Marybeth Bond, travel expert, author, TV personality and traveling mom, has traveled with her daughters “since the day they were born.”
Marybeth quit a secure corporate job in her late 20s and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. She spent the next two years traveling solo around the world.
Bond parlayed that trip into a career as a travel expert, authoring 11 books and appearing in the pages of The New York Times, Travel + Leisure and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her latest is “Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide.”
Her books and appearances are filled with tips for women who are traveling moms, women who take family vacations, women who travel for business or for pleasure. And women travel a lot. According to her Web site (www.gutsytraveler.com ), American women took 32 million trips last year.
TravelingMom features contributor, Claire Bushey, spoke with Marybeth about her life and travels.
What was the first trip you took with your first child?
My husband and I went to Alaska with her when she was 6 months old, and the trip was so difficult, so uncomfortable, we have such bad memories – we learned there’s certain times you just can and can’t travel. Sometimes it’s just too hard. You have to say to yourself, “What are they getting out of it?”
“America is not traffic jams. … Don’t hurry to rush overseas with kids. Show them America first.”
When would you recommend starting to travel with your kids?
The ideal time for traveling with kids is when they’re about 3 to about 14. They love you, they’re excited to be with you. School age children are past the toddler stage – that high-intensity work – and yet they’re still preteens. They love traveling, they love eating, they love airports, they love treats, they love to learn, they love being with you. They have a sense of wonder about our planet and nature. They’re more cooperative than babies and more enthusiastic than many a teenager.
I read in one of your books that you took your children on individual trips. What’s the thinking behind that?
To make it special for them. My father took each of us – I’m one of four children – to New York. My father passed away three years ago. I remember every minute of that trip.
You just don’t have the time at home. It’s your opportunity to just lavish them with love. And your attention as a mom is not diverted to your spouse or to other children. Every child deserves that once or twice in their life: all of mom’s love and attention.
Where did you take your daughters on their individual trips?
They love going on business trips with me. We go out to a grocery store and buy all the junk food they couldn’t have at home, and we’d take big bubble baths, and while I had my meetings they’d watch the cartoon channels which they loved. We did special things.
We went to the Statue of Liberty. I remember running to the top. … There were these British special services soldiers behind us, and she just got real competitive. We were going to show them! We left them in the dust. We got up there, four minutes at the top, “OK, seen the view,” we ran down. My legs turned to rubber bands. Only with a kid! They get so energetic. We were running through the streets of New York. People said, “What’s wrong!” like somebody had stolen our wallet or something. We were just exuberant. We ate hamburgers and Thai food the whole time we were in New York. It was cheap, and that’s what she wanted. We did it her way. I saw New York from her perspective.
When you travel with one child, and especially if you travel to someplace a little exotic, where you’re both out of your element, the parent-child paradigm shifts. You become partners in this adventure. Instead of seeing you as a mom and an authority figure, she sees you as a friend. It’s a glimpse of your future relationship, or the one you hope to have.
What are some of your family’s favorite travel stories?
I’m a big proponent of seeing America. Show your kids the Grand Canyon and the big open spaces. We rented an RV in Salt Lake City and drove up to the Tetons and southern Wyoming, the big flat wide open places. We were blasting the music; we didn’t see a car for 10 minutes. When you did see a car, you’d flash your lights and wave. Think about the image that gave them. America is not traffic jams. … Don’t hurry to rush overseas with kids. Show them America first.
How do you keep in touch with your family when you’re on the road?
Oh, thank goodness for phones. … I call every single night. They’d say their prayers for me over the phone. I’d sing a little song for them. … I remember the longest trip I ever took was 14 days. That just about killed me. It was harder on me than it was on them. I always take lots of pictures of the kids with me.
You wrote that children older than 4 should pack their own bags. Why is that, and has it ever resulted in any interesting packing strategies?
I think you should absolutely have the kids do it because it’s going to teach them organization. Don’t make a list for them; you make your list, let them make their list. My kids wanted to bring all their stuffed animals. We’d limit the number, and then they’d sneak in some extras.
We went to Yosemite hiking and my daughter only brought the socks on her feet. It’s not like it’s a place where you can buy more socks. It’s virtually impossible. So she wore the same pair of socks for five days. And there was no way we could wash them out at night; they wouldn’t get dry by the next day. She always got it right from then on. And I learned my lesson: that I needed to supervise a little more.
Claire Bushey is a freelance journalist living in Chicago.