2017 was a pretty incredible year of travel for me. I was fortunate enough to turn my passion for travel and blogging into a career by joining a luxury travel agency as an independent contractor, thereby becoming a travel advisor to help others navigate the vast world of travel. As a travel advisor and avid wanderluster, I now have the benefit of traveling on a pretty regular basis, as it’s important for me to experience as much as I can so I can confidently plan the best trips for my discerning clients, as well as personally meet with my travel partners across the globe (hotel managers, cruise lines, tour operators–you name it). For my first year working in the travel industry, I traveled to over 22 cities, across 8 countries, and while I enjoyed every second of it (and learned and experienced quite a bit), there are several trips that particularly stood out. Here are the best places I traveled to this year (in no particular order).
Can you believe 2017 was the first time I ever went to Napa? We ended up going for my 33rd birthday, and it was an unforgettable (and delicious) trip! We ended up visiting vineyards like Domaine Chandon, Caymus, Silver Oak, Opus One, Joseph Phelps, and a few others, and I instantly fell in love with Napa. The recent wildfires were a complete tragedy, but the truth is that Napa and Sonoma are open for business. 95% of the grapes had already been harvested before the fires began, and there’s only about 5 vineyards (at least in Napa) that remain closed. If you’re interested in visiting Napa or Sonoma in 2018, feel free to email me at [email protected]–I can talk to you more about hotels that have promotions, as well as help make arrangements for a few days of wine tasting.
San Miguel de Allende
I’ve been to San Miguel de Allende plenty of times, yet this charming colonial city in the mountains deep in the heart of Mexico never ceases to amaze me. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known for its lovely pastel-colored buildings, quaint cobblestone streets, and its dramatic pink neo-Gothic church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel in the main plaza, El Jardín. This city can be explored by foot, and is close to neighboring city Guanajuato (definitely worth a day trip to explore the silver mines and the Diego Rivera museum).
Ever since I saw Forrest Gump (I was a kid!), I’ve craved a trip to Savannah. This historic city is known for known for its horse-drawn carriages, manicured parks, and antebellum architecture. Much of this city can be explored in two days (we borrowed bikes from our hotel!), and can easily be combined with a trip to Charleston.
Charleston had been on my US bucket list for several years, and we paired this trip with our trip to Savannah (I’m happy to help you plan a trip like this out including logistics). Charleston is a darling city and sits on a peninsula with the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park overlooking Charleston Harbor. It’s another important and historic US city that also contains Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. The city is also known for its colorful row of antebellum homes (Rainbow Row), horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone streets, incredible restaurants (Sean Brock is a bigwig chef there), and beautiful scenery.
Soon after I joined Strong Travel as a travel advisor, I was offered the opportunity to experience my first river cruise with Viking River Cruises, and enjoy a 7 day cruise up the Danube river. The cruise started in the beautiful city of Budapest, and my friend Carla and I arrived 2 days before the cruise was scheduled to depart so we could explore the city. We absolutely loved Budapest, and if you haven’t been, I suggest you add it to the top of your travel list! There are so many sightseeing opportunities, fantastic restaurants (incredibly well priced!), hot thermal baths throughout the city, and more.
Of the various cities that we were able to explore on our Viking River Cruise (Budapest, Vienna, Krems, Passau, Regensburg and Nuremberg), Passau was my absolute favorite. It’s situated in a delta where three rivers meet, and this enchanting little city is full of beautifully colored homes and buildings lined up against the river. We visited Old Town, and toured the impressive baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its ornate interior. We were also treated to a special concert played on the 17,000-pipe organ, considered Europe’s largest church organ.
I had been to Canada’s west coast before (Vancouver & Victoria), but not eastern Canada. I got to travel to Montreal in June as part of a familiarization trip for the luxury network my agency is a member of, and was immediately impressed. In 2017, Montreal celebrated its 375th anniversary, and to commemorate the anniversary the city has set up a multitude of audio/visual experiences and exhibits that showcase Montreal’s history and celebrates the people who have helped put Montreal “on the map” (like Jackie Robinson, Leonhard Cohen, etc). I particularly loved Old Montreal, it reminded me of Europe with its beautiful architecture and fascinating historical sites, with French being spoken as a primary language. The best part is it doesn’t take 8+ hours to get to, you aren’t jet lagged when you land, and the conversion from US dollars to Canadian dollars is favorable.
