (famous for big cats) are also fantastic options. Staying just outside of the National Parks is a great way of making your once in a lifetime safari trip affordable.

Ecuador- The Galapagos

I lived in Ecuador for several months, part of this time I spent living in spectacular primary rainforest whilst volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation centre. I got to know the native species and the country well (currency USD by the way). I never had the opportunity to venture to the Galapagos and I’m not sure If I could justify it due to tourism damaging some of the ecology there but that being said it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I met many travellers, tourists, families and couples who’d visited and nearly everyone had a mind blowing time there.

It is not cheap but there are many different options. Generally it is better to fly into the city of Guayaquil as it is close to the islands. It is not a nice or particularly family friendly city however and I’d only recommend it as the start location for a trip, not an area to explore. There are countless cruise options, some people chance it and look to book last minute budget cruises upon arrival. Whereas when travelling as a family I understand the importance of peace of mind and having everything arranged in advance. The most affordable option is to take a boat to one of the main islands such as Isabel a, Santa Cruz or San Cristobal, find budget accommodation there and do day trips out to see wildlife in other locations.

Nevertheless, the main experience people come for is the cruise. Do your research as there are countless companies with huge varieties in itinerary and tour length. Also it pays to see what animals you can expect to find and where so you have an idea of the islands you wish to visit, this helpful map can be of some assistance in that regard. There’s no escaping the rich historical and scientific history of The Galapagos and that coupled with the amount of truly unique wildlife makes this an intriguing destination to say the least. Please just make sure you pick an ecologically conscious company!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an animal lover’s paradise; it’s one of the more expensive areas in Central America but also one of the safest, with relatively widespread English comprehension (however it would pay to brush up on your Spanish before arrival.) US dollars are generally accepted; alternatively your best option is to exchange your currency for Colones at a local bank once inside the country.

Wildlife rich would be an understatement. Whether it’s in a sanctuary or immersed in a cloud forest, rainforest or national park you will be blessed with an abundance of weird and wonderful species to behold in this small nation. The Osa Peninsula would be my personal recommendation. The Corcovado National park is famous here and is home to 140 species of mammal and 462 bird species! The most beautiful jungle to be found in Costa Rica is for me the authentic rainforest of Tortuguero.

3 bucket list

Squirrel monkey (one of the 4 species of monkey you can find in Costa Rica)    

So that concludes the second instalment and my recommendations for wildlife wonders to enjoy with all the family!

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources.

 

Family Travel Bucket List Destinations – Island Getaways

IMG_5944 Island Getaways that will please both children and parents. Guest author shares his tips and experiences for where to go on holiday.

Something I’ve spoken about before is the benefit of travel. By the time I was 25 I’d visited around 40 countries. This may seem a lot but considering there are upwards of 200 and the fact that I’ve met plenty of people who´ve surpassed 100 puts this figure in perspective. Of course travel shouldn’t be about quantity of places or ticking names off a list, quality of experience is much more valuable. I merely highlighted my relative travel experience to give some context in regards to my view point and hopefully some credence too!

I first left the UK when I was three. All I remember of Italy was a beautiful but stony beach; however that doesn’t mean to say there was no benefit in this experience. Being introduced to other cultures and countries at a young age definitely left an impression on me, it fed my longing for adventure as a young child. This developed in to wanderlust at a later age and has most certainly helped define who I am as an adult. The thing about travel is that no matter what your or your children’s fascinations are there is something for everyone. History, engineering, farming, art, culture, music, trekking, adventure, sports, relaxation and well-being, wildlife, science, food, architecture, religion and geography are all topics you can indulge in and learn about all over the world.

I previously emphasized the value of the precious family time and togetherness that a vacation provides, whilst simultaneously helping you de-stress and your children learn and grow. Now I’d like to give some more practicable and specific information pertaining to different destinations.

Once you become responsible for children of your own your ideal holiday destination changes in accordance with their likes and dislikes and also becomes dependent on what type of trip will give you the least stress! In the past I never understood the fascination people had with holiday resorts. For me they are never representative of the country you are visiting. Now I whole heartedly recognize the attraction. The ease in which they can booked, the reliable safety of the locations, the lack of issues to consider and the relative ease in which all the family can be pleased. However my experience on these types of trips is limited, what I’d like to do is give a breakdown on some unique bucket list holiday destinations. Even if you just managed to visit one of these places in your lifetime it will be a uniquely rewarding experience for everyone involved!

