Trvlbees

In today’s member interview we talk to Amelia Edelman. Traveling conquered a big place in her heart ever since she went on a class trip to France when she was 16. And ever since – the lust to wander, discover and learn new culture hasn’t stopped.

Amelia Edelman

Together with her 3-year-old son Silas she travels all around the world. Today she tells us all about her travels and let’s us in on the best tips and tricks for visiting Havana with kids.

Please tell us something about your life journey- Where are you born and raised?

I was born in NYC, inthe Bronx. My dad was a voice actor and my parents used to be in a ‘70s rock band ha. I lived in Connecticut as a teen and went to college in the Hudson Valley. This before moving back to the city for grad school at NYU.

Then I started my writing/editing career as a speechwriter and letter-writer for the Dean of NYU Medical School. Then I went to do communications for the drug rehab nonprofit Phoenix House for 4 years while freelance writing/editing on the side.

I “sold out” (lol) aka moved into digital publishing in 2014 editing wellness, home and travel for Refinery29. I lived in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn until I ran out of boroughs I could afford (sorry Staten Island) and my son was almost a year old.

Amelia and her son Silas

That’s when we were officially priced out of NYC and relocated to Nashville. Since landing here three years ago I started working at SheKnows. I’m now Senior Editor of the Parenting vertical and launched/manage our family travel series, Mom Voyage

Where did your passion for travel and sharing travel stories start? 

I did not travel growing up, and I always wanted to. We didn’t have the money for it, and my friends who did have the money went on cruises or to resorts and I thought that was kind of boring.

I left the country for the first time on a French class trip to France at 16, and that was my first taste of the idea that travel could be about wandering and learning and culture, not just sitting at a pool. I bought my first plane ticket when I was 19 — to Mumbai, India, three weeks after my dad died. I’ve been traveling ever since.

TRVLBEES focuses on family friendly, boutique and green hideaways- so let’s talk:

Family friendly: when searching for your own family holiday, do you specifically focus on this feature? How and why?

Oh for sure. As a single mom, I’m pretty much always traveling with my 3-year-old son Silas. I often don’t have another adult traveler along to help. Thus I’m always looking for hotels where both him and I will be able to relax. Oh, and get some sleep! Silas will NOT take a shower… yet. So I want there to be a bathtub, and usually one big bed for both of us. A kids’ menu is huge, too.

Bedroom Paseo 206

Stylish: does this category appeal to you? How would you describe ‘stylish’ in terms of stays?

Absolutely. I love unique, mindful design. The feeling of coming “home” to a beautiful hotel space while on the road. For me this makes a huge difference in the vibe of your trip. I’d say my personal design vibe is boho minimalist; simple with a lot of organic shapes, plants, natural materials. But I can also certainly get on board with more maximalist design when it’s not MY home; I love The Gilded Hotel in Newport, RI, for that very reason.

The Gilded Hotel, Newport RI

Green: is this important for you and your family while booking a hideaway?

For sure. Flying is bad enough for the planet; the least we can do is choose an eco-conscious place to stay when we get there! I have a feature on SheKnows about eco-resorts and I’m always poking around hotel websites looking for ways they’re working to conserve and preserve the environment.

The Greenhouse, Babylonstoren

Which locations/areas should you visit when you are in Havana with kids?

Habana Vieja 100% — the old town, which has a central square where there are a bunch of sidewalk cafes and always competing bands (son, salsa, rhumba, you name it) and folks hawking toys and whatnot. I actually loved Vedado, the less-touristy area where our favorite hotel, Paseo 206 is. And for kids, the Parque La Maestranza costs pennies to get in and is an extravaganza!

What are the 10 unmissable things to do in Havana with kids?

1) Walk through the winding alleys of Habana Vieja and ogle the old cars and pastel walls

2) Eat fresh seafood and dodge the waves on a beach in Playas Del Este 

3) Learn about Cuba’s fascinating and tumultuous history at the Museo de la Revolución

4) Go to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to dive into Cuban art (it’s worth paying the slight extra admission to see the 2nd building, the world collection, which has a stained-glass ceiling to die for)

5) Watch the sunset from the rooftop pool at Hotel Saratoga

6) Drink a canchancharra (Cuban rum cocktail made with honey and lemon and mint) or four — it’s better than a mojito 

Canchancharra, typical Cuban drink

7) Go for a jog or a stroll along the Malecón 

8) Take a short cab ride west of Havana to check out Fusterlandia, José Fuster’s home and art gallery, which is basically a wonderland of funky colorful mosaic sculptures (and a live pet tortoise)

Fusterlandia

9) Eat at Porto Habana, a weird but wonderful (and absolutely delicious) restaurant located on the 11th floor of an apartment building. You’ll second-guess yourself all the way up the elevator, but I promise it’s worth it.

10) Stay at Paseo206, a beautiful boutique hotel that will make you feel like family. Oh, and they have the best bathtubs too.

Any practical tips for traveling to Havana with kids?

If I’m going somewhere like Cuba or Africa where I’m not CONVINCED I’ll be able to find stuff my kid will eat, I bring a case of Clif bars. Not the most nutritious, but they’ll keep him alive in a pinch 😉 Cuban grocery stores do NOT have a lot of variety (because, you know, communism) so don’t expect that yu’ll be able to find a favorite snack.

However dishes like rice and beans, fresh fruit, grilled chicken, and pasta/pizza are pretty plentiful around Havana, so it wasn’t a problem even with my picky eater. Oh, and don’t you dare bring a stroller; either wear a tot in a carrier or carry them on your shoulders, whatever you gotta do. The crowded cobblestones make a stroller not worth it (I was really glad we didn’t bring one).

There’s also no need to bring a carseat; it likely wouldn’t even fit in the wacky array of taxis available anyway! Get ready for taxi rides with a kid on your lap.

Where was your best sleep? (Why do you recommend Paseo 206 and Saratoga as the best hotels in Havana to stay with kids?)

Paseo206 hands down! It’s so beautiful and well designed. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough; Andrea and his family and staff were so warm and welcoming and made us feel at ease. You could tell they are parents too!

They had the best tips for where to go in the city including Parque Maestranza which is an amazing playground where we saw zero other tourists. Also the Paseo206 food, drink, design, etc was phenomenal, and they had wonderful live music… We even came back for the pasta after we had checked out haha.

Paseo 206

Do you have any honorable mentions? (like tips for great restaurants, shops etc.)

We also stayed at Hotel Saratoga which is beautiful but a bit stuffy, and much colder in terms of service (especially compared to the warmth and friendliness of Paseo206). But Saratoga has gorgeous rooftop views from its pool, so can’t complain!

Saratoga rooftop

What is your favorite photograph of this trip? 

My son absolutely THRILLED to be at Fusterlandia exploring, and us on the beach Playa Megano. Traveling with a little one can be so exhausting, I love being able to look back on these moments and realize, okay, yeah, it was worth it. This kid may have fussed about the weird pizza and got frustrated about the language barrier, but he had an amazing damn time. So yeah, I would recommend traveling to Havana with kids.

What is you most beautiful memory about this family trip?

Oh gosh, there are a lot. Silas falling asleep on my lap during the middle of a live music show our first night at Paseo206’s bar/restaurant while my partner and I polished off canchancharras. Paseo staff teaching Silas to count to 10 in Spanish, and him finally gathering the courage to tell people “gracias” and “buenos dias” and ask for “helado.”

Oh, and Silas dancing around the Plaza Vieja and having play swordfights with Cuban kids. Basically anytime I can look around and feel like, yeah, I’m dragging this kid around the world — and I’m absolutely doing the right thing.

Plaza Vieja