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 Deb Janowski of RelaxedNomad. She shares with us a can’t-miss biking experience in Maui, her favorite luxury hotel in Utah and why having a travel itinerary actually gives you more time to relax on a trip.
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Tell us about your family.
We are a family of four—including myself (Deb), my husband (Doug) and our two beautiful daughters Austyn (13) and Parker (10).
Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
We live in Dallas, which will always be in our hearts as “home.” It would be nearly impossible to ever think of giving up the friendships, the laid back way of life and of course, the barbecue.
When we had been in Hawaii for almost two weeks, we were sitting on a patio with Mai Tai’s in hand, looking out over the beautiful ocean when we heard Zac Brown playing over the radio—and we both knew it was time to go home.
What type of work do you and your partner do?
My husband works in software sales and I spend my time raising our girls, working on a few real estate investments and running what started as a hobby, RelaxedNomad—but is growing rapidly into a full-time passion and career.
It was actually my husband’s sales career which started us on this adventure. When we attended our first few sales-award trips, we were slightly perturbed by having to attend pre-scheduled activities (zip lining, jeep scavenger hunts, etc.) We later found we actually missed those activities on our own vacations. How many days can you actually sit by a pool? (Okay, definitely three days.) So we began slowly adding an excursion here and there to our own trips.
Years later, we found ourselves planning long, detailed itineraries where we had to decide on a particular day between whether to take a float plane to a remote lake to go paddleboarding or reserve a glass-blowing class for the whole family. We still find time for the pool, but we are much more interested in what an area has to offer.
Tell us about RelaxedNomad.
We love to travel and explore entire regions versus staying at a single destination. We have come to refer to this as “upscale adventures with unique activities in unexpected places”.
Our website is not really a blog or a travel diary about us or our family—but rather it is designed to be a resource for busy families and professionals. Particularly, those who want to see as much as they can; add some adventure to their vacation and still find a way to relax with a glass of wine or a cold beer at the end of the day.
We designed the site to share these detailed itineraries, helpful links to reviews and travel sites, destination notes and travel tips—as well as to hear from others on recommendations or suggestions they have found in the same areas. Our goal is to make it easy for others to plan amazing trips (or simply copy them if they want) without having to invest the time in researching every little detail.
Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
We knew one day our girls would want to spend less time with their family and more time with their friends. We thought if we created amazing trips where they were constantly experiencing new places, people and experiences, we could extend that precious time together.
What we didn’t expect was the bond it creates when our daughters (three years apart) get to take these journeys with each other. Suddenly, even the little arguments wash away and in a day or two they are experiencing something amazing together.
Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
We feel luxury is really defined by where you are. Sometimes the area you are visiting is simply so amazing even the most modest accommodations are luxurious. Consider the Grand Canyon, Glacier or Joshua Tree where just looking around you is a luxury. It’s such a blessing that so many amazing places are available to everyone.
Other times luxury is the destination; where the resort is the reason you came. The Montage Kapalua Bay, Amangiri and Dunton Hot Springs stand out as examples of where the resort is so perfect you simply don’t want to go anywhere else. We appreciate those few places where they have managed to make an environment so welcoming you don’t dare think about going anywhere else.
What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
This is such a difficult question as we try to experience so many different things unique to each place. It’s hard to think that any one is better than the other. I think we are always competing with ourselves to try to beat our last vacation.
If we were forced to pick, it would be biking down the Haleakala volcano in Maui at dawn, traveling 23 miles to the beaches in Paia. The day begins before dawn watching the sun rise above the clouds—which is as amazing as it sounds—then coasting along 23 miles at your own pace stopping in small towns along the way to eat and explore. You only need to pedal once or twice as you drop down through the clouds and then five different micro-climates until you arrive at the beach.
Our favorite part of every trip is the day we get home and spend the first evening on our couch looking at all of the photos on TV; reliving the moments we had already forgotten happened just a few days before.
What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
Definitely Amangiri in Utah—a small luxury hotel with only thirty or so rooms just outside of Lake Powell. The architecture is incredible with water dripping slowly down flat, stone walls—and a massive rock formation dropping directly from the surrounding cliffs into the pool.
The rooms open up completely on both sides to the outdoors and the hotel has the smell of fresh sage everywhere. Our room also had a private pool on one side and a bench and gas fire-pit on the other side for enjoying s’mores in our bath robes each evening while listening to the sounds of the desert.
When we arrived, the staff asked if we wanted the bed on the sky deck above our room made so we could sleep under the stars. And during the day, they gave us maps to their nearby slot canyon and had an SUV pick us up at noon with ice cold bottled water and sack lunches to enjoy on the rocks above the resort. Truly a wonderful experience.
What three items do you never travel without?
Camelback Mini-Mule Hydration Packs: These small packs are designed for adults but are perfect for kids with 1.5 Liters. We always worry when we see families go on long, sometimes hot hikes with only a single bottle of water.
Gin Gins Ginger Candy: When you do a lot of different things, you never know what might cause someone to get a little sea sick—especially kids. Just a few pieces in our bag has saved us on several occasions.
Wine opener: A small but good wine opener. Since we visit multiple places on a single trip, we often pick up wine once we arrive so this saves us from having to find the opener or ask for one at every hotel.
What’s your favorite online travel resource?
When planning a road trip, we love Roadside America. With kids, we want to break up long drives to stretch our legs and rather than just stopping at a McDonald’s or a gas station, so we use this site to find odd and unique attractions along the way—like the Singing Road in Tijeras, New Mexico or the VW Beetle Spider in Palm Springs.
What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
We think a lot of people have the wrong impression about what having an itinerary or travel plan means. We have even seen friends cringe at the idea—as they think it means rules, times and structure.
But an itinerary doesn’t mean you have to do anything. We always change our plans or cancel reservations whenever we want. When you plan a great trip, you can always opt-out of any activity or meal—but you can’t necessarily opt in once you arrive. We’d rather have the best activities and reservations booked ahead of time rather than having to worry about not getting to do something or waiting two hours for a table.
Travel planning is actually about taking all of the worry out of a trip and giving yourself more options and more time to relax. Hence, the name RelaxedNomad.
At the top of our future bucket list is Italy and Greece (Lake Como, Venice, Florence and then down to the Greek Islands) followed by Iceland, Vietnam and eventually Peru.