Year in Review: My Top 10 Travel Highlights of 2018

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As another year comes to a close, you know what that means: time for another year-in-review post! 

I always have fun putting together this list each December; it's a great way to take a look back at my year, remembering all the amazing adventures and destinations I got to experience. It's always a humbling task, too, as I'm reminded just how lucky I am to still be doing what I love as my job.

My travels in 2018 were quite varied, covering 3 continents, 8 US states, 2 Canadian provinces, and several islands in various corners of the world. I traveled somewhere new almost every single month, and yet still managed to strike a decent balance between time on the road and time at home.

2018 travels
My 2018 travels

And, while it's always difficult to narrow down my adventures to just a few highlights, here were my top 10 from my 2018 travels:

10. Getting my music on in Nashville

Carrie Underwood at the Grand Ole Opry
Carrie Underwood at the Grand Ole Opry

Even though it's not all that far from where I live in Ohio, I'd somehow never managed to make it to Nashville before 2018. And shame on me, because Music City is super cool!

I'm not a country music fan by any stretch, but the music *history* in Nashville is fascinating. I spent a couple days in June doing all sorts of things I never expected to do, including touring the Ryman Auditorium, visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and seeing a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

I enjoyed Nashville so much that I've already planned another trip there in 2019!

>> Read more: Getting a Taste of Music History in Nashville

9. Staying at Canadian Hogwarts in Quebec City

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

I've gone to the Women in Travel Summit the last two years, and in 2018 WITS was held at the incredible Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City. The location itself was the major draw for me, and I loved getting a feel for Quebec City in between going to conference sessions.

But the highlight was definitely staying at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac itself, one of the Fairmont hotels that was built as a grand railroad hotel in the late 1800s. The hotel looks like a castle, and I referred to it as “Canadian Hogwarts” the whole time I was there.

>> Read more: Fun Facts: Things You Might Not Know About Quebec City

8. Afternoon tea tasting in London

Mad Hatters Tea Party in London
Mad Hatters Tea Party

Since I was going to be in the UK anyway this past summer, I decided a week in one of my favorite cities was in order – especially since it had been a while since I spent any time in London.

I ended up being in London during a heatwave in late June, which wasn't exactly ideal (especially since I had packed for much cooler weather in Ireland and Scotland!). But my London mission was still achieved: I went to a ton of themed afternoon teas in order to write about them.

From Harry Potter to Sherlock Holmes to Alice in Wonderland, the themed teas I went to were nothing short of magical. And I've decided that I'm going to try a new afternoon tea every time I find myself in London so that I can update/add to my list!

>> Read more: A Guide to the Most Unique Themed Afternoon Teas in London

7. Going on an Outlander tour in Scotland

Falkland town center
Falkland, Scotland

Speaking of the UK, another highlight was going on an “Outlander”-themed tour around Scotland with my mom and sister. 

The 3-day tour took us to all sorts of cool spots in the Highlands, from Culloden Battlefield to Doune Castle to small towns like Falkland. It was an excellent mix of popular touristy sites and places you might never otherwise visit – and of course the Outlander ties were fabulous!

My mom and I are big “Outlander” fans and of course loved this themed tour. But even my sister, who only saw about half a season of “Outlander” the week before our tour, really enjoyed getting to see so many different spots in Scotland.

>> Read more: Geeking Out on an Outlander Tour of Scotland with Highland Explorer Tours

6. Girls' trip to New Orleans

French Quarter in New Orleans

This past spring, I went to New Orleans for the second time with some girl friends. NOLA remains one of my favorite cities in the United States, and it was just as great the second time around. Even though it was already hot and sticky by late May, we saw and did (and ate!) a lot in just a few days.

Highlights of my second trip to New Orleans included a food tour of the French Quarter, having lunch at Commander's Palace, going to Mardi Gras World again, and visiting a nearby plantation. I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of visiting this city!

>> Read more: How to Have a Classy Girls Weekend in New Orleans

5. Family road trip in Ireland

St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, Ireland
St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, Ireland

My only jaunt over to Europe proper this year began with a weeklong road trip in Ireland with my mom and sister. Even though I was a little bit nervous about driving in Ireland, road tripping really is the best way to explore the Emerald Isle – and I'm happy to report zero driving incidents!

We skipped Dublin on our trip, and instead focused mostly on the west and south of Ireland. We had afternoon tea at Ashford Castle, listened to traditional Irish music in Galway, toured the House of Waterford Crystal Factory in Waterford, fell in love with the colorful town of Cobh, toured the Rock of Cashel, and even stayed overnight in a castle, among other things.

I really love road tripping, and this Ireland road trip convinced me that I need to do some more road trips in Europe!

>> Read more: 10 Days in Ireland: The Perfect Irish Road Trip Itinerary

4. Hanging out with flamingos in Aruba

Flamingo Beach in Aruba

My first wedding anniversary with my husband, Elliot, has somehow already come and gone! We decided to celebrate by going somewhere warm – and when looking for tropical destinations that aren't far from the US to visit in October, Aruba quickly won out since it's outside of the Hurricane Belt.

And, while I enjoyed off-roading in Arikok National Park and going on a snorkeling cruise, my favorite day on Aruba was when we hung out with flamingos and rented a private cabana on Renaissance Private Island. It was a day of pretty much pure relaxation, and I think I had a smile on my face the entire time.

>> Read more: Flamingos, Beaches, and Private Cabanas: Staying at the Renaissance Resort in Aruba

3. Getting up close with icebergs in Greenland

Sunset in Ilulissat

Since I went on a trip this summer with my mom and sister, it was only fair that I take my dad somewhere, too. My dad loves nature and the outdoors, and I've always been drawn to the world's Arctic regions. So a trip to Greenland was the perfect fit.