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Lesser Known Island Getaways

South East Asia

A well-trodden backpacking trail but still an area of the world filled with hidden gems and getaways that would make a special family trip. The first thing you’ll notice about South-East Asia is the price, it is incredibly cheap.

Indonesia is one of the cheapest countries in the world to travel around and is really quite a large country with plenty of tropical island paradise spots, Bali and the Gili Islands being the most famous but the nearby Lombok is my personal favourite. This lesser known cousin of Bali offers some postcard perfect beaches without the tourists. For the adventure seekers there is volcano trekking and also Indonesia is the only place in the world where you can see, in the wild, the planets biggest lizard and living dinosaur: the Komodo dragon. The nearby islands of Flores, Rinca and Komodo can be reached easily by boat for this excursion. Alternatively you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity for a boating day trip for snorkelling, diving or just island hopping!

The Philippines consists of over 7000 islands! You really are spoilt for choice here. Whether you’re interested in swimming with whale sharks, exploring forests full of the world’s smallest monkeys, hiking through traditional rice terraces or walking a picturesque beach at sunset on your own island, The Philippines is special. Less explored than traditional destinations such as Thailand, nevertheless The Philippines is on the rise as tourist hotspot. Manila is a nightmare of an airport but you can catch very economical internal flights to the white sands of Boracay, the turquoise waters of Palawan and everywhere in between. Island hopping in Palawan introduced me to the most perfect islands I’ve ever seen in my life.

Caribbean islands

A cruise can be fantastic for a family holiday but if you’re not ready to splash out and would prefer to see one or two islands in depth I can definitely make some suggestions.

Aruba is a beautiful island which much like Hawaii is easily traversable by car but can be managed in less time as it is a really small island (with a MUCH smaller population.) It is very safe and the whole population appears to be multi-lingual, fluent in English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento the local language, popular in the Dutch West Indies. To my ears this language sounds similar to Portuguese. There are beautiful uncrowded beaches in abundance and the locals are very friendly, amiable people. You will have no problem using US dollars here and for the adventure seeking there are plenty of options from renting dune buggy type vehicles to diving and water sports.

St Lucia is becoming a popular honeymoon spot for a reason. The island’s rugged dramatic scenery is attracting more and more visitors each year but yet St. Lucia remains far from overdeveloped and you get a real sense of nature and natural beauty here. Again English is widely spoken and the US dollar regularly accepted. Your time here can be spent relaxing or adventuring with all the family! Rainforest hikes, ziplining, volcanoes and waterfalls, this island has it all!

So there you have it, the first instalment of my unconventional family holiday bucket list destinations!

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources and a scholarship program for single parents.

 

Traveling With Children Post-Divorce

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Why is travel important?

Travel is sometimes a necessity. People need to travel for work, to visit family but also to have important relaxation time and breaks from the day to day schedule. Studies have shown that compared to other OECD countries Americans get the least paid public holidays and least paid vacation time

However travel can broaden the mind, it can be necessary to de-stress and maintain productivity in the workplace for when you return. Furthermore it is essential in terms of having quality work-free time with your children. Divorce shouldn’t change that time. It is important for bonding and for your child’s development. Family holidays are generally always remembered well into adulthood and for some families they become a rare time when there is enjoyment, indulgence and new exciting experiences for everyone. The lack of set routine, pressure and stress is always a bonus factor.

Never underestimate the importance of planning!

Divorced parents should try and continue giving their children these experiences. In fact usually there are court ordered specific allotted holiday times for each parent, often solidified in a custody agreement or parenting plan. These can take the spontaneity out of planning a trip but at least it adds to the anticipation for the kids! After divorce you will find travelling with your children takes additional planning anyway. You have to respect the sometimes legally binding allotted holiday periods each parent has. You should inform your ex-spouse of the details of your trip and all relevant travel arrangements. This could include expenses, dates, destinations, hotel names, addresses and phone numbers, plus expected methods of communication whilst away. Planning is always productive in terms of trips, it helps anticipate and deal with potential issues whilst managing your time better in order to get the most out of your holiday. The longer and further away the trip the more planning is generally required, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to sometimes slightly wing it though!

Whatever you do you should remember that post-divorce you need to pay even more attention to saving the relevant travel documents in order to avoid any hiccups. It could also be important to save correspondence with your ex pertaining to the trip in the unlikely event that they try to deny that you have confirmed these preparations with them previously. Another factor to consider is where your child’s travel documents are kept. If you have physical custody of your child you may assume the most logical place is in your house. Get it in writing; the last thing you want is an argument over passport access a few hours before your flight!

