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2021:  The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year in Review

2021: The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year in Review


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 01/01/2022
Posted On 01/05/2022 09:44:04

Destinations | Camping | RV Vacations | National Parks | All-Inclusive Resorts | Cruises | Travel Blogger Year in Review | California | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Indiana | Iowa | Louisiana | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | North Carolina | Ohio | Oklahoma | Pennsylvania | South Carolina | Texas | Virginia | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Bahamas | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Sint Maarten | USVI



As another year fades into the sunset, it's always fun to reflect back on the year that was. Airplane and cruise ship travel is still not as easy as it has been, and many popular tourist destinations have reduced opening schedules and increased safety protocols in place. Even so, we ended 2021, our sixth year as retirees, with quite an impressive number of days away from home during the time that we spent exploring parts of five countries!

We continued to put our RV to good use - in fact, we logged the most miles towing in a single year since we purchased "RV There Yet?" in 2017! It has been wonderful to not have to worry about social distancing as our home on wheels gives us a place to eat, sleep and retreat to wherever we happen to be. We started and ended the year on RV vacations in Florida plus visited parts of 18 states (including our home state of Texas) with our RV in tow.

With so much of our travel being within the domestic United States, we put much of our emphasis on exploring some of the country's national parks that we hadn't previously visited. In addition to flying to get to a few of California's national parks, we made it to others in Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia while pulling our RV. Our road trips took us to so much more than national parks - we hiked, saw family, explored cities, historical sites, state parks, movie sites and other other National Park Service sites in Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

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We were very excited to do some limited international travel after cancelling/rescheduling all of our 2020 long distance vacations. We enjoyed relaxing at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Although cruises restarted mid-year, we weren't able to fit one in until almost year-end. We didn't get too far from the United States during our Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, Sint Maarten and the USVI, but we still enjoyed cruise ship life for 7 nights.

Just as in previous years, we counted the number of nights that we spent away from our Austin, Texas home. The grand total of 251 nights (or almost 70% of the year) ranked 2021 as the year that we spent the most days out and about exploring the world (although a very small corner of it).

Related post: Our 178 Days of Travel in 2020
Related post: Our 180 Days of Travel in 2019
Related post: Our 223 Days of Travel in 2018
Related post: Our 163 Days of Travel in 2017
Related post: Our 106 Days of Travel in 2016

Our total travel expenses for the year remained below the budget that we set for ourselves. For the second year in a row, we went over-budget in the camping/RV vacation category but were well under budget in cruises and other travel categories involving air travel. (We continue to keep a close watch on our travel dollars in order to stretch them as far as possible. Since we retired rather early, we are focused on ensuring that we don't outlive our savings.)

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To see a summary of where two early retirees adventured to in just one year on their quest to see the world, we welcome you to take a look below. Along with a map and photos, we've included a month by month review and brief summary of each trip in this Travel Blogger Year in Review.


Map View of 2021 Travel Year in Review

Map View of 2021 Travel Year in Review

January 2021: Gulf & Southeast Coasts Winter RV Getaway (29 nights)

We rang in the new year in Florida City (just about as far south as you can go in Florida before hitting the Florida Keys). After leaving, we headed up the state's east coast making stops in Melbourne Beach and St. Augustine. To this day, we still talk about the unexpected dolphin and manatee sightings that we enjoyed in the afternoons at Long Point Campground.


Dolphin Surprise at Long Point Campground

Dolphin Surprise at Long Point Campground

Our next three stops were in Georgia and South Carolina, two states that we hadn't previously visited with our RV. We found some new to us locations and also revisited some of our favorite spots in Savannah and Myrtle Beach. Hiking in Congaree National Park gave us an early start at chipping away on the list of national parks that we haven't yet explored. Although many of the attractions were closed for the season, it was also still fun to explore Stone Mountain Park for the first time.


Checking Out the View from Congaree National Park Boardwalk

Checking Out the View from Congaree National Park Boardwalk

Carving at Stone Mountain

Carving at Stone Mountain

While making our way back to Texas, we returned to the Florida panhandle, one of our favorite areas in the state. After five nights in Navarre, we made a two night stop in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and then headed home.


