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In honor of Valentine’s Day, yesterday I wrote about ten places I would love to visit using my miles and points in the coming years. When you combine the realities of young family life with lofty travel goals, I know it may take more than a few years to get to all of those spots (if I ever do), but that’s okay. Half of the fun is planning and dreaming. How lucky we are that some of these travel dreams do actually become realities. The places I love aren’t all in my head, we have some of them already captured in our hearts, minds, and iPhone photos.
So continuing the trend of places to love, in no particular order, here are ten of the trips that I have loved the most.
Kauai with my loves
This is the only destination that is both on this list of places I loved and the list of places I would love to visit because it is just. that. special. I have been on two amazing trips to Kauai, first when my oldest daughter was 3.5 years old and we took off just the two of us on what was then our biggest trip yet. Some thought I was crazy going all the way to Hawaii by myself with such a young girl, but we solidified our traveling buddies relationship on that trip, and my love affair with Kauai began.
A little over a year later, we went back and brought Josh this time. Kauai only got more magical on this visit because we made it to the North Shore, which is even more magical than the sunny southern half of the island. Soft shave ice, fresh fish, green mountains, and laid back days by the ocean are etched in my mind.
Norway with my bestie
A theme on the trips that made my list of most loved travel memories isn’t just where we went, but who we were with. I’ll always love my time skiing in Norway with my best friend. At the time of this trip, we both had four-year-old daughters who stayed behind while we went off on an adventure. It was our first kid-free time together in years, and we soaked in every minute.
Not only was skiing in Norway beyond amazing (though ask me sometime about the bus ride from Oslo to Trysil), but staying right on the mountain with Club Carlson points and flying there and back in Lufthansa First thanks to United miles sure didn’t hurt at all. We now both have toddlers in addition to our oldest girls, so I don’t know when an opportunity like this will come up again, but I love that we took the chance while we had it.
Living a decade’s old dream at the Polynesian
Ever since my first visit to Disney World as a ten-year-old, I’ve wanted to stay at one of the monorail resorts, specifically the Polynesian. The theming, the location, the Walt Disney magic. It called to me for decades until we finally learned how to make it more affordable by renting Disney Vacation Club points.
I’m spoiled for life now because staying at The Poly was at least as good as I had hoped, but frankly, the entire trip was such a good fit. At the relatively last minute, we changed our summer travel plans from something else entirely to Disney, and made the trip all about the girls. It was perfect. That’s another theme about the trips that made this list, it isn’t just about the right place or the right people, it is also about the right timing. This was the perfect timing for this trip, and I hope to do a similar trip again this summer.
Baby Makes Four in Mexico
Our first trip as a family of four was to Mexico and the St. Regis Punta Mita. I was hesitant about traveling so early on with an infant, but once I got to this resort of luxury, I traded my stresses for a margarita. I didn’t know we needed time at a beachside paradise until we were there and let out a collective exhale.
They say that vacations are happiness anchors, and I can safely say this place holds my first happy, stress-free memories as a family of four. Our re-donk-u-lous two-bedroom villa with private pool sure didn’t hurt. I would love to return here someday without all of the sleep deprivation that we brought with us the first time around…especially if we could score that villa again!
Kid free time in Costa Rica
Our first adult-only trip after our second daughter was born wasn’t until she was almost two years old. That is nothing in the grand scheme, but it feels like an eternity while you are living it. After almost two years of life being pretty much all about the kids, Josh and I joined some friends for a long weekend in Costa Rica.
We drank coffee, we watched Netflix, we had long dinners with great conversations, and we loved every minute of our time at the Andaz Papagayo. We loved it so much that we are going back this summer, but this time we will experience the resort and Costa Rica in a whole new way with our daughters.
Living it up in Paris
The year before we had our second daughter, we went on a lot of trips. I particularly went on a lot of trips. I knew that was our window to really get out there before we reduced our radius again for a bit when we became four, so we lived it up. One of the trips I took that year was with my then four-year-old to Paris.
We flew in lie-flat seats, we had breakfast in bed at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, we picked flowers, we wrote on locks, we played in parks, and we spent a day at Disneyland Paris. It was tiring, but it was fabulous. I don’t know how much she remembers of that trip, but I fondly remember almost every Parisian soaked moment
All-inclusive Spring Break in Cancun
Another right trip at the right time moment happened in Cancun. We were going through some scary health stuff with our littlest and traded a big trip to the other side of the world for a family all-inclusive trip just two hours away to Cancun at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun.
With everything included, we didn’t have to worry about what anything cost, we didn’t leave the resort, and for a minute we put our worries aside and just had fun (with the doctor’s approval, of course).
Again, I didn’t know how much we needed family time in the sun until it happened. We needed it, and it was great. This trip also really marked a turning point for our youngest, and when we got home, things started to get better. Our time in the scary tunnel of the unknown was traded for mostly sunny days so this trip holds nothing but a happy spot in my heart.
Just me, a surfboard, and a 747
Last year I threw my normal decision-making process out the window and booked a seat on the final United 747 flight. It was expensive, it was self-indulgent, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that also happened to mean 24 hours in Hawaii.
It was worth it and I loved it. I got to feel like me again after one too many weeks of sticking very closely to the structured routine of drop-offs, pick-ups, activities, baths, etc. Those things are great, but they are even greater when you can get away for a minute to recharge with a surfboard and a final ride on the 747.
Losing teeth and crawling in Scotland
We canceled or dramatically changed a lot of trips in the first year or so that my second daughter joined the family, but one big trip remained unscathed. We added Grandma at the last minute, but just after our littlest turned one, our family of four + Grandma crossed the Atlantic bound for London and Scotland.
This trip wasn’t perfect timing as a 13-month-old is not the easiest traveling companion, but the people and the location more than made up for the timing. I’ll always remember that is where C got her first loose tooth and S was crawling around anywhere and everywhere.
Heck, just escaping the 100-degree August weather back home in favor of fuzzy hats and jackets was pretty lovely.
Celebrating 40 laps around the sun with a lap around the earth
When my husband turned 40, we celebrated his 40th lap around the sun with a big lap around the earth. We flew from Houston to Amsterdam to Istanbul to The Maldives to Singapore to Taipei, and then back around to Los Angeles and then to Texas. We spent most of our time on the ground in Amsterdam and the Maldives.
We had never taken a trip so big, fancy, and grand. Amazingly, we didn’t have to do it alone. We met up with friends who traveled from the US to Amsterdam and another group of friends in the Maldives. None of that would have even been a dream without miles and points, but now it is a truly lovely memory.
I said I’d share ten travel memories that I loved, so I’ll stop here, but I could have just as easily included staying in a gorgeous house with extended family on Lake Champlain, sledding and horseback riding in Alaska, exploring Yellowstone while pregnant with my first daughter, taking her to meet the real Santa in NYC when she was two, skiing together for the first time in Utah (though leaving my youngest for the first time that weekend was HARD), heading to Jackson Hole for the night on a free private plane, or playing with both girls in the perfect water of the Bahamas.
We don’t have huge bank accounts or a big fancy house, but we have a bunch of lovely travel memories that were made possible largely thanks to miles and points. I choose to invest in memories and experiences, and I love helping others do the same.
On this ‘day of love’, what are your most loved travel memories and experiences?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.