Family Travel Blogging: Debbie Dubrow of DeliciousBaby
In this series I have interviewed some of the most famous travel bloggers in the world (read more interviews of bloggers here). Some of these travel bloggers have driven across continents, gotten lost in jungles, and nearly been trampled by elephants. Among the bravest of the lot, though, is Debbie Dubrow. She travels with her children.
Dubrow, a former Microsoft Project Manager, is the author of Delicious Baby, a family travel blog that was ranked the most popular travel blog on the Internet in 2009 by Technocrati and has been featured in several major travel and news outlets including ABC, MSNBC, Frommer’s, Gadling, and more.
I was able to catch up with Dubrow in Seattle where she lives with her husband and three children to find out about why traveling with children in the US can be more challenging than abroad, how she came up with her blog’s unique name, and her plans to build an entire village for underprivileged people in India.
MG: When you started Delicious Baby did you expect to make a career out of blogging?
DD: I’m not sure what I expected. I did hope to make some money, but it was also a way to keep doing something in technology while I was home with the kids, and a way to connect with others. Being a stay-at-home parent can be pretty isolating.
MG: What do you like the most about being a professional blogger?
DD: I’ve had so many neat experiences that I could never otherwise have had. Hanging out with Wendy Perrin and her kids, meeting the CEO of Ford, behind the scenes tours, etc. It’s easy to stay motivated when there are so many fun opportunities that come my way because of DeliciousBaby.
MG: In which countries did you find traveling with children the hardest? Why?
DD: Honestly, sometimes I think the United States is the trickiest. Last week I got on a plane with two of my kids, and when the person who would be sitting next to us showed up, he rolled his eyes and loudly said “Oh no!” I don’t expect anyone to help out with my kids, or to tolerate bad behavior, but there’s no reason to be rude from the start. And by the way, both kids fell asleep during takeoff and slept through the flight, so I think he made me more uncomfortable than I made him.
The other thing that makes the US tricky is that there often isn’t good public transportation (taxis aren’t safe without carseats) and there aren’t plazas or playgrounds where kids can run around near that most popular tourist attractions. Parents need to be resourceful to work around those issues.
MG: What question are you asked most by parents preparing to travel with children for the first time?
DD: Most parents are concerned about very pragmatic things: Where to go, how much they can do in a day, how to survive the plane flight, how to best help their kids with jet lag.
MG: You started DelciousBaby.com in 2009 after working at Microsoft for several years. Why did you decide to start your travel blog?
DD: We had always shared our travel stories, and I had become a local resource (via email) for questions about international travel with kids. It just made sense to put it all on the web so that more people could access it.
MG: What goals did you have when you first started Delicious Baby? Have they changed over time?
DD: I wanted to share practical advice about traveling with very young children. When I started my blog, nobody seemed to be writing about that in detail, and very few of the people who were writing about family travel in the mainstream media actually had young children. I also want parents realize that they don’t have to wait until their kids are teens to travel with them.
I’m starting to think more about how having a blog can help me do other things I’m passionate about. Last winter, through Passports With Purpose, we raised $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia. This year, I will also be launching TripDoc. I’m hopeful that my built-in audience will help us hit the ground running.
MG: Passports with Purpose is a wonderful organization. How did it get started, and what are your plans for the future?
DD: Passports with Purpose is a travel blogger’s fundraiser. Last year over 90 bloggers participated and we raised $30,000 to build a school in rural Cambodia. The fundraiser was founded in 2008 by myself, Beth Whitman, Pam Mandel, Michelle Duffy, and Meg Paynor.
This year we plan to raise $50,000 to build a village in India for Dalit (untouchables) who have historically not had the right to own land at all. Donors can make a donation (in $10 increments) directly to the 501c(3) charity LAFTI international, and will be entered to win one of the fabulous prizes hosted by a participating blogger. We’re looking for corporate sponsors, prize sponsors and bloggers to help us with this year’s effort. It’s really a lot of fun to participate, and a great community builder for travel bloggers. To learn more, you can visit passportswithpurpose.com.
MG: Did your experience working at Microsoft help you when you first started blogging?
DD: Yes. I knew HTML and I’m not afraid to dive in with new technology. More than that, I know how to build products that people (hopefully) like, analyze data and use data make decisions about what to do next. I think that has helped me greatly.
MG: Was there a tipping point where your blog’s popularity really started to climb?
DD: Back in December of 2007, we had a really terrible experience renting car seats along with our rental car. The seats were beyond filthy, and most of them were damaged or expired. I blogged about it, and ABC news picked up the story.
Six months later, after the company had pledged to clean up their act, a mom who had read my story had a similar experience. I was so upset that I flew down to LA to document the problems myself. I think that passion, combined with the news coverage, really caught people’s attention. You can find those stories here: www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2008/jul/27/danger-rent-car-rental-agency-puts-infant-risk/
MG: Part of this article series focuses on the earning potential of travel blogs. Does your blog earn money? If so, may I ask for a ballpark figure to give our readers and idea of how much a successful travel blog can make?
DD: I earn just over $2000/month with my blog, and now that I have a formula that works for me (and my readers), that’s growing at a pretty rapid pace.
Together with my husband, I’m also launching a new iPhone app for travelers. TripDoc helps you keep track of the things you want to do on your vacation, and then puts them all on a single map so that you can find your way around easily. We hope to make an income from the app as well.
MG: A baby is something that the adjective ‘delicious’ is seldom applied to, so I have to ask: how did you come up with the name Delicious Baby?
DD: My kids are just so yummy ;)
MG: You are now quite possibly the best-known authority on travel with children in the world. What is the best advice on travel with children somebody else gave you?
DD: Greg at DaddyTypes sometimes points out that it’s not important to have the best behaved child on the plane—just so long as you don’t have the worst behaved child on the plane. I think that’s a great perspective, and very calming.
MG: Is there anybody that was particularly helpful to you, offering advice and such, when you first started traveling with children?
DD: I read a lot online and in print, but most of it was very negative (the most common advice was to drug the kids or give up going anywhere besides all-inclusives), and at that time not many of our friends had experience traveling with kids. Now I think there are a lot of great bloggers offering advice, including Jamie at TravelSavvyMom, Linda at Travels With Children, Amie at CiaoBambino, and Mara at The Mother of All Trips. I learn a lot from all of them.
MG: What drawbacks, if any, are there to being a professional traveling mother and blogger?
DD: I don’t sleep much. Sometimes people (in town) recognize me, which is kind of neat, and kind of strange. Whenever it happens, I start to agonize about what I was wearing, what the kids were doing, and all sorts of other things that probably shouldn’t matter.