Navigating European Airports

My family has lived abroad and traveled often in Europe, but after this last trip—with connections in various European airports—I thought how stressful and embarrassing navigating security and airports would be for rookie families.

In short, domestic airports offer no preparation for European airports.

Parents, here’s what you need to know so that you and the kids survive without a break-down. Who wants tears, tantrums, and running mascara, anyway?

Don’t Sweat It: Getting Through Security 

Don’t be me. I once felt hundreds of eyes on me at the Edinburgh Airport security check-point. I was forced to rifle through all my liquids (sunscreen, mascara, hand sanitizer, etc.) in my carry-on tote and roller suitcase. In front of the world, or so it seemed, I had to shove them into one teeny zip-lock bag. The fact is, European airports mean what they say when they allocate one zip-lock bag per traveler for liquids. Better to corral all the family’s liquids from their various pockets, cosmetic and toiletry bags before you reach the security line to confirm everything will fit. You’ve possibly never had to perform this exercise while traveling within the US, but honestly, the reinforcement at European airports is strict. What doesn’t fit will be pitched. Buh-bye, precious moisturizer.

Read in full at Oregon Family Magazine.

Staying Abroad: Handy tips for a successful European Airbnb adventure

Some things may surprise you, so get in front of things. No need to let the unexpecteds put a damper on your vacay.

Read in full: Staying Abroad, Handy tips for a successful European Airbnb adventure USA Today Go Escape Summer 2019.

Staying Abroad: Handy tips for a successful European Airbnb adventure

“My family recently hopscotched our way around Europe — our seventh such vacation in eight years. Instead of choosing traditional hotel lodging, we opted to stay in Airbnbs along the way. Like many other globetrotters, we were drawn to properties in historic districts. It’s an attractive option — a terrific way to economize while simultaneously soaking up the authenticity Old World cities have to offer.”

Please read in full here: 2019 USA Today Go Escape Summer.

Step into a Fairytale: Exploring Heidelberg with the Family

Once upon a time, in a valley surrounded by towering hills, there was a magical town with a magical castle perched overhead.

We lived in Germany as a young American expat couple and have since traveled back numerous times to visit our favorite city of Heidelberg. Yet, I still felt a thrill this past summer when our family drove across the bridge toward Bizmarckplatz, the main transport square, into the heart of this medieval city, which was largely spared in WWII. Perhaps it’s the magical castle on the hill which makes it so treasured, or the peaceful Neckar River flowing past the city through the valley, or its bustling pedestrian zone. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Heidelberg is home to Germany’s oldest university, contributing to its charming aura with students and professors walking about. Truly, the combined total of Heidelberg’s individual features are what make her special today as when the song, “I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg” was written in the 1920s.

Read in full on Houston Family Magazine.

Caribbean Getaway

Meet the Scotts, a Houston family who visits Turks & Caicos year after year

When Amy and Matt Scott were married in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) in 2011, they were already hooked and knew it was the perfect place for their wedding. Since then, they’ve added daughters Henley, now 5 and Sadie, 4 to their family, but that hasn’t slowed them down. They’ve continued going back to Turks and Caicos, their hands-down favorite beach holiday. Though the Houston family has visited many other famous Caribbean destinations, Matt told me, “We’ve never found anywhere better than Turks & Caicos.”

I met the Scott family on board the Sun Charter’s Sail and Snorkel Tour after everyone had returned to the boat from exploring the breathtaking Pelican Reef, part of the world’s 3rd largest Barrier Reef. It was impossible to miss the vivacious Scott girls, who had briefly snorkeled and were now wrapped in towels, chilling in the sun. With Captain Matt at the helm, our 70-foot gaff-rigged schooner was an easy ride, with staff passing around a pitcher of rum punch. We sailed along Caicos Cay until anchoring to do some first-rate beachcombing for sand-dollars at Ft. George Cay. While the girls made sand-castles, Matt accepted the task of finding sand-dollars for his daughters and returned with about a dozen, causing the girls to erupt with oohs and aahs. 

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.

Family Travel Helped Our Kids Make Their Own Memories, Not Simply Step Into Ours

2008-germany-jpg-70

“We lived in Germany as a young expat couple and a decade later traveled back to show our daughter and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts. I thought it promised to be a sweet walk down memory-lane, where our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago.

Instead, they insisted on pulling us in new directions, almost as if they, first-timers in Germany, were the tour-guides. A huge dancing mess of little prints resulted, sprinkled wildly around our larger ones. I should have known the kids would insist on making their own footprints, creating original memories driven by them.

They transformed our time in Germany into a nonstop quest to conquer towers.

Any signage with Schloss (castle), Feste (stronghold), or Burg (fortress) sent our car careening in that direction as if driven by the giggling youth in the backseat. Without exception, we would climb to the upmost height of the ruin, up the cramped, damp, spiral stairs to the lookout tower.

These ruins–unlike American historic sites—lacked the warning signs, the guardrails, the attendants and the guides. There were no disclaimers posted, no emergency phones available if help were needed, no brochure map to navigate the castle ruin’s maze. Kids sprinting from dungeon to teetering tower were solely under the protection of their parents.”

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine

Filipinos Finding Each Other In Washington, DC

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 8.12.10 PM

I published a personal essay about my childhood in the Philippines in Story|Houston a few years ago. But recently after moving to Washington, DC, I found myself frequently walking past the well-positioned Embassy of the Philippines. It got me thinking about the Filipino-Americans living around me. Although I grew up in the Philippines, I later lived the expat life with my husband (and eventually, kids) in Germany, Dubai and London. Did Filipino-Americans in Washington, DC feel lonely like I sometimes felt as an expat? Did they long to be with others who ‘get it’? Maybe they’d been away from the Philippines so long, immersed in American culture, that they felt detached from their homeland and longed to refresh their understanding of Filipino customs and culture. If so, how did they find each other to reconnect and enjoy mutual refreshment?

The point is, it takes a long time to carve out a place in another country enough to call it home. When you are with others to learn from, to commiserate with, to exchange stories and experiences with, it’s going to be a little bit easier. Gathering with others who share the same ethnic background could set things right.

This article I wrote for Taste.Company shows where this line of thinking took me. Special thanks to Editor Jenny Dorsey and Executive Director Jason Tengco of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). Read in full here.