Early morning flights, long drives and crazy tantrums — we get it. Traveling with kids can be quite a challenge, but it doesn’t always have to be. We recently caught up with Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo and he tells us about the different challenges and all the perks of traveling as a family.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
Hi, I’m Eric, and I live in California with my wife and three kids (6, 9 and 10). My wife and I grew up traveling, and it never occurred to us to slow down once we had kids. My kids got to multiple countries by the time they were one, and at this point are up to 43 countries and all 7 continents. We travel frequently as a family, but I also let each of the kids choose anywhere in the world to go with me every year starting at the age of 4. I love the bonding, and every one-on-one adventure has been a lot of fun.
How did you come up with Travel Bobbo?
I had always inspired my friends and family to travel, and I started my website two years ago to hopefully inspire others. The name Babbo is Italian for Dad or Daddy. It’s the only thing my kids have called me since we spent a few weeks in Florence three years ago.
Tell us about your first trip as a family.
We’ve traveled fairly consistently since each of the kids was born so I don’t know that there was a first trip per se – just increasingly more interesting trips. One of our first trips as a family of five was when my kids were 1, 3 and 5 and we did a 2-week Disney cruise in the Mediterranean followed by a month at a villa in Cortona, Italy. That was an easy trip, since we really just based out of the two places (the ship and the villa), very little moving around with luggage.
How do you pick a destination? Some tips for fellow family travelers.
Each of the kids gets to choose anywhere in the world to go every year with me. They’ve chosen Antarctica, Palawan, Easter Island, Belize, Australia and other fun places, all based on what interests them. When we’re picking destinations as a family, it’s always a mix of old and new. We have a long list of places where we want to go and work a couple of those into our travels every year based on timing and seasonality – i.e. what works best for specific school breaks weather-wise or taking into account jet lag. We also love Italy, France and Greece and return to at least one of those every summer.
While traveling, how do you find a balance between activities for adults and kids?
We don’t necessarily try to find a balance. While we always incorporate activities that appeal to the entire family, like cooking classes, all of our trips are based around the kids. It’s not realistic to think that the kids will enjoy 4-hour museum visits or long, leisurely breakfasts, so we’ll save those for when the kids are off to university. If we do want to see a museum or a cultural site, we’ll choose a tour guide who can make the excursion kid-friendly. If the kids are happy and engaged, we’re happy.
How challenging and rewarding is it to travel with your family?
It’s challenging at the beginning, but all travel is cumulative. That miserable 12-hour flight with an 11-month-old makes for incredibly easy flying when she’s four. That really hot, really long day in Rome with three complaining kids makes you a better vacation planner later. Every family is different, so you’ll have to figure out what your perfect trip is through trial and error, but it all goes back to my previous answer – as long as you make the trips about the kids, you’ll have a better time than if you’re trying to take the kids along on what’s really an adult vacation.
It’s been very rewarding. I love noticing every day that we’re raising worldly children, from how they look at US politics and culture from an outsider’s perspective to what they choose to read and eat. Every time our kids have played on playgrounds around the world with kids from other countries, they’ve been able to see that people everywhere really are the same. That’s important. I love who my kids are becoming, and I give a lot of the credit to travel.
What is your most memorable trip?
The most memorable trips are probably the craziest trips, like taking my 6-year-old to Easter Island or my 8-year-old to Antarctica, or flying around the world in two weeks with a 10-year-old. But we always try to incorporate unique activities, especially if we’re traveling somewhere we’ve been before, in order to make every trip memorable.
What is your recommendation for first time family travelers?
Don’t get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan – it’s all part of the adventure. But having said that, do everything you can to minimize the chances that things won’t go perfectly. Take the fewest number of flights that you can and travel early in the morning. Always pack snacks. Pack lighter than you think you need to. And always involve the kids in the trip planning, so they’ll be more engaged during the trip.