Carol Cain of NYCityMama.com has lived in different parts of the world and made the successful transition from Public Relations professional to award-winning travel blogger. In her words: “I’m out to make travel more tangible, more relatable, and to prove to families that it is possible to enjoy all travel has to offer, either close to home or on the road, with kids or not.” NBC named Carol one of NYC’s “The 20“ most influential people to follow on Twitter and Residence Inn by Marriott awarded her the Resident Mom of The Year Award 2012 for her work in inspiring other mothers to take on travel. Babble.com named NYCityMama.com one of the Top 100 Mom Blogs of 2011 and the site was nominated by Nickelodeon as the Best NYC Blog. In addition to travel, Carol also writes about food, fitness, and tips on how to make life happier and easier. Carol is sharing some of her best travel tips with Tours4Fun travelers in an exclusive interview.
Tours4Fun: How many countries have you visited? When you visit a new country what do you find is the best way to really get a feel for the culture?
Carol: I’ve visited about 10 different countries and each time I find that going out for a walk and photographing it all helps me to notice things I might not otherwise. Of course, eating at local spots is the total ice-breaker, especially if you are willing to smile and talk to others you meet along the way. Connecting with locals, chatting it up with cabbies, store owners, the wait staff, even the cleaning lady at the hotel, asking questions, even getting suggestions for local favorite spots is an excellent way to get out of the tourist spots and see how the locals live.
Tours4Fun: What’s your advice to those that want to see the world and experience new places but feel they don’t have the time or resources to do so?
Carol: A lot of people think that if they can’t travel to some place exotic or backpack through Europe, or do a round the world trip, then it’s not worth it. But I have found that anytime you venture out of your regular environment, even if it’s only a few hours away, one can really experience the beauty of travel. Americans in general need to learn to play more and work less (take those vacation days, people!) and make it a point to visit a new place each time. Travel is like anything else we want in life – you have to want it enough to make it a priority, plan for it, save for it and then go!
Tours4Fun: You seem like an expert at traveling with kids, how many times a year do you take family vacations?
Carol: It varies, but we definitely take at least 4-5 vacations a year, some far away, some closer to home. Sometimes we do weekend getaways, sometimes we go for longer stretches. It’s a part of who we are as a family and we love it.
Tours4Fun: What are some ways that your travel-style has evolved since you became a Mom?
Carol: I think it has made me more patient, more flexible, and more adventurous. I really enjoy seeing the world through my children’s eyes. Places I would never consider seem to come alive when they are with me. Their curious and adventurous nature is fun to be with when on the road. I think there are a lot more things I would’ve taken for granted if not for the joy my kids bring to the experiences we have together.
Tours4Fun: What are your top 3 tips to make family vacations less stressful?
1) Don’t over schedule or over plan.
2) Be flexible – go with the flow and don’t stress too much on getting to one place or another.
3) Talk about the trip together. Discuss what you would like to do, what you hope to do and take everyone’s wish list into consideration.
Tours4Fun: You incorporate a love of food into your blog, tell us about your favorite meal – the one you’d travel halfway around the world just to taste again?
Carol: That’s a tough one. I would go back to Italy for some of the Academia Barilla chefs’ specialty pasta dishes. I would go back to the Dominican Republic for some grilled lobster grabbed from the ocean only an hour earlier. I would head back to New Orleans to sit at Café Dumond with a café au lait and a beignet. I would walk the streets of Les Marais in Paris till I found the perfect baked treat. The list is endless!
Tours4Fun: You’ve managed to combine many of your passions – travel, food, & writing – into a successful career. How did you make the transition from public relations to blogging? What tips would you give others looking to make the switch?
Carol: The trick is really to stick to writing about the things I love. Having worked in public relations definitely helped me to better navigate the space and connect with the people with whom I wanted to establish a professional partnership, but I think staying within the boundaries of topics that I felt most connected with helped communicate that passion to my readers. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love and have such a supportive community of readers and followers.
Tours4Fun: Although traveling about on your own can be very liberating, in what situation would you recommend taking an organized tour?
Carol: It really depends on the individual. Do you speak the language? How good are you at reading maps? Are you traveling to meet new people with similar passions? There’s no right or wrong way to travel, and the point is to enjoy your experience and feel comfortable in the process. Sometimes you need a tour group before taking on a journey on your own. Whatever it takes to get you out there!
Tours4Fun: Out of all the places you’ve been, which trip was the most memorable for your family and why?
Carol: Our trip cross country from NYC to Missoula, MT is one we still talk about because it was the first time we traveled so far, for so long together. The kids were just 2, 3 and 10, but they remember details here and there. Of course, our latest adventure to Costa Rica has quickly become a favorite as well for all the outdoor fun and crazy nature we discovered there!
Tours4Fun: What is the most rewarding thing you’ve gotten out of your travel experience that you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world?
A different perspective beyond what we are fed in the local and national media and in conversations with those who don’t travel as much. It’s so easy to have a black or white outlook in life, but the more you travel, the more you see the harder it is to deny that there are so many different dimensions to a story, a country and to a people. It’s the reason I travel with my children and I want to inspire others to do the same.
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