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Family ties:
The power of travel

Sina Duvinage loves to travel, often with her whole family in tow. The first thing on her packing list is her CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege Card, with its travel-oriented benefits and rewards there to pave the way to a luxurious and stress-free adventure.

The social media entrepreneur lives in Toronto with her husband, Chris, and their two children, Isabelle, 6, and Nicolas, 4. Three years ago, Duvinage took her obsession with minimalist, Scandinavian design – in particular the colour grey – and launched an online content business. Today, some 433K people follow along with the family’s adventures on @HappyGreyLucky and its eponymous sister website.

Taking the whole family on the road is a challenge that Duvinage relishes. “Travel has always been a big part of my life, something I loved before I had kids,” she says. To ensure they could still travel post-child, the couple took Isabelle on the road when she was just five weeks old.

“Travelling makes me feel incredibly alive and present,” says Duvinage. “Being in a new place and taking in new sights, sounds and smells awakens my senses.”

It’s also an opportunity to teach her children to live in the moment, says Duvinage. “It’s one of the reasons I love travelling with my kids. It’s so rewarding to see their eyes light up when they experience new things.”

A traveller's philosophy

“When I travel, my values are no different than my core values in my day-to-day life,” says Duvinage. “Compassion, open-mindedness and positivity are things I strive for every day, whether at home or abroad.”

As a minimalist who resists the lure of “stuff,” Duvinage focuses on the learnings she brings home. “I’ve become more open and accepting of differences, of celebrating what makes everyone and every culture unique.”

This includes her preferences and taste in food. “I have a more diverse palate now and I constantly crave food from other cultures.”

Going beyond her comfort zone is a constant goal. “If I’ve had the courage to try something new, if I’ve been adventurous, then the trip was a success,” she says. “Being in new surroundings and spending my days taking it all in sparks creativity and passion in me.”

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The global classroom

Duvinage’s affinity for Scandinavian design was inspired by a road trip through Sweden, Norway and Denmark years ago. Her love for drawing started as a teenager, after watching the portrait artists in Montmartre during a family trip to Paris. Likewise, a keen interest in all things culinary was sparked during a tour in southern Italy.

Over the years, she has also learned to embrace being alone. Solo travel came about by accident, she says, as a result of travelling for work as an IT consultant.

“I didn’t want to fly back and forth one weekend, and instead decided to check out the cute little towns nearby. So I stayed on by myself and realized how empowering it is to, for example, go to a restaurant alone and do something just for you. Now I crave a little solo travel each year.”

She has also learned through travelling with kids to be more patient. “It’s a necessity when you’re trying to will two tired toddlers through the airport at 3 a.m. and your gate-checked stroller is actually coming out at the baggage belt.” Her minimalist packing plan, though, helps her find that calm centre: fewer things mean less to fret about.

A traveller not a tourist

“I’m not a big fan of ticking tourist attractions off the list,” says Duvinage. “I prefer to spend my days in a new place walking around, eating local, walking in a park – that sort of thing. For me, the buildings, the smells, the food, the people and all those little details are what’s at the heart of a place. That’s what I want to take in.” Her Visa Infinite Privilege Card allows her explore, and live like a local, while still enjoying the luxury of time away.

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How to make
family travel fun

Making family travel run smoothly requires a shift in mindset, says Duvinage, adding that she learned to slow down and do less.

“I try to focus on one big thing I want to do each day. Then we spend the other half of the day doing stuff with the kids that we would typically do at home: go to the park, the playground or the beach, where we just have fun and let the kids run around.”

The couple also enjoys taking trips on their own, upgrading to business class, and five-star accommodations when they travel sans kids.

Duvinage appreciates the perks that came along with her new Visa Infinite Privilege Card especially the lounge access around the world. “I do like to get to the airport early. The lounge is great; I find the whole airport keeps young kids so fascinated.”

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Fondest memory

Last winter, Duvinage and Chris travelled to Iceland, the second trip they made together without the children. (That alone made the trip special, she says.) “The first night we saw the Northern Lights – something that’s been on my bucket list for over a decade – it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Because of inclement weather, it was hard to see them initially, she says. “My husband thought he could see them but I didn’t agree. I grabbed my tripod and took a long exposure shot anyway, and the image that came back was this insanely vibrant green. It was the beginning of a beautiful lights display and we were the only ones in the field behind the hotel, screeching with delight!”