When travelling with children safety always comes first. You have to consider factors that maybe weren’t high priority for you when you backpacked Asia on your gap year! Now in the likely event that you’ll be the sole adult on the holiday your responsibility is increased. The US government website provides breakdowns on countries by profile; you can get current safety levels, necessary vaccinations and travel advice.

Controlling your innate feeling isn’t easy!

Something I’ve talked about before is the emotional sacrifice necessary to let your child spend the holidays with your ex. It is common to feel the need to interfere in their plans and be aware of every minute detail, whilst simultaneously feeling slight resentment that your ex is getting to have fun with your child without you. Why should they get to have all the fun whilst you’re stuck with the day to day grind, the meal preparations and school runs? Maybe the financial ramifications of divorce have left you unable to take your child on the type of trips your ex can, this is bound to leave a bitter taste in your mouth. However, you have to try and break free from that way of thinking. The trip is for your child and if it’s in their best interests then you should go with it. There are countless potential issues and feelings that will arise when it comes to your child holidaying without you, the best way to tackle these is consider as many as possible. The fewer surprises, the lower your frustration and angst will be.

Summary

Whilst post-divorce there are certain conditions and obstacles that weren’t prevalent before, the bottom line is that this shouldn’t stop you travelling with your child. Travelling can teach them new responsibilities, social skills, tolerance and respect for different cultures whilst strengthening the bond between you both. Travelling and holidays can be important educational opportunities; this importance should not be overlooked or undervalued!

Krishan Smith, author of this article, is the new senior editor at Custody X Change, a custody software specialist company. He’s originally from the UK but now living in Colombia.

 

Vacations With Your Children In Their Twenties

image5 ship 2017Vacationing with your youngsters was easy. If they got tired of culture, a neighborhood park was fun. Watching squirrels and birds was a blast. Twenty somethings are more of a challenge to keep them amused. Going on vacation requires plenty of pre-planning for this age group. One friend says that her sons want to go to “hot spots to pick up chicks.” A trip to Iceland was fascinating for these young men. -hiking among waterfalls, over lava rocks and being awed by geysers. At night while she and her husband rested their old bones, the lads went clubbing. All were happy.

Choosing destinations that will keep older teens and ones in their twenties entertained is important.

A lovely resort on a small island was magical for my young sons. The children’s club was top-notch where they were exposed to Caribbean culture, songs and cooking. The boys learned about marine life while strolling along the beach and the rainforest was their outdoor classroom. Fast forward a decade. Two bored teens begged their former playroom teachers to let them come back with the little ones for various activities. Learned my lesson. We recently went to Dominican Republic which is a larger island with more action, such as ziplining. There is the Water World complex which has marine life, events and a casino. They were pleased. The mountains were breath-taking and that alone was enough for me.

Our latest trip to the Caribbean was a cruise. On quieter islands – more known for beaches than nightlife – my twenty something companions found entertainment on board. There were shows, games, dancing, and staff who were their ages. My older son befriended two who worked in the Dutch Café. He had been to their homeland, The Netherlands, and enjoyed talking with them every evening over cappuccino or beer. These lively young adults were the highlight of my son’s cruise. At the beginning of a cruise, there is a gathering scheduled for singles. On one, it was for twenty somethings only and this group hung out together most of the time.

Traveling with twenty somethings who have much younger siblings can be tricky.

The islands that we explored have attractions for a wide variety of ages. The brightly painted buildings in Curaçao are stunning. Its city Willemstad, one of the larger ones we visited, has an aquarium and maritime museum which are appealing. Wandering around the centuries old alleyways is an adventure in itself. The twenty somethings enjoyed the nightlife and the fireworks display. Aruba has a butterfly farm and a compact downtown area very close to the pier. Easy to navigate with a stroller and charming pubs with local brew for the young adults. We spent most of our time on Gran Turk at the beach. There is an informative exhibit of when astronaut John Glen landed here after being the first American to orbit Earth.

Bonaire is a paradise with water so clear one can look down and see beautiful tropical fish and coral. No wonder it is one of the dive capitals of the world. While older ones are part-taking in the plethora of water sports, the youngsters can splash around in the warm ocean. The shells, coral and beach glass washed ashore are amazing. To get to the city (Kralendijk) from the pier, one goes through the historical Fort Oranje whose walls are partially constructed with coral. The shops and cafes contained within these walls are patrolled by iguanas. Kids of varying ages will enjoy the craft markets particularly on Dominican Republic and Bonaire. Talking to the locals and seeing their wares was educational and fun at these venues.

