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!


PICTURE IT: MIAMI, 2019

While we didn't bump into Rose Nylund anywhere, it turns out that traveling with a big boy is so much easier than traveling with a baby, toddler or small child. It felt like we turned a corner and for the first time, we all got to experience the joys of travel. After we returned home, we asked around and a lot of our parent friends agree that age 7 though 9 is really the Golden Age to vacation with kids.

MIAMI IS SO NICE, I'LL SAY IT THRICE

The best part of our trip was allowing Max to join in on the planning. Now he's a willing participant and has strong opinions on the many different vacation activities and restaurants. Aside from being compelled to visit every single gift shop, Max choose a fantastic boat ride tour and it was his idea to rent wave runners. Now I'm not one to blow my own Vertubenflugen, but I gotta say, I am one hell of a wave runner! And by that I mean, Max only fell off twice.

Oh, and leaving all the extraneous gear like car seats and strollers at home and not having to rush back to the hotel for nap time was such a welcomed change. In the end, we were able to discover a new destination and try new things together as a family and no one ended up being sent to Shady Pines, though Alex got pretty close! It went so well, we've already begun planning next year's excursion to… drum roll please… St. Olaf, Minnesota.

Planning a trip with your small children? Here's what you can expect at different ages:

0 to 2

We found this to be a tough age to travel. Aside from having to haul around copious amounts of luggage, trying to navigate different time zones and the little one's sleep/nap schedule made all of us a little fussy. It's also when kids are most vulnerable to germs — and let's face it, airplanes are basically petri dishes for young immune systems during cold and flu season. Trust me, traveling with sick kids is about as appealing as Stanly Zbornak's toupee. There is one upside: kids this small usually travel for free.

2 to 4

Like Sophia Petrillo, Toddlers like to stick to a routine; so I'd suggest sticking to one hotel for the full duration of your trip. And always keep lots of snack and drinks with you at all times, because kids this age are known to get hangry! Lastly, and most disturbingly, potty training can put a damper (pun intended) on traveling at this age. Probably best to not book trips when you're in the middle of the process. Upside: Age four was around the time we introduced Max to iPads on long flights, which gave us a much-needed break on long flights... and it's when he watched his first episode of Golden Girls. #winwin

4 to 7

Around this age range kids have experience being in a school setting and following rules, so they understand that it's important to listen to authority figures... especially when you tell them to stop kicking the chair in front of them. One tip I've heard from other parents is to get kids GPS bracelets for some peace of mind when visiting crowded areas because kids this age tend to explore… with or without your consent. Upside: It's fascinating to see the world through their eyes at this age, because they're genuinely curious about different cultures.

7 to 9

For starters, flying is a breeze. At this age, they'll love to watch endless movies and other in-flight entertainment. And for kids who enjoy reading, they can now pass the time the old- fashioned way… with a good book (I recommend Betty White's hysterical memoir). Overall, by this age, they have a good stamina for travel. The only downside is that it's more expensive to travel with school-aged kids. Here's a tip: give the kids a set amount of spending money and save one special shopping afternoon towards the end of the trip for them to pick something out. This will help manage expectations and give them something to look forward to before going home.

-----------------------------

I'm by no means an expert, but the three of us have learned some hard-earned lessons along the way. Hope these tips help as you plan your next family vacation. And as always, thank you for reading.

But more importantly, thank you for being a friend.

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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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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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School break is upon us, and many of our families are looking forward to a week or two of vacation at our favorite beach or lake house. But how does an 8-month family trip around the world with your 7-year-old sound? To some, this might sound like a nightmare, but to these two dads, Trevor Burgess and Gary Hess, and their daughter Logan, it was the trip of lifetime!

They shared some of their favorite travel photos with us, gave us the highlights of their enviable vacation as well as offered some great advice to other gay dad families considering a trip around the world!

About Trevor and Gary

Trevor, 44, and Gary, 46, met 20 years ago at a Pride block party in Boston. They were married October 8, 2008, and became dads through adoption. They were lucky enough to be in the delivery room when their daughter Logan was born in 2009. They finalized her adoption four months later.

Gary is a stay-at-home dad and part-time realtor, and Trevor is a real estate developer and retired bank CEO. It was when his bank was sold in July 2016 that they were able to take time off and travel the globe. They were abroad from August 2016 to March 2017.

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Using England as their base, they visited the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, France, Denmark, Scotland, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The family faves?

"New Zealand, the Netherlands, and England," shared Gary. "New Zealand was beautiful and the people were extremely welcoming.We visited Auckland and Marlborough (wine!) but there is so much more we would like to see of the country."

Auckland, New Zealand


"The Netherlands is just lovely," Gary added. "Amsterdam is a vibrant city filled with beauty and culture."

Amsterdam, Holland

Logan loved the gelato in Italy and the fairytale castles in Germany! But despite the weather, England was the family's favorite, with endless things to do and see.

Traveling as a Family

"Our favorite thing about traveling with Logan first and foremost was the quality time we got to spend with her," said Gary. "Visiting different countries and experiencing different cultures through her eyes was fascinating."

But it wasn't always smooth sailing traveling with a youngster, and the dads had to mindful of her limits and to make sure what they were interested in seeing, was also interesting for her.

"Museums don't always hold the same appeal for children as they do for adults!" elaborated Gary. "We tried to find exhibits that would interest all three of us."

Bath, England

As a gay dad family touring many countries, both Gary and Trevor can attest to not experiencing any hostility. They admit that they kept to fairly liberal countries with perhaps Singapore being the only outlier, but they experienced only hospitality towards their family.

5 Bits of Advice to Other Gay Dads Considering a Long Vacation

#1: "We used London as a base while in Europe. It was "home" so we didn't have to take all our belongings every time we traveled to a different place."

#2: "You have to find things to do that will interest your child. You won't be happy if they're not happy."

#3: "Use a babysitter on occasion so you can have an adults night out or to do things you'll enjoy but know your child won't."

#4: "If possible have friends and relatives visit you while you're traveling. It's a good reminder of home so it provides an added sense of stability for your kids."

#5: "Find other kids for your child to play with. We went to lots of playgrounds throughout the world!"

I know our bags are packed! What about yours?

Capri, Italy

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Becoming a gay dad through a surrogacy agency in the U.S. – when you live outside of the United States – can feel overwhelming. You may have questions such as: Why should I come all the way to the US for surrogacy? What do I need to know as an international intended parent? How do I get my baby home?

We spoke with Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation who has been working with international gay parents for over two decades. Circle Surrogacy was founded by a gay dad and lawyer, and is the most successful surrogacy agency with a full legal team on staff who are experts working with international parents.

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