One of the original founders of boutique trip planning agency, Trufflepig, Charlie Scott stumbled into the world of travel 20 years ago and embraced a semi-nomadic lifestyle that’s taken him to more than 45 countries. Now based in Toronto, Charlie continues to travel the globe with his wife and two kids, most recently on a three-month tour of California, England and Turkey. Here, he shares tales of that big trip, plus tips on where to eat in Maine, how to keep your cool during flight delays and why a spiderman costume is a packing essential.
Q: Where and when did you take your first trip as a family?
Our first proper trip out of the country was to Tulum, Mexico. The kids were just two and four at the time so we weren’t sure whether a big resort hotel or a small beachy place would be the better choice. So we hedged our bets and spent a few days at the Fairmont Mayakoba (worth it for the kids club and water slide alone) followed by a few days at a boho-chic shack right on the beach in Tulum. The first half of the trip was incredibly convenient, albeit culturally canned. The second half was simple, relaxed and felt like we were actually in Mexico. It was a great balance.
Q: What is your favorite travel memory from childhood and what do you hope your kids remember about their travels?
From the time I was a bambino our family would spend the last week of August at Goose Rocks Beach in Maine. It’s just a 10-15 minute drive north of Kennebunkport and remains one of my favorite stretches of sand anywhere. It was an annual pilgrimage that I’d start looking forward to the day after Christmas. While the image of the beach shines bright in my mind, it was the ritual of doing the same drive (Hwy 302 through New Hampshire), eating at the same restaurants (The Clam Shack, Nunan’s Lobster Hut), and basically doing exactly the same things (getting sunburned) year after year that I most fondly remember. I hope our kids remember the thrill of meeting new people and the fun of trying different food when they travel.
Q: Have any of your family trips been a complete fail?
We haven’t yet had a complete trip that was a complete fail, but we’ve certainly had some trying times on the road. Last spring in Turkey one of our flights was forced to land at a different destination due to severe weather storms. After sitting in the plane on the tarmac for a couple of hours, the journey resumed but we arrived too late to catch our original connection. Our planned three-hour flight turned into a 20-hr odyssey that involved an unplanned overnight at a brutal hotel near the Ankara airport. Worst of all, I totally blew a gasket (embarrassing Dad) dealing with the airline staff who didn’t seem to care that we were travelling with tiny kids. Thankfully, when we finally reached the Med-Inn Boutique Hotel in Gulluk near Bodrum, it was complete bliss.
Q: Name a place (destination or hotel) where you’ll always return and why.
France. Anywhere in France. I’ve been traveling there for over 20 years (since I guided bike trips in Europe for Butterfield & Robinson, fresh out of university) and the landscape, villages and architecture just melt my heart. Oui, it can make me crazy sometimes — the French love to tell you that things are impossible — but the overall values of the culture put the emphasis on all the right things: eating, drinking and exploring.
Q: What’s your dream destination for travel without the kids, and what’s on your bucket list for a trip with the family?
My wife and I have already been there once, but we dream of returning to Amangiri in Utah. Just a few hours there washes away the drama and fatigue of being a parent. We’re also itching to spend a week rambling around Berlin, checking out art, staying up late (i.e. past 9:30 pm), and generally being footloose and fancy-free. As a family we’re basically game to go anywhere and everywhere. Brazil is very high on the list. Uxua in Trancoso looks like our kind of paradise. We’d love to take the kids to Laos (my wife had a restaurant there when she was in her 20s) and tramp around Southeast Asia (Burma, Bali, Cambodia) for a few months. New Zealand calls us loudly (as soon as the kids are big enough to hike) and we’ve long dreamed of doing a family ski trip in Switzerland or Austria. Any excuse to eat that much cheese and chocolate.
Q: Where would you send first-time visitors for a family day and kid-free night in your hometown?
I’ve actually never been, but everyone tells me Toronto’s fairly new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is phenomenal. The AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario, great kids room downstairs) and ROM (Royal Ontario Museum, more dinosaurs than you can shake a bone at) are also surefire family outings. And a kid-free night? If it was summer I’d suggest a stroll along Queen Street West, stopping here and there for a beer or bite to eat. Or maybe dinner at Terroni — the Price Street location has a superb rooftop.
Q: What’s your traveling uniform? Do your kids have one as well?
Blundstone boots (winter), Rainbow double layer leather sandals (summer), Levi’s 501s, khaki shorts, thin black sweater, old dress shirts (nice and comfy, quick-drying, spiffs up the slacker wardrobe if you’re going somewhere fancy). For the kids, Native shoes (light, indestructible, all around awesome) and at least one costume each. Our three-year-old son spent the better part of three weeks in Turkey in a Spiderman outfit.
Q: Fill in the blank: Flying with kids is...
... a crapshoot (so to speak).
Never board a plane without...
... healthy snacks, a change of clothes, water.
Q: If parents could design a hotel, all rooms would have…
... a pool outside the door.