A cruise is a good way to have a family reunion when there are three generations with various interests and energy levels. Look for resorts or hotels that have a kids ‘club, and activities, such as water sports. The older ones can learn surfing, go snorkelling and swim in deeper water. The wee ones enjoy sitting on the beach making sandcastles or playing with a plastic bucket and spade (which I would pack). For city adventures, the tots can be wheeled around in a stroller when exploring the new locale with the whole family. After doing sightseeing that is interesting to all, the older siblings can part ways to concentrate on what they want to do. Parents sometimes travel with a paid nanny to take the baby back for a nap or playtime. Others like me, bring along a granny. My mother would get tired tramping around ruins and museum at about the same time as my youngest. Those two would head back to the hotel or ship for down time.

Tips on making vacations more affordable.

  • US News & World Report has information on credit cards with no transaction fees creditcards.usnews.com/no-foreign-transaction-fee Make sure that you are billed in local currency on your credit card and not in US Dollars. The venders’ exchange rate is higher. My credit card is with an airline and I use it for almost all purchases. I get at least one free trip overseas each year.
  • Skip the expensive internet packages aboard ships. It is easy to find free Wi-Fi at coffee shops in ports and cities. Soft drink packages can also be pricey. Satisfy your craving ashore. If you are planning on cruising again, passengers can get extra discounts when booking for another one while still onboard.
  • Consider making purchases more in the middle of a city. In Curaçao, one son reported beer was almost half the price three streets from the harbor front. In Prague I paid more than double for crystal necklaces bought on the Old Town Square.
  • Consider booking directly with the hotel or wherever you are going. In London, I e-mail the hotel and since they know me, they give a much lower rate than available on any discount site. Book early for better prices. Be on an e-mail list for last minute deals. A friend and I went on a European river cruise when we were able to grab a cabin a week or so before departure.

When travelling with family of vastly different ages, pack your sense of humour and curiosity. Leave expectations at home.

 

 

 

 

Travelling with Children Post-Divorce as a Single Parent

Travelling with children as a single parent can be challenging, however there are tricks to making it go smoother. If being used to having another adult helping out (your former spouse), consider enlisting a replacement. My mother was the “granny nanny” and accompanied my two sons and I on many of our global adventures. She escorted a tired child back to the ship or watched the boys play in a park while I hit a few shops.

Select destinations according to the ages of the children. Wee ones enjoy playing in the sand and staying put in one place. A condo at a beach or cabin at a lake fills this need nicely. Older ones crave adventure or exploring ruins like Indiana Jones. Think about a place that would be enjoyable for every family member. For example, many families where I reside, go to Costa Rica. One can take a leisurely stroll in the rainforest with a toddler, or have teens zip-lining through it. There are beaches for relaxing and museums for culture. Amusement parks, such as Disneyland, satisfies kids of all ages. See what travel deals you can get to make trips more affordable.

Several divorced parents advise going to all-inclusive resorts. The youngsters partake in fun sports or classes which enables mom or dad to have some free time. It is one price for food, lodging and many of the offered activities. My friend liked to take her two sons to a Club Med, some which have circus classes for children. While her boys were dangling from ropes or on the trapeze, she was sipping a rum cocktail on the beach.

There are various travel companies which offer special tours for families. One has safaris to Africa where the youngsters meet with a chief to learn about tribal life. The single parents can be at the spa or working out during these few kids only events. There are plenty of experiences that are shared with the children. Not being hands on 24/7 gives the solo parent a much needed break.

After my divorce, we tended to go on ocean or river cruises. We took advantage of sales and 2 for the price of 1 offers. I did not have surprises with costs and selected trips that fit my budget. I liked unpacking only once and not waking up cranky boys to catch trains or busses. We sailed at night and merely walked off the ship to a new destination each morning.     Please read more   www.divorcemag.com/blog/travelling-with-children-post-divorce

Holiday European River Cruise to Christmas Markets

img_3143Holiday River Cruise to European Christmas Markets

Take a European river cruise to enchanting Christmas markets to get you in the holiday spirit. My sons and I had wanted to do this for a decade and finally went on a Viking River Cruise last December originating in Budapest and terminating in Munich. Although we had been to most of the places before, these cities are very different at this time of year with the incredible wooden stalls decked out in Christmas finery. Pack for both Artic and spring like conditions as weather can be a bit unpredictable. Throw in a few smart outfits for the evenings, but nothing formal. The beauty of river cruises as opposed to ocean ones, is that they are docked in the centre of the city in the midst of the festivities. The Christmas markets are usually about a ten minute walk from the ship, which is lovely for quick strolls after dinner. The wooden stalls full of toys, ornaments, food and much more are lit up like a fairyland in the evenings. What is nice about these markets is that one is buying directly from the artists, bakers and toymakers. The markets are often in the heart of the city near the shops, which makes ticking items off your holiday gift list quite easy.