Beach Stroll at Emerald Beach RV Park

Beach Stroll at Emerald Beach RV Park

February 2021: Brownsville, Texas (12 Nights)

It only took two nights for us to know that we weren't ready for our trip to end! We used the one full day at home to get our mail and do a few chores, and then left again in search of warmer weather in south Texas.

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Our original intent was to spend two full weeks at Tropical Trails RV Resort. After our 11th night, the temperatures in our home city beckoned us back to make sure that our house was prepared for a week long streak of freezing cold weather. Plus, it was getting very cold in Brownsville, making it difficult to enjoy the amenities at the resort. If we stayed, we would just be spending most of our time inside the RV!


Tropical Trails RV Resort

Tropical Trails RV Resort

The good news is that our last minute itinerary change didn't end up being too costly as the resort willingly gave us a credit to use on a future stay. At 57 years old, this Texas girl also got to build her first snowman a few days after arriving home. In my entire life, Texas temperatures had never stayed so cold for so long!


My First Snowman

My First Snowman

March 2021: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (9 nights)

As 2020 came to a close, we thought that we might have to postpone celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary until later in the year. We had purchased a voucher good for a seven night stay at one of the luxury level Bahia Principe all-inclusive resorts that was valid through June 2021. Our original plan was to return to Jamaica, however the luxury resort in Runaway Bay had not yet re-opened after closing for the pandemic.

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The resort chain was unwilling to extend the June 2021 travel voucher expiration date so we decided to celebrate at Bahia Principe Luxury Ambar in Punta Cana. We took our first flight in nearly 18 months and loved spending time at a resort that was maxed out at only 50% capacity. A bonus was spending one day on each end of our getaway with friends in the Fort Lauderdale area!


Resort Life at Bahia Principe Luxury Ambar

Resort Life at Bahia Principe Luxury Ambar

Parasailing in Punta Cana

Parasailing in Punta Cana

Relaxing on the Beach in Punta Cana

Relaxing on the Beach in Punta Cana

April 2021: Brownsville and San Marcos, Texas (10 nights)

Early April brought a visit from a former work associate and his wife. Although we didn't spend any nights away from home, we did fill our time with day trips to see some nearby tourist attractions.


Music with Friends in Luckenbach, Texas

Music with Friends in Luckenbach, Texas

We rounded out the month by enjoying the jacuzzis at two RV resorts in south and central Texas. We started by using the credit from our February stay towards a week at Tropical Trails RV Resort. Our last three nights were spent at Hill Country Cottages & RV Resort in New Braunfels.


Relaxing at Hill Country Cottages & RV Resort

Relaxing at Hill Country Cottages & RV Resort

May - August 2021: Eastern National Parks Spring & Summer Adventure (119 nights)

On May 1 we embarked on our longest road trip to date. We hitched up the RV, drove away from home and traveled through a total of 15 states. We camped at 27 different campgrounds, explored 9 national parks and countless other places.

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Our first two weeks took us from Texas through Oklahoma and into Missouri where we spent a week with Scott's family. Traveling east and then southeast, we made an encore visit to the Gateway Arch and then on to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.


Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park

Ready to Enter the Mammoth Cave

Ready to Enter the Mammoth Cave

Next up was enjoying the overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway with many stops along the journey. A day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and another exploring the Biltmore Estate were some of the highlights of our time in North Carolina. Although very short, our stay in Fancy Gap allowed us to visit Mt. Airy, the town that was the inspiration for "The Andy Griffith Show".


Starting our Day at the Biltmore Estate

Starting our Day at the Biltmore Estate

Goofing Off After a Squad Car Tour of Fancy Gap

Goofing Off After a Squad Car Tour of Fancy Gap

Our planned stop in West Virginia was extended due to a fall which required a trip to the emergency room and multiple visits to an urgent care facility. The upside of the longer stay was some time for a little rest and relaxation (and rehabilitation) plus more time to explore New River Gorge National Park.


Grandview Overlook at New River Gorge National Park

Grandview Overlook at New River Gorge National Park

So Many Scenic Overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway

So Many Scenic Overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Heading further east and then north, we added Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to our map of U. S. states where we've camped. In addition to a rainy drive along Skyline Drive inside Shenandoah National Park, we had a chance to explore some of the sites that we learned about in history classes (Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry and more) many years ago.

