Sure, Tim Cahill will go drunken diving for poisonous sea snakes, and Rolf Potts will try to sneak onto the set of The Beach in a Thai fishing boat, but that’s nothing. If you want brave, talk to Debbie Dubrow. She travels with her husband and their three children aged 5, 3, and 1. That’s three children to take care of on airplanes and in hotel rooms, restaurants, and taxicabs all over the globe.
A former Project Manager at Microsoft, Dubrow also writes Delicious Baby, ranked the best travel blog in 2009 by Technocrati, and probably the most popular parenting travel blog in the world.
In the first part of this two-part interview, Debbie talks about her experiences traveling with her children.
Matt Gibson: I’m sure that you traveled before you had children. When did you know you wanted to make travel a lifestyle?
Debbie Dubrow: Travel has always been an important part of our lives, the desire to go experience the world didn’t change when we had kids.
MG: Have you ever made any mistakes traveling with your children that you now look back on and wonder, ‘why on earth did I do that’?
DD: Constantly. I probably have a short term memory disease, because I keep going places with them anyway.
MG: What was the disaster you had traveling with children?
DD: The trickiest situation was landing in Heathrow airport, which was supposed to be a 4 hour layover for us, and finding out upon landing the airport was closed because of an ash cloud. It was incredibly crowded, there were long waits for everything, and very little information. Luckily the kids were so happy to be off of the plane that they spread out their toys on the baggage claim floor and played pretty happily while we figured out how to get our baggage, get into town, and a place to stay.
Other bad things:
● I’ve been thrown up on in flight. No, I did not have a spare shirt in my carryon
● We’ve had delayed baggage on almost every transatlantic flight we’ve flown with kids.
● I flew from Paris to Seattle a few days after the liquid bomb scare in Heathrow. I was 8 months pregnant, and it was my first solo flight with my son. I wasn’t allowed to bring any toys along, they limited the number of diapers I could bring, even my pen was confiscated because it had liquid in it!
I think that when you get into a tricky situation, it can actually be empowering. I get so focused on not letting the situation impact the kids, that things usually go ok. Afterwords I feel more confident about handling the small problems that crop up.
MG: How old was your first child when you started traveling as a parent?
DD: The first trip was when our son was 2 months old. Like most new babies, each child’s first flight was a trip to visit family.
Before my oldest son was born, we had planned to spend my husband’s paternity leave (one month) in Paris, and we did that when he was 6 months old. I was surprised at how concerned everyone was about our plan (after all Paris is hardly an unknown or developing country). I am so glad that we took that opportunity to travel. It’s rare for a career-focused parent to be able to take a whole month off at once, and if we had been home in Seattle we would have been sucked into our everyday lives and chores. In Paris we were much more focused on enjoying our time together, and bonding as a new family. It also set the ball rolling for continuing to travel as he got older and as we added more kids to our family.
MG: What countries have you found to be the most child friendly? Why?
DD: Spain, Italy and Turkey were all very child friendly, mostly because local children are part of everyday life. People expect to see them in restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. In restaurants, the kids get really spoiled with the waiters bringing them special foods – and in Italy we sometimes had a server offer to hold our baby for us to keep him happy while we ate!
Italy is known for not having very many playgrounds, especially in Rome, but in any country where the cities are built around a central plaza it helps to bring along an inflatable ball. Once you start kicking it around, it doesn’t take long for more kids to show up and join in the fun.
MG: Have you traveled in many developing countries with your children? How does it differ from traveling in developed ones?
DD: We really haven’t yet. There are so many places to travel, and I am willing to wait until the kids are little older to visit developing countries. Diseases that don’t have much impact here can kill a child in the developing world if the proper medical care isn’t available, so extra caution is warranted. Still many parents do visit developing countries, and are willing to do the extra work to make sure that their kids water and food are safe when they travel.