Travel

How I Made the Most of Our Gay Family Vacation: 10 Tips for Traveling with Tots

Thinking of taking a European vacation with a small child? Don’t.

Seriously, don’t do it. Don’t go unless you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. SPOILER ALERT: It won’t be relaxing. It won’t be chill. It won’t be about sleeping in, room service, spa treatments, gourmet restaurants, hammocking, hot tubs, cocktails or romance. What it will be about is your child. But here’s the kicker, seeing a trip through their eyes — instead of yours — might even be more fun. Stop giving me the side eye and just hear me out.

I get it. When my husband, Alex, suggested we visit his hometown of London with our three-and-half year old son, Maxwell, I thought he was in need of shock therapy. Who’d want to endure a tedious ten-hour flight being that parent who can’t control his kid, nightmarish bouts of jet lag, seven straight days of erratic tantrums and having to creatively answer constant “Why” questions?

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go, it was just… I didn’t want to go. But then Alex explained that his mother, whom I adore, had a milestone birthday coming up and wished to celebrate the momentous occasion in London with her brood of children and grandchildren. Who was I to stand in the way of the Brothers & Sisters Sally Field moment she so desperately craved? After all, marriage is about compromise — and now that we are legally married — woo hoo! — I had no other option than to acquiesce.

I won’t bore you with the day-to-day details (Hey look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament... again). But I’m happy to report it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It actually turned out to be… wait for it… kind of amazing. Sure, we averaged eighteen minutes of sleep each night, and yeah, Max only ate Pringles, Oreos and milk for seven straight days… but we’re two dads with our wonderful, healthy son, experiencing the culture of a beautiful foreign country — together. No distractions. No looking down at our phones. No kissing Max goodbye as we head off to work. We went to bed together. We woke up together. We ate together (and I say “ate” loosely). We lived in the moment and made lifelong memories.

And since we gay parents have to look out for each other — I’ve compiled a list of 10 traveling-with-tot tips designed to help you navigate the wonderful and woeful realities of international travel. Godspeed.


  • Board the plane armed with a handful of Godiva chocolate bars to hand out to nearby, would-be complainers. These delicious “apologies in advance” bars will prevent eye-daggers of hate when Junior accidentally (or deliberately, in our case) kicks the back of that old lady’s chair.
  • If you want to stay happy, get app-y. (Eminem’s got nothing on me). Nowadays there are so many great, kid-friendly apps to keep them occupied during long-distance flights. That means your one allotted carry-on doesn’t have to be a toy box filled with Matchbox cars and crayons that’ll undoubtedly get lost down the side of seats.
  • What child doesn’t love the novelty of traveling by train, bus, taxi and boat? Say cheerio to rental cars and take advantage of public transportation wherever possible. Max loved hopping on and off London’s iconic red double-decker buses. And yes, he did mind the gap.
  • Don’t forget to wipe. I mean don’t forget the wipes. Even if your child is potty trained — congrats! — still bring plenty of baby wipes. You’ll be amazed at how useful they are for keeping paws clean, wiping down public toilet seats, restaurant tables, etc. While you’re at it, keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your Daddy-bag. Trust me, some of those London parks can get pretty dirty. Just ask George Michael.
  • Kids think hotel beds are strange. Before you leave home, pull up photos of the hotel online to show them the type of room they’ll be sleeping in. This way, they’ll know what to expect and there won’t be any surprises. For Max, we told him we’d be having a family slumber party every night in our hotel room. It worked well... until he decided he’d rather watch six hours of Peppa Pig on his iPad.
  • Annie Leibovitz first started taking photos at just three years old during family vacations. Okay, I made that up, but you never know. So give your kid a child-friendly camera and encourage him to document his journey. We gave Max a camera to keep him engaged and he had a blast snapping away, which included 387 shots of his feet, his thumb, and Papa’s nose hair.
  • Our flight home was delayed three hours. That meant we didn’t land in Los Angeles until 11pm. Worst yet, we didn’t get home until close to 1am. Unfortunately both Alex and I had to be at work bright and early that same morning. D’oh! Learn from our mistake. For a painless transition back home, schedule a day of vacation to recover from your vacation. You’ll need it.
  • The thought of crowded airport security lines and baggage claims can be daunting with a small, impatient child. But you know what, it felt really nice going through customs and immigration on both ends without any question about our being a ‘family.’ It felt like the most normal thing in the world. That made all the annoyingly long lines worth it. Well, almost.
  • New destination, new disposition. Sometimes it takes being in a new environment to get a fresh perspective. During this trip, I fell even more in love with Alex. I don’t know if it was seeing him warmly interact with his English family, proudly showing Max off to everyone, or noticing the little things, like when we sat down at a restaurant, Alex would first figure out the menu items I’d like to eat before thinking about himself. It’s the small stuff like this that I take for granted — and it was great to be reminded how lucky I am.
  • Last but not least, temper expectations. I had convinced myself a head of time that this would be the week from hell. So my expectations were low — very, very low. This worked in my favor. When you think it’s going to suck, and it turns out not to suck — you’re already ahead.
  • So here we stand… brave gay warriors who made it through our first international trip with our little boy… and somehow managed to keep him alive... and smiling. We did it! And you can too.

