How Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka Avoid 'Airplane Meltdowns' When Traveling With Their Kids
Neil Patrick Harris and celebrity chef David Burtka aren’t your typical couple. The adorable pair — who you might recognize from “How I Met Your Mother” — both have demanding careers that send them jet-setting around the world to film movies and attend glamorous red carpet events with Hollywood’s finest.
But the star-studded life is just a perk. Their most important job is being parents to Gideon and Harper, who both turn 8 on Oct. 12. And with such exciting parents, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they go on some pretty special vacations together. The ridiculously cute family has been spotted tossing coins in Rome’s Trevi fountain, celebrating Christmas in Argentina, and spending plenty of quality time at Disney World.
We sat down with the couple to hear what it’s like traveling the world as a family at an event celebrating their new partnership with the Capital One Savor Card. Luckily for the duo — whose kids' elevated taste buds mean they refuse to eat off the children’s menu — the card offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
We got the scoop on what else their kids like to eat, how they stay relaxed on long-haul flights, and their favorite place to take an unexpected family vacation.
Travel + Leisure: Your kids are pretty well traveled. Do you have any tips for going on a longer adventure with young children?
Neil Patrick Harris: “We started our kids traveling early so that the travel element of it wasn’t disruptive to them. We don’t want airplane meltdowns and we didn’t want them to be annoyed by it. Any trip we try taking with the kids we honor the time zone. You don’t want to arrive into a place that’s six, seven hours away and then start your adventures. We’ll add a day or two as a buffer.”
David Burtka: “We really don’t give the kids their iPads much, until we go on the airplane and then they’re ravenous for control of their iPads.”
Harris: “We can fill up their iPad with whatever movies, whatever games are appropriate for them — 20 hours worth of material — and they can spend as much time as they want with them.”
How do you decide where to take your family on vacation in the first place?
Burtka: “We really think about what is good for children. This summer we heard that Copenhagen was great for kids and thank God we went there because it was a fantastic place for kids.”
Why is Copenhagen such a great family destination?
Burtka: “They have an amusement park right in the middle of town, Tivoli, and it’s unbelievable. It’s a place that Walt Disney went to, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. He went there for inspiration for Disney World. You can drive 20 minutes outside to Hamlet’s Castle where they’re doing reenactments of Hamlet. They’re in the dungeons with the ghosts and the kings and queens and you get to throw wet sponges at a jester. Then you go another 20 minutes and you’re on a viking ship and you’re actually painting viking swords and shields. It’s so fun.”
Harris: “The food is fantastic and the People are nice. There’s tons of biking, it’s super safe and the architecture’s amazing.”
Burtka: “It was like a storybook village.”
Harris: “We never even had Denmark on our radar.”
Are your kids adventurous eaters?
Burtka: “In Copenhagen there’s their famous Noma, and of course we’re not going to take kids to a four-hour, $300 meal with 18 courses. But any other restaurant, there’s no restraint because they’ll eat anything on the menu. Our kids eat better than we do.”
Harris: “A part of the fun of life is trying things, right? So what we’ve said to our kids since they were really young: try something. Don’t not try sea urchin because it looks gross, taste it. If you don’t like it, we’re not going to force you to eat it.”
Burtka: “One of their favorite foods is sea urchin.”
Harris: “I will say the only downside is that when you have two kids that have adventurous pallets, that like eating off the main menu, they’re not ordering from the less expensive children’s menu. We’re essentially eating for four adults. So it’s a nice thing that with the Capital One Savor card you get cash back.”
Any advice for getting kids to eat like yours?
Burtka: “Start them young and have them eat what you eat. There’s a lot of people who placate to their kids and will make a whole other meal for them instead of just having what you’re eating that night.”
Harris: “Kids can take a lot of lessons from their parents and their behaviors, and they mirror them as much as they can. It’s who they spend the most time with so being adventurous is something to try and accomplish. If you decided as an adult you only like these 14 meals at different restaurants, your kids are going to see that and decide ‘I should only want to try specific things.’”
What’s the next adventure with your family?
Burtka: “We do a yearly trip to Orlando.”
Harris: “I work at Disney World at the start of the holiday season. I get to tell the story of the birth of baby Jesus at Epcot Center thrice nightly for a week and we get to eat around the world at the World Showcase. That’s so much fun and we’re bringing our friends that brought us to Denmark and they’re bringing their two kids.”
Burtka: “We’re very excited for a future safari somewhere.”
Harris: “We actually really want to take them to Japan. That’s our big trip and we’re waiting for them to be the right age. I don’t want them to just be overwhelmed by it all. I want them to be able to process it in a more adult way.”
Note: The above interview has been edited for clarity.