This past year has brought so many great travel experiences and discoveries, not to mention wonderful people I’ve been able to meet. Trips By Lance was launched in 2012 as a travel-planning business, but in February 2013 I switched the focus to a travel blog to share the wonderful experiences we are discovering in this great world. 2013 exposed me to new ideas, experiences and places. Here are some of my favorites in this 2013 travel year in review.
One of the highlights of the year was experiencing Niagara Falls. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit, but really had no plans of getting there anytime soon. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to spend the day on the Niagara Peninsula when I visited Toronton in June. Niagara Falls is worth seeing, even if for just a couple of hours. I’d also recommend spending time visiting the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula and the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. I found that even if time is tight, a day exploring Niagara Falls and the surrounding area is a great one.
Panama City Beach
I learned that it does pay to be prepared for a rainy day, particularly when visiting the beach. All the times my family and I have visited beaches, we’ve never been rained out for so much of our trip as we were in July on the Florida Gulf Coast. The forecast just before our trip called for massive rain amounts for the last half of our trip. And they proved to be correct, as the area along Panama City Beach that we were staying in experienced more than 20 inches of rain. It was miserable, honestly. But we managed by maximizing our outside fun the first part of the week, including getting in a cool deep-sea fishing experience. We then saved all of our shopping trips for later in the week. Of course it helped to have an indoor swimming pool on this trip with three boys.
I learned that I don’t like hostels, even though I met some great travel friends in one. My first and only stay in a hostel came in Toronto in June.
Speaking of my time in Toronto, I learned that as much as I love traveling with my friends and family, there are a lot of great travelers out there I had the pleasure to meet . Much of this was realized at my first travel bloggers conference, TBEX.
As much as I hate humidity, I discovered on our visit to New Mexico that I really don’t like dry conditions. I’m not a fan of how dry my skin felt for our week in New Mexico in October. I don’t know how people who live in those locales do it. I also wasn’t used to the high altitude, especially on our second morning when I went for a run. It was one of the toughest runs I’ve experienced in years.
But even with the dry and thin air, my family had a fantastic time in New Mexico. We saw beautiful desert and mountain scenery, had a fun hiking experience, saw plenty of art, experienced a bucket list-type event at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, ate amazing food and fell in love with the culture, especially what we found at the Taos Pueblo.
I’ve always felt fun travel experiences can be had in underappreciated destinations, and that’s especially true in the American Midwest. Yes, New York, San Francisco and Miami are all wonderful American destinations. But don’t forget places like Chicago, Pittsburgh or Indianapolis. My family had a wonderful time exploring Indianapolis this year, and I can’t recommend it enough as an affordable family destination. From the world’s largest children’s museum to the zoo, there are enough attractions to keep kids busy for days. And my wife and I found lots of great restaurants, breweries and shopping to keep us entertained, too, not to mention great art museums. I would be remiss to not mention the highlight of what my son called “his best day ever:” getting an inside look at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.
I learned that when I wake up one Saturday morning with the idea to drive five hours north to St. Louis for a spontaneous baseball game, keep my wife’s opinions in mind. My Texas Rangers were playing at the St. Louis Cardinals and I thought it would be fun to take my then-6-year-old son and one of my friends for the game that night. I promised my wife we’d get a hotel room after the game, but everything was booked. By the time we got halfway back to Memphis we decided to just finish the drive home. I thought 1 a.m. was too late to call and let my wife know we were coming home. But when I tried to sneak in at 4 a.m., she had the front door booby trapped with a big wooden chair. She was in the process of calling 9-1-1 when she realized it was me. Needless to say, this trip is still a sore subject in our house.
My wife grew up in the small Middle Tennessee town of Manchester, which has been home to the fantastic music festival Bonnaroo over the past decade or so. Even though her parents live about a mile from the music festival farm, she had never attended until 2013. We had a fantastic time, even though the majority of attendees were eight to 10 years younger than us. We plan to return as much as possible.
I returned to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in November, a place my wife and I lived as newlyweds 14 years ago. I’ve visited a few times since moving away, but this was my first experience exploring Fort Worth. I learned so much about the culture of the city, sampled some awesome local bourbon and explored a new art gem. I plan to return to Cowtown to show my son the fun cowboy culture in the Stockyards and explore the city’s many art museums.
In my first year of writing a travel blog, I was a little surprised by some of the more popular posts of 2013.
There is the little country cooking restaurant in Middle Tennessee, Miller’s Grocery. I can’t recommend this place enough.
A family trip to the resort communities of Northeast Ohio along Lake Erie ranked near the top of my most-read stories month after month.
When we decided to visit France with our son, we were nervous about how it would go with a 5-year-old in places like Giverny, France. But our time there was memorable, and Colby enjoyed the experience, too. We found Monet’s home to be kid-friendly, but did come away with some advice for other family travelers to follow.
Our first real trip of 2013 was a February weekend experiencing the awesome food scene in Atlanta. It seems the readers of Trips By Lance were interested in the city’s food scene as well, as the story ranked near the top of the most-read posts of 2013.
I found it very refreshing that readers responded well to my post titled “Why We Stay in Vacation Apartments.” I think travelers don’t always realize how great apartments and houses can be, especially when traveling as a family. Hotels are great, but don’t forget about apartments for your next trip.
And finally, a recent post that found immense popularity over the holiday season looked at our souvenir tradition of collecting Christmas ornaments. I enjoyed writing the post. It served the same purpose the ornaments on the tree does: allowed me to relive those trips as I wrote about them.
2013 was a great year of travel. I hope in our first year as a travel blog you found great inspiration, advice and future trip ideas at Trips By Lance. I’m excited for the travel possibilities in 2014. Here’s to looking ahead to a fabulous year!