A Christmas river cruise is on a ship of around 100 to 150 passengers. There is much mixing and interactions among the passengers. Meals are open seating with dinner at a specified time with beer and wine included. Activities take place in the lounge and this is a time to mingle with others. One night we had a German Children’s Choir who sang carols in either German or English. They were adorable. There are a variety of lectures, concerts, folkloric dances, a cooking demonstration and so much more.

There is an on board library with reference books and games. There are shelves of books that others can take and replace with one that they have read. I really like the cappuccino/hot chocolate machine that is available round the clock. In the afternoons, local cookies and pastries are provided. The young European staff are amazing and the concierge will arrange for tickets, taxis, reservations or whatever is desired on shore. The holiday décor on the ship is exquisite.

The itinerary includes city excursions which may very slightly during the winter. In the summer we went to a marvellous organ concert in Passau, Germany. On this cruise we went to a gingerbread store that had been in the same family for generations instead. It was interesting learning about the different types of gingerbread and nibbling on the samples. One Christmas market was a bit of a drive, and that was in lovely Salzburg. Fun to see where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. They had quite an extensive market and a very walkable city

The markets in various cities have specialities. We got the potato dish in Bratislava and the cheese recolette in Salzburg, and Munich. Bratwurst was prevalent everywhere.  Hot mulled wine was available in all of the markets and even in the gingerbread shop in Passau. Budapest had unique baked goods as did the other markets. Viking gives handouts on what to buy, both in crafts and food at each market. They explain what is unique in the markets and cities being visited. Their history of the regions and maps are helpful.

This trip was my Christmas present to my sons and we arrived home on December 21st. I bought a few treats on the trip for Christmas morning. This river cruise to the Christmas markets was magical and is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s Bucket list.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

Vacations for Single Parents, NZ and Australia

When one is newly divorced, there is the dilemma of where to go on vacation. Do you repeat family trips that you did while still married, or start different types of adventures with the kids? Is it sad or reassuring to follow vacation rituals from pre-divorce?

A little over a year after my divorce, my healthy mother had a quick series of vascular events and ended up in Hospice. My two sons and I already had a week cruise to Alaska scheduled and Hospice insisted that we go on it, since we were on the verge of breakdowns. This time was so special and we bonded over having normal conversations again that did not involve death. The incredible scenery and other passengers were just the tonic we needed at this point.

Before she had her medical crisis, my mother had demanded that we go on a Christmas/New Year’s cruise to Australia and New Zealand (I am an only child). While on board the ship in Alaska, it seemed like she was whispering in my ear to book the holiday trip for my two sons and me. Holland America kept saying that there was availability, but the pricing was not correct. They had to give the cruise to us at the price on their computer, which was three for the price of one passenger! The day this happened turned out to be the very day my mother passed away. That was her parting gift to us. My travel agent later said that this nominal cost was unbelievable.

What a special adventure this turned out to be and a more pleasant way of spending our first Christmas without her company. We flew into Auckland, NZ, checked into our ship, and threw our luggage into our cabin. Several people told us before we left, that Waiheke,  a magical island caught in the fifties, was a short ferry ride from Auckland. Indeed it was a fantasy of laid back people in a breath taking environment. The coffee shop, beach, and plethora of flowers just banished any blues. This was our second Christmas since my divorce and we decided to start new rituals.

Distraction is a way to divert energy from worrying about troubles, into having positive experiences. There were plenty of diversions in New Zealand, such as going to a wildlife center, a farm to watch sheep shearing, and learning about Maori culture and that was just the first port of call. New Zealand has warm people, stunning fiords, and Napier which is an Art Deco city. We went from a horrible divorce, my mother’s death, to laughing and viewing life in a more light-hearted way. Steward Island, NZ is mainly a nature preserve with citizens that came for a holiday and have stayed for a decade or so, such as the barista in the coffee shop. Bring medicine for sea sickness if you sail from there through the Southern Seas to beautiful Tasmania. After Melbourne, we ended this journey in breath-taking Sydney. Kids will love Sydney as there is so much to do, such as the aquarium and going to Bondi Beach.

