Plus, why the Real Housewives of Orange County star and frequent globe trotter always carries duct tape
Braunwyn Windham-Burke knows a thing or two about traveling with kids.
The Real Housewives of Orange County star, 41 — who shares seven children with husband Sean Burke — has picked up countless travel tips and tricks throughout the years, while shlepping to destinations like Miami, Hawaii, New York City and London every few months.
What’s more, with a brood of kids that range in age (she’s mom to daughters Bella, 19, and Rowan, 17; son Jacob, 14; 6-year-old twin boys Caden and Curran; daughter Koa, 4; and 1-year-old baby daughter Hazel), Windham-Burke’s has solutions for just about every travel hiccup there is.
So what’s her No. 1 tip? PEOPLE asked the reality star just that — and learned it’s all about letting go of all presumptions about how your trip will unfold.
“Whenever I’m traveling, I try to go into it without any expectations,” Windham-Burke says. “I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst and kind of just be okay with that. Traveling with children is a trip, not a vacation.”
The first time Windham-Burke took this lesson to heart was when her family was vacationing in a remote part of Mexico.
During the trip, her toddler Koa — who was about 1½ at the time — experienced a seizure while eating breakfast and hit her head on a hard marble countertop.
“She was unresponsive,” the RHOC star recalls.
Though it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and the nearest hospital was four hours away, Koa ended up being fine. But it all put things into perspective for Windham-Burke.
“I’ll never forget being in this hotel room with my baby, thinking my baby was dying and just thinking, we planned this amazing luxury trip and it doesn’t even — who cares?” Windham-Burke says. “Who cares about the trip or the beach? Right now, my daughter’s sick.”
“That was kind of an ‘a-ha moment,’ ” Windham-Burke adds. “It doesn’t matter what you planned for, things can and will go wrong and you still have to prepare for that, too. That also made me realize we’ll never travel again anywhere that remote so we always know where the closest hospital is!”
Windham-Burke has shared that advice and more on her lifestyle blog, Barefoot in Heels.
Some of the other key lessons? Don’t bring too many toys: “Children don’t play with the toys you buy them.”
She’s also learned to stay in houses rented through Airbnb or VRBO, rather than hotels (“They’re better for family living.”) and — surprisingly — to bring duct tape “everywhere you go.”
“Don’t leave home without it,” Windham-Burke says. “I don’t care if you have kids or not, you need it.”
“I bring it on the airplane so that I can tape the tray table shut,” she explains. “Also, if anything, breaks, like a stroller or a suitcase, duct tape will fix it. If you’re in Hawaii and you get a cut, your bandaid is not going to stay on, but duct tape will! There is literally nothing that duct tape can’t fix. It is my No. 1 item that I bring, aside from my medicine.”
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Additionally, Windham-Burke’s frequent family trips have not only made her an expert at do’s and don’ts for traveling, they’ve also made each of her children very independent.
“All this travel has made my kids such self-sufficient children, where they can just function — they know how to navigate the world,” Windham-Burke tells PEOPLE. “I think travel is one of the best ways to open your kids’ eyes up not just to other cultures but also getting through hard times.”
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Tuesdays (at 9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.