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From the Pittsburg area, we began traveling west with stays in Ohio and Indiana. We hit our daily step goals on a number of hikes in Cuyahoga Valley and Indiana Dunes National Parks.


Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Hiking at Indiana Dunes National Park

Hiking at Indiana Dunes National Park

We continued further north into Michigan for the next nine days - not nearly enough time for a state that has so much beautiful scenery. We were successful in achieving our two main goals - a day on Mackinac Island plus a day starting and ending with ferry service between the upper peninsula and Isle Royale National Park - and much more. We will definitely be returning to Michigan in the future!


Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Hiking in Rock Harbor at Isle Royale National Park

Hiking in Rock Harbor at Isle Royale National Park

The last of the national parks that we visited on this four month adventure (but not the last of 2021) was Voyageurs in Minnesota. Before our drive to Wisconsin, we traveled toward Minneapolis where we saw the Kensington Runestone among many other sites.


Hiking Break in Voyageurs National Park

Hiking Break in Voyageurs National Park

Kensington Runestone

Kensington Runestone

After having heard much about the area for many years, we started our stay in Wisconsin with our first visit to the Dells before heading to the Milwaukee area. Our 5 night visit included a magic show and four modes of transportation to see the scenery (boat, car, horse-drawn carriage and trolley).


Exploring Witches Gulch during Wisconsin Dells Boat Tour

Exploring Witches Gulch during Wisconsin Dells Boat Tour

The final state sticker that we added to our map was Iowa where we checked off one more of our wish list items - a visit to the Field of Dreams Movie Site. From there, we headed back to Missouri to spend a little more time with family before traveling through Oklahoma on our way to our Texas home.


"If You Build It,They Will Come!"

"If You Build It,They Will Come!"

18 States to Go!

18 States to Go!

There always seems to be one or more unexpected occurrences on a long trip, and this one had its share. Our two stops in Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Monument and Pictured Rock National Lakeshore were unplanned and some of our most fun.


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we adjusted our itinerary so that we could shorten our trip. My mother's health suddenly began declining and I wanted to fly to Arizona to spend time with her. Sadly, she passed away on the morning of my scheduled flight.

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September 2021: Galveston, Texas (3 nights)

September wins the award for the month with the fewest number of nights that we slept away from our home. We reserved our first ever KOA Rewards Appreciation Weekend at an RV park that we had previously visited before it joined the KOA family.


Camping in Galveston Island

Camping in Galveston Island

We adjusted what started to be a four night stay at Galveston Island KOA Holiday to three nights due to a predicted hurricane.

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October 2021: Riviera Maya, Mexico (11 nights)

Our second all-inclusive stay of 2021 was in Mexico's Riviera Maya where we planned a week long resort trip with our Florida friends. Before finalizing our flight and hotel reservations, we realized that by staying for 11 nights instead of 7, we would actually save money. It didn't take too long to convince ourselves that we could save a few dollars and spend a little time on our own at Bahia Principe Luxury Akumal before the rest of the gang joined us!


Infinity Pool at Bahia Principe Luxury Akumal

Infinity Pool at Bahia Principe Luxury Akumal

Riviera Maya Beach Break

Riviera Maya Beach Break

October 2021: Trio of California National Parks (6 nights)

Less than a week after returning home from Mexico, we boarded a westbound flight to Oakland, California. Upon our arrival, we met Scott's son and headed toward Redwoods National Park. One of several "detours" along our way was to drive the Avenue of the Giants.


Looking Up at The Giants

Looking Up at The Giants

That's One Huge Tree at Redwood National Park

That's One Huge Tree at Redwood National Park

Just three days later, the three of us returned to the San Francisco home of Scott's son where we would spent our final dinner and night together. From there, Scott and I headed south to spend just one day each in Pinnacles and Channel Islands National Parks.


Bear Gulch Reservoir at Pinnacles National Park

Bear Gulch Reservoir at Pinnacles National Park

Santa Cruz Island at Channel Islands National Park

Santa Cruz Island at Channel Islands National Park

November - December 2021: Gulf Coast, Southeast Coast and Caribbean Winter Getaway (52 nights)

Our 2021 travels ended much like our 2020 travel year - eastbound with our RV! We hit the road in mid-November, first checking out Cajun Palms RV Resort in Henderson, Louisiana. We had heard about the resort nearly a year earlier on social media and have been wanting to check it out ever since. With our love of hot tubs, we were not disappointed!