Consider going on a cruise to break away from past rituals when starting your life anew post-divorce. A single divorced pal did a similar Christmas/New Year’s cruise and loved the festivities and not needing dates for dances. The ship’s décor and live holiday musical performances was exactly the pampering I required.   Please read more   divorcedmoms.com/articles/how-did-i-handle-divorce-and-the-death-of-my-mother-i-went-on-a-dream-vacation

Travel for Introverts or Singles after Divorce

IMG_1829 bakeryWanderlust may kick in after a divorce, when one is alone. Places that were not on your spouse’s Bucket List may be enticing to visit. My introvert friend is finding travel more challenging than her gregarious acquaintances do. She has ruled out group travel, but this is a bit hasty. Group tours vary vastly from those that march travellers around en masse eight hours a day to those that offer one quick orientation look around the city. The American travel guru Rick Steves, suggests taking a fully escorted tour, however go on the excursions that would be more difficult to do on your own, like Machu Picchu. Take advantage of the hotels and transportation, but opt out of some sightseeing and look around on your own if desired.

TOURS FOR SOLO TRAVELERS

There are hybrid ones that get you to one or more places which include a short get acquainted with your destination tour in each new locale. They may start the journey by Eurostar or a flight to a city or island. One is picked up at the airport and taken to the hotel. There is an hour or so tour with the rest of the time on your own. The beauty of these is that the travel arrangements are left to the pros – you just show up. One gets great rates since the tour companies are buying these trips from travel venders in bulk. There is a safety net to doing travel this way which is not there when you make all of your own arrangements. The company representative (or contact person) is on hand to make recommendations, answer questions or be of assistance in emergencies. This is especially good for a first time visit to a region. I have seen some of these tempting trips listed as ads in British Women’s magazines.

HURTIGRUTEN CRUISES

There is another option to sailing, but without the crowds, casinos and shows. The Norwegian Hurtigruten cruises are great for the solitary traveller. Some sail along the Norwegian coast, coming or returning to Bergan to drop the post off at small villages. They make up to seven stops a day, some for less than an hour. This is a wonderful way to explore on your own and snap a few pictures. Some ports offer an optional sightseeing tour. The coastal cruises have breakfast and lunch buffets with open seating. The focus is on the spectacular scenery and not on shipboard activities. They run year long, and people enjoy spotting the Northern Lights in the winter. Their sea sailings are laid back with no formal nights. A naturalist gives lectures plus may have tables outside on deck showing the local flora and fauna. There is a ceremony when crossing the Arctic Circle.

RIVER CRUISES

River cruises may be more in line for introverts with a hundred or so other passengers instead of thousands. They dock near the city centre with plenty of free time for individual explorations. The ships are small and one bumps into less people when finding a private corner to read. Ocean going vessels can be docked away from the action and may spend less time in port. On some mega ships, there is an emphasis on the ship board amusements. Tables may be assigned, however one is free to eat in other dining areas by oneself. On ships, one can have the connection of being around others, without being forced to interact, especially at concerts or show. I enjoy both types of cruises.

TRAIN TRIPS

Some singles have taken long train journeys and raved about them. They could be sociable or enjoy spectacular scenery from their cabin. The Ghan train in Australia was recommended by a solo traveller. I took a train from Bangkok through Malaysia terminating in Singapore. Other people have embarked on train trips throughout Europe and Africa plus the Trans-Siberian Express. Another option is taking a bus trip such as on megabus. I thought megabus was more for the young backpacker set, but found out otherwise. Middle age solo travellers book their ticket for multiple European destinations on the easy to use website. One can pre-book hotels and some city tours or decide what to do upon arrival.

GET AWAY FROM IT ALL

An introvert can get away from it all and book a cottage by the seaside, lake or lovely village. There are plenty of web sites and guide books listing private residences for short-term holiday rentals. Some singles go on long hikes such as Spain’s Camino De Santiago. There is the thrill of accomplishment when reaching the end.

