Family Traveler Spotlight is the section of our publication where we profile families who love taking their children along on their travel adventures. In this edition, we meet Christa Hennessy. She shares with us why we shouldn’t shield our children from the negative things in the world, why hiring a babysitter for a couple of evenings on vacation is worth it and which two family-friendly hotel groups she returns to over and over.
Tell us about your family.
There’s me, James and our children Lola, age 11, Francesca, age 9 and Ronan, age 5.
Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
We moved to Dublin last summer after living abroad in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London. James is Irish so has come home after being away for 28 years.
Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
I grew up between the U.S. and Taiwan and have always traveled. When James and I met, the traveling intensified because of his business so when we had children it just seemed natural to bring them along. By the time they were each roughly 6 weeks old, all of them had a long haul flight under their belt. However, because we lived abroad in so many different cities between Asia and Europe, we were lucky to have a lot of regional holidays that didn’t entail a 12-hour journey. I think traveling has made our children curious about the world, they questions things, see cultures and environments new and unlike their own and are tolerant and make friends easily. They are highly adaptable and are at ease in new situations. I think these are incredibly important traits to have as human beings and am pleased that at such young ages they are so worldly. We don’t shield them from things like poverty either. We’ve been to places where children were begging or people were missing limbs from wars and land mines. It’s all part of the experience and important to see the whole picture, not just the art galleries or the beautiful beaches. They are always referring to past experiences which is nice to hear. My son is the consummate adventurer and is constantly saying to his teachers and friends “once when we were in Borneo…” or “when we were on top of a temple in Cambodia…” which I think can make others curious as well. Trying new and different foods is another perk of travel and my kids have great openness to new foods.
Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
Luxury when it comes to traveling means having the time to relax and enjoy ourselves together as a family or even just occasionally mom and dad alone. If that means having a babysitter for a couple of evenings, or a nanny to help during the day for a few hours like we once did in Bali when the children were very young, then so be it. Everyone is doing what they want and everyone is happy. Also, we are very fortunate to be able to fly business class on our long haul flights (we are loyal to a few airlines) which helps immensely.
What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
We have had so many great travel experiences that there are too many to name. A few that stick out are Siem Reap in Cambodia, which was wonderful. Our hotel, Belmond La Residence d’Angkor, arranged for us to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. They gave us a packed breakfast of coffee, juice, fresh croissants and jam and sent us off in two tuk tuks at 5 a.m. in time for the sunrise. It was magical. Sydney was a great mixture of beach and city during Christmas one year. We repeatedly went back to Japan for the skiing in Hokkaido and also did a tour of the rest of the country on another holiday. Every holiday in Thailand has been superb. This year we went to Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites for skiing and it was truly blissful, not to mention the great food. Of course, every summer we rent a villa in Italy and have friends and family visit, which I absolutely love doing as it is easy and who doesn’t love Tuscany in the summer?
What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
We repeatedly use two family-friendly hotel groups: one is the Mandarin Oriental, especially the original one in Hong Kong. The staff there are top-notch and so switched on. The other hotel group is Rocco Forte hotels, especially the Hotel Savoy in Florence which, frankly, I just want to live in. Both of these hotel groups have beautiful hotels, but are extremely child-friendly and staff go above and beyond for you. As an adult it is fantastic to have glamorous interiors combined with smart hotel staff who are not too bothered about your children sitting on their cream colored sofas. We are slowly trying to make our way through all of their locations!
What three items do you never travel without?
Two cameras: one for the adults and a smaller digital camera for our kids to use. It’s great to see things through children’s eyes. Cashmere wrap for the plane, doubles as a kids blanket, sunshade or to be used in fort making. Sun cream, whether rain, shine, summer or winter — always!
What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
Trying to cram too much into a holiday. Kids don’t want to be dragged around as they will be exhausted and will hate it. Plan a few main attractions for sightseeing but make sure you also have downtime to swim, watch a movie or just relax sitting on a terrace and absorbing your surroundings. You can always go back. Also, occasionally make kids try something new from the menu even if it’s just a bite of your appetizer.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
The travel bucket list is constantly being added to. We want to explore more of Europe on long weekend jaunts now that we live here again. India for sure and southern Africa, but I need to make sure my son is not the size of a lion’s starter course so we have a couple of years wait on that one!
Be sure to follow Christa on Instagram.
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