Duvinage's bucket list

Duvinage says her bucket list grows every time she scrolls. “I’m so inspired by travel photos and videos in the social media space,” she says, adding that Costa Rica, Morocco and the Greek isles are currently on the list.

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Packing for the gang

“Having too much stuff can break a trip,” says Duvinage, who is a strictly carry-on only traveller. “Also, kids have very little patience, and there’s nothing worse than waiting at the luggage belt for what seems like forever with a whining or screaming toddler.”

Duvinage is a fan of packing cubes, which take the air out of rolled garments and make packing like putting a puzzle together. “If the clothes don’t fit in there, then they don’t come. Simple as that.”

Another golden rule is that every piece of clothing must go with everything else. She keeps shoes down to two pairs per person. “Wear the bulky ones on the plane,” she says.

She has trained the children how to pack light as well: “Travelling is so stimulating for kids, you really don’t need to bring much entertainment from home – a few things for the airplane and quiet time at the Airbnb and one small stuffed animal each. Everything fits into their little backpacks.”

Have kids, will travel

“Don’t squeeze too much into a day,” advises Duvinage. “Make a list of what you want to see and do, and then figure out which ones are absolute must-sees and which ones you can skip.”

If you’re planning a trip with kids, she says, this is even more important.

For afternoon outings, which are typically tailored to the kids, she makes sure she has a google map handy of local playgrounds and other child-friendly sites and activities – plus public bathrooms!

Duvinage anticipates that the Visa Infinite Privilege Card will make travelling with Isabelle and Nicholas smoother, with much less hassle. “The concierge offered with this card is something that I see myself using.” After all, spending time with her kids on their travel adventures is something Duvinage knows is a luxury to cherish. The concierge service is a seamless way for her to access great recommendations for family experiences and memories to create together.

Basking in Barbados

For Duvinage, elevated travel means comfort and ease, such as flying direct, upgrading to business when the flight is a red eye, taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel and hiring a cleaner or cook when renting a house.

“A luxury experience to me is about how easy it is and how much I can unwind,” says Duvinage, who eschews “hot" travel trends and focuses instead on what luxury means to her family.

Although most of us wouldn’t think that a trip with eight adults and eight children, from ages 1 to 9, could possibly be relaxing, that is exactly how she describes a recent trip to Barbados. “Everyone predicted chaos,” she says of the family-and-friends vacation. “But there wasn’t any.”

The key was renting a villa with amenities such as a pool, cooking and laundry facilities. “We were in a private community called Sandy Lane with private-beach access, luxurious seaside amenities, such as umbrellas and loungers to keep the kids safe from the sun and the adults relaxing in style, a fire pit and other perks.” The Visa Infinite Privilege Card made Duvinage’s holiday-planning such a seamless experience that the family was able to start unwinding before their plane even left the ground, secure in knowing that the top-notch arrangements would be waiting for them in paradise.

Travel style

“I’m not the art gallery or museum type,” says Duvinage. “I like engaging in physical activities – biking in Copenhagen, scuba-diving in the Galápagos Islands, or hiking in the German Alps. I like touring beautiful old buildings and castles – especially when they have gorgeous grounds to stroll through. For me, cultural experiences usually involve food. I love eating my way through a city.”

Whether fine or casual dining, splurging on restaurants is an essential “activity” of any vacation – Duvinage says her family enjoys dining out frequently, which can earn Visa Infinite Privilege Card reward points fast.

Treasures from abroad

“Since Duvinage’s home style is minimal, she typically does not bring home a lot of souvenirs. “I keep them to a minimum, but I do take lots of photos. They are the best memories.”

However, she does enjoy shopping abroad for everyday-use things like clothing and accessories or kitchen items like coffee mugs – “things made locally that I wouldn’t find back home and that I’ll have as a reminder of my trip whenever I use them.”

CREDITS: Photography by BRODY WHITE; Editing by ELIZABETH HOLLAND; Creative direction by MELISSA MENDES; Design and development by JEANINE BRITO

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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