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Finding Design & Style in Travel With Kids

Our room at Relaix & Chateaux’s Eolo – Patagonia’s Spirit

When the shift came from traveling as a childless adult to travels with a baby, I found that besides the obvious challenges, there was also the challenge of finding accommodations that fit my taste. Hotels that are known for their attention to detail in their interiors, their amenities, and even in the food they serve, do not normally have patrons of the smaller size in mind. I remember on our first extended trip to Brazil in the spring of 2011, I had discovered a good number of the lovely hotels and B&Bs I had researched back at home (and intended to book) did not allow any children under 12 years of age.

As I love hotels, interiors, and appreciate style and good design, this was a big disappointment. I felt as if there was an element to our unique experience we were both missing. Instead I often turned to vacation rentals, which has become wildly popular since those first days 3 years ago, when Lulu was an infant.

More families are traveling together, and more children are traveling the world with their parents more than ever before. It says a lot about our global culture, and to my delight, it’s inspired a number of travel websites that take into account the tastes of both parent and child. Below are a few that I have used and have recently discovered. I hope they too can make all the difference in your travel experiences. Happy wandering and happy (temporary) nesting with family!


image courtesy of i-escape – I have been using i-escape for years now. It’s a fantastic informational resource that highlights the high and lows of the hotels featured, specific details of individual rooms, as well as insider tips and special offers for i-escape guests who book through the site. There are accommodation choices of boutique hotels, villa rentals, or city apartments, and the site even breaks down properties by appropriate age group– genius for parent travel planners!

ciaobambino - CB! was started by a mom determined to fill the need for a resource directed at parents traveling with kids. It has a ton of information on itineraries, travel tips, and booking options for kid-friendly accommodations for those with discerning tastes. Their editorial content is expansive and varied with lots of ideas on where to go in the U.S. and internationally– and what to do once you get there– perfect for travel ideas and inspiration, when thoughts of a vacation first come to mind. – This vacation rental booking site has often been on my list of recommendations to friends who travel with their families. Specializing in property rentals that are kid-friendly, it offers stylish apartments and homes for families in various destinations around the world. Especially when first traveling with Lulu as an infant, I would often look for access to a kitchen and convenient laundry facilities. The options here take a lot of guess work out of the equation, without sacrificing aesthetics. - Black Tomato is where expert travel planners do all the planning for you. They have a service dedicated to luxury family holidays– fill in their questionnaire to get started, such as where you are looking to travel, for how long, how many kids, and any other specific requests– and this will get the ball rolling to have an exclusive itinerary mapped out for your family. An amazing service for parents with little time (and patience) to plan, but with ample budget.

image courtesy of Ashley Muir Bruhn, Hither & Tither

image courtesy of Ashley Muir Bruhn, Hither & Tither – This is the only blog I am including, as it is not a family travel planning site per se, but one that is full of inspiration. I’ve followed Hither and Tither for several years now, and Ashley’s blog is a treasure trove of ideas on design and lifestyle– especially her Travelogues. Between her travels and her overall taste, as well as vignettes of her life juggling family, home, DIY projects, beautiful photography and a blog (I don’t know how she does it), she manages to inspire readers to follow a similar life of good living. Alternatively, her Pinterest page is full of travel ideas for the design-conscious.

Book Passage Travel Writers’ Conference


A Selection of Goodies at Book Passage for Kids Who Travel (and the parents who love them)

It’s been a few weeks now that I am back from San Francisco. I’m behind in posting as I’ve been distracted in sending Lulu for the first time to school (!!!), and as a result preparing for some life changes this Fall. I did not want to be remiss however, and not report back about the Book Passage Travel Writers’ and Photographers’ Conference I attended last month.

I had been to several travel conferences last year, some tourism-related, others blogger-related, but most were festivals for people who have a general passion for travel. It’s always interesting to see who attends these things, and I go with an open mind– but usually it’s easy to get lost. Most have hundreds of people, if not thousands. I visit a number of booths, make connections, exchange cards, meet people in the industry as well as random people who love to travel, and I send out various tweets about it throughout the day(s). And then I go home and eventually the event gets forgotten until the next one rolls around.

I had read about the Book Passage bookstore in Marin County and their annual Travel Writers’ & Photographers’ Conference sometime last year, and kept it in mind. By the springtime of this year, I decided to attend. I’m so glad I did. It was so decidedly different from any other.

First off, it is specifically a writers’ and photographers’ conference, so there is that. Not an industry show, not a we-love-travel-here-are-ideas-of-where-to-go-next show, not a bloggers-look-how-you-can-get-sponsors-and-increased-SEO show. The conference was also smaller than most– there must have been around 80 who attended. It was similar to the writing workshops I attend at home in NYC, stretched over three days, but all about travel writing, with an incredible faculty (read about them here), and spent alongside strangers with whom we shared our personal travel stories. That sharing alone breeds a certain bond and intimacy, and the energy was consistently of the nurturing, inspiring, and communal kind. One of the speakers called the 3-day event “summer camp for travel writers.”


