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The end of the guilt trip -- Hawaii

By Marilyn Zeitlin

The parents hugged their children goodbye. One mom was dressed for scuba diving; one dad carried golf clubs. Another mom in suit, white blouse and pearls, carried a flip pad and markers as she left to make a presentation at a company sales meeting. The children waved goodbye as they headed off for a day of fun Hawaii style. Later that evening they would be back in their hotel rooms with their parents, getting tucked in with a story and a kiss goodnight.

Spending a guilt-free day on vacation or attending functions at a business trip may sound like a fantasy. If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, your fantasy has come true thanks to programs like the Keiki Aloha at the Sheraton Waikiki.

I recently visited the Keiki Aloha program on the islands of Oahu (Honolulu), Maui and Kauai -- the three major Hawaiian destinations for mainland visitors -- to see if the guilt-free business trip or romantic vacation was truly possible.

The Keiki Aloha program (keiki means children and aloha means love in Hawaiian) used to only be in session during the summer and holidays. Now it is a year round program of education, entertainment, sports and Hawaiian culture. More activities and trips have been added and the lunch menus include kid-friendly delicacies--chicken nuggets, hot dogs and french fries. Keiki Aloha also added an evening program for youngsters whose parents can enjoy a romantic evening alone sipping lava flows or pina coladas while watching the sun disappear into the Pacific.

Hawaii has been a favorite travel destination for decades. It is America's 50th state, but it feels like a foreign country with its multicultural, multilingual population, its exotic flora and fauna, the sprawling ocean filled with exotic creatures, luaus, native music and the hula.

Lately, Hawaii has also become popular as a destination for corporate meetings and conventions, and most hotel chains are encouraging business travelers to bring the kids by providing programs for toddlers through teens.

Leaving the kids at home often results in working mother guilt trip. When parents return home they report finding their children unfriendly or sullen. Mothers on business trips worry about "what the kids are getting into at home" or whether children are going to bed on time and doing their homework.

It isn't needless worry. One study dealing with parents on business trips showed that 45% of their children forget what their bedtime hour is, and 38 percent forget to do homework. Fully 93% of traveling moms said they miss their children while away on business; most call home two and three times a day. A Hollywood producer told me that she has trouble going to sleep when she isn't able to kiss two-year old Alyssa goodnight.

Taking children to Hawaii on vacation or business could be the end of the guilt trip. Professionals trained in psychology and education care for your children while you are attending meetings and presentations. The children have fun, make friends from other countries, and learn about other customs and cultures. And Hawaiian children's programs can cost less than babysitting back home.

Family travel to Hawaii can be a win-win situation for all family members. But Dr. Irene Goldenberg, Family Psychologist at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, tells women who take their families on business trips, to be sure they don't put themselves in a position of dual roles or they'll "up the stress level." For the experience to be a good one, says Goldenberg, "a woman should be able to do the work part and leave the husband or another trusted person to care for the kid. When the business day is over, that's the time for the mother role."

Children's Programs
The Sheraton Waikiki's Keiki Aloha program, available to guests at any Sheraton Hotel, costs $20.00 per half-day session or $30.00 per two or three sessions. Some Hawaiian hotels charge as little as $15 for four hours of supervised fun and entertainment.

On my most recent visit to Keiki Aloha at the Sheraton Waikiki, the youngsters were at the beach flying kites they had made that day. Some children built a sand volcano; one little Japanese girl decided to pour her glass of orange juice inside to make the volcano appear active. I overheard two pre-teens discuss their snorkeling expedition: "These huge black-speckled gold fish came right up to me. It was rad." "Well, you should have seen the eel, and the starfish and the red, flat fish and the teeny ones in a school, and . . ."

When I visited another day I found a few children, ages 7-9, around a Monopoly board. Yuriko and her brother spoke Japanese, Candace, English, while Pierre, who spoke French, pondered his next move. None of the players understood what the others were saying. Yet the game went on. "I can't explain it," said teacher, Desiree Campbell, but they use body language, gestures, sounds, touch, and become friends." For Keiki Aloha: (808) 922-4422, ext. 79105.

At the Outrigger hotels children receive a free explorer kit with backpack, sunglasses, binoculars, guidebooks and maps. The hotel's Cowabunga Kids Club takes children on field trips to ranches, the Waimea Valley Adventure Park and Sea Life Park. A full day's program costs $50 including lunch, snacks, and t-shirt. (800-688-7444) or www.outrigger.com/specialinterest/family.

Camp Hyatt runs June 1 through September 1 for children 3-12 and offers a book and video library, Hawaiian bingo and the basics of Hawaiian language. The rest of the year Camp Hyatt is open only on weekends. Cost: $10 per hour. Call your travel planner to book in advance. The Hilton Waikoloa Village has Camp Menehune. For reservations: (808) 886-1234. Don't forget to ask about Camp Menehune's schedule and activities

Other Family Adventures in Hawaii
There are places to visit that families should see together. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor Navy Base in Honolulu is one such place. The excursion begins with an excellent film about the Japanese bombing, and World War II vets are around to answer questions. The memorial itself is artistic, dramatic and educational. The tour is free and operated by the National Park Service. Make reservations early. (808) 422-0561.

The new Maui Ocean Center, fifteen minutes from the airport in Maui, is a research facility for oceanographers and marine biologists. For tourists it's a wonderful aquarium where you can walk underneath the ocean floor as stingrays glide over you, where children can touch urchins and other animals. Cost: $18 for adults, $12.50 for children (free for those under three.) (808) 270-7000; Web site: www.mauioceancenter.com

Traveling to Hawaii with children is getting easier and cheaper. There are various family vacation and business packages. Book your next Hawaiian vacation at ClikVacations.

Also see:
Traveling with children
Vacation ideas
Stay connected with your family while traveling for business
Take the kids along on your next business trip

Marilyn Zeitlin is an award-winning freelance writer from Los Angeles.


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