A Dream Trip Around the Globe Is the Reset This Mother NeededBy Susan Portnoy
Danielle “Dani” Morin exudes an undeniably infectious positive energy. The 34-year-old TikTokker and “single mother by choice” has attracted more than 610,000 followers on the video-sharing app, all drawn to her peppy how-to videos, single-parenting advice, home hacks, child-safety tips and travels with her two-year-old son Rhett.
Dani hopes her videos will convince other parents to travel and connect with their tiny ones, so when she learned about Marriott Bonvoy’s “30 Stays, 300 Days” contest in search of engaging correspondents for its TikTok account, inspiration struck. Dani knew her experiences traveling with a toddler made her perfect for the gig.
“I was like, ‘I’m gonna share with all these parents that they can do this.’” Adding, “It was a dream that I had.”
Dani was chosen as one of three correspondents to share her experiences over the course of 300 days on a series of at least 10 trips, staying in hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. In short, Dani traveled around the world with Rhett and her mother on the trip of a lifetime.
“I would love to change the narrative around traveling with young kids,” she says. “Let’s drop the ‘they’re not going to remember it’ idea and replace it with ‘they’re going to have an incredible experience.’”
Dani shares that Rhett still remembers the rush of air that tickled him on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus in Spain and the quokka (a marsupial) he met in Australia. He still asks to wear the sarong he wore in Bali to church here in the U.S.
“Having the opportunity to experience Rhett’s awakening … watching him grow, and the things that he’s learned, and the way he adapted to all these different environments, is priceless,” Dani says.
Still, there’s an even deeper truth that underscores Dani and Rhett’s travel experiences: Cherish every moment with your child. There are no guarantees. She should know. In 2016, her 18-month-old son, Deacon, was strangled by an amber teething necklace. His neglectful daycare providers were later convicted of felony child abuse.
Though she had traveled domestically with Deacon, she’d only just received his passport when the tragedy occurred. After his death, Dani traveled to escape her grief. Now, sharing her stories on TikTok is a way for her to demonstrate to her followers that you can live life fully, even after a devastating loss.
As a Marriott Bonvoy correspondent, Dani had a clear vision of what she wanted to share with the world. What she didn’t envision was how much she’d discover about travel — and herself — in the process.
Dani’s first lightbulb moment hit in Spain after receiving some eye-opening advice from a guide during a “Tapas and Beer” tour arranged by the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal. Frustrated they weren’t visiting “popular” tourist spots, Dani recalls the guide telling her she needed to “chill and explore” more than the obvious, tourist-packed attractions to get “the true experience of Barcelona.”
Taking his advice, Dani’s modern family let serendipity guide them. They chatted up residents, explored side streets and popped into vintage stores. “Those were the best five hours of Barcelona … everything changed after that trip in terms of how I traveled.”
Bye-bye guide books, hello kismet. Dani was hooked.
Revelations continued in Australia, with wonderful recommendations from passengers they met on Melbourne’s free transit system. In Bali, they hired a private guide who showed them places without other tourists, revealing unforgettable experiences almost never mentioned on Pinterest.
“I know people that were traveling [in] Ubud the same week that we were, and their photos and videos look completely different than mine,” Dani recalls, “because of how we did it.”
Throughout Dani’s journey, she also made personal discoveries.
“I’ve seen a difference in my relationship traveling with my mom. We discuss our different parenting styles and what’s working and what’s not,” she explains. “I welcome tips from her, and she respects my boundaries on how I want to do things. When the unexpected happens — and it always does when you’re traveling — she’s told me, ‘You got this.’ She’s given me confidence.”
As a result of Dani’s involvement with “30 Stays, 300 Days,” she’s also rethinking relationships. “I’ve always wanted to be a single mom, but I would love to experience this with somebody else.” Is she dating anyone? Not yet. But no matter what, she’ll seek someone with a passport and a taste for adventure. “I will prioritize my life around travel. It’s just that simple.”