Such a fun travel year! Starting in Colorado and ending in Thailand, I flew 178,790 miles to 20 countries on 4 continents. I don’t think I had flown more than 150,000 miles in a year before? Five countries were solo – India and Japan for photo expeditions, Germany and Spain for travel conferences and Canada with AFAR Magazine – but the other 15 were with the kids. Belize was my sole new country. Here are the highlights:
January – Colorado
Every other year we spend the week between Christmas and New Years in Crested Butte, Colorado. We spent New Years Day in Crested Butte snowshoeing before driving to Colorado Springs and enjoying a few last days in snowy Colorado.
January – Belize
From Colorado my youngest daughter and I flew to Belize for her four-year-old trip (each of the kids gets to choose any destination in the world every year for a one-on-one trip with me). Belize was fun, if not very kid-friendly. Highlights included beach bocce, a boat ride on the Monkey River, a butterfly farm and kayaking at the Turtle Inn. My blog post is here.
January – Varanasi, India
At the end of January I flew to Varanasi for the start of an amazing three-week photo expedition with Piper Mackay, Deb Sandidge and Alex Stoen. Varanasi is the holiest city to Hindus, and being there is an amazingly spiritual experience.
February – Rajasthan, India
We traveled to Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Nagaur, attending several festivals and even a royal wedding. Camping in the desert was a highlight. My post on my favorite places in India is here. I could go back to Rajasthan and photograph every year. One of my favorite places anywhere.
February – Agra, India
This was my second trip to Agra and I was able to photograph the Taj Mahal far better than my first try. The key was arriving before the gates opened and then racing past others to be one of the first inside. I stayed ahead of the crowds for a good half hour – an amazing place to have virtually to yourself!
February – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
As soon as I returned from India I headed to Mexico with the family for winter break. We had a great week at the Rosewood Mayakoba, doing a one-day trip to Chichen Itza (below) and going into Playa del Carmen several times.
February – Chichen Itza, Mexico
With one of the new Seven Wonders of the World only a couple of hours from the Rosewood, we had to go. We arrived early and had a great time at the site before many other tourists arrived – the only way to do it!
March – Berlin, Germany
I flew to Berlin for ITB – the world’s largest travel trade show. It’s like Disneyland for travelers! After three days walking the 26 exhibit calls I could barely move my legs, but I came away with great connections. I can’t wait to attend ITB again in 2016.
March – Bali, Indonesia
My oldest daughter chose Bali this year for her 9-year-old trip. We had an amazing week, splitting our time between Ubud and Seminyak Beach and meeting up with several friends. Highlights included the Monkey Forest, two massages, yoga, hikes through rice paddies, amazing meals, holiday festivities and lots of pool and beach time. I’d be fine if she selects Bali every year!
March – Sydney, Australia
One day in Sydney? Why not! We spent most of the day at the Taronga Zoo with friends, and also walked around the Rocks area and enjoyed fireworks over the harbor from our room at the Shangri-La.
April – South Carolina
We had promised my daughter a trip to South Carolina when she did a 2nd grade report on the state, and spring break was the perfect opportunity. We started in Charleston, spent a couple of days in Hilton Head and did a day trip to Savannah.
April – Lloret de Mar, Spain
My first TBEX conference was in the beach town of Lloret de Mar. It was an excellent conference, with the local tourist board arranging several outstanding events. A non-conference highlight was a sunrise photo walk with a local pilot.
May – Catalonia, Spain
Following TBEX I traveled around Catalonia for four days, going from the French border down to Tortosa and ending back north in Barcelona. I really enjoyed the small towns and farm houses where we stayed. Great cycling and kayaking too.
June – Oslo, Norway
Immediately after school got out, my son and I headed to Europe for his 7-year-old trip. We started in Oslo, one of my favorite cities, for a couple of days. In addition to seeing his first European football match (Norway v. Sweden), he got to barbecue by a lake Norwegian-style and climbed up to the Holmenkollen ski jump.
June – Billund, Denmark
My son and I got two of the coveted spots on LEGO’s Inside Tour. For three days we went inside LEGO, visiting the factory, headquarters and employee-only areas around Billund. We had the privilege of meeting the LEGO designers and seeing how everything worked from beginning concepts to final products. Seriously, so very, very cool. Unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to go again, even with a different child, since there’s so much demand. But you should definitely try to get tickets next year. My blog post and ticket link are here.
June – Amsterdam, Netherlands
This was a one-day layover between Denmark and Croatia. It was supposed to be a very straightforward trip – get in, get our luggage, take a train to the center of town, check into our hotel, walk around for a while and then the next morning head back to the airport. Fortunately, we got on the wrong train from the airport and ended up outside of the city. A friend then picked us up on her box bike and pedaled us through town on a gorgeous evening. A very fun ride, one of the highlights of the year, and a good lesson for my son that sometimes the best experiences come from things not going according to plan.
June – Croatia
To end our European trip we spent a few days in Zagreb, Croatia. We loved Zagreb, but the highlight was our day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park. At some point I’ll write up a blog post – it’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been, with 16 crystal-clear lakes cascading into each other. It’s one of my son’s new favorite places in the world too.
June – Montreal, Canada
Once or twice a year I travel with AFAR Magazine. AFAR’s motto is “travel deeper”, and their trips truly go below the surface of the destinations, giving you insider access to authentic, different, really cool experiences. Last year we went to Mexico City. This year’s trip was to Montreal, a city that I had always wanted to visit. It was a busy, extremely interesting few days, and included the coolest dinner of my life. My blog post is here.
