It’s easy to envy Yolanda Edwards — she gets paid to travel the world with her family (husband and daughter, Clara, age 5). Her travel insight is straightforward and credible. I love this — there are countless times when I read family travel pieces and feel like the writer doesn’t get it (i.e. may not even have kids) and/or is sharing details I don’t care about. Yolanda covers destinations that are interesting in a way that is relevant. I get a true sense of the places she covers and know if I want to get there (the list is long and growing).
It was fun to meet Yolanda — here’s what I learned.
How did you end up as the Travel & Lifestyle Editor at Cookie?
For years I was a photo editor for Condé Nast Traveler and W Magazines. During those times I was a wannabe travel editor, always piping up with ideas when anyone would listen. Just when I was ready to be a stay-at-home-mom with a 1-year-old, Pilar (Cookie Editor-in-Chief) approached me about the job. This was something I could not pass up. I’ve always been obsessed with travel and when we had Clara all my friends said my travel life would be over. I could not imagine this and set up to prove everyone was wrong — parents don’t have to give up what they love just because they have kids. We had Clara and never stopped traveling …
How often are you on the road?
6 to 8 weeks a year for 10 days at a time.
What is your favorite destination with young kids and why?
Italy. And, I’m not just saying that because you run Ciao Bambino. Our biggest concern when traveling is eating good quality honest food that pleases all three of us. Italy is comfortable. You know what to expect here — beautiful scenery, amazing food, and the Italians love kids — even if they are running circles around the restaurant. We go every year and fantasize growing old in Puglia.
What is one of your favorite hotels?
I have so many, but this year my favorite experience was at the Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico. We travel in so many different ways — from simple to fancy, and for a resort, this one had the luxuries that we were really impressed by. It had the nicest kids club I’ve ever seen — Clara wanted to hang out at the club the whole time. It was located next to the pool, the beach, and the restaurant — probably the best designed beach club I’ve been to — so we could relax and peek in on her, and she could run out and have a swim or lunch with us. The cheaper rooms are on a lagoon facing mangroves — so you just sit on your terrace (with a mini pool) and watch the birds and look for turtles. It was so peaceful to hang out here — one of those places where we felt no need to leave the property — plus its so close to Cancun, so it was an easy flight and immediate decompression for all of us.
What would you never leave for a trip without?
Clara’s notebook. This is her designated place to write down her memories of our trips. I also never leave without Bach’s Rescue Remedy to help me cope with flights.
Given the amount you travel, how do you keep Clara excited and engaged from trip to trip?
She is excited because these trips are just the 3 of us and this is the most concentrated time we get to spend together. It helps that part of what we are always doing is looking for the best kids angle — she has never once expressed that she wants to go home early or is missing friends.
Far more challenging is making sure Clara has a sense of how lucky we are that I get to do this job for a living. When a 5-year-old automatically picks up the phone to order her own room service — it’s is hard to coach her that things like that are a treat and not a daily activity. We try and remember not to compare ourselves to families we meet along the way noting how much more “stuff” we possess — instead, we focus on how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to share these amazing experiences.
What is your travel philosophy?
I think as much exposure as possible to different ways of living is so important. But this doesn’t mean you need to put far-flung spots on your list and feel badly if you can’t. It can be as simple as going to the Vietnamese place in the local mini-mall, or visiting your closest Chinatown. Or renting DVDs like The Little Travellers (a favorite of Clara’s). But also, it doesn’t also need to be overthought. A huge reality check for me came a couple of weeks ago after we had taken Clara to Disneyland for a day. We were talking about it while we were in Bora Bora on a scout, and she squeezed my hand and said “Mom, thank you so much for taking me to Disneyland. That was the best trip of my whole life.”
Yolanda Edwards is the Travel & Lifestyle Editor of Cookie Magazine, a Condé Nast Publication, available via subscription and at www.cookiemag.com. She is also a regular contributor to Cookie’s family travel blog Going Places.