Fantastic family fun

Good news as we hit vacation time: With Rosie at the helm, the world keeps getting more hospitable to our families.

BY Matthew Link

March 25 2007 11:00 PM ET

“I wanted
people who usually have to settle for crumbs to get a full
meal.” So said Rosie O’Donnell when launching
the first of her first-class R Family Cruises in July
2004. Directly aimed at LGBT parents with kids, R
Family Vacations single-handedly brought to light this
overlooked niche within a niche. The cruise schedule has
continued to expand, and the company now also offers
noncruise vacations such history-oriented tours of
Philadelphia (complete with ’50s-themed bowling
parties) and weekend getaways to Albuquerque’s
Balloon Fiesta.

Thanks to all
this enterprise, LGBT families now have more travel
options. But they still need to navigate the waters of the
gay and straight travel worlds—both of which
are trying to understand the needs of LGBT families.
According to a recent study by Witeck-Combs
Communications and the research firm Packaged Facts, an
estimated 1.8 million gay and lesbian households
include at least one child.

For instance,
many gay bed-and-breakfasts and hotels have a no-kids
policy—and that may be well-advised when
there’s nude sunbathing or a party atmosphere.
Few gay-friendly accommodations market to families, and
those that do can have a hard time. One of the rare
gay-owned lodgings in Palm Springs, Calif., that
catered to LGBT families, Viola’s Resort,
closed in 2004.

On the other
hand, neither gay parents nor their kids may feel
comfortable hanging out at mainstream family resorts.

But the travel
world is slowly coming around. Since it’s still more
common for lesbians to have children than gay men,
women-focused companies and venues lead the way for
LGBT family travel: Olivia Cruises and Resorts has
held family-oriented weeks at a Florida Club Med; lesbian
B&Bs are generally kid-friendly; and lesbian-heavy
events like women’s music festivals may have
no-men policies but welcome children with kids’
areas and activities.

And you’ll
see dads and moms galore enjoying another growing trend:
LGBT family weeks organized by the Washington,
D.C.–based Family Pride Coalition at hot spots
like Provincetown, Mass.; Saugatuck, Mich.; and Disney
World. This year marks the 12th anniversary of Family Week
in Provincetown, and Family Pride will be partnering
with R Family for the first time to make the biggest
Family Week ever, with beach bonfires, picnics,
dances, carnivals, a pirate dinner, and a “R-aMAHzing
Race.” Says Rosie: “We actually started
R Family Vacations because Kelli and I took our kids
to Family Pride’s Family Week and I saw the effect
that it had on my children.”

A sense of
belonging and camaraderie is something LGBT families cherish
in these vacations—which become something akin to
community celebrations and a kind of therapy for kids.
Perhaps that’s also why queer kids’ and
families’ camps are becoming popular. They can be
found throughout the Unite States from New Jersey to
California. The camps can be havens for children
struggling with their unusual circumstances.

“We had a
kid come,” says Massachusetts-based CampOut founder
Emmy Howe, “who was 13 and had never met a
lesbian besides her mom.” Besides activities
like horseback riding and campfires, these camps specialize
in helping kids and their families through
confidence-building workshops, affirmation exercises,
and social justice programs. Who says one vacation
can’t change your life or your family’s?

Tags: Travel

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