I was inspired by another blog post [link broken] to write my own entry about why we traveled to all the places we have in the past year.
South Africa—Technically this was last December (13-31), but it’s my list so I’m including it. :) This was our second trip to Cape Town to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live in Kommetjie. The plan was to visit them for Christmas… a few weeks after we bought our tickets, we invited my dad to come with us and he took us up on our offer. My mom had passed away in August and we figured he could use a change of scenery. It was the first time he’d seen his sister’s home and marked his second visit to South Africa after 35 years.
London—This was a planned extension of our South Africa trip to visit my other aunt. We had arranged to fly through Heathrow (blech), so we could stop for a few days in early January. Thanks to my dad’s thousands of rewards points, we stayed at a lovely hotel near Hyde Park for free. I was in England for three weeks on a school trip back in January of 1997, so I dragged my dad and Eric all over the place to show them the sights.
Miami Beach—Work paid for this trip. Not only did I get to attend a Creative Suites conference for free, but it was in South Beach! I learned a ton of new information and ate a lot of good food. The only downside was that there was absolutely no way to make my per diem food allowance last past lunch unless I ate fast food. Which I did not.
Wilmington—In the two years we had been living here, we never made it down to the coast so when Eric’s parents came down to visit for Easter, we booked a B&B and headed to Wilmington. The downtown instantly became one of my favorite places, very charming with many tasty-looking restaurants. I can’t wait to go back next spring.
Shenandoah Valley—Three weeks later, we drove north to join my dad at a River Rats reunion in Norfolk. From there we drove through wine country (stopping along the way, of course) to spend a few days with a friend of his in Harrisonburg. Eric and I used to opportunity to break in our 2007 National Parks Pass (thanks Neil and Nicole!) by hiking in Shenandoah National Park.
Three National Parks and Las Vegas, NV—Mere days after returning from Virginia, we hopped a plane to Las Vegas, rented a car, and promptly drove into Utah. Our plan was to visit three national parks to make full use of our aforementioned National Parks pass—Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was a trip of a lifetime and one I would highly recommend to anyone… we did all three parks in four days!
Nova Scotia—Eric had a genetics conference in Halifax in late June, so we arrived a few days early to tour Cape Breton, experience several waterfalls, and eat fresh lobster. One nice thing about this trip was that work paid for his airfare and the hotel in downtown Halifax. Even so, this trip was pricier than we would have liked. Still, we can check this province off our list! (I should add that I quit my job just before we left on this trip… not having enough vacation leave jump-started my freelancing career.)
Chicago—A day and a half after we returned from Canada, pup and I drove up to Chicago to trade in my VUE and spend 4th of July with my dad. Thankfully, Eric flew up for a few days to help us toss/donate some more of my mom’s stuff and keep us company on the drive back. 15 hours each way, not recommended.
Montana—We hadn’t been out to Kalispell since 2002 even though we have a standing invitation to stay with my dad’s friend. So this summer my dad generously flew the entire family out for a week. We stayed on Lake Blaine, celebrated my 31st birthday, and spent two full days hiking around Glacier National Park (another use for our parks pass). And I had the pleasure of driving everyone around in a minivan.
Curaçao—American Airlines offers excellent deals to the Caribbean in the fall to encourage travel despite hurricane season, but which island should we visit? We narrowed it down to Curaçao or Turks and Caicos, mostly because of the snorkeling. Originally, my dad and his friend Lynn were planning to come but that changed when he started his radiation treatment. Because they had wanted to go in October, the island outside of the hurricane belt won out. We used 50K of my miles to score the roundtrip tickets and my sister and her boyfriend joined us instead.
St. Petersburg—My gram lives here and every fall we take a trip back to our old college stomping grounds to spend some time with her. Eric gave a talk at Eckerd, so we could write off the cost of his ticket and lodging was cheap because my dad let us stay at his place in Parrish. These four days barely felt like a trip at all because Florida is such a familiar place but it was nice to get our second dose of palm trees and beaches in October.
Eric and I made a promise on our 5th wedding anniversary that we would get at least one new passport stamp every year for the next five years. We managed three this year (although an upcoming trip to Niagara Falls will make it four). We take advantage of deals as they come along, so who knows where else we’ll go in the next four years! One thing is for certain, Barcelona and Paris are on our agenda for next spring.