Spotlight: Dianne Sivulka of OurEdventures

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 Dianne Sivulka of OurEdventures. She shares with us why she never travels without a mini-medicine cabinet, how her family uses a huge wall map to plan their travel bucket list, and why a simple sailboat ride in Capri was the best travel experience of their lives.

The Sivulka Family at Windsor Castle, United Kingdom. Photo: Dianne Sivulka

Tell us about your family.
I am married to my best friend Steve. We are the lucky parents of two adventurous and creative boys. Elijah is 12 and Joseph is 10.

Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
We live in north San Diego County.

Tell us about OurEdventures.
OurEdventures is a blog mainly dedicated to educational tips for family travel. This is where I write about where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve learned. I highlight educational opportunities that are available at destinations around the World. While I believe that all travel is educational, with some intentional planning everyone in your family can learn so much more about the places you’re visiting, the people you’re meeting and the history that makes that place unique. Traveling is the best classroom. A well-known quote from Saint Augustine that I love is “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

On top of the world at Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo: Dianne Sivulka

Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
We want to raise our boys to see beyond themselves and the community that we live in. Having compassion for others, learning to serve, being non-judgmental and good stewards of this amazing planet are all characteristics we hope to be instilling in them. I think travel is a great way to do this. My husband and I spent the first 10 years of our marriage without kids. We traveled like crazy people and a longing to see more of the world set in. Then our boys came along and they have that same wanderlust. We figure we only get to have these two guys in our home for a short time and so we want to spend that time together. Planning our next adventure has become a hobby we enjoy doing together.

Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
Luxury travel is welcoming our family like they are genuinely glad we’re there and looking after every detail. Superb customer service is in the little things like greeting us by name when we call the front desk or checking in with us to see how our stay is going. Our first luxury stay as a family took place when the boys were very young and we stayed at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas. When the pool butler noticed our boys were interested in catching bugs he brought them disposable cups with lids for their collection. I knew then we had chosen the right place. Budget travel has become a huge industry over the past decade. While it’s terrific that more people can afford to travel, what they may not know is that sometimes for just a little bit more, their travel experience can be greatly enhanced. The best deal isn’t always the best value.

Sailing around Capri, Italy. Photo: Dianne Sivulka

What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
I think back to a day my family spent in Capri, a little island on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. We had hired a young skipper with a sailboat to spend the day with us and take us around the island. We had a picnic basket with delicious Italian treats, his grandmother’s homemade lemoncello, and a sense of exploration. We really did nothing more than take in the breathtaking sites, relax and cuddle up there on the bow of the boat. I remember thinking; I am in the most amazing place with the most amazing people. My heart was full.

Standup Paddle Boarding in Bora Bora. Photo: Dianne Sivulka

What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
I don’t know if it can get much better than the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. From the moment we arrived on their classy wood-paneled boat and were welcomed by a friendly staff, (who even greeted our boys by name), to the luxurious and spacious over-water bungalow, to the extravagant daily breakfast buffet, to the Kids for all Seasons activities including kayaking, sand castle building and hermit crab races, it was quite remarkable. We felt spoiled the entire time we were there.

What three items do you never travel without?
Travel journals along with good quality colored pencils and double-sided tape. We like to save memorabilia from our travels, write down funny things that happen or sketch beautiful scenes that take our breath away. We always travel with packing cubes. Each person in our family has their own color. It makes packing so much easier and then when we arrive at a destination, I just pass out everyone’s cubes and they fit right into drawers. We always travel with a mini-medicine cabinet. We’ve learned the hard way that the moment you need allergy medicine, a fever reducer or even a simple bandage, is not the moment you want to have to go search for it.

Horseback Riding in Costa Rica. Photo: Dianne Sivulka

What’s your favorite online travel resource?
I like Airbnb when looking for city apartments, Pleasant Holidays when shopping for luxury island vacations, and I always check everything we are considering through TripAdvisor. I have found this to be a reliable way of making sure we’re getting what we think we’re getting. Family travel blogs are also a great resource. They provide inspiration from real life families that are out there seeing the world.

What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
I see parents set their expectations too high when traveling with kids. Traveling with kids means traveling at a slower pace and seeing and doing less. Trying to cram in every site a city has to offer will only leave your kids exhausted and cranky. Our boys were 2 years old and 9 months old when we realized that travel didn’t have to stop just because we had become parents. That year we spent a month in Greece, enjoying the ancient sites of Athens and beautiful island beaches. While we learned that we didn’t need to stay home, we also learned that we needed to slow our pace and lower our expectations. Travel changed for us. Instead of lengthy visits to museums, we just pick a few exhibits to enjoy. Instead of five-course dinners in fancy restaurants we enjoy more picnics and casual side-walk cafes. Now that the boys are getting older, their capacity to see and do more is growing. Our plans are based on what they are capable of and nothing more. We have found that a “we’ll be back someday” sort of attitude has gone a long way to make travel enjoyable for all of us.

What’s on your travel bucket list?
We have a great big wall map in our house. Each person in our family has placed sticky notes on locations they hope we can visit in the coming years. We get our inspiration from books we read, Instagram, family blogs and friends who also travel. An expedition to the Galapagos Islands, hiking Machu Picchu, Vietnam, Ireland, a safari in Africa and New Zealand are just some of the places marked on the map. Sometimes we even dream about an around-the-world adventure. I think we’ll run out of time or money before we run out of ideas.

Read more from Dianne at OurEdventures, and be sure to follow her on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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