I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Traci Suppa

Local travel blogger loves road tripping with kids

Traci Suppa with her daughter Emilia, 8, and her son Leo, 15.

Traci Suppa was 7 years old when her father got a job working for an oil company and moved the entire family from Long Island to Saudi Arabia. She spent the next 7 years living in the Mid-East and traveling with her family across Europe and Asia. Reluctant at first, she soon grew to love her family’s globetrotting excursions.

“As I got older I began to realize that this was something special, that none of my relatives were getting to experience this,” she recalls. Her adventurous spirit hasn’t waned.

Read more: 5 Hudson Valley destinations
tourists love, but we locals tend to overlook

Now living in Hopewell Junction with a family of her own, Suppa has turned her love of travel into a career: First as the Marketing Director for the Westchester County Board of Tourism, and now as an editor on Amtrak’s New York by Rail travel guides.

I’m fortunate to have a home office, so I’m here when the kids get off the bus,” she says. “My profession is very flexible, because I have some control over my deadlines and work hours. If I need to stay home with a sick kid, I fit the work in — usually at 9 p.m.”

Read more: How to tour a museum with your child

What Suppa’s probably best known isn’t her day job at all. It’s her travel blog, Go Big or Go Home. In it, she chronicles her adventures as she travels with her husband, Matt, and their children Leo, 15, and Emilia, 8, looking to visit the world’s largest . . . well, anything.

That has included the world’s largest watering can in Utica, the world’s largest accredited big cat sanctuary (think lions and tigers) in Tampa, and some attractions a lot closer to home.

“We love the world’s largest kaleidoscope in Mt. Tremper,” she says. “Walkway Over the Hudson is the world’s longest elevated pedestrian park. The Chuang Yen monastery in Kent has the largest Buddha in the western hemisphere. And we enjoyed going to Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson to visit Gnome Chomsky.” (At the time of their visit, the 13.5-foot-tall Gnome Chomsky was the world’s largest garden gnome. He has since been dethroned by an 18-foot-tall gnome in Poland, and a 15-foot-tall gnome in Iowa.)

Traci and her family visit Gnome Chomsky at Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson.

All of this traveling makes Suppa the Hudson Valley’s resident expert on road trips with kids. She recalls how much more she and her brother began to enjoy their childhood travels once their father finally started letting them pick some of their activities, and advises parents today to do the same.

Read more: 6 travel activities to entertain and educate kids

When you’re starting to plan a trip, no matter if it’s 20 miles away or 2,000 miles away, you have to think about what’s going to appeal to your kids and the best way to do that is to get them involved in the planning process,” she says. “If you have them invested in it from the get-go, everyone’s more likely to have a good time.”

Suppa also learned the hard way to set your expectations realistically as to how much you can see in one day, and to organize your days around your kids’ schedules.

“When they were younger, I knew at what point in the day they’d start melting down,” she says. “Respect the nap.”

Sometimes, even the best laid plans can be quickly waylaid by Mother Nature. Last year, Suppa and her family travelled to Providence and ran smack into a blizzard. They threw their plans out the window and spent the weekend holed up in the hotel watching movies together while the storm raged outside. Learning to go with the flow has been one of the toughest things that Suppa has encountered as both a travel writer and a mom. “I’m a control freak, so becoming a parent was a real eye-opener,” she says. “I’ve learned to let a lot of things go, the most recent being my daughter’s wardrobe.”

So, parents who fret that your children will grow up to be uncouth dullards unless they take a pricey trip to Paris or Rome, take heart. You don’t have to travel far to have a great time.

“Just the fact that you're getting out of your regular routine is enough,” she says. “Travel doesn’t have to be across the world. It could be across town! As long as you’re exposing them to new things, new ideas, new foods; to me that’s what travel is and that’s where the educational value comes in.”

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