Hang on a minute, don’t we know this lovely lady? That’s right, next up in our Big Blogger Interview series is Carol Cain, founder of NYCityMama.com, the one-stop site for family travel – except the site, just like our very own My Destination, has had a revamp! Now called GirlGoneTravel, all of Carol’s tips and tricks are still there, just in a shiny new package. We caught up with her to get the low-down on family travel.
Your three boys are getting bigger by the day! How do you think you’ll feel when they fly the roost and perhaps go travelling by themselves?
I would be delighted! Of course I would be nervous, and even sad to see my “babies” leave, but it would be wonderful to see my children continuing to seek out adventures on their own – hopefully my teen will do some traveling before he goes off to college.
On your blog you have described how you were shocked at how family friendly you found New Orleans to be. Have you discovered any other unexpectedly family friendly destinations over the years?
I was surprised at how much fun Costa Rica was for all my kids, especially the younger ones. Costa Rica is the kind of place where you have to be somewhat adventurous to enjoy, but with the right guides, you can make a long hike through the rainforest in search of a waterfall, or a day riding zip-lines over the cloud forest an unforgettable family experience.
What are your dream destinations for a family and couples holiday, and why?
The perfect vacation with your kids is not at the kids club or theme park – those are great, but they do little to awaken the curiosity and adventurous spirit in your child. Destinations that require your children to be a part of their surroundings – from an African safari to camping in the Colorado Rockies, those are the experiences that affect your children – and your experiences as a traveling family.
A dream destination for couples is Scotland. The castles, the history, and breath-taking beauty of the Highlands would make any couple fall in love over and over. I dream of going back and renewing my vows with my husband, who is half Scot – it is that magical to me.
Most mums dread the logistical nightmare of holidays with little ones. You must be the most organised woman in the world! Give us some insider tips for travelling parents…
Organized? Not at all! I am the type of person who plans it all in her head and executes at the very last minute. However, this is also our saving grace. My inability – or unwillingness to take on lists and schedules is exactly why we have so much fun. We like to talk about where we are going, what we each would like to do, what we need to get there and how and then just go.
As the kids get older it is easier to go without planning or preparing too much. I think the most important things for any traveling parent, whether they are into lists and plans or not, is to be willing to forgo these in order to follow the natural lead of what is happening around you. I also advise to be flexible, pick your battles, and listen to your children’s needs. My kids travel without being stressed because I’m not – and that’s really why it’s always so fun for us.
You spent time in the Dominican Republic as a child. Would you recommend it as a travel destination?
When you travel to the Dominican Republic you have to go with an open mind and a willingness to relax and go with the flow. The Dominican Republic has some of the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, the nicest people and the best food. Depending on where you go, there is a lot of opportunity to learn about the country’s history and immerse yourself in the best of the Dominican culture. I wish more people sought experiences outside of the all-inclusives for which the island is so well known. To go to the Dominican Republic and not leave the resort, is to not have experienced the island at all.
You are bilingual. How important has it been to you to teach your boys about their heritage, and how useful do you think a second language can be when travelling?
It is important for my children to understand me and the reasons we do things certain ways, the reason we celebrate what we do and speak how we do. Moving to the Dominican Republic at 9 (living there till I was 18) affected me in ways that I think really helped me to understand that every story, and person, is more than just black and white.
So, my children will never be the type of people who travel overseas and are upset that no one speaks English because they will not be raised believing that one culture matters more over any other.
Speaking a second language, or at least making an effort to communicate in the language of the place you are visiting is useful in getting what you may need, but more importantly, it is respectful and demonstrates a humility and desire to truly embrace those whose home we are visiting.
You are a self-proclaimed Brooklyn girl at heart. What are your favourite things about NYC and what are the downsides?
Yes, I am. Born and semi-raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. What I loved about NYC growing up was how it truly was the city of dreams. I believe that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.
My immigrant grandparents worked factory jobs, yet managed to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn and bring all their children to live and prosper in this city. The downside of NYC today is that these dreams are no longer as possible – even for the hard worker – as they were back then. With the more affluent residents taking over the city, there are fewer opportunities for those willing to work for their dreams. Even my beloved Sunset Park is starting to fall under the effects of gentrification and all that comes with it. NYC is but a shadow of what it was when I grew up there. And though I love it forever and still think it one of the best places in the world, it’s certainly not what it used to be.
Thanks Carol! Don’t forget to check out the brand spanking new site to follow her adventures!