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Fantastic family

Fantastic family


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

"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?

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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