Bernard Yee is a veteran video-game producer. But his travels with his wife, Stefanie, and 18-year-old son, Max, are driven by his stomach. “I think you really experience a place where you see what they eat and where they eat and how they eat,” he says. 

Before Max was born, Bernard and Stefanie planned to take him to sample the steak in Buenos Aires. “He was due in October and we were thinking of going over Christmas,” Bernard says. “We were going to put him in a baby carrier and go.”

When Max arrived early—at just 30 weeks—that plan went out the door. For years, he had to be fed through a tube, which also meant that as a baby, he had to communicate via sign language. He had breathing problems that required medicine and oxygen. Most of Max’s issues had resolved by the time he was 5. So they got on a plane to Paris, taking along their babysitter/nurse. “I wasn’t worried because we knew he was up for it,” Bernard said. “One of the hard things was, we forgot how much smoking there was there. We’d be at some cafe and then we’d have to do a nebulizer treatment.” 

France is still a favorite destination; so is Japan. Bernard has visited six times, three with the family for two weeks each trip. He shared his best hacks for traveling with a teen, finding restaurant recommendations, and scoring bargain airfares. 

Japan is one of my favorite destinations because…

it’s both culturally familiar and completely alien. You see cigarette ads and it feels American, but it’s actually completely different and unfamiliar. Plus the art and the food, and the sense of aesthetics. Everything is deliberate, and it carries over to the food. You go to a place and it’s a pork place. You go to another place and it’s ramen and they don’t have anyone waiting tables—because why have someone work there who doesn’t make the ramen?   

I definitely have a travel…

style. Stefanie and I like to go to a destination multiple times because with anyplace that is rich, spending a week or two is never enough. We’d rather not rush, and really spend time there. When you grow up in New York City, you have this value of navigating the system as a local. I want to know how to hail a taxi, I want to know how to take a subway, I want to know how to take the bus. 

The way I find great places to eat is…

oftentimes through friends. A lot of them are pretty well traveled, so I hit them up for recommendations. Finding food blogs that have the kind of aesthetic and voice you’re interested in is great. The woman who does Tiny Urban Kitchen, I loved the way she wrote about food in Japan. It’s like having a good friend guiding you. 

People laugh that I…

try to get Max into business class when we fly. It’s expensive, but when you only have one child the math is different. 

Surprisingly, I’ve done almost no…

bike travel. I race, so a bike vacation for me would be to ride, like, 80 miles a day. But I think we’d like to do a family bike tour one day. Everyone does the Loire Valley, it’s nice and flat. I wouldn’t go with a fitness goal in mind, though. 

One of my best travel strategies is to…

travel with another family. It’s really fun and you get adult time built in—it’s not just you and your kids. But you’ve got to be travel compatible and loose enough. And it requires planning ahead. When I’ve done it in the past, everyone in theory wanted to contribute to the planning, but I ended up doing it all. That’s OK with me.

I’m willing to pay up for…

a good hotel. But in Asia they come with free breakfast, which is a big deal—you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on breakfast. The dim sum at the breakfast buffet at the Westin Tokyo is better than at any Seattle Chinatown restaurants. It kills me. 

Now that Max is 18 we…

involve him in all our travel planning. He’s old enough that he has to buy in. The last few trips have been with family friends with kids his age. He’s pretty much down to do anything if he has one of his people with him. 

I’d really like to go to…

Spain and Barcelona. Stefanie would like to visit other places in Japan—go skiing, sit in an onsen [hot spring] and watch the snow monkeys. 

I’m big into…

opening credit card accounts to accumulate points. Any time there’s a card that’s offering 100,000 points for signing up, I’ll get it and spend what’s required. If you have good credit that game can really pay off. I spend a lot of time on the travel site FlyerTalk, and I subscribe to Thrifty Traveler, which alerts you to fare sales. I once got round-trip tickets to Japan on Singapore Airlines for $400. 

Advice that I try to follow is…

don’t sit on your [frequent flyer] points. It’s really hard, but they’re just going to lose value over time. 

Sara Clemence is a freelance journalist, formerly travel editor for The Wall Street Journal and news director for Travel + Leisure. She's the author of Away & Aware, a guide to mindful travel.

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