Best of 2017 -

Highlights by Country

December 26, 2017

With just a few days left in 2017, it’s a great time to reminisce about our travels and collect a “best of” list of our favorites. As I type this, we are in the car heading out on little road trip for the holidays. Since my family is a captive audience, it’s an excellent opportunity to get their input and have them help me put this list together. We decided to make this list specific to each of the countries we visited this year. It's going to be tough, but we're going to attempt to pick JUST ONE favorite experience from the nine countries we traveled to this year (the USA included).

 

Our 2017 Country Visits:

Costa Rica

Germany

Switzerland

Italy

Slovenia

Croatia

Mexico

Iceland

USA

Best of Costa Rica – Time with Grandparents
Our year began with an impromptu trip (based on a last minute flight sale) down to Costa Rica, a place we love and have traveled to before. What made it even more remarkable though, was that all four grandparents were able to jump on this last minute idea! We've had the opportunity to enjoy multigenerational travel before, but this was the first time that we had all four of them at once! As we're sitting here in the car talking about all the things we love about Costa Rica... the wildlife, incredible beaches, volcanoes, deep sea fishing, and adventurous activities like zip lining, the vote is unanimous... sharing this memory with these particular people we call grandparents was the highlight. If you haven't taken your family to Costa Rica, go for it! It's incredibly family friendly and a wonderful place to explore the outdoors. And if you haven't tried multigenerational travel, give it a try!
Lunch at Lola's
Lunch at Lola's

Best of Germany – Neuschwanstein Castle
This fairy-tale like castle located in Germany’s Bavaria region is a gem! In fact, when planning our 30-day European road trip, we purposely began our journey in Munich so that we could show the boys this marvelous castle. My husband and I had been about 20 years on our first trip to Europe, and although the boys have been to Europe a half-dozen times, this spot kept eluding us. So we made sure to include it right from the beginning this time, and we were glad we did. We loved staying in the small nearby town of Schwangau and getting a feel for the German culture. Approaching the castle on the day of our visit felt magical. The walk to Mary's Bridge gave us a great view of the castle. It was a spectacular start to our European tour!

Best of Switzerland – Grindelwald’s Mountain Adventures
A visit to Switzerland had long been on our list. During our week-long stay in this picturesque country, we enjoyed so many fun things.  That included the boys being able to build their own Swiss Army Knives at the factory in Brunnen. But everyone agreed that the absolute Swiss favorite was the day we spent in Grindelwald. My 12-year old loved riding the gondolas up the mountain from the alpine town of Grindelwald and playing at the playgrounds along the way. My 14-year old loved coming down the mountain on Trotti bikes and mountain carts. We happily soaked up the mountain air with wide open spaces and alpine pastures. 

Best of Italy -  We have a Tie!
This year, we visited three spots in Italy; Lake Como, South Tyrol, and Venice. These locations are so varied, and the boys just can't agree one location and experience. So we've got a tie. One insists on the day we rented a speed boat on Lake Como and the other insists on the Adventure Park in South Tyrol. So I'm going to share both.

While staying in Bellagio, we had a spare of the moment idea one morning and found a boat operator that rented us a boat for a few hours. Since it was May and not high season, there were few other boats out on the lake, and we loved speeding by Italian palaces and quaint towns. We stopped in at Vernazza for gelato and did a little fishing too. What fun!
Then a week later we went to the South Tyrol region and stayed on a dairy farm. In addition to hiking, visiting castles and a monastery, the highlight was the high ropes course. They just couldn’t get enough of the climbing, zip lines, and maneuvering along with cables high in the trees.

 

Best of Slovenia – Vintgar Gorge Hike
We loved this sweet little country and did you know it’s the only country with the word “love” in it? (sLOVEenia). There was much to love with the capital of Ljubiana, Lake Bled and Predjama Castle… but the unanimous winner for our family was Vintgar Gorge and the hike we did there. Located just a few kilometers from Lake Bled, this family-friendly trek follows the Radovna River to an out and back course that takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. The other-worldly beauty of the crystal blue water, wildflowers, and wooden walkways were spectacular!


Best of Croatia – Boat Rental from Korcula
This year we spent ten days touring five different cities in Croatia and loved every one of them. This country is diverse with forests in the north, white rock beaches in the south, and ancient Roman ruins sprinkled throughout. When I asked for everyone’s favorite experience in Croatia, it was immediate and unanimous! – The day we spent renting a boat and exploring islands from Korcula was the winner. That day we rented a boat, packed a picnic, brought along fishing poles and bait and set out on a grand adventure like we were Robinson Caruso, no wonder the boys loved it! We explored some islands with little villages, and some so small they were uninhabited. Being the captain of your ship, and adventuring where your heart desires is a boy's dream and this memory will remain a favorite for all time!

Best of Mexico – Snorkeling at Pelican Rock
In August, on a family trip with Aunts, Uncles, and cousins to celebrate our parents' 50th wedding anniversary, we ventured down to Cabo San Lucas. The travel highlight was snorkeling out at Pelican Rock. Located between the Cabo harbor and Lands End, Pelican Rock can only be accessed by boat.  Swimming in schools of fish with incredible water clarity and watching two manta rays glide past us were the highlights. My 14-year-old will also say that mustering up enough courage to jump in the water from the top of Pelican Rock was also a highlight.

 

Best of Iceland – Meeting Icelandic Horses
We loved everything about Iceland, and it’s so hard to narrow it down to just one experience. My 12-year-old insists that it was meeting Icelandic horses and I’m going to have to agree. I think we said, “Wow” a million times that week. Incredible waterfalls, glaciers, and unique landscapes repeatedly surprised us and took our breath away. The rugged terrain delighted us at every turn. But I must admit, we are animal people and the opportunity to meet these unique, yet incredibly friendly and personable creatures was a highlight. We booked a half day educational tour and riding excursion with Icelandic HorseWorld and loved it.


Best of the USA – Hiking and Epic Discovery at Vail
In August we flew to Colorado and traveled to Vail for some mountain fun that reminded us a lot of being in Switzerland just a few months prior. We love the guided wildflower hike on Vail mountain. Epic Discovery is an all day-mountain top adventure with zip lines, an alpine slide, a giant tube run, and high ropes courses. Although Colorado is often thought of as a winter destination, our family loved the summer activities and beautiful outdoor spaces.


We are abundantly thankful for these memories and so many more. Travel has been a favorite pastime of ours for years now, and 2017 will go right up there with the best of them. As a mom of two young men who are growing up entirely too fast and will be flying the coop in fewer years than I’d like to admit, travel means time together. It’s time to create memories, share slow meals, laugh over inside jokes, learn to work together as a team and so much more. I’m feeling very grateful for another incredible year of memories to treasure.

What were your travel highlights this year? What's your favorite part of traveling as a family?


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Harmony, Momma to Go says... (Reply)
"I love Lake Como! My cousins live right on the lake (about a 1/2 hour from Bellagio) I havent been to Tyrol though, that will be on our 2018 Italy trip list!" (1/7/18)