Lola, Leslie’s youngest daughter, climbed Machu Picchu before she could tie her own shoelaces. Her oldest daughter, Ruby, is quick to tell you her favorite city is Dubai, which she’s already visited three times before even graduating high school. Her son, Fergus, is only seven and has tumbled down giant sand dunes in the Atacama Desert and explored Beijing by vintage rickshaw. As a family, Leslie’s crew has visited over 25 countries.
It’s no wonder Leslie was just named Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Family Travel for the ninth year. Her spot-on family travel recommendations come from nearly thirty years in the industry and a lifetime of living the advice she gives. When it comes to family trips, she’s been there and done it herself, so she can anticipate the questions you’ll likely have, the joyful moments you’ll experience and the bumps along the way you may encounter. Her talent lies in distilling all this practical knowledge into a realistic, personalized toolbox of tips for your next family vacation. You can prepare yourself by reading books and blogs, talking to friends and scouring the internet, but the peace of mind that comes from collaborating with an expert you can trust is invaluable. Here’s her hero essentials which will revolutionize your next family vacation, or at least make it that much more worry-free so you can focus on the good stuff.
Tip: Don’t Tap Out Before You’ve Even Started
Often the biggest mistake made when it comes to family travel is simply not trusting whether it’s worth it and underestimating the joy of travel. It’s worth it. Not only does it provide invaluable time together, as Leslie says, “Exploring the world opens up doors for our children. We are living in a global village, and the world gets smaller every day as our interdependence grows. Having kids who are comfortable in different environments and who have empathy for people we consider ‘other’ is very important to me.” She continues, “Travel is a powerful tool to educate my children. Exploring the world gives my kids, my husband and me the unrivaled gifts of perspective, knowledge and compassion; gifts that stay with us long after unpacking. It’s a healthy outlet to remove my family from our way-too-familiar routine, stretch our comfort zones, and embrace those unplanned moments that inevitably become material for gut-laughing-filled conversations at the dinner table.”
Demystifying Your “What Ifs”
We understand there’re a lot of questions that come with a big trip. No matter where you are or what country you’re in, if your kids aren’t happy and safe, you’re not going to be either. Leslie will demystify all the “what ifs” that may be circling in your head. She’ll debunk the worst-case scenarios, provide creative trip ideas that will inspire everyone in your brood, listen to all your hesitations (even the ones you may feel silly about saying out loud—she’s likely had the same ones at some point), provide clear opinions, and rehearse family travel scenarios as many times as you need to feel prepared every step of the way. “Knowing what you’re getting into removes the scary parts,” says Leslie.
Her forte is isolating the pieces you’re unsure of and making them manageable. She has invaluable advice on how to make an overnight flight with kids bearable; how much you should structure your itinerary, and how much free time you should leave for spontaneity; how to manage routing, touring and even avoid traffic so as not to disrupt the flow of a trip, and to take into account sleeping and eating patterns for different ages. Leslie will make personalized recommendations for family-friendly hotel accommodations (she knows options for adjoining rooms, villas, and floor plans ideal for a crib or roll-away bed, that are not detailed on hotel websites); and she’ll provide tips from why to travel with your own stroller (it has hidden airport uses!) to foolproof ways to help your picky eaters on the road and keep everyone free of stomach upset (a grilled cheese sandwich could be the answer). Plus, all the thrilling family travel ideas you can handle.
From Rhinos to Room Configurations
Leslie’s seen it all. She was one of Absolute Travel’s first team members in 1989. She’s watched Absolute Travel evolve from a tiny company operating out of an Upper West Side apartment to being named to Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best List. She’s witnessed the travel industry come just as far—remember when you couldn’t book flights online?
Decades of meeting people in far-flung places mean a Rolodex of friends she can call at the drop of a hat to add thoughtful touches to your adventure. Whether your kids are into building bamboo rafts in Bali, gazing into distant galaxies with mega telescopes or waking up with rhinos honking in the distance—she knows the right people to make your family’s daydreams become real life. It also means she built a lot of trust. Leslie’s clients trust her because her advice comes from real experience. She does the trips she recommends, meeting countless guides to ensure they have the energy and charisma necessary for engaging kids, staying in hotels and understanding room configurations so she can make thoughtful recommendations, and seeking out journeys worldwide to speak firsthand about everything from safety and meal schedules to how to keep kids engaged, learning, and having fun.
Go Beyond the Pool and Theme Parks–
It’s Worth It.
Think big for your next family trip and go beyond the pool and theme parks—trust us, it’s worth it. We combed Leslie’s trip planning archives and pulled some of our favorite experiences she’s planned for families. Here are a few: Wake up with elephants trumpeting outside your safari lodge, then walk with them and hear each elephant’s story; watch the entire family learn how to make traditional pottery with Mexican artisans whose work has been displayed in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art; enjoy mystical rides through rural Chinese villages, then try local delicacies not found on restaurant menus at home; bring your children’s studies to life in India as they behold the Taj Mahal.
Our Secret to Taking the Kids
Leslie says, “One of my biggest roles is giving parents the information they need to feel empowered to make informed decisions about family travel. I equip them with the facts and share stories of happiness, which gives them confidence to make the choices they feel are right for their family without sacrificing the spirit of adventure.” You’re more prepared than you realize. That you want to go is the biggest, most important part.
Ready to go?
Get in touch and let’s start planning your trip.
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