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Black Parents on Choosing Where to Take Family Trips

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 9/10/2020 Ashley Onadele
a person standing in front of a mountain © Courtesy Dina Farmer

Health and safety always come first during a family vacation. But Black families and families of color have to factor in race when planning a trip, and consider whether they will be welcome in the places they visit or whether their family will be discriminated against. We spoke to four Black parents about how they navigate these issues, with most saying that they consider how their families will be received when deciding where to go together. They understand that certain places, like the Southern United States, have their nuances and sometimes inherent racism is one of them. Here, how they go about planning vacations and traveling with their kids.

Choosing where to go

As Black Americans, it is common to be the only Black person or person of color in a room. It's something that we almost always notice. To combat that situation, some travelers take into consideration the population of Black people living in a destination before deciding to visit. “I don’t just worry about it—I calculate it,” says The Spring Break Family’s Montoya Hudson. “If the area does not have a significant Black population or is not a popular destination for Black people, or any minority ethnic population, then it is removed from the travel list.” Her preliminary research includes searching on Google and social media to find out if the destination has had any racist events and even checking the census to see if Black or brown people live there. She says that it’s possible she and her family will be perfectly fine in places with little to no Black population but the opposite could be true as well.

a group of people posing for the camera: Tiffany Miller (left), says her family gets excited seeing other Black families on the road © Courtesy Tiffany Miller Tiffany Miller (left), says her family gets excited seeing other Black families on the road

Travel blogger Chinique Gordon of Fro Family Travels, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about the amount of Black people where she’s going because she can usually find Black expat Facebook groups in most major cities across the world these days. Likewise, frequent traveler Tiffany Miller says her family is excited when they see other Black families when they travel, often acknowledging each other with a head nod. For her, the presence of other people of color is less important as the opportunity to learn more about the world.

Beyond Facebook groups, social media platforms like Instagram offer valuable resources for learning about how Black travelers felt in a given destination. Avid travelers such as Oneika Raymond, Monet Hambrick, and Rondette Amoy document their travels in great detail and always give insights into their experiences as Black travelers in particular. That said, Gordon makes a point not to allow other people’s experiences of a destination to define whether or not she plans a visit. “I found that many bloggers were telling their Black readers to avoid Spain like the plague due to racism and I was shocked because our experience was the complete opposite,” she says.

Dealing with racism on the road

Each family had experienced outright racism while traveling. Hudson says that her husband was called “LeBron James” while traveling in Rome and her children were called “black and white” because of their different skin tones. Travel adviser Dina Farmer of Lily and Magnolia Travel endured four additional screenings at Frankfurt airport with her two sons on her way back from Turkey, which she feels only happened because of the color of her skin. Because of this incident, she says that she is much more selective when choosing her travel itineraries in an effort to avoid another layover in Germany all together.

Farmer also shared that she gets looks from strangers sometimes because she has a darker complexion than her children, who get their lighter skin from their father. The stares of confusion often make for awkward moments, she says, however, the possibility of these interactions does not play a large factor in her planning process.

Gordon prefers to call her experiences with racism “curiosity” on the part of other people rather than racism. She and her family get a lot of attention at the places they visit and she and her husband find themselves keeping people at a distance from their daughter. They have even encountered people being so fascinated by their toddler that strangers try to touch her, which has led her to teach her daughter to say “no” when she feels uncomfortable.

a little girl standing in front of a building: Chinique Gordon with her husband and daughter on vacation © Courtesy Chinique Gordon Chinique Gordon with her husband and daughter on vacation

Miller explains that she and her family occasionally come across discrimination when they travel, but that she prefers to use those incidents as a teachable moment for her children rather than allow them to deter their future travel plans. Recently while visiting a national park, her family was confronted by a couple who rudely told them to get out of the way, insinuating that they should not be there. Miller used this moment to remind her oldest, the only one of her children that seemed to notice the tone of the exchange, to take the high road when these microaggressions occur. It is important to note here that none of the families we spoke to for this story experienced physically harmful moments of racism while traveling.

Finding teachable moments

In the end, family travel is about showing children the world through travel. For the parents we spoke to, travel is especially important because it presents the unique opportunity to learn more about their own ethnic backgrounds and experiences. Many said that they hope to teach their children tolerance, inclusion, and an appreciation for others and what they have through travel. Additionally, they expect that by exploring the world when young, their children will be encouraged and inspired by travel—and motivated to follow their dreams in the future.

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