‘It happened the other day! It didn’t hurt! The Tooth Fairy came!’
A beautiful six-year-old with a gap-toothed smile has taken over my Skype interview with his doting dads Chris and Rob Taylor. And, of course, I can’t help but laugh.
He has that adorable, squeaky accent many US kids have, straight out of a milk commercial.
Oliver shows me where his tooth used to be, as his three-year-old brother Elliott busies himself with toys nearby.
It’s a typical morning in the Taylor household in Puget Sound near Seattle, in the US state of Washington.
The family’s second home, however, is the open road. After all, Chris and Rob aren’t regular dads: they’re 2 Travel Dads.
‘We have a scratch map – we scratch off the countries we’ve been to,’ explains globe-trotter Rob, age 37. ‘We’ve been to 15 or 16 so far,’ adds Chris, 41, who’s been married to Rob for five years.
‘We’ve been together 13 years – that’s a whole teenager!’
They met through mutual friends 13 years ago (‘That’s a whole teenager!’ laughs Rob), and with the arrival of Oliver in 2011, decided to turn their love of travel into more than a hobby.
‘I’ve always worked in travel,’ explains Rob. ‘Everything from cruise lines, a driver guide in Alaska, a trail guide for horses, working for hotels…
‘I left to be a full-time dad. That’s when we started writing and sharing our stories. Sometimes being a stay-at-home dad is stressful and stifling. All of a sudden your entire world is just kids, and wiping butts. You have to have some sort of outlet, or you actually go crazy…’
Thus, 2 Travel Dads was born. And the guys haven’t looked back. They’ve been everywhere, from Hawaii to Mexico, and were recently named among the 25 best-traveled bloggers of 2017.
All this and Chris, whose background is in learning and development, still holds down a full-time job. ‘I work for a West Coast grocery chain, managing a training program,’ he says. ‘I can work from home, which is great. It gives me flexibility.’
‘We started homeschooling, as we travel so much’
As such, the guys travel often. And, of course, the kids are involved every step of the way. ‘It’s part of how they live,’ says Chris.
‘We just started homeschooling, as we travel so much,’ adds Rob. ‘It’s taking into consideration those educational opportunities, including cultural education. Where can we take the kids where they’re going to see new things?
‘I met a lady at [the tourism board of] New Mexico the other day to talk about experiencing the culture there. This whole other side of the US we haven’t seen. Also, we’ve been talking about bringing the kids to the UK. But when is it worth doing that? We want to give them an experience they’ll remember and understand.’
Chris adds: ‘Visiting every National Park is on our list. Getting stamps in our National Park passports and educating the kids about the amazing sights in this country.’
That said, Chris and Rob do occasionally get away without the children. ‘Chris’s parents are amazing for taking care of the kids, and they’re close by,’ explains Rob. ‘It’s nice having family that are supportive and available.’
‘We’re sailing down to Split and Dubrovnik’
He furthermore adds they’ve never technically taken a honeymoon – but they’ll be hitting Croatia together in spring 2018. ‘Sailing around the Dalmatian Coast, going down to Split and all the way to Dubrovnik. That’s kind of a honeymoon!’
Other trips in the pipeline with the kids include Maine, Atlanta, Orlando and New York City. ‘We’re going over Christmas!’ enthuses Chris. Plus, there’s the inevitable return to Mexico, one of their favorite countries.
‘Mexico’s amazing’ says Rob. ‘It’s great for families in North America. It provides a completely opposite cultural and travel experience to, domestically, either the States or Canada. With Canada you get some fantastic French influence, depending on where you are, so it feels like you’re in a totally different world. But the US is very much the US.
‘Having Mexico close by makes for a very easy and affordable way to explore and show the kids places. And as a two-dad family, we feel pretty comfortable all over where we’ve been. We’ve been on small road trips as well as checking into the resort. It’s a great spot for dads.’
‘Oliver really wants a sister’
Wrapping up, I finally ask the question I’ve been wanting to ask throughout: would the guys like more kids?
