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Single parents need vacations too, and more destinations want them to visit

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When Tanya McNally, a Tampa, Fla., resident who works in human resources, was planning a vacation a few years ago for herself and her two teenage sons, she had recently gotten divorced and felt anxious about the prospect of travelling with them alone.

“I was very aware that we would be going on a family trip in what was not a traditional family setup of two parents,” McNally said in a recent interview.

Disney Cruise Line is one of a handful of cruise companies that offer specific programs that cater to single-parent families.
Disney Cruise Line is one of a handful of cruise companies that offer specific programs that cater to single-parent families.  (CATIE MCCABE / The NewYork Times)

Amanda Norcross, the features editor of the online travel magazine Family Vacation Critic, said that the travel industry is paying more attention to single parent family vacations because the number of solo parent households has increased. (According to 2016 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69 between 1960 and 2016.)

“The definition of what constitutes a family has changed over the years, and travel brands are seeing an opportunity to cater to this niche market,” Norcross said.

Here are some options for a single-parent-led family vacation.

Consider a cruise

McNally and her sons ended up taking a cruise to the Caribbean with Disney Cruise Line because she had heard that the line went out of its way to accommodate single-parent families. For example, single-parent families can choose to dine with others like them and may also be paired for shore excursions, so children have a chance to make new friends, and parents have other adults to interact with. Additionally, all four of Disney’s ships have planned activities for solo parents and every sailing offers kids and teen clubs with activities all day that are included in the cost of the cruise.

McNally and her sons had such a good time on that trip, roughly four years ago, that they’ve since been on nine more Disney cruises, including one last December to the Bahamas. “The setup on the boats made me and the boys completely relaxed,” McNally said.

Disney Cruise Line is among the several travel companies that increasingly cater to single-parent families by grouping them with others who have a similar family setup and offering them price breaks. Some companies have even introduced specific single-parent itineraries.

The river cruise line CroisiEurope, for example, normally charges single adult travellers a supplement fee that’s 30 per cent of the total cruise fare (a weeklong all-inclusive trip costs around $2,500 U.S.). In July and August, however, this fee is waived for single parents on select European cruises when they’re travelling with children who are 16 or younger; children on these itineraries also sail for free. In addition, the supplement is waived on the company’s Christmas market cruises on the Danube and Rhine River.

Michael DaCosta, CroisiEurope’s marketing manager, said that the company introduced these incentives a few years ago in an attempt to broaden its customer base.

“We were seeing a lot of older cruises, but we wanted to reach a wider demographic,” he said. So far, they’ve had success: DaCosta said that about 575 single parents, along with their children, cruised with the line this past summer.

Find a travel agency that caters to single-parent travel

Dyan McKie, a Melbourne, Australia, resident and the brand manager for family adventures at Intrepid Travel, said she and 5-year-old her daughter, Beatrice, feel out of place when they’re around two-couple families on their frequent travels together.

“Sometimes we want company for dinner or when we’re doing an activity, but I don’t want to force ourselves on anyone,” she said.

Motivated both by her own experiences and the increasing number of single-parent families booking trips with her firm, McKie created six new tours specifically for solo-parent families to Costa Rica, Thailand, Northern India, Egypt, Vietnam and Morocco.

The trips range in length from eight to 15 days, and have a starting price ranging from $555 to $3,185, airfare not included.

And Britain-based Virgin Holidays started a new single-parent trip category last October that includes air-inclusive trips to 10 Caribbean resorts where parents don’t pay a single supplement and children get a discount. The tour operator initiated the change after numerous requests from customers, according to the company’s managing director, Joe Thompson. “Single parents were telling us that they needed affordable vacation options for their kids, and that’s what we’re trying to give them,” he said.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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