I also introduced my dad to Iceland for a few days, but we both agreed that Greenland was the best. We spent 4 nights in Ilulissat, a town above the Arctic Circle on Greenland's west coast. We took boat tours out to see icebergs and glaciers, got to know some of Greenland's sled dogs, went on a hike to the UNESCO-recognized ice fjord, took a flightseeing tour over icebergs in the fog, and watched several incredible Arctic sunsets.

Greenland is one of those destinations that's still relatively “undiscovered” by most tourists, so it was really cool to visit. I'm ready to go back already!

>> Read more: Greenland Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to Ilulissat

2. Seeing polar bears in the wild in Manitoba

Polar bear on the tundra in Manitoba

I wasn't kidding when I said I have an affinity for the Arctic; two of my top travel experiences of the year happened in the North! But whereas my time in Greenland was all about ice, my time in Canada's sub-Arctic was all about bears – polar bears, to be exact.

The small town of Churchill, Manitoba, is known as “The Polar Bear Capital of the World.” For about a month and a half every autumn, the big white bears gather around Churchill as they wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze. Because the bear population here comes so close to an inhabited area, polar bear tourism has been big business for decades.

I went all out and booked a polar bear viewing trip in October that included three full days of polar bear viewing, along with staying out within view of the Hudson Bay at the Tundra Buggy Lodge. 

The trip was worth every penny and even better than I could have imagined.

>> Read more: How to See Polar Bears in Churchill: A Polar Bear Tour for Your Bucket List

1. Road tripping in New Zealand

Driving on the South Island

Even though the polar bears were hard to top, my top travel highlight of the year happened way back in March. Elliot and I got married in October of 2017, but we decided to delay our honeymoon so we could save up some more money and go to New Zealand at the end of their summer. 

We rented a campervan for two weeks, and road tripped New Zealand from top to bottom. I showed him some of my very favorite places like the Coromandel Peninsula, Hobbiton, and Wellington, and we went to some places I hadn't been before like Abel Tasman National Park and Moeraki. 

We had lots of adventures beyond driving on the “wrong” side of the road, too, including going jet boating in Glenorchy, and tandem bungee jumping in Queenstown. A few of our epic plans got canceled because of weather, but it still ended up being an amazing and memorable trip.

>> Read more: 12 Things to Do on an Adventurous Honeymoon in New Zealand or New Zealand Road Trip: The Perfect Itinerary if You Only Have 2 Weeks

So there you have it: my travel highlights from 2018!

2018 Adventures

There were plenty of moments that didn't quite make the list, like soaking at the Blue Lagoon with my dad in Iceland, speaking at TravelCon in Austin, Texas; mentoring at Bloghouse in Memphis, Tennessee; touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; and doing more fun things in Ohio like falconry in Columbus. But I had to end the list somewhere!

Here's hoping your 2018 was great, too, and that you have even more exciting travels in 2019. (I've already got a lot of fun things planned!)

What were some of YOUR travel highlights in 2018?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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16 Comments on “Year in Review: My Top 10 Travel Highlights of 2018

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  1. Wow! What a great year! Looking forward to your 2019 adventures!!!

      Me too! I already have a lot planned, and actually will ring in the new year on the road – always a good start to the year!

    Hello! How did you make the map of your travels? I create a photo book every year and would like to add one.

    Thank you,

    Kelsey

      I used a site called Travellers Point to make that map, and then just took a screenshot of it.

    It looks like you’ve had a great year! You’ve also had quite a few highlights of things that are still on my list such as going to Nashville, New Orleans and seeing polar bears! My highlight was both the country of Peru, mainly the Andean cities such as Cusco and of course Machu Picchu. Tromso was also a highlight – I loved dog sleeding and feeding reindeers! It was an incredible year, let’s see what 2019 brings!

      Your year sounds great, too! I definitely need to make it to Peru eventually!

    That looks like a great travel year. I’m literally dying to go to Antarctica after seeing a couple of my favorite travel bloggers go there recently. I went to some great new places this year as well. Some of the highlights were Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, visiting the Alhambra in Granada and then seeing more of Andalusia in Spain. I took my husband to Gdansk in Poland ( my homeland ), and that was an awesome trip. I seem to neglect US in favor of Europe, but I made it to Nashville as well this year. Looking forward to new adventures in 2019!

      I hope to one day make it to Antarctica, too! Your year also sounds great and varied! Andalusia is such a pretty part of Spain!

    As someone who loves the mountains, I loved your New Zealand highlights. The road trip looks amazing, and it always nice when you have the whole road to yourself. Only few places in the world has that and NZ tops the list I think!

      Head out West in the US and you can find similarly wide open roads! 🙂 But yes, New Zealand is a special place!

    lol I would be happy with one of those last 5 in my highlights!! What an incredible year. 🙂 My highlights were all Canada and the US this year, but I’m hoping to have a lot more of Scotland and Europe in my 2019 highlights (depending on what happens with Brexit of course……… sigh!). Hope you have an equally fantastic 2019!

      Here’s to more adventures in 2019! Fingers crossed Brexit doesn’t mess up your plans!

    Absolutely amazing, hope you’ll explore this year more than in 2018. Looking forward to your visit in India 🙂

      Lots of travel already planned for 2019! No plans to visit India yet, but I’m sure I’ll make it there eventually.

    As someone who loves the mountains, I loved your New Zealand highlights. The road trip looks amazing, and it always nice when you have the whole road to yourself. Only few places in the world has that and NZ tops the list I think!

      NZ is always a highlight; my husband and I have already talked about when we’ll go back!

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