‘We have had a small conversation about growing our family,’ says Rob. ‘We had the boys – a friend offered to be a surrogate for us, so that worked out perfectly. [But] she’s done. And that’s fine! She’s already given us the most amazing gift. If we did decide to build our family, we’d look at fostering or adopting here in Washington.’
‘Oliver really wants a sister,’ adds Chris, before thinking aloud: ‘We were older when we had kids…’
‘You were!’ interrupts Rob.
‘Yeah, I was,’ Chris laughs. ‘You think about the timeline. You think, when are we going to have the time to enjoy ourselves later on in life? Because that’s important too.’
‘I’ll be 47 when Oliver graduates high school,’ adds Rob. ‘Chris will be 51!’
Still, I say – it would be quite the thing for 2 Travel Dads to be blogging with 10 kids… ‘I can’t think about that,’ says Rob. ‘It stresses me out.’
‘Then we’d have a reality show’ chimes in Chris. ‘It’s loud enough already!’
Chris and Rob’s top five family travel tips
1 Get a good Airbnb
Rob: ‘It’s invaluable. We were just in Hawaii and had an amazing Airbnb on the north shore. It provided us with everything we needed for a Hawaiian vacation. Beach toys, towels, chairs. It also gave us extra space, which, when you’re traveling with kids, you need to just let the kids be.’
2 Rent booster seats
Rob: ‘Especially if you’re going on a short trip and you don’t have to check any baggage. Traveling with car seats is the devil. We’ve had car seats lost before.’
Chris: ‘And were sent away with crappy ones!’
3 Give kids ownership of the experience
Chris: ‘We have them pack their own suitcases. They’re called Trunkis. They’re shaped like an animal and you can also sit on them and scoot. Then they get a little backpack where they put a selected amount of toys they can bring to play with on the plane and as we travel.’
Rob: ‘It includes them. It’s not just like they’re tagging along.’
4 Be loyal to certain brands
Chris: ‘With my job I travel down to California and back [a lot]. I fly with Alaska Airlines. Brand loyalty helps. I accrue miles and they can be used to rent cars, get plane tickets. As an example, we’re now going to Atlanta to go see family. It’s not a sponsored trip. Those tickets were out of pocket but we simply used miles to get the tickets.’
Rob: ‘Brand loyalty helps in the most unexpected moments: checking into a hotel and having more space than initially booked because you stay with the brand frequently. There are certain brands that are great about marketing towards LGBT travelers. Being loyal to a brand that wants your business because you’re part of the gay community, that’s something that’s really great. Alaska Airlines are all about inclusivity. So we try to support those brands that want to support us.’
5 Finally, for same-sex parent families, travel wisely and with pride
Rob: ‘There are places in the south we go because we have family there. The south was the seat of slavery. It’s very conservative, racist and homophobic. From time to time we get into awkward or unusual situations.’
Rob: ‘As far as that aspect of a same-sex parent family traveling, it’s making sure you’re going some place, not necessarily where you’ll be accepted, but making sure you’re safe.
Chris: ‘We were in the Deep South in rural Florida seeing some beautiful springs they have. We chose this small mom and pop restaurant to have breakfast. We went in and we were like: “Wow, this is really rural…”‘
Rob: ‘”We don’t belong here…”’
Chris: ‘Exactly. We still went in and had breakfast. There were some occasional looks. There was this old couple; we could hear them. “Have you met one of them before?” Then his wife saying: “I think I know one, I think our friend is one…” But we didn’t feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
‘What’s interesting about this topic is, it’s more about continuing to educate people. Give them exposure to something they haven’t seen, and have them see, “Oh, gosh, they’re still a normal family.”‘
Rob: ‘Travel wisely but with pride. Know that your presence in that unusual or new place is showing people. It’s normalizing who you are as a family. It’s normalizing that, you know what, we are part of this world even if you don’t see us every day.’
‘For us, it’s being present, not letting who we are scare us from participating in the world, and going and seeing what’s out there. We’re not going to change anybody’s perception if we’re not traveling with pride and being our family in front of people. Be confident and strong about being a family.’