    The Griswolds from National Lampoon's European Vacation? They’ve got nothing on us.

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    Travel

    5 Fabulous Tips From Gay Dads for Vacationing with Kids

    A family vacation with young kids is harder a vacation at all... unless you head this advice from our seasoned gay dads travelers!

    It's the summer holidays, and that means family vacation! Now, vacations with kids under 8 might make you break out in a cold sweat, but we've got some tips for you from fellow gay dads to help make family trips easier. From road travel to flying, to helpful planning hints while away, these dads have got you covered.

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    Travel

    The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

    WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

    Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

    For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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    A Disney vacation is, for many, a once or twice in a lifetime experience. There's a gazillion articles full of Disneyland tips out there but our fresh take comes off of our first trip to Disneyland as a family of four. And gosh did we learn a lot.

    Where to stay at Disneyland

    The biggest cost for a family when visiting Disneyland what is of course either the transportation to Southern California or the actual Park tickets depending on how many days you are going. Lodging at Disneyland is also expensive, but there are ways to make sure that you are spending your money wisely.

    I'm sure this is obvious to most people booking a Disneyland trip but staying in one of the three Disney properties is going to run you the highest hotel bill. There are lots of Good Neighbor Hotels very close to the park from which you can either walk or take the Anaheim Resort Transit. Book a good neighbor hotel and it doesn't even have to be one of the nicest ones, because seriously, how much time are you actually going to spend in your hotel? You are there to be either in Disneyland or California Adventure so just be sure that you pick a property that has great ratings for cleanliness and is close enough for how your family will spend their days.

    When to go to Disneyland

    One of the most common Disneyland tips we see is when to go to Anaheim with your family. There are a few different ways to determine what is going to be the right time when the parks aren't too crowded. Here are three tips to help you pick your dates for a Disneyland family trip.

    Here in the United States we don't have a lot of holiday weeks. But we do have common periods when schools let out for mid-year breaks. This is the prime time for many families to make the journey to Disneyland. This is also when you will find the largest crowds and longest wait times for your favorite rides. If you're cool with pulling your kids out of school, pick a time when most schools, particularly in Southern California, hour in session. This might not coincide with your own kids' spring or winter break, but it'll be a great opportunity to have smaller crowds and win loads of awesome parent points for pulling your kids out of school.

    Annual pass blackout days

    If you are not familiar with Disneyland and its annual pass situations this might sound strange. There are different types of passes that Southern California residents and Beyond can purchase. Each pass has a different set of blackout dates during which they cannot use their passes for the parks. If you research the dates when the most number of passes are blacked out you may hit the jackpot for being at the park with a smaller crowd than usual.

    True, blackout dates exist because that's when more people want to be at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure, but keeping in mind vacationers philosophies about missing crowds and knowing it's busy paired with restrictions on passes and you will find the perfect balance of small crowds and swift lines.

    Seasonal transitions

    One of our favorite times to be in Disneyland is during holiday time. This is that special moment between Halloween and New Year's (or slightly after) that the park is decked out in lights, wreaths, and trees. Not only is it more festive than you can imagine but also plays off of the first tip we gave: a lot of kids are in school so not a lot of families traveling to Disneyland.

    Saving money in the parks

    You'd be surprised at all the different ways you'll spend money when you visit Disneyland. It's a lot more than just Park admission and accommodations. From dining in the Parks and random souvenirs, to necessities you didn't plan on that you have to purchase once inside, you can save.

    Saving on dining

    If you read a lot of family travel articles you'll find people praising and criticizing the families who always have their own snacks with them. Well, this is a necessary step to take both for saving money in Disneyland and for making sure the kids are happy. I don't know about you but our kids get hangry in a heartbeat. There's nothing quite like a hungry, angry child to ruin your magical memories. Be prepared with snacks in your pack at all times. It saves money and heartache.

    For mealtime Disneyland tips, we'll tell you that the best options are the ones that are easy and a little out of the way. Does that not make sense? Basically, where the menus have simple options and ample seating you will find the swiftest and most cost-effective dining options. Example: The Hungry Bear Cafe in critter country keeps it simple with burgers or wraps. The menu is small and the cast members are efficient. There is a ton of seating and you can be in and out in a heartbeat for less than dining in one of the full service restaurants. Our favorite quick service dining option is Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land (Disney's California Adventure).

    Saving on unplanned purchases

    Does anybody ever plan to be stuck in Disneyland in the rain? No. But after one experience you'll know that you need to have an umbrella or a rain poncho at the ready. As silly as they are ponchos are the greatest invention ever for a rainy day in Disneyland. This is one of the Disneyland tips that we didn't listen to on our first trip there during a February long ago... and we were drenched.

    Another way to save is by traveling with a backup battery/power bank to recharge your devices while you're in the Parks. Disneyland does have portable chargers that you can rent for a certain fee over the course of your visit, but do you want to spend $30 at a charging station when you could just bring your own power pack? No.

