A family of 4 that travels year-round shares how they make staying home for the holidays feel like a vacation

The Sognonvi family travels year-round but they spend Christmas at home. Emily Chan
  • The Sognonvi family are full-time travel bloggers with over 200,000 Instagram followers.
  • Carmen and Serge Sognonvi travel all over the world with their two daughters, Sean, 10, and Ella, 7, and share their photos and experiences on the Instagram account for their blog Top Flight Family.
  • Despite travelling year-round, the Sognonvis prefer staying in their hometown of New York City during the holidays.
  • When they’re not travelling, the family calls Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, home. A typical Christmas for the Sognonvis involves hot chocolate, relaxing by the tree, and playing Ella Fitzgerald’s holiday album.
  • They also enjoy seeing the Rockettes perform, going ice skating, and shopping the post-Christmas sales.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Meet the Sognonvi family. They travel all over the world and document their experiences through their travel blog, Top Flight Family.

The Sognonvi family from left to right: Carmen, Ella, Sean, Serge. Wini Lao

Carmen Sognonvi is the founder of Top Flight Family, a blog about luxury family travel with kids.

Carmen and her husband, Serge Sognonvi, have a passion for travelling the world with their daughters, Sean, 10, and Ella, 7.

“We first started doing a significant amount of travelling when our youngest daughter, Ella, was three and a half,” Carmen told Insider.

The family got the idea to start travelling after Carmen and her husband realised they hadn’t taken a trip, or a day off, in over three years.

The Sognonvis in Aruba. Ayrton Tromp

Before making the decision to travel the world as a family, Carmen helped her husband run his martial arts business, and the pair worked as full-time entrepreneurs.

“We were really understaffed and working really long hours and not seeing much of our girls,” Carmen said. “And essentially, we looked up one day and realised that for a period of over three years, not only had we not done any trips, but we hadn’t even taken a day off in that time, so it was a real wake-up call for us.”

After that realisation, they booked a family trip to Mexico, which sparked the idea for their luxury family travel blog Top Flight Family.

A family trip to Austin, Texas. Alysha Rainwater

Carmen said that after realising they hadn’t travelled in a while, the family booked a business-class flight to Mexico, where they stayed at a resort. While there, they decided they wanted to do more luxury travelling.

“When we did travel, we kind of developed a liking for doing it in a comfortable way,” said Carmen. “So we liked luxury hotels and we liked flying business class or premium economy.”

Their entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and made them wonder how they could make travelling a part of their everyday lives.

“That’s how the idea for Top Flight Family came together. We found that no one was talking about luxury family travel, and the resources that did, didn’t include kids,” Carmen said. “Most blogs were focused on baby boomers or retirees that didn’t have children at all, so we said, ‘there’s gotta be more families like us.'”

Now, the family travels one to two times a month for a living. They have taken family-friendly trips to places like Cabo, Dubai, Aruba, Hong Kong, and Toronto.

The Sognonvis spend time in Cabo. Carmen Sognonvi

When Top Flight Family first launched, it started off as an online magazine that consisted of different families sharing their travel experiences and reviewing luxury hotels. But over time, Carmen said the blog evolved to becoming increasingly more about her own family, and that’s when she noticed it really started to take off.

The blog now captures the family’s luxurious travel adventures and everyday lifestyle, which has earned them a following of more than 200,000 people on Instagram.

Since both daughters are still in school, the family tries to plan their trips around school vacations, long weekends, and holidays.

The Sognonvi family at Beaver Creek, Colorado. Tomas Cohen

Carmen said that although her daughters enjoy travelling year-round, one of the main challenges of their vacation schedule is that the girls sometimes don’t get to take part in other activities with friends at school.

“These are still school memories that they’re missing out on,” she said. “We try to emphasise that you get to have other amazing experiences, but we also respect and understand where they’re coming from.”

In 2017, the family took a trip to Hong Kong while the kids were on spring break. The trip happened to coincide with Easter.

A family trip to Hong Kong. Keith Tsuji

“We actually did kind of experience a bit of an Easter celebration in Hong Kong,” Sognonvi said. “The hotel was really cute and had little stations set up for craft projects. There was an Easter bunny there, chocolate eggs, and lots of artsy things for them to do.”

While the family takes trips all over the world, they prefer spending the holidays in their hometown of New York.

The Sognonvis like to spend Christmas in New York City. Wini Lao

“We tend to not travel that much during the holidays – we actually enjoy getting to be in New York during Christmas,” Carmen told Insider. “We have spent Christmas in Toronto, which is where my sister lives. But, for the most part we tend to stay home during Christmas.”

When they’re not travelling, the family lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and spend most Christmases there. A traditional Christmas celebration for the family typically involves making hot chocolate, relaxing by the tree, and playing Ella Fitzgerald’s holiday album.

Carmen thinks that there are plenty of ways for families to take advantage of having fun in their own hometowns.

They spent some time at the Rockefeller Centre. Wini Lao

While they enjoy staying home for Christmas Day itself, the Sognonvis don’t miss out on New York City’s festive attractions leading up to the holiday.

Some of the family’s favourite things to do include ice skating, seeing the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall, and shopping the sales right after Christmas.

One of their favourite travel destinations so far was Dubai.

The family went for a camel ride in Dubai. Wini Lao

“I think the reason Dubai is such a cool tourist destination is because they truly have whatever you’re into,” Carmen said. “So if you love luxury and you love spas, they have got that. If you love adventures and ATV riding, you can do that. If you want culture and history, you can do that. If you want theme parks, you can do that. It really truly has something for everyone and we found it to be extremely kid friendly.”

One such family-friendly activity was going on a camel ride.

Carmen said she’s noticed some big differences in her girls from when they first started travelling until now.

The family spent Easter at a Ritz Carlton hotel in Hong Kong. Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen said that travelling has made her daughters more patient: They didn’t complain during a recent three-and-a-half hour flight delay.

Carmen said that the story would have been totally different three years ago, adding that because the girls have adjusted to travelling at an early age, they have been able to learn important life skills sooner.

“I think that travelling is really a skill. And the sooner that kids can start, the better they will be at it,” Carmen said.

As a result of travelling frequently, Carmen said her daughters have developed invaluable life skills.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida. Elle Baez

Carmen said her daughters have learned to become more independent through travelling.

“I’ve noticed simple things like them pulling their own luggage as they get older, for example, and becoming more responsible. It’s definitely a change,” she said.

Carmen said she believes travel can help kids develop “life skills that become so invaluable when they become an adult.”

“They become conditioned to travelling and being able to adapt to new situations,” she added. “They develop traits like resilience and stamina, that a lot of adults don’t even have.”

She recommends that families start travelling gradually and incorporate it early into their kids’ lives.

They visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida. Elle Baez

“The number one piece of advice I always offer families who want to get started on travelling with kids is to start in your own hometown,” Carmen said. “So many of us don’t take advantage of where we live.”

After starting close to home, families should feel more comfortable travelling further afield.

The Sognonvis visited Paris. Lisa Bouanna

Carmen says that starting off with small trips or staycations can be a great way to get kids used to travelling.

“You can literally start with a staycation, where you’re booking a hotel in your own hometown,” she said.

Ultimately, travelling has made the Sognonvis grow closer together as a family.

The Sognonvi family posing. Wini Lao

“One thing that is also evolving as the girls get older, is that they become more involved in the planning part of travel,” Carmen said. “They now have destinations that they’re really interested in visiting. Sean for example really wants to go to Brazil, that’s one of her bucket-list destinations right now.”

You can follow the Sognonvi family’s travel adventures on their blog and Instagram.