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 Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo. He shares with us why he wants his kids to understand how others live, why he never travels without blue painters tape, and why he wishes more parents took their children to see the world instead of spending a fortune on Disneyland every year.
Tell us about your family.
We have three kids: Evelyn age 10, Henry age 8, and Sadie age 6.
Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
We live in Southern California. Our kids are 100% Californian. They live in flip-flops!
Tell us about Travel Babbo.
I started Travel Babbo to encourage people to take their kids to crazy, adventurous places. I see too many people spending a fortune to take their kids to Disneyland every year when they could go to Costa Rica or Chile or Fiji instead for less money and open their kids’ eyes to the world in the process. Everything is based on personal experience – there’s no outside content, advertising or affiliate links. I’m 100% honest about our experiences, good and bad, as I write about where we’ve stayed, what we did right, what we did wrong and how to bring costs down. I only recommend places and activities on the site that we love.
Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
How amazing would the world be if everyone traveled? People wouldn’t judge other cultures based on negative news stories; they would remember the people they met there instead. I want my kids to understand how others live and how in some cases they’re lucky to be Americans with free speech, clean water and the ability to be anything they want to be, but in other cases to realize that they don’t necessarily have it better than others – they just have a completely different life. You can find happy people everywhere.
Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
I want absolute kid-friendliness without having to show wristbands or give out room numbers to get pool towels. I want staff to interact with kids. I want hotels to think through the guest experience for families from check-in to check-out and do everything they can to make every stay professionally kid-oriented. I want kids’ clubs that are open all day so that people can drop in any time they want to get out of the sun. I want water sports included in room rates so that I don’t feel like I wasted $75 if my child wants to return a stand up paddle board after only 10 minutes. I want rooms that are set up well for families of four or five.
What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
In 2012 I won Conde Nast Traveler’s Photo of the Year award and a $25,000 prize trip to Florence. The magazine set up an amazing trip for us, including pizza making, gelato making, chocolate making, pasta making paper making, a trip through the Vasari Corridor, a guided tour of Europe’s largest private garden along with a Florentine flag performance set up just for us, farm visits and much more.
What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
We loved the Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico – a perfect balance of luxury and kid-friendliness. They did everything right.
What 3 items do you never travel without?
iPods and iPads for the kids for 14-hour flights, a Frisbee, and blue painters tape. It’s good for everything from taping shut sunscreen and toiletries when we travel, marking water bottles, protecting things that we purchase by taping up bubble wrap, crafts for the kids, and fixing broken things.
What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
Not contacting the hotel before booking. Hotel reservation systems are terrible. They usually aren’t smart enough to choose rooms based on the size of the family, and they’re not flexible on rooms or prices. But hotel reservations agents are. If you can’t afford two rooms somewhere, ask if a hotel can make an exception and let all of you stay in one room. If rates are too high, ask for lower rates (yes it works sometimes) or ask when they will be having sales.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
So many things: The Northern Lights; Namibia; Kerala; the Maldives; Patagonian Chile; a dude ranch; the north pole.
Interested in having your family featured in Family Traveler Spotlight? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org