Like any parent who travels frequently for work, Hallie Burton knew that there were certain elements of life at home she couldn’t manage while on the road for her photography business. But when her husband George Yannopoulos sent her a video of their daughter attending ballet graduation wearing pajamas, something had to change. Together, Hallie and George created SMOKKS, a line of stylish, easy-to-wear clothes that simplified kids' fashion. Named for the smock dress, each piece is soft, layerable and made without buttons, zippers or hooks plus has adjustable hems to grow with the child. A women’s line has followed, offering moms equally easy outfits, ideal for running to the park and comfortable enough for catching a long-haul flight. Here, Hallie shares some of her favorite moments as well as the time a Quantas flight met a stomach bug and made us all cringe. We love her sense of humor and can’t wait to see more of SMOKKS.
Q: Where and when did you take your first trip as a family?
I’m Australian and George is Canadian, so our travels with Pompie began at nine weeks old. She was a seasoned traveler by one and a half. In saying that, our first trip as a family, just the three of us without family obligations, was to Paris in 2011 for George’s 40th birthday. I had secretly planned it for months, and a very dear friend that has been traveling to the city for twenty years arranged all our accommodation, etc, so it was a complete surprise for George. It was fantastic! Every single moment. The most amazing part was for some reason Pompie would sleep through dinner every single night so it was like romantic dating all over again. Who doesn’t want to turn forty in Paris, eating their lunch looking at the Louvre?
Q: What is your favorite travel memory from childhood, and what do you hope your kids remember about their travels?
My parents loved Byron Bay, Australia, in the 80s, back when it was untouched and was like visiting a tropical jungle. So green and lush and the most non-commercial place on earth. I remember the smell of heat and earth; it still stays with me today. It’s like a dream in so many ways. We can keep going back to certain places for memory’s sake, however Byron Bay will never again be what it was. When I last visited, although still stunningly beautiful, it was just like another Malibu.
I hope for Pompie that she will grow up to identify with the smells of her travels and with that memory she can get transported back to the places she has been. It’s an instant memory I love.
Q: Have any of your family trips been a complete fail?
Well....I took Pompie to Australia alone when she was seven months old. We flew Qantas and booked a baby bassinet, a genius way to fly. The trip there was so easy I couldn’t quite believe it. She ate and slept the entire way. I was blessed! However, my luck was to change on the return. Whilst visiting my family, she learnt to sit up and pull herself up, broke two teeth and found her voice. I bought a small packet of diapers for our return as she slept most of the way there, so I think I had about fifteen. As it turned out, we had some kind of stomach bug on the way home, and we needed to change our diaper every hour or so. She would not lie down and kept pulling herself out of the bassinet and screaming with her newfound voice. She did not sleep for even a second between Sydney and LA. By the time we took our flight to NYC, I had a bad stomach and was vomiting everywhere. Finally, she fell asleep and the hostess took her. I threw up for about five hours straight, and when we arrived in New York, they had to get a wheelchair for me to exit the plane. Ground staff carried Pompie and took us to a car. Pompie then threw up until we reached our front doorstep. George was a little shocked, and I won’t mention the smell on us both!
Q: Name a place where you’ll always return and why.
I will always return to Bali, as well as to Paris. Bali for the smell (to Como Shambhala Estate) and for the feeling of total calm, isolation and sweet congestion, and Paris for the fact that we went there together and I feel like, as a family, it’s “our place.”
Q: What’s your dream destination for travel a deux, and what’s on your bucket list for a trip with the family?
Next summer we plan on doing Greece, as it’s a part of George’s heritage, and Rome. Also, Venice and Florence are on our list as we haven’t done that part of Europe. I want to go to St. Petersburg as well - it looks amazing. For a deux, we would love to go stargazing in Chile. Imagine!
Q: Where would you send first-time visitors for a family day and kid-free night in your hometown?
For kids, I think the Museum of Natural History is just amazing. It’s our playground. You could get lost in there for days and days. And one must wander through Central Park afterward. You can’t not, even in the snow. New York is its own beast and has so much to offer, and you really need to recharge. Our favorite special occasion place in the city is Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca. It’s amazing, like entering another time where the world only exists in there.
Q: What’s your traveling uniform? Do your kids have one as well?
Well, of course Pompie and I wear SMOKKS, summer, spring, winter and fall! We live to wear them. Style made simple and travel made easy. And George always wears a navy T shirt, a great pair of dk denim jeans and fabulous shoes. Pompie and I travel super light; it’s wash and wear for us. George will take one side of the case and Pompie and I will share…how can that be?
Q: Fill in the blank: Flying with kids is...
Never board a plane without...
an iPad and headphones.
Q: If parents could design a hotel, all rooms would have…
It would be amazing to have a dress up magical closet and tent in the room. We travel with a multitude of costumes, and it can get messy. If such a room was there waiting, a new and different imagination would run wild, and we would have a small break, which is what every parents needs. Going to sleep would be fun!