As I plan out our travel calendar for this year, I can’t help but reminisce a little about the incredible adventures of 2016. Most bloggers write review posts at the end of the year, but because I am a huge procrastinator and a mom with a full-time job, I’m just now getting around to it. My husband, Damon, who is far more timely, did write a recap of 2016 a few weeks ago detailing our year traveling with our toddler, Avery, so I am taking a bit of a different approach. A lot goes into traveling with a toddler, and it isn’t always fun. So in the interest of keeping it real, I’ve decide to share our best and worst travel moments of 2016.
Worst travel moments of 2016
5 – Road tripping with a teething, sick baby
As much as I wish we could plan our family trips around sickness and teething, you just never know when it’s going to happen. Avery decided to sprout four teeth and come down with a fever on the same day we were going to visit family for the holidays this December. We had a less than enjoyable visit to my parents house, followed by an even less enjoyable 7 hour drive home. That drive home also included a trip to an auto shop to repair a flat tire, but that is another story entirely… and one that wasn’t even bad enough to make this list.
4 – Meltdowns in restaurants and public streets
Toddlers cry a lot. They are little people with very big emotions, and when they can’t verbally express their emotions they cry. So we deal with a lot of meltdowns these days. One of the worst was when our jet lagged toddler got upset that I wouldn’t let her play with the yard decorations inside the beer garden in Rothenburg on der Tauber, Germany. By “play with” I mean pick up and slam down repeatedly until it breaks. Avery threw a fit! She was so inconsolable that we had to leave the restaurant and take her into an empty alley to let her get her feelings out. I took a picture of my screaming toddler laying in the middle of that dirty alleyway acting like she was auditioning for the lead in a dramatic film just so my future self will never forget the difficulties that came with this age. I never want to become one of those parents who says traveling with kids is easy… because that, my friends, is a horrible lie.
3 – Meltdowns on airplanes
Remember how I just said we deal with a lot of meltdowns these days? Well, my adorable tiny human seems to have a blatant disregard for times we wish she would stay quiet the most. Avery usually does fairly well on airplanes, but keep a toddler in a confined space for too long and and you will experience a tantrum. I don’t think any parent would say long haul flights with toddlers are fun. And our flight across the pond in August was definitely not fun. The trip was worth it… but the flight wasn’t what I would call a good time.
2 – Losing our camera while traveling
This was one of those moments that made my heart sink. In June, we left our camera on a plane heading home from Central America. When we arrived home from our trip, our camera didn’t arrive with us. I wanted to cry. Actually, I’m pretty sure I did cry. I know there are worse things in the world, but at that moment I was devastated. All of our pictures from our trip to Belize and Guatemala were on that camera. Priceless memories of our daughter’s experiences abroad were lost.
1 – Auschwitz
This was horrible for an entirely different reason. Regardless, Auschwitz tops my list of worst travel moments of 2016. It’s a dark place. It’s a sad place. Auschwitz screwed me up emotionally. It screwed me up so bad that I still haven’t found the words to write about it. Someday I will post about our visit to the concentration camp, but right now I still have an aching in my heart that almost brings me to tears every time I think about Auschwitz. I’m thankful Avery was oblivious to the horrors of this place. In fact, she slept nearly the entire time we were there. Had she been a few years older, we would have skipped it entirely. I’m not sure when Avery will ever go to Auschwitz again. Perhaps as a teen, but most likely, she will have to go as an adult, because I just don’t think I could do it again.
Best travel moments of 2016
Now — after ending my list of worst travel moments on an extremely depressing note… Let’s take a look at our best moments to cheer you up!
5 – Returning to our favorite place
Every family has that one place that always draws them back. Although we love to visit new places and see new things, from time to time we also like to re-explore familiar places. In October 2016, we returned to the Canadian Rockies. This was Avery’s second time to Alberta. The first time we took our little one, we stayed in Lake Louise. This time we stayed just outside of Banff National Park in the town of Canmore. We met my in-laws there, and it was great to show them a place that is near and dear to our hearts. Although it was a little chilly, we bundled up and went hiking at Sunshine Village and went for a leisure stroll around beautiful Lake Moraine. Avery loves to be outdoors so she had a great time. And seeing her smile is everything!
4 – Chasing our barefoot celebrity around Tikal
I think it’s safe to say that we are much more inclined to lose things when we travel with our toddler. (Hence the lost camera.) While in Guatemala visiting Tikal National Park our hippy child decided she didn’t want to wear shoes and somehow took them off without us knowing. After discarding her shoes somewhere in the massive national park, Avery then wanted to get down and walk. As my husband would say, “you have to eat a lot of dirt before you die”, so we let our shoe-less tot roam around barefoot. (Go ahead, judge us.)
The Guatemalans didn’t seem to mind her dirty feet. In fact, Avery was an instant celebrity! Everyone wanted to take a picture with her or touch her blonde hair. Not one to shy away from attention, Avery rolled with it.
3 – Finding our camera
After leaving our camera on the plane coming home from Belize and Guatemala, we didn’t think it would ever be returned. Our priceless memories were lost forever… or so we thought. Sure enough, 2 weeks later we were flying out again and stopped in the airport lost and found. It was there! Who knows if or when they would have called us had we not gone in to check. Although we filed a report with the airline immediately, we still have never heard back from them. For all they know, it’s still lost. Oh well, all’s well that ends well, I guess.
2 – Visiting a real life fairy tale town
We have visited a lot of picturesque villages and charming towns in our travels, but none so magical as Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It looks like a movie set, a Disney village, or a scene from a storybook. This was one of those places where you keep your camera out the entire time because everything is picture-perfect. Luckily, we didn’t lose it this time. 🙂
1 – Seeing family in Czech Republic
Nothing is better than getting to visit family or friends who you haven’t seen in years. Before 2016, the last time I saw my Slovakian sister was 1999. I was 17. I’m 34 now, so half my life had literally passed! You can probably imagine, but it was the highlight of my year getting to see her again in September. I should probably explain how I have a Slovakian sister, as well as a German brother, and a French sister. When I was in high school, our family hosted several exchange students from other countries. Each one became just like a sibling to me. I still consider them family and keep in touch with them, mostly through social media and email. Well, after 17 years, I finally got to see my Slovakian sister, Tatiana, and meet her wonderful husband and adorable children. Her family met us in Prague and we spent the weekend sightseeing together and desperately looking for a playground to entertain our munchkins. I loved every minute of our visit and will definitely not let another 17 years pass before seeing her (or my other European siblings) again!
Already, we have several trips in the works for 2017. I’m excited to see what adventures we will have as a family this year. We have plans to visit Asia for the first time in 2017, Mexico City, and possibly enjoy a relaxing vacation in the US Virgin Islands. We’ve already been skiing once this year, which was an epic fail, but I’m sure there will be several other powder-filled vacations and at least one hiking trip thrown in somewhere. As our daughter is getting older, she is starting to understand what traveling means. She now knows when we get on an airplane it means we are going somewhere new. One of my favorite memories this year was watching our then 18-month-old daughter look out the airplane window as we were landing in Germany. She squealed in the cutest toddler voice “ooooh, where we go?!” It was her first attempt at a sentence and she was so excited to be going somewhere new. That makes all the meltdowns and the “worst travel moments” worth it!
So, what does your 2017 hold? Going anywhere new? Do you have any best or worst travel moments that top mine? Leave us a comment and tell us about them!