FOCUSED TRAVEL

Be creative with your travel arrangements in avoiding being part of the herd. Some divorced people have gone on trips with a particular focus, such as cooking photography or birding. One is around like-minded people who are concentrating on the activity instead of on small talk. Bon Voyage!   Originally in The Divorce Magazine   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/travel-introvert/

 

Stress-free Travel with Youngsters

It may not seem like a relaxing holiday with a baby in tow – but with a little pre-planning it can be rewarding for all. These tips are especially helpful in the post-divorce period when you may be travelling by yourself with youngsters. Having a trip with a limited itinerary, such as a beach holiday worked well for us.  My baby or toddler loved sitting in the sand playing with a plastic shovel and when older, making sand castles. The sea creatures and birds added extra entertainment to lazing around at the shore. One parent suggests going to an area that also has a bay, cove or sound near the ocean which is calmer water for the little ones. The South Pacific surrounding the Cook Islands, is like stepping into a warm, multi-coloured bathtub water – just perfect for tiny children. Taking my young sons to Na Trang, Vietnam required holding on to them in the large waves. Even beaches on the same island can be vastly different – a surfer’s dream or like a pond. Many parents have stated that staying in a condo, cottage or villa was worth the extra expense.  They liked having extra room, a kitchen and more seclusion for toddler tantrums. The location, beach or mountains was more secondary as long as they had this bigger space than a hotel room. Another choice is staying with friends or family who may have baby necessities and other kids. We visited my mother in my old home which still had some of my toys and book. My mother purchased a stroller, travel crib, high chair, and car seat which remained at her place. I just threw a few clothes and essentials in our suitcase for an easy trip. The little ones had lots of playtime with Gran and I vegged out with uninterrupted reading.

Selecting a destination with animals is a hit with youngsters, such as a farm stay or being near a zoo. In northern Thailand, our hotel was across the street from a fabulous butterfly and orchid farm. Twice a day water buffalo were paraded around the hotel property and my sons petted or rode these gentle beasts. We also went to a nearby elephant sanctuary. Staying near a petting zoo or animal park are other options.

Schedule running around time into the itinerary to blow off toddler energy, such as going to nearby parks.  My boys enjoyed meeting and playing with other children in these areas. One holiday that did not work out well with a baby was going to Disneyworld. It took too much time going to the different areas and he became fussy. Parking his stroller at different rides and venues became tedious. A small, more local amusement park would okay. My babies also enjoyed children’s museums.

Consider going to hotels that have kids clubs. My sons’ favourite one was at the Four Seasons in Nevis. It was from ages 3-9, but my 19 month old was welcome with my supervision. They learned Caribbean culture, songs and had field trips around the beach and hotel property and my sons petted or rode these gentle beasts. We also went to a nearby elephant sanctuary. Staying near a petting zoo or animal park are other options.

Schedule running around time into the itinerary to blow off toddler energy, such as going to nearby parks. My boys enjoyed meeting and playing with other children in these areas. One holiday that did not work out well with a baby was going to Disneyworld. It took too much time going to the different areas and he became fussy. Parking his stroller at different rides and venues became tedious. A small, more local amusement park would okay. My babies also enjoyed children’s museums.

Consider going to hotels that have kids clubs. My sons’ favourite one was at the Four Seasons in Nevis. It was from ages 3-9, but my 19 month old was welcome with my supervision. They learned Caribbean culture, songs and had field trips around the beach and hotel property. Most of the Four Seasons resorts have a complimentary kids club for either 3-9 or 4-12, with babies allowed under guardian supervision. All of their hotels have complementary cribs and other baby essentials. Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas has kids clubs from ages one to seventeen.

Club Med is renowned for their kids clubs which include sports and circus training at no cost for those four and over. There is a fee for the Baby Club starting at six months and the petit club up to age four. In the evenings, a Pyjama Club is available so parents can enjoy adult company with dinner and drinks. Club med provides free cribs and high chairs. My friend took her baby and pre-schooler to the Club Med in Thailand and all had such a fun holiday. The kids clubs at Club Med have specially trained youth counsellors and have a vast variety of activities for children.

There are various travel agencies that book holiday cottages, villas, hotels and trips for families with babies, whether in the UK or farther afield. Thomas Cook has a list of Family World hotels and resorts globally which are geared towards kids as young as six months. These hotels provide the necessary equipment such as cribs and potties. They have a baby service centre where parents can make bottles and special meals. There is a toddler program which includes time in the water in places such as Crete and Menorca. Another one is Neilson Clubs which provide nannies in their different locations starting with the Starfish Club at four months (has a fee). The Sea Urchin Club for kids 2-4, plus clubs for older siblings are complimentary and includes supervised beach fun along with indoor activities. A mobile listening devise for parents is available. Some of these great clubs are in Turkey and Greece.

