Balancing family travel and fitness with Expedia Viewfinder, Kara Williams
I’ve known fellow Expedia Viewfinder Kara Williams as a colleague for years but I’ve had to admire her from afar, given that she lives about 20 miles northwest of Aspen, Colorado, and I live in Seattle. This means we generally connect in person at conferences and meetings, and online through Facebook and email.
Despite the distance between us, I totally dig the life she’s created for herself as a writer, travel blogger, and, by all accounts, very cool mom to two outdoor-loving kids.
What’s been most interesting for me to see in recent months is her commitment to keeping fit while she (and the family) are traveling. She, her husband, and kids don’t seem to miss opportunities to hike, walk, zipline, bike, or ski wherever they are.
This spring, before Kara set off for her Semester at Sea as communications coordinator on board the MV Explorer, I had a chance to ask her some questions about how she’s able to coordinate staying healthy while she’s traveling and running a business.
Q. What are some ways you’ve managed to keep a workout schedule when you are traveling and therefore away from your normal routine?
A. I’ve been very conscious in trying only to book trips where I know I’ll be able to get exercise every day; whether that’s walking around town in Cabo San Lucas (I racked up about nine miles a day for each of three days on a recent getaway there!) or skiing and snowshoeing in Banff, Alberta, and Park City, Utah. On travel days, when I might be sitting on a plane for much of the day, I’ll get up early and do a 30-minute P90X video that I’ve loaded on my laptop.
Kara SCUBA diving
Q. What are your favorite activities when you’re traveling?
A. I’m a HUGE walker, whether it’s up and down hills on a hike, through city streets on an urban trip, or along the beach. Since getting my FitBit digital pedometer as a Christmas gift in 2013, I’ve made an effort to get in 10,000 steps a day. Usually I’m successful. But if I’m offered the chance to kayak, canoe, ski, or snowshoe on my travels, I’ll typically jump at it.
Q. You often travel with your family, are they as active as you are when you travel together?
A. We are freakishly active on our travels. For example, on our most recent family vacation to Puerto Vallarta, my husband, two children (ages 12 and 14) and I tried ocean flyboarding, which was hilariously awesome. It was a workout, too! We also embarked on a crazy day of adventure that involved jungle trekking, ziplining, rappelling, and water slides. Also, every day for the entire week-long vacation, we played in ocean waves together. Active fun in the outdoors, plus building family memories! On a 2013 Caribbean cruise I challenged everyone in the family not to take the on-board elevators at all. We succeeded, using steps the entire 7-night cruise, except for embarkation and disembarkation days, when we had our luggage with us (and didn’t want to lug it up and down several flights of stairs).
Q. As a family travel blogger, would you say your husband and kids are your favorite traveling companions?
A. I love making memories with my family in tow. Ever since I brought my daughter (now 14) on a plane when she was 3 months old, I’ve enjoyed traveling with my kids (my son is now 12). I must say, however, that weekends away with just my husband are wonderful, too, and you can’t beat a girlfriend getaway either!
Q. What are the challenges you find trying to schedule your workouts when you’re on the road?
A. Challenges to fitting in exercise usually have to do with lack of time, rather than motivation. If I sleep in, and have a busy sightseeing day on the docket, I might not have time to scoot to the hotel gym to do some strength training (though sightseeing usually involves a boatload of walking, if I have anything to say about it, so usually I get some semblance of exercise in the end). I do try to knock out exercise first thing every day, so I can just relax and enjoy (and eat!) without feeling guilt the rest of my vacation day.
Q. How do you pack when you’re including clothes for your workouts?
A. I’ve just discovered vacuum-seal packing bags which are SO GREAT for getting a lot of clothing and gear into little luggage space. I do typically bring two sets of gym clothes if, say, I’m traveling for a week, and also pack laundry detergent so I can wash smelly gym clothes in a hotel sink, while having a set to wear as one set dries.
Kara heading to the beach
Q. Do you now choose your destinations based on how active you can be there or do you just make sure you work out no matter what the destination is?
A. Both! As I noted above, I tend to choose destinations that naturally lend themselves to activity, especially in the outdoors. My family and I love visiting U.S. National Parks, namely because we like to get up close and personal with natural wonders on park hiking trails. But, I contend anyone can fit in a workout on his or her travels, no matter where those travels might be. Even if your budget motel doesn’t have a fitness center, you can tie on tennis shoes and make laps around the building (or, if it’s a multi-level hotel, you can find a stairwell and go up and down the steps). You also can do push-ups anywhere, though folks might look askance if you drop to the floor at an airport gate.
This past summer, when I worked on the Semester at Sea ship, I visited 10 different countries in 10 weeks. I used the (small) on-board fitness center and met up with other fitness-minded folks. I also signed up for some of the more active field programs (a.k.a., shore excursions) that involved hiking, biking, and canoeing.
Q. What are your three must-pack items now that being active is much more important to you when you travel?
A. My FitBit, my sneakers, and my P90X videos!
Q. With all the travel you do, do you have a favorite place on Earth?
A. This may sound crazy, given I make my living as a travel writer, but my favorite place on earth is my front porch. I live at 7,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, and my front door faces a mountain that is more than 13,000 feet tall and capped with snow for 10 months out of the year. We also look out on a green valley and other jagged, more distant mountain peaks. I love the Colorado mountains, and I write about my “backyard” a lot. I think it’s one of the best vacation destinations in the world (summer or winter) and I get to live here. How fortunate am I?
Q. Finally, what’s the craziest trip you’ve even taken?
A. One of the craziest things we’ve ever done was a promotion for Country Inns & Suites. A few years ago, my entire family was flown to Minnesota and we set out on a “mystery road trip” that brought us to seven destinations over the course of driving 2,000 miles in seven days (the trip ended in Texas). It was a fast-paced road trip, but one that revealed my children are superb travelers and my husband is a saint for doing the bulk of the driving.
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