Several of the blogs I follow do an annual year in review post. They also include their best and worst travel experiences of the year. I think it’s a great idea and I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon.
So, here it is….. The first of what I hope to be an annual year in review post.
2019 Year in Review
Travel is always a major focus for our family, but we had a lot going on in 2019 besides travel.
- In the summer we started a major remodel of our basement that is finally close to being completed. It was quite the undertaking and we’ve done ninety-percent of the work ourselves. Demolition, tearing down walls, building new walls, drywall, texture, paint, trim, and flooring. Chad figured everything out from watching youtube and I helped out where I could.
- I got a part-time job at a nearby ski resort for the perk of free ski passes for the family. It has saved us over a thousand dollars (now that Eli is six he doesn’t get to ski for free and we would have had to buy a pass for him).
- Chad lost a few key people at The Restaurant and had to hire and train their replacements. This meant putting in many more hours at work this year.
- I started this blog in March and after almost a year I’m still trying to figure everything out. It is a challenge but so far I’m enjoying everything blog-related.
- Eli finished Kindergarten and is now halfway through first grade. He loves his teacher and is doing great in school.
Considering everything we had going on, we were still able to fit in some awesome family trips.
Family Travel 2019
- Guatemala trip in February – Guatemala City, Tikal, Antigua, and Pacaya Volcano
- Utah in March – Salt Lake City
- California and Nevada in April – Overnight Amtrak train from Colorado, San Francisco, San Diego, and Las Vegas
- Utah in May – Arches and Canyonland National Parks road trip
- Mexico in June – Cabo San Lucas
- Washington in August – Seattle, and Olympia
- Oahu and Maui Hawaii in October – Honolulu, Road to Hana, Wai’anapanapa State Park Cabins, and Lahina
Here are the highlights of our best (and a few worst) family travel experiences of 2019.
By far our favorite beach of the year was Koki Beach. It’s on the island of Maui just south of Hana. The sand is soft, the waves are just the right size for the kids to play, and there are lots of trees for shade and to hang a hammock. Not only that, in the two days that we spent hanging out on Koki beach we had it all to ourselves most of the time.
Best Swimming Pool
The Jungle Lodge pool at the entrance to Tikal National Park in Guatemala is spectacular. After walking around the ancient ruins of Tikal you can spend the hottest part of the day in the pool surrounded by gigantic shade trees. My favorite part was listening to the eerie chorus of the howler monkeys in the trees surrounding the pool.
Most Unique Transportation Option
Riding an overnight Amtrak train from Colorado to California had been on our bucket list for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. We booked a family bedroom sleeper car and enjoyed the relaxing 31-hour trip. Yes, it took much longer than a flight, but it was a unique experience. Seeing the beautiful scenery from the view car was something we’ll never forget.
Roasting marshmallows on the vent of an active volcano was such an awesome adventure. We weren’t sure if we should take five-year-old Eli on the Pacaya Volcano hike, but we were so happy we did. The hike wasn’t our favorite but seeing the lava oozing from the top of the volcano, hearing the gigantic boulders crash down, and roasting marshmallows on the vents made the hike well worth it.
Best Road Trip
May was the perfect time to take a road trip to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The weather was absolutely beautiful the entire time. The road trip was a last-minute decision and we couldn’t find an available campsite so we decided to stay in a hotel in town. Our hotel was on the main street in Moab and it was fun to walk to dinner each night.
Although Chad and I have both been to Arches and Canyonlands numerous times, it never ceases to impress. We all had a great time hiking on the red rocks.
Most Relaxing Vacation
We love adventure and most of our family travel is go, go, go. But, we did take one vacation that was all about relaxing. My mom invited us to join her for a week at the fabulous Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. One whole week of lounging at the beach, eating fresh seafood, and playing in the pool. Relaxation at its finest.
Best Day on the Water
While visiting my sister in beautiful Olympia, Washington, we went kayaking on Puget Sound. The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and warm but not too hot. The water was calm and we were able to see otters and sea lions. It was the perfect day on the water.
Worst Travel Days
The good travel days always outweigh the bad otherwise no one would travel. But, the occasional rough travel day is inevitable. Unfortunately, we had two in 2019.
American Airlines delayed our flight to Austin and as a result, we missed our connecting flight to Guatemala City. The next available flight from Austin to Guatemala City wasn’t until the next day. Because of this we missed our inter-country flight to Flores and couldn’t get another one until the following day. We had to miss staying in Flores completely because when we finally arrived we had lodging booked in Tikal and had to head straight there. It’s so frustrating to miss seeing a town when you have no idea if or when you will ever be back.
Fire on Maui
Our next rough travel day was coming back from Hana to Lahaina. We knew it would be a long day. The road from Hana is just over 30 miles long but it has so many hairpin turns and one-way bridges that it takes a long time to drive. We planned to take our time, have dinner in Paia, and stop at Costco before heading to the condo in Lahaina.
Everything was going smooth until we went into Costco and that’s when we heard that there was a fire right along the only highway into Lahaina. Because we had already paid for the condo that night we decided to get in the line of traffic headed to Lahaina and wait until the road opened up.
The wind made the fire hard to contain and the road ended up being closed for HOURS. The 23-mile drive from Kahului to Lahaina took us nine hours and that was after we’d spent the entire afternoon in the car driving from Hana to Kahului. It was a very long day in the car.
Best Archeological Site
The ancient Maya ruins of Tikal National Park were absolutely fascinating. We booked a sunrise tour and learned so much from our knowledgable guide. It was such a wonderful experience to walk around the ancient city. My mom and I went back into the park in the evening and there were times when there were no other people in sight. It was incredible.
Alcatraz would have been interesting just walking around but the audio tour was interesting and informative. It spread the groups of people out and kept everyone moving while listening to stories from previous inmates and prison employees. The tour was entertaining for kids and adults alike. Alcatraz was the highlight of our two day San Francisco visit.
Most Worth-it Splurge
We love to travel but need to be budget-conscious in order to travel as much as we want. That being said, we will splurge on occasion and it’s always nice when the splurge is well worth the cost. The Atlantis Submarine Tour in Maui was one of those times. We needed something to do on our last day in Maui after we checked out of our condo and before our red-eye flight home. The Atlantis Submarine tour had seats available and offered us a last-minute discount. It was quite an experience to actually go deep into the ocean in a real submarine and view the thriving ocean life.
2020 Travel Plans
We only have one trip actually booked for 2020 so far – the Big Island of Hawaii. But, we are starting to plan a month-long Vietnam and Cambodia trip and are looking into visiting Alaska. Because Chad worked so much last summer we only camped one time so camping is going to be a top priority this summer.
Thank you for following along on our travels this year.