    Souvenirs are their own thing. Of course there are loads of cute nick-nacks and t-shirts you could buy when you travel, to Disneyland or anywhere else, but do you need them? The best way to save money on souvenirs is to not go souvenir shopping. So simple. You could be doing many other fun things instead of browsing shelves of stuff. The exception to the souvenir thing is a good pair of Mickey Mouse ears. They're a must.

    How to plan your days

    Before we arrived in Disneyland with the kids we decided that there were a few key experiences we wanted them to have. We researched what times certain shows or parades were happening and then weighed that out against how much time we new they could last within the parks. For us the big-ticket experiences were:

    Meeting certain characters

    Download the Disneyland app to see where characters are in real time within the parks. There is also a paper guide that you can get when you enter either Park, but the app helped us land our two Disneyland unicorns: boom.

    Experiencing Disney Entertainment

    Again, the Disneyland app lets you know the times for everything as does the schedule. If you are going to be in the parks for several days don't stress about hitting three different parades in one day and also watching the fireworks. Plan on doing rides or dinner nearby a parade route so that when you are done with whatever you're doing you can just park yourself for a few minutes before the show starts.

    Other experiences that might be high on your parent list of what you want your family to do in Disneyland could be different attractions or meeting every single character, so do what you have to do to make the experience as magical for everyone as possible. Don't add stress to it, use the tools that Disney has given you to make it easier.

    Best way to capture memories

    We wrote an article about tips for taking your best family travel photos, and I think the strongest suggestion we have from our list is to just be comfortable taking a family selfie. A family selfie means that everybody is in the photo so there's not one person missing from every single picture. A family selfie means that the kids will probably cooperate with you better than waiting for a stranger to take their picture. Family selfies bring you into the moment or into the action and you usually get some pretty hilarious faces.

    Other ways to ensure you're getting great pictures in the Disney parks is to leverage character hosts (cast members who are hanging out with your favorite characters) and PhotoPass staff. The PhotoPass photographers that you find floating around the Disney parks won't just do their own pictures with the Disney cameras but they'll also help you with your own pics.

    With a little planning and prep work, you'll no doubt have an awesome Disney vacation with your family. The biggest key to having fun once you're there is to keep a good attitude and don't get stressed. That's where the prep work comes in and believe me, keeping a relaxed state of mind throughout your whole Disney Experience is going to make it more fun and memorable for everybody.

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    Popular

    'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

    Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

    Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

    Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

    Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

    For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

    Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

    "Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

    Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

    Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

    Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

    "About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

    After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

    Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

    Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

    "I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

    Now that we Phillip and Clinton are dads, they say they feel a "sense of wholeness" in their lives! "We have a new motivation and purpose in life! It's truly the greatest blessing!"

    These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

    Congratulations to Michael and Tyler on the birth of their twins, Elliot and Oliver!

    Herriman, Utah, couple Michael and Tyler have been together for 9 years, and married for 3. "In the beginning of our relationship we knew how important family was and how much we wanted to be dads," said Micheal. "After we got married we met with a couple surrogacy agencies and were advised to meet with an IVF clinic before proceeding. In doing so, we found that going through a surrogacy journey independently was very possible."

    So the dads decided to shift gears and work in that direction, booking a follow up appointment with the clinic. "We met with their 3rd party coordinator over the surrogate process and she did not have any inquiries of any surrogates." Serendipitously, and unbeknownst to the husbands at the time, their future surrogate made an appointment to talk about being a gestational carrier for a same-sex couple. "The next day we got the unexpected call that someone was interested and open to meet. From there the rest was history as we continued with the surrogacy process."

    Over a year later, the dads welcomed their two sons. "The first time we got to hold the boys, it felt so natural to us, as if nothing else in the world existed and time stood still as we got lost in the moment."

    Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

    Adam and Josh got engaged on Good Morning America on Valentines Day, and welcomed their Christmas miracle baby into their lives on December 26th. On July 12 this year, they celebrated becoming a forever family of three.

    "For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

    Congrats to these Dallas dads!

    Congratulations to Dan and Martin on the birth of their son Herman! 

    Copenhagen couple Dan and Martin welcomed their second child through surrogacy on July 11 this year in Florida, USA. Herman joins big sister Ellen, born March 1, 2015, in Vermont via surrogacy. Here's a little more.

    "Two amazing American women and their families took us in as their own and we're forever bonded," said Dan about their path to fatherhood experience. "It has been an amazing journey with both of them, our family is complete."

    Congrats to the Danish family!

    This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

    Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

    We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

    Circle is proud to have helped so many gay families achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Together, we make parenthood possible.®

    News

    Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

    In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

    In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

    "This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

    He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

    In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

    "I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

    In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

    "I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

    As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

    Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

    Personal Essays by Gay Dads

    "Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

    When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

    Guest post written by Chase Turner

    Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

    My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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    Fun

    Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

    The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

    First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

    And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

    "They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

    So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

    Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

    Read the whole article on DPA here.

    Fatherhood, the gay way

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