Nat Geo Traveler Columnist and Travel Writer Don George, interviewing Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet

Authors Andrew McCarthy, Tim Cahill, Jeff Greenwald, David Farley, & Don George on Crafting the Perfect Lede

The overall warmth could be because it was in California and most attendees were from the Bay Area. I was one of a handful of people who came from the East Coast, there weren’t many. But most likely the difference in atmosphere could be attributed to seasoned travel writer Don George, the chairman of the event– a positive, enthusiastic, kind, and happy person himself– but also to the venue. Book Passage is a dream book store, one you don’t find in many cities any longer. Not only do they encourage a love for reading and of browsing through their gorgeous shelves, they clearly have also built a loyal community with their presence in the Bay Area. For readers and writers alike.


The highlight of my time there however was to hear Georgia Hesse speak. At 81, she is revered in the industry, as the first ever travel editor for the San Francisco Examiner as well as for the San Fran Chronicle. She was the first keynote speaker, and had story after story to tell about her experiences on the road, her life as a reporter, finding that unparalleled moment in her travels and seizing it to make it an unforgettable piece of writing. I sat listening, wondering if I could ever live to tell even half of the stories she described to her captivated audience. It was one entertaining tale of exoticism and danger, then dramatic escape, after another. I wish I had recorded it.

One evening a friend of mine and I cornered Georgia over several glasses of wine and encouraged her to regale us with more of her adventures. I first met Julie, a travel blogger from Arkansas, at TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in Toronto last year. We sat leaning in towards Georgia, with hearts full of wanderlust and a thirst for story, as if seated around a campfire. The whole trip out west was well worth those hours spent in the company of this trailblazing writer.

Julie & Georgia

Julie from Empty Nest Travels, Georgia Hesse, & me

From what I understand, Georgia does not have children. If you have read my blog from its beginnings, you will know this is something I have struggled with: living a life of adventure through travel, with a child in tow. What I can do with Lulu does not compete with the sort of adventure one can do on his or her own. But I’ve made the best of the past four years with an infant, then a toddler. Not many children can say they’ve visited 4 out of 7 continents by the time they were three years old.

All this is to say that our time traveling the world may be slowing down, especially as Lulu has officially started school full-time. But you never know what the future holds. Traveling, and seeing other countries, other cultures, will always be the thing that I love to do the most. But hearing Georgia’s and all the speakers’ stories at the conference, I felt I had so many more experiences to live, so much more adventure to seek.

Maybe I will have to wait until Lulu comes of a certain independent age. That will be when our true travel adventures will begin– and maybe then she and I will be able to return to Book Passage and inspire other writers, by telling our own stories of two lives well-lived.

A Day in Sonoma, California

DSC_1634This past week I’ve been in Northern California country, on my own, without Lulu. It’s the first time in months that I got on a plane without my 4-year old traveling companion. I’m here for a Travel Writers’ Conference at Book Passage, the incredible bookstore in Marin County. It’s been non-stop learning and loving the craft of writing.

The kick-off to the conference was a day trip to Sonoma with Don George, co-chair of the conference who has a long, impressive career in travel writing. We began the day in the actual town. A wild-west-looking outpost at some moments, at others it struck me as quaint, appealing, and exactly what I picture when I think of an old Californian town– one steeped in history from our country’s gold rush years, along with influences from Spanish culture.

It’s a lovely place to visit, with charming inns, enticing restaurants and shops, and of course, dozens of places to taste wine. Along with a friend from the group, I stopped at the charming Sonoma Hotel, where we were told Maya Angelou had once booked a room in which she wrote part of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We stumbled upon a chic yet rustic bed & breakfast, A Inn 2 Remember, whose decor and charm knocked us off our feet and guaranteed our return for another stay. The outlets for hospitality here– hotels, inns, restaurants, cafes, tasting rooms– beg for return, each is so enticing in their décor and sensibility.

Lobby of the Sonoma Hotel

Lobby of the Sonoma Hotel

A Room at Sonoma Hotel

A Room at Sonoma Hotel

The wide hallway/former dance hall of the Sonoma Hotel

The wide hallway/former dance hall of the Sonoma Hotel

The lovely dining area of An Inn 2 Remember

The lovely dining area of An Inn 2 Remember

The sitting room of An Inn to Remember

The sitting room of An Inn to Remember

Interior of The Girl and the Fig

Interior of The Girl and the Fig

Outdoor wine tasting

Outdoor wine tasting

A Favorite- Bryter Tasting Room

A Favorite- Bryter Tasting Room

The reason I wanted to travel to Sonoma however was the same reason most come here: the vineyards.

Don took us to Cline Cellars, a vineyard in Carneros Valley. The visit exceeded expectations. Under bright blue skies, our guide, Mike Alberigi, walked us through the property. He was extremely knowledgable and charismatic and his passion for his work had us all enthusiastic about the vineyard’s story, as well as its incredible wines.

The vineyards were gorgeous, highlighted by colorful landscaping, flowing ponds, and other areas of interest, including a museum that housed miniature versions of old California missions. It all ended the best way possible– with rounds of tastings of their sumptuous wines! I could not have asked for a better way to spend the day, the perfect way to start our stay. Without a doubt, I will return one day soon– this time, with Lulu in tow.

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