July – Aspen, Colorado
We’re making an effort to explore more of my home state every summer. This year we drove to Aspen and had a great few days exploring, hiking and rafting. Loved staying at the St. Regis too.
July – Provence, France
I have cousins in France and we try to meet up somewhere in the world every year. This year we went to them. It was fun taking my kids to the same house that I traveled to many times as a kid, in the tiny village of Puymeras near Avignon, and doing day trips around Provence. Gordes was a highlight.
July-August – Naxos, Greece
For years we had wanted to spend a summer in Greece – or at least several weeks. We chose the island of Naxos for a number of reasons – see my post – and had a great time.
August – Santorini, Greece
Santorini is great, well deserving of the hype, but in the summer it gets so touristy that it’s almost not worth visiting. We had to go, though, since our favorite restaurant in the world (Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna) is there and it would have been a shame to be so close and not have a meal there. So we planned for a day that didn’t have as many cruise ships in port, took the ferry over from Naxos and had a fun 24 hours…and an amazing lunch.
August – Mykonos, Greece
We visited Mykonos for 24 hours since there was a non-stop flight to Florence, but one that we couldn’t quite time right with the ferry from Naxos. Despite the party vibe we’ve always enjoyed spending time there with the kids – great beaches and restaurants, and fun to walk the passageways through Mykonos Town.
August – Florence, Italy
Florence is my favorite city in the world and the past few years it’s become a family favorite as well. For the third straight summer we spent a week there, going back to favorite places and finding new ones.
September – Orlando, Florida
My two oldest kids had been asking to return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando for a while now, so we took advantage of a late school start and flew to Orlando for four days. We spent two days at Universal and two at the amazing Four Seasons, never leaving the hotel. The kids are already asking to go back to both.
October – San Diego
The Rancho Bernardo Inn invited me down to San Diego to check out their Halloween activities for kids, and it was a perfect opportunity to get some one-on-one time with my five-year-old. We spent a couple days at the hotel and then ended at Disneyland for a day. My California getaway post is here.
October – Bangkok, Thailand
I went to Bangkok for my second TBEX conference of the year. The conference was great, with particularly good sessions/speeches by Don George and Jodi Ettenberg, and it was fun to see old friends. The best part, though, was getting to spend five nights at the Peninsula Bangkok, my favorite hotel in the world. I need to get creative on the routing of future trips to spend more time there!
October – San Francisco
A quick trip to attend GeoEx’s Don George book event and have drinks with friends. I really enjoyed my short stay at the Loews Regency and my amazing view.
October – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
My third TBEX of the year, just two weeks after the Bangkok conference. Not as interesting a location as Spain or Thailand, but it was great to meet so many family travel writers that I’ve followed for years, and I got to see my college roommate for the first time in 21 years. Pretty much the only non-conference thing I did was a surprisingly good Cycle Party foodie tour with Magsonthemove – pictured below.
November – Japan
I headed to Japan with National Geographic to photograph Kyoto, Mount Koya, the Iya Valley, Naoshima and Hiroshima. It was probably my most disappointing trip with NatGeo since there wasn’t much flexibility to alter the schedule to get the best shots, but I still saw some amazing places and got a few photos I liked. My post is here.
November – Bermuda
We traveled to Bermuda for Thanksgiving break and managed to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in a non-traditional destination. The Bermuda Aquarium was a highlight for the kids, as was playing in the parks of Hamilton.
December – New York City
I took my daughter to New York on short notice to attend the launch of Westin’s Family Program and to celebrate her 10th birthday. A great bonding trip for us – ice skating in Bryant Park, a private visit to the Met, two musicals and a lot of fun exploration and good meals.
December – Hong Kong
My son’s 8-year-old trip started December 27 with a perfect two and a half days in Hong Kong. We took the Star Ferry four times, got to the top of Victoria Peak, climbed to the giant Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island, hiked the Wisdom Path and a portion of the Lantau Trail, saw Tai O fishing village, visited temples and monasteries and thoroughly enjoyed being pampered by the Peninsula Hong Kong, including Rolls Royce transfers to and from the airport.
December – Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’m ending the year in Chiang Mai, writing this post as I’m staring out over the gorgeous grounds of the Four Seasons. This morning my son and I went hot air ballooning over the Thai countryside – the first time in a balloon for both of us – and we’re going to release floating lanterns at midnight. What a way to end the year!
Travel in 2016
Eighteen countries in 2014, 20 in 2015. Can I hit 22 in 2016? Maybe! Right now I have trips planned to 19: Thailand; Philippines (new); Taiwan (new); Mexico; Tanzania; Kenya; Switzerland; Germany; China; Sri Lanka (new); Ireland; Netherlands; Italy; Denmark; Norway; UK; Iceland; UAE and Oman (new). Stay tuned…
Please tell me while in Chaing Mai you visited Patera Elephant Farm?!? If not, add it to your list for next time!:) LOVE your site and photography!!!
Eric Stoen says
Sorry, Rachelle – we didn’t get there. I really wanted to visit an elephant sanctuary, but my son nixed it. Not sure why he wasn’t interested? We’ll do it next month in Kenya, and I have a feeling he’ll wish we had gone in Chiang Mai too!
Tania @ Larger Family Life says
What a fabulous year! I loved reading about all the places you have visited. Looking forward to following more of your travels.
Eric Stoen says