Our Favorite Amenity at Cajun Palms RV Resort

Our Favorite Amenity at Cajun Palms RV Resort

We returned to Navarre, Florida, this time for two weeks at a campground just down the road from where we stayed in January. Our time flew by as we explored more of the area that we hope to return to in years to come.


Sunset at The Hideaway Retreat

Sunset at The Hideaway Retreat

In order to get some bucket list items crossed off, we headed south to the Florida Keys. After cancellations both this year and last, we finally were able to successfully join a snorkeling excursion that took us to the Christ of the Abyss statue in Key Largo. During a week-long stay in Big Pine Key, we made multiple day trips to both Key West and Marathon Key. The highlight of our week was snorkeling and touring Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park.


Snorkeling over the Christ of the Abyss Statue

Snorkeling over the Christ of the Abyss Statue

Exploring Fort Jefferson

Exploring Fort Jefferson

Beautiful Sandy Beach and Waters at Dry Tortugas National Park

Beautiful Sandy Beach and Waters at Dry Tortugas National Park

Our last campsite of the year was inside Markham Park near Fort Lauderdale. Leaving the RV behind, we spent one week aboard Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. Our first cruise in over two years brought us to Sint Maarten, St. John, USVI and the cruise line's private island of CocoCay, Bahamas.


Symphony of the Seas Docked at CocoCay

Symphony of the Seas Docked at CocoCay

Snorkeling in the Virgin Islands National Park

Snorkeling in the Virgin Islands National Park

The remainder of our 3+ week stay was spent having fun (and dining) with several friends who live in the area.

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How to Learn More about Destinations that We've Visited

If you're interested in learning more about any destination(s) that we visited this year, our Search Engine can help. First, select from posts (our original content), curated posts (an assortment of helpful articles from others) and/or postcards (original photos from our travels along with a brief introduction). Next, enter the name of the city, state, or specific site in which you have an interest and select "search".

Your result will be a list of articles matching your criteria. If your search doesn't yield any results, please "contact WE". We'll happily forward any information that we have that may be useful for planning a visit. We strive to post helpful information on each of the destinations that we have visited, and may also be able to modify our posting schedule in order to help out a fellow traveler!

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What's on the Horizon for The Wordy Explorers in 2022?

With the continued uncertainty surrounding the ongoing pandemic, our calendar is less planned for 2022 than in many previous years. Other than the first 1 1/2 months of the year, our travel schedule is full of hopes, dreams and very tentative plans:
  • January camping in the Florida panhandle in what seems to slowly be coming our home away from home;
  • 11-night Caribbean Cruise aboard Norwegian Dawn;
  • Use Southwest Airlines promotional Companion Pass for a quick trip somewhere (anywhere!);
  • Road trips(s) to the Florida panhandle with a stay in a Panama City Beach vacation condo;


    Pier Park at Panama City Beach, Florida

    Pier Park at Panama City Beach, Florida

  • Explore 5 of the national parks that we have yet to visit in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with our RV in tow;
  • Alaska land tour (including three of the state's national parks) via train, boat, bus, foot and rental car;
  • A flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania before a National Park Safari from Arusha to Nairobi followed by Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park (plus a stay in Tel Aviv, Israel) that was rescheduled from 2020 to 2021 and rescheduled again to 2022;
  • Relaxing stay at an all-inclusive resort somewhere (most likely in the Caribbean);
  • Weekend KOA camping trip (KOA Kare Kamps or KOA Member Appreciation Weekend are possibilities); and
  • Something tells me we'll probably return to Florida's panhandle yet again before the year comes to a close!

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We invite you to create a User Account and opt in for an e-mail subscription now so that you don't miss out on our upcoming adventures. Our commitment is that we will send no more than one e-mail per week (and only when we post something new).

The Year Ahead

What travel plans have you made for 2022 and, of your planned destinations, which are you most excited about and why?



2021:  The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year in Review





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