Amanda Kloots in a colorful striped dress by the beach

Amanda Kloots on the Ups and Downs of Travel As a Single Mom — and the Little Moments That Make It All Worth It

On a day out in Malibu with Elvis, the inspiring star gets candid about travel with a toddler and the healing power of mother-son adventures along the California coast.

Amanda Kloots never planned to travel solo with a toddler. “There was a moment in time where I swore off traveling because it was near impossible as a single mom trying to get through an airport or a flight,” she told Travel + Leisure. But as she entered a suite at California’s Malibu Beach Inn on that sunny February morning, 3-year-old Elvis in tow, all smiles and snapping photos of the ocean view on her phone, she made it look like fun. 

Amanda Kloots and Elvis hold hands as he walks along a bench at the pier
Elvis Cordero wears Zara shirt and overalls; Amanda Kloots wears Staud sweater and Zara tank.

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

To her 735,000 Instagram followers, Kloots is an inspiration — a beacon of positivity in the face of hardship. She’s also honest about the struggle. When she lost her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, to COVID-19 in July 2020, less than a month after Elvis’s first birthday, the world cried with her. Kloots, now a Dancing With the Stars alum and a host of The Talk on CBS, had already been building a fan base with her dancing and acting credits and her budding fitness venture. But as she began to use the platform to address the realities of raising a baby, building a business, and just trying to move forward with her life while Cordero’s health was declining — and after, while grieving such an immense loss as a pandemic swept the globe — a community formed around her. Some of them were celebrities, like Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Many of them were regular people, including other moms, who could relate on some level. 

Kloots refers to them as the “Instagram moms,” and she still reaches out to them for advice. When she took Elvis to Paris to visit her sister, Anna, last year, they were there with tips on how to navigate the long-haul flight from Los Angeles with a then-2-year-old. They led her to the dollar store, she said, to buy a bunch of little toys, just so she had something new to unpack that would “blow his mind” every 20 minutes. They also led her to the JetKids by Stokke: “They ride around the airport on it, you can pack all their toys and stuff inside of it, and then it turns into a bed,” she said. “You put it under your seat and it has these extenders and a little mattress.” 

Amanda Kloots and her son, Elvis share moments on Malibu Pier in Malibu, California on a sunny day.
Photo:

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

Even the Instagram moms couldn’t save her, however, from what was to come. “We sit down and about an hour in, he falls back in his seat, and I think he’s going to fall asleep,” she said. “And then all of a sudden he starts projectile vomiting all over me, and himself, and everything I had brought.” While Kloots had packed a second outfit for Elvis, she hadn’t thought to bring one for herself, leaving her to sit in her soiled clothes for the remaining nine hours of the flight. “We get off the plane and my sister picks us up at the airport, and she’s waving to me, and she was like, ‘I brought you croissants!’ And I was like, ‘I’m covered in vomit!’”

Elvis holds a camera to take a picture
Elvis Cordero wears Old Navy tops and Rylee & Cru shorts.

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

Now, airplanes are one of Elvis’s passions. “He’s obsessed with flying, with airports, and those moving walkways,” Kloots said, and as she listed his in-flight essentials (“monster trucks, granola bars”), he stopped what he was doing to cheer her on, clearly approving of his mom’s packing list. “We’re now crossed over and I actually do love traveling with him,” she said, adding that it was Elvis who helped her, jaded by many a national Broadway tour, to rediscover her own love for travel. “It is fun reliving how fun flying actually is, and how cool it is to be able to go to sleep in one place and wake up in a whole other place and get to see that through his eyes. That is the blessing.” 

“It is fun reliving how fun flying actually is, and how cool it is to be able to go to sleep in one place and wake up in a whole other place and get to see that through his eyes. That is the blessing.” 

Amanda Kloots snaps a photo on a polaroid camera of her son Elvis on a hotel balcony suite
Amanda Kloots wears Le Superbe from Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills at the Malibu Beach Inn.

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

That is family travel, after all: the highs, the lows, the growth. Finding the joy in it through the ones we love, and coming out the other side closer for it. The happy moments that become shared memories, and the disastrous ones that eventually turn into inside jokes.

Although Broadway schedules prevented Kloots and Cordero from traveling much as a couple before Elvis came along, she recalled a time she asked him when he was going to propose — “I was like, hello, I’m 34,” she laughed. Cordero suggested they spend the summer traveling together first and quoted Bill Murray: “If you have someone you think is the one, take them and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all over the world, to places that are hard to reach and hard to get out of. And when you land at JFK and you're still in love with that person, get married.” 

Kloots was bewildered. “I was like, ‘When are we going to do that? I have a business, you’re in shows, what are you talking about?” she said. “‘What universe are you living in? We don’t have time to do that, or the money or anything. What are you thinking?’”

However, she would later find herself relaying the same quote back to Cordero, at none other than New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, after an epic, five-week honeymoon through Italy, Africa, and Bali. “We were already married, of course, but I was like, ‘OK, we made it through unscathed, and I would go travel with you any time,’” she said. “We were very different people, but we traveled very well together.” 

