Planning a vacation the entire family can enjoy is not always easy, but that's where "Kidcationers" like Windsorite Gabby Polanco come in.
Polanco is one of five youths across Canada selected to participate in a Sunwing Vacations program called "Kidcations" where junior travelers can try, test and review family-oriented resorts.
For the Grade 6 student, being a Kidcationer means letting people know about what families can experience on the vacations.
Kidcationers can also speak about how to pack for the vacations, what kids look for in vacations and what parents should keep in mind when booking the family trip. As a Kidcation Tester, Polanco recently traveled to Memories Splash Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and took part in several activities while using a GoPro to document her vacation.
The 12-year-old first applied to be a Kidcationer last summer when Sunwing announced the contest. She submitted a photo and essay about why she wanted to become a Kidcationer, then was shortlisted and asked to submit an audition video. She was eventually chosen along with a brother and sister from Mississauga, Ont., a boy from Charlesbourg, Que. and another boy from Toronto.
Polanco said she wanted to enter the contest because she thought it would be a new opportunity.
"It would be really cool to go to this place and do this and tell people what they can experience when they go there," said Polanco.
While on "duty" in the Dominican Republic, Polanco got to go on an excursion arranged by Sunwing which offered the opportunity to either take a "high-adrenaline adventure" or "laid-back cultural experience." In Polanco's case, it was a pirate experience with singing pirates and included snorkeling in the ocean.
"Also on the excursion, I got to swim with sharks, that was pretty cool," said Polanco. "As well, I got to hold a stingray which was rough on top and smooth on the bottom, which was weird, but was cool."
Sunwing corporate communications manager Rachel Goldrick said the Kidcation program was created because the company recognized the need to involve their youngest customers in selecting vacations.
"Children obviously see things very differently than adults," said Goldrick. "So an adult might make a decision, based on different criteria to what the child might appreciate at a resort."
Goldrick said the Kidcation winners were chosen based on their YouTube videos, their presentation on camera and their imagination. She said Polanco's imagination shone through in her video, using a mixture of her at the resort she was critiquing, alongside local attractions that fit the theme of the resort.
"She's very articulate and that was something we were looking for."
Polanco said she is a big travel lover and would love to do more reviews and travel videos as a job later in life, or just in the near future.
"I love telling people what they can experience, being in front of the camera and going different places around the world," said Polanco. "That's one of my goals -- to go around the world … I think I would have a lot of fun doing it in the process."
The Kidcationer contest is open once again and youth 16 and under can apply, with parents' permission, at www.kidcations.com.