Heidi Wagoner and family in mountains

Meet: Heidi Wagoner, Travel Blogger and Global Roamer

Heidi Wagoner fell in love with traveling without leaving her home state. 

She grew up in Northern California, and at 18 took a road trip down the coast with friends instead of her family. “I was addicted to seeing new things and discovering how things are done in different locations,” she says. 

After college, she became a national consultant for her sorority, traveling the U.S. to visit college campuses. She moved to San Diego and then Tijuana, then spent six months traveling around Mexico and Central America. After she met her husband, Alan, they moved to London for three years—which got him hooked on international travel

They’ve spent a year traveling with their kids around Southeast Asia, and now live in Spain. “It was meant to be a year or two of immersion, for the kids to become fluent in Spanish,” she said. “We are still in Spain all these years later. I guess you could say we liked what we discovered and we do whatever we can to keep it going.”

Heidi has now been to more than 50 countries. She and Alan run the popular travel blogs blogs Wagoners Abroad and Almuñécar Info, and offer consulting and e-books on moving to Spain. Heidi shared what’s on her bucket list, her secret to successful family travel, and the adventurous way the Wagoners sometimes decide where to go next. 

In three words, our travel style is…

Experiential, adventurous, affordable

If I could travel anywhere in the world it would be…

Machu Picchu in Peru or scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. I’ve been to 50-plus countries and have hit many of my big ticket destinations, but I still have too many more to count. I guess it looks like South America is high on my priority list.

That said, we are currently based in Southern Spain, so I have much of Europe to easily explore too. I would say for the next couple of years, it will be within Europe for ease and cost, but after both kids are in university, living life by the school calendar, it will change.

The most family-friendly destination I’ve been to is…

Spain and Portugal, without a doubt. Once you’re out of the big cities or tourist areas, kids are just part of life. The Spanish are very family-focused and the kids are with you everywhere. 

If you are out for tapas and drinks, the kids are there. There is no problem with them playing on the sidewalk nearby or even at the playground across the street. It is very acceptable for the kids to be kids and not have to sit for hours at a dining table for a meal. 

I decide where to travel by…

Sometimes it is just a matter of going to Skyscanner to punch in some dates we want to travel and seeing where there are some good flight deals. Other times, it is based on what the family wants to experience. Often it is based on an event that occurs at a certain time. It doesn’t matter where we decide to go, we are certain to dig up some fun, exciting things. 

One year we took a summer road trip through Spain and France. We booked an 11-night house sit near the end of the journey in the French Alps. We wanted some downtime babysitting a beautiful chocolate lab and just relaxing and enjoying nature. We had no idea this sought-after winter destination was the most amazing summer destination. We rode the luge and zip lines, went downhill mountain biking, ice skating, swimming, hiking…the list goes on.

If our children could learn one thing from traveling, it would be…

to love the water, know how to swim, and respect nature, other cultures, and people from anywhere. Those were the goals since they were born. The world is a small place and it is theirs to navigate through communication and open minds. 

Adapting to change is likely the biggest thing you can’t teach, yet you learn it through experience. What better way to learn this skill than to travel with your family and navigate the learning and emotions with everyone. This is a big one for the adults to work through as well, so why not have the family bond and grow together?

Our best family travel hack is…

Going with the flow and not having too detailed of a plan. If you can do it, use the Skyscanner tool to search for the “everywhere” destination. You may be in shock to see that it might cost the same to fly across the U.S. as to go to Fiji. Which would you choose? I know I’d be in Fiji in a second.

My favorite travel app is…

I don’t really use too many travel apps, but I know I couldn’t live without Google Maps. Actually, we like to go out and explore and roam where we want to and then use Google Maps to get us back to where we want to be. We aren’t always point A to point B type of travelers—often seeing where “that little road” leads turns into more fun. 

One time we were seeking out a market in a small Spanish pueblo and instead ended up in a village that was holding the annual running of the bulls. A local told us it was a centuries-old tradition—and it was something we just happened upon. 

The first trip I took with my kids was…

weekends away to the beaches or mountains of North Carolina, before we moved to Spain. Sometimes we would meet up with the grandparents in Florida for the theme park experiences. Their first international trip was to the Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos when they were 4 and almost 2. We liked the Beaches experience, as we could have a family vacation, with daycare included. Alan and I could still have time as a couple, go out to nice dinners, go scuba diving and things like that for a couple of hours.

My favorite thing about The Expedition is…

I support families being able to learn from one another. It only takes one photo or a statement to ignite that idea in someone else and then their dreams might just take a path they didn’t think was possible. 

To other members we can offer…

I hope people can learn about our story on Wagoners Abroad and be inspired to think outside of the box. To know that you can do whatever you set your mind to and the kids will soak it all up! 

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.