Nick Cordero and Amanda Kloots on their honeymoon

Courtesy of Amanda Kloots

During that trip, they attended a friend’s wedding and an anniversary celebration; went on safari, just the two of them; and Kloots taught at a retreat, where her sister joined them. But there were two days in South Africa that stood out among the rest. After renting a car and driving from Cape Town out to Babylonstoren, a wine estate and farm in the Franschhoek wine valley, for lunch and a massage, Kloots and Cordero fell in love with the property. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to this place, and we have to spend more time there,’” she said. They drove back to their hotel in Cape Town and immediately booked a room at the estate for the following night. “I remember saying to him, ‘These two days are the most perfect days of my life,’” she said. “Just the most perfect days.”

Amanda Kloots and Elvis play in the sand together on Carbon Beach in Malibu
Amanda Kloots wears GOD sunglasses and M. Gemi sandals. Photo:

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

Kloots said family and friends thought taking a five-week honeymoon was a crazy idea at the time, but she’s so thankful they did it while they had the chance. “I think this is why I now live life like this — if you can go, go. If you can travel, travel. Don’t wait, just do it — because that was my last trip I ever took with Nick, and thank god we did that, because the memories that I have, the photos that we have together, the places that we got to see together, the time that we had together, were some of the best days that we ever spent together.”

"If you can go, go. If you can travel, travel. Don’t wait, just do it — because that was my last trip I ever took with Nick, and thank god we did that, because the memories that I have, the photos that we have together, the places that we got to see together, the time that we had together, were some of the best days that we ever spent together.”

Amanda Kloots and her son, Elvis share a moment on the rocks of Carbon Beach in Malibu

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

She plans to go back to South Africa with Elvis one day, to show him the place his parents made such beautiful memories, but in the meantime, Kloots is enjoying taking him on California road trips, especially as the antidote to a hard day on the long road of navigating through grief. “Sometimes, I just need to get out of my environment,” she said. “Especially, for me, sometimes weekends still are hard. Because weekends are typically when you go do things as a family or you go on a date with your husband at night.” 

When this feeling hits, Kloots said she grabs Elvis and keeps moving, taking him out of their home in Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon to explore somewhere like Laguna Beach, Montecito, or San Luis Obispo. “When you’re seeing new things, and you’re on an adventure, and you’re spoiling yourself a little bit, it helps you feel better,” she said.

“When you’re seeing new things, and you’re on an adventure, and you’re spoiling yourself a little bit, it helps you feel better.”

And for Kloots, there’s no place more healing than the coast. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Pisces, but the ocean is my place to reset,” she said. “It makes me happy. Sometimes, I crave even just seeing it or hearing it, sitting on the sand, just watching the ocean glistening in the sun.”

Elvis is a fan, too, his excitement obvious as the pair blew bubbles and played in the sand on Carbon Beach in front of the hotel. Kloots said they spend most weekends on the beach in Malibu when they’re not traveling. “It’s so good for him, he can’t really get into trouble,” she said. “He can just run around, find shells. It’s a great place to burn energy out, fill your body back up, fill your soul, your heart, feel the sunshine, and get that vitamin D.”

Traveling is the best way for kids to learn about what else is out there, Kloots believes. As one of five siblings, her own childhood was full of travel adventures, most of them in a big conversion van that the family would drive down to Hilton Head Island or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for summer vacation. She credits her dad for her sense of adventure; he would pack up the kids and take them to surprise destinations they’d never seen before, even if they were only an hour or two away.  

Amanda Kloots and Elvis hold hands and walk on the beach in Malibu
Photo:

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

She’s instilling the same sense of adventure in Elvis, not only through their spontaneous travels, but even through his nightly bedtime routine, as told in her brand-new children’s book, “Tell Me Your Dreams.” “It’s about a routine that Elvis and I started doing where I just create a dream for him every night,” she said. “So I ask him if he wants me to tell him his dream, and he says yes, and then I create an on-the-spot fantastical adventure.”

Amanda Kloots and her son, Elvis hold ice cream in front of the Surfrider Studios

Jessica Sample/Travel + Leisure

The main message Kloots wants him to take from her stories: “He can go anywhere, do anything, and see anyone.” 

It’s fitting, as “live your life” has become Kloots’s motto over the past few years (it’s also the title of one of Cordero’s songs, and of her memoir, “Live Your Life: My Story of Loving and Losing Nick Cordero”). As she and Elvis spent the rest of the day racing up and down Malibu Pier, trading bites of ice cream at Malibu Farm Cafe and sharing secret handshakes and tickle fights, it was easy to see that they were doing just that.

Kloots hopes Hawaii might be the next stop on their long list of mother-son adventures, but who knows? For a duo as dynamic as this one, the possibilities are endless. 

Amanda Kloots

Credits

TALENT: Amanda Kloots, Elvis Cordero


PHOTOGRAPHER: 
Jessica Sample


CREATIVE DIRECTION: 
Mariah Tyler


HOSTS: 
Malibu Beach InnMalibu Pier


EDITOR: Alisha Prakash


DESIGN:
 Joyce Lue


MAKEUP ARTIST: 
Troy Lazaris


HAIRSTYLIST:
 Nicole Walpert


STYLIST: 
Erin Noel


PRODUCER: 
Avenue 44 Productions


VIDEO: 
Joan YeamBrandon Scott SmithWes Reel


BOOKING: 
Bethany Heitman


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