We love to travel here at Flights.com (have we mentioned it?), and we’re crazy about the idea of kids getting to see the world. We recently sat down with Katie Dillon of La Jolla Mom, a luxury travel blogger based in California, to talk about traveling with your family. Here is what she had to say about making time for travel, getting kids to open up to new cultures, and more.
Flights.com (FL): Tell us about your “La Jolla Mom” blog. How did you get started?
Katie Dillon (KD): We were living in Hong Kong. A lot of expats there start blogs, because the time change is so significant between Hong Kong and the United States. Instead of having to call at odd hours, I could just say “Here’s what we did today,” and post a few pictures so my family could get a daily update without having to phone so much. Then we moved home, and I saw that blogging was becoming a trend, and it just sort of all came together.
FL: How do you make time for travel?
KD: You just make the time; you make it a priority. My husband and I have an agreement that my daughter will only miss 5 days of school per year, so it’s not actually disruptive for her.
FL: What are your top destinations for traveling with your daughter?
KD: We go to Asia once a year, and that’s my favorite. My daughter loves China, so we’ve gone to the Great Wall, and we often visit Hong Kong. We just love it.
FL: When you’re traveling as a family, how do you make sure that you have quality time together?
KD: The three of us rarely separate when we travel. Every once in a while my husband and I get a babysitter or I’ll break free for a little bit of shopping, but there is always something my daughter wants to do on the agenda every day so that she doesn’t get burnt out on touring. We also do not over-schedule our days and make sure to incorporate plenty of downtime.
FL: So you like planning versus being spontaneous?
KD: It’s a mix. I didn’t always used to be a planner, but now I look to see if there are any exclusive experiences that we would miss if we didn’t plan ahead. For example, we’re going to Paris in a few weeks, and I found out there is a scavenger hunt you can do in the Louvre. It’s great, because it makes the museum interesting for her, whereas walking around would mostly be interesting to my husband and me. I am always thinking about how we can make things we want to do interesting to her, too.
FL: How does your daughter do around new cultures?
KD: That’s the cool part of traveling so much with her. New cultures, new food, new languages…they don’t seem weird to her. I’m convinced that travel has helped conquer her phases of picky eating. For some reason, she chooses to eat a wider variety of food while on vacation and these habits continue back at home.
FL: Do you have any advice for parents who are trying to get their kids to be more open about new cultures and cuisines?
KD: I think as adults we sometimes have anxiety about traveling to far flung places with our kids, and maybe we transfer that. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, try something new and act like it’s a completely normal (though very exciting) part of your routine. We tend to eat whatever the local specialties are and if the dish is unfamiliar, we always ask my daughter to try it before dismissing it. Most of the time, she likes it. But, I also have snacks with me in case of emergency. It’s important to be prepared, too.
FL: Does your daughter have any places she wants to go?
KD: She doesn’t necessarily suggest destinations, but we try to make what she is learning come to life. For instance, last year when she was interested in history, we took a trip to Washington D.C. She loves her Parisian doll, so she started to get interested in France right after we booked our tickets to Paris, which was great.
FL: Do you have any packing advice for parents?
KD: My challenge lately is trying to limit what my 8-year-old daughter packs. She is actually able to pack herself, but I go through and eliminate things she doesn’t need. As a general rule, I try to buy lots of clothes that mix and match to create multiple outfits out of the same pieces. And I do let her take a backpack full of toys, travel games and other entertainment of her choosing, as long as she carries it. After an unfortunate incident with a glass of orange juice on a long haul flight, I now always pack an extra change of clothes for all family members in our carry-on. The clothes are compressed in large Ziploc bags which can double as trash bags or keep stained clothes from touching other items.
FL: What is your favorite local spot to go in San Diego with your family?
KD: Balboa Park. We love the Explorer pass, which lets you bounce around between all the museums.
What’s your best advice for traveling with kids? Comment below!
Katie Dillon is a freelance luxury travel and lifestyle writer who lives in La Jolla with her husband and young daughter. She is the founder of lajollamom.com, the San Diego editor for USA TODAY/10Best and a regular contributor to Four Seasons Magazine, Luxury Retreats Magazine as well as several other San Diego County blogs.