Sunsail’s Minnow Club is for those four months to two years and has a charge. Their other kids clubs are complimentary. The kids clubs and activities for parents can be as active as one likes and includes sailing lessons, wind surfing and water sports. Besides swimming and canoeing, these youngsters can enjoy quieter pursuits, such as story time or games. Some of these destinations include Greece. Holiday with Baby is a travel company that has baby friendly stays in the UK and abroad. Their UK Cottages are baby proofed with necessary baby equipment. They have listings for villas and hotels globally which are geared to the little ones. Simpson Travel offers specials providing complimentary childcare particularly in their locations in Greece. Their Hatchlings Creche is for babies six months to three years. The Turtles Club is for 4-10. Twice a week parents can have an adult evening while the kids have fun in the kids club evening sessions.

When divorced, it is nice to have a balance of being with the kids and having some alone or mingling with other adults time too.

Originally printed in The Divorce Magazine  www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go on a Christmas Cruise Post-Divorce

IMG_1613One way to start new Christmas traditions is to get away from it all and wipe the slate clean after divorce. No more “this was what we did when we were still married last Christmas Eve.” One happily divorced woman who is now my friend, went on a Christmas/New Year’s cruise solo. She chose to surround herself with many people and felt the Christmas spirit. Not needing a date to dance the night away on New Year’s Eve was a bonus.

On cruises, there are often get-togethers for the single passengers of all ages. Beats moping around one’s flat when friends are occupied with their own holiday plans. Both my sons and I did two holiday cruises on Cunard’s QE2 with my husband and mother. Then just the three of us did two post- divorce ones on Holland America.

What are holiday cruises like?

The anticipation starts months ahead of time when selecting the destinations. The cruises are a nice mix of exploring other cultures during the day and consuming scrumptious meals on board while possibly being serenaded by a string quartet. It was a unique experience hearing a steel band in the Caribbean playing carols and seeing Gibraltar decked out in Christmas decorations. There are different types of entertainment – concerts, musicals, comedians, magic shows, plus much more. Other activities are lectures, cooking demonstrations, computer classes, quizzes, and bridge, just to mention a few. One can be sociable or chill out reading in a quiet corner. The kids are kept busy and the single parents get some alone time or to interact with other adults. The staff puts on a show and sings carols. The QE2 had a traditional British Christmas which included a hilarious pantomime. Holland America embraced its Dutch heritage with their special foods and celebrations.

I packed my sons’ Christmas stockings with several small gifts. I picked up something on the trip, a local t-shirt or souvenir, since the cruise is their present. Having just a few stocking stuffers to open gets the focus off material goods and puts the emphasis on shared experiences. At home we never attended so many holiday programs or ate such feasts as we did on board.

The ships were decorated exquisitely and not having to take down the tree and so forth is a gift in itself. The time we did not spend getting tasks done in the frenetic holiday season meant we could bond in a stress-free environment. A few singles told me that they tucked away presents from their families and looked forward to opening them on Christmas Day. If you enjoy a surprise, consider going to a shop with items you like (skin serum for me) and pay them to wrap up something you can have on Christmas day.

The adults seemed to enjoy Father Christmas’s appearance on Christmas almost as much as the children.

He and the elves gave out presents while the adults sipped their spiked egg nog. My twenty-two year old was excited that Father Christmas remembered the college kids on board too.

A priest conducted lovely Christmas Eve and Day masses (actually every day). Classic holiday movies are shown in the cinema and being on this type of cruise is truly magical.

Book early since the holiday ones sell out.

I bring two non-religious holiday cards and put a little cash in them. One is a present for our cabin steward and the other for the waiter and the assistant at our table.  The money I do not spend on gifts, decorating, entertainment and food pays a chunk of the cruise price. It is possible to get cruise ships out of Southampton and other UK ports which saves on transportation costs.

As a single mother it is easier to budget for a cruise holiday, since I know the costs up front. We drink water and do not have added fees, such as a beverage or alcohol package. We eat in the main dining room which is included, and forgo the pricey specialty restaurants which are not. Some cruise lines include shore excursions in their price and others alcohol with meals. Look carefully at what is included and do some comparison shopping.

I asked various singles if they felt lonely on a cruise over the holidays and their answers were a big “no.” On the various holiday and regular cruises, quite a few passengers are travelling on their own.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/