Laguna Niguel is a small suburban city in Orange County just next to Laguna Beach, and earlier this year I got to experience it while doing a collaboration with the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. This area is perfect for a weekend getaway, with beautiful beaches, amazing weather, and fun people watching while enjoying good food and drink. I got to experience Pageant of the Masters while I was there (reminded me of an episode of Arrested Development), and have sent clients there since, and they’ve absolutely loved it as well.
Andrew and I got to cross off quite a few of our US bucket list cities this year, traveling to Savannah and Charleston early in the Spring, then checking out Seattle in the fall. We got to enjoy a Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers soccer game, the famous Farmers Market, the Seattle Needle, and so much more. We also lucked out with amazing weather (70’s, no rain), and also happened to run into some friends coincidentally while we were there!
A trip a few months ago to Oahu marked my first trip ever to Hawaii. I know it’s a pretty popular destination for Americans to travel to given how close it is to the US compared to Fiji and French Polynesia (Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, etc), but growing up my family typically vacationed in different Mexican beaches. I had interest to travel to Hawaii at some point but it wasn’t high on my travel list (perhaps because of the typical luau/lei/Hawaiian shirt stereotypes I had in my head), but once I arrived I realized I had it all wrong. Oahu was a pretty transformative trip for me, mainly due to the cultural appreciation I developed for the Hawaiian people and their culture, but also because of its stunning beauty. We did so much and saw so much on this trip, yet I want to go back because there’s a handful of other things that I didn’t get to do on this first trip.
Ah, Paris. It’s so hard to choose favorites, but I think that Paris is my all time favorite city. It’s incredibly beautiful, romantic, cultured, there’s so many museums to go to, restaurants and cafes for people watching, charming neighborhoods that are all so different–the list goes on and on. I had a conference in Cannes in late November/early December, so I decided to head to France a few days earlier to visit my favorite city and roam around while I met with several hotel partners to stay at or visit several iconic hotels. This was my first true trip by myself, and Paris is a great city to travel to alone–there’s so much to see and do that you won’t find yourself bored at all. Of course it’s also a great city to visit with a significant other, as it was one of our stops on my and Andrew’s honeymoon <3.
While in the French Riviera for my international travel conference, I took a day trip from Cannes to visit the quaint town of Antibes. It was just a 15 minute (less than 5 euro) train ride away, and the town is navigable by foot. Antibes has a gorgeous waterfront and port full of high-end boats and yachts, and the old town houses one of my favorite museums, the Picasso Museum, which is built upon the foundations of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis. If you’re ever in the French Riviera, I’d love to help plan your trip so you can enjoy little towns like these, make sure to check out this blog post to see what else there is to see and do in Antibes.
I had always heard of the beauty of Switzerland, but hadn’t experienced it until I recently went to Geneva. After my travel conference in Cannes my friend Chelsea of Passport to Friday and I headed to Geneva for the weekend to explore the town and its charms. We enjoyed a fabulous spa treatment at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, were treated to lunch at the two Michelin star Le Tsé Fung at La Reserve, enjoyed mulled wine while we explored Old Town, and treated ourselves to some fantastic fondue. We even saw it snow in Geneva, and while beautiful blanketed in white snow, I’d love to see Geneva in the summer as well.
Those are my travel highlights from this past year, I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for me when it comes to travel! I have some trips already planned, I’ll be heading to New Orleans soon (annual family trip with friends), Half Moon Bay in February, a pretty big 2-week trip to New Zealand in the spring (I’m a Certified New Zealand specialist now!), and the rest I’m leaving it to spontaneity and whatever work trips come up. As always, I’m happy to help plan any travel you have in mind, whether it’s an anniversary trip, honeymoon, family reunion, bachelorette/bachelor trip, weekend getaway, etc. Feel free to reach me anytime at [email protected] and safe and happy travels!