Trip Date 01/01/2024
Posted On 01/29/2024 10:00:00
Destinations | Camping | RV Vacation | Beach | All-Inclusive Resort | Vacation Condo | Cruise | Travel Blogger Year in Review | Alabama | Arizona | California | Florida | Hawaii | Louisiana | Mississippi | Missouri | New Mexico | New York | Texas | American Samoa | Bermuda | Botswana | Canada | French Polynesia | Greece | Honduras | Mexico | New Zealand | Samoa | South Africa | St. Lucia | Tanzania | Zimbabwe | Africa | Europe | North America | Oceania
2023: The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year in Review
Since retiring eight years ago, there have been four years when we slept away from our Austin, Texas area home for over 200 nights. Coming in at 247 nights away from home (or 67.67% of the year), 2023 was one of those years. In fact, it ranked as the year with the second highest number of days away. Don't miss reading this Travel Blogger Year in Review for a brief summary of each trip (plus photos from 15 countries including 11 states in the USA).
We reserved a 2023 transpacific cruise departing from New Zealand and bound for Canada in late 2021. After several itinerary changes, the route included stops in Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia, Hawaii and California. At the time that we booked the cruise, we had no idea that we would also be spending time in Greece, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Yes, the adventure that we began planning in 2019 finally became a reality after being postponed for three consecutive years. These two international trips had us exploring four continents (Oceania, North America, Europe and Africa).
As 2022 was nearing its end, we made the decision to join some friends on a cruise with stops in Honduras and Mexico in early 2023. We also anticipated that we would plan an all-inclusive resort stay with friends somewhere in the Caribbean, but when the year began had no idea what island we would jet off to. In addition to the Western Caribbean cruise and stay in St. Lucia, we unexpectedly cruised from the New York area to Bermuda, a long time dream snorkeling destination for the two of us.
Although we did travel by plane, ship and car (both with and without our RV), this was our second consecutive year that we logged fewer camping days than we had hoped. And, as you'll soon see, we really didn't see anything during our one RV journey! We did, however, hit a few destinations on a last minute road trip that took us from Texas to New Mexico and Arizona and back again with five nights in hotels along the way.
Just as we did a year earlier, we also enjoyed beach days (and worked at our vacation condo) in Florida's panhandle. For all but one of our stays at Sky High Beach Vibes, we "road tripped" getting from Texas to Panama City Beach and back again. We took advantage of some of our days on the road to see sights in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.
We've continue to keep an eye on our travel expenses to ensure that we don't outlive our savings. Our total travel expenses for 2023 were on the high side, but since we had been well below budget in the previous few years, the extra expense was expected. (When we were budgeting our travel expenses at the beginning of the year, we rolled over our "Africa" budget from the prior year.)
We ended the year over our planned budget for cruises, lodging and admission fees. Also, due to increased travel by car, we were over budget in transportation expenses because of higher fuel costs and unplanned car maintenance and repairs. On the positive side, we were under budget in camping/RV vacations for the second year in a row.
Our 202 Days of Travel in 2022
Our 251 Days of Travel in 2021
Our 178 Days of Travel in 2020
Our 180 Days of Travel in 2019
Our 223 Days of Travel in 2018
Our 163 Days of Travel in 2017
Our 106 Days of Travel in 2016
January 2023: Missouri Family Reno Project (19 nights)The morning after we rang in the new year in Panama City Beach, we were on the road heading northwest. Scott's parents were owners of a rental property that had extensive water damage due to a negligent tenant. To avoid the hassles of being landlords at 90 years of age, they decided to sell the property. In an effort to maximize the sales price, Scott's brother made a plan to upgrade the duplex that had been in the family for over 50 years. To limit the amount of money that his parents would need to put into the property prior to selling it, he was doing much of the work himself. Since we had no other travel plans for January, Scott offered to go to Kansas City to help.
Although we officially slept away from home during the first 19 nights of the year, we ended the month with lots of family time and no travel recommendations to share with others!
February 2023: Western Caribbean Cruise (8 nights)We joined friends on a week-long Western Caribbean cruise just days after an unusual freeze hit the Austin area. The four of us had previously cruised together, but this was our first since since the opening of Royal Caribbean's new Galveston, Texas terminal and recent fleet changes. We met on Galveston island the evening before embarkation to avoid an early morning drive with the added bonus of boarding Allure of the Seas early.
The three ports of call, Roatan, Honduras and Mexico's Costa Maya and Cozumel were repeats for all of us, but that didn't limit our fun.
During our days on the ship, we loved soaking in the hot tubs. We've also been enjoying our Royal Caribbean diamond loyalty benefits - especially the adult beverages and photos!
February - March 2023: The Emerald Coast (21 nights)We took the long road for our first trip of the year back to Sky High Beach Vibes. Our arrival had to be after the departure of "snowbirds" who enjoyed a winter in Panama City Beach, so we had time to make a few brief stops along the way. We watched the Broadway Across America matinee production of "Moulin Rouge" in Houston and made a return visit to Elberta, Alabama to catch a few unique sculptures that we learned about after our previous visit.
That was the end of the fun - the main purpose for our trip was to determine whether we wanted to rent to future snowbirds as well as to ready our condo for the upcoming year. (Oh, and prepare our tax return, too, ugh!)
Our washer, dryer and dishwasher got a workout as we deep cleaned and sanitized all towels, linens and kitchen amenities. It was also time to purchase supplies for what we hoped would be a busy rental season. Multiple trips to Walmart, Home Deport, Lowe's, Sam's Club and more helped us to fill our cabinets with all of the necessities. We also showed the condo to prospective snowbirds for 2024 and filled the rest of our time with touch-up painting, replacing grout in a shower plus more cleaning and organizing.
We had hoped that we would have some time to enjoy ourselves, but almost everything takes longer than planned. Other than an hour long soak in the hot tub on most evenings plus a few sunset walks, we had almost no time for fun.
March - May 2023: New Zealand North Island Road Trip, Transpacific Cruise and Vancouver, Canada (43 nights)Less than a week after returning home from Florida, we flew from Austin to Auckland for what would be our longest trip of 2023. After losing a day while flying over the International Date Line, we spent one night in New Zealand sleeping in a caravan. Although it was a stationary Airbnb, we now claim to have done a bit of RVing on another continent!
Our first week took us on a road trip from Auckland south to Taupo, Rotorua and Hamilton (Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions) before making our way to the Coromandel Peninsula. We saw waterfalls and geothermal areas with geysers and steam vents. We learned about the Maori culture, took a day cruise and did some hiking (plus climbing, crawling and slithering through a cave in search of glow worms). In addition to soaking in some amazing views, we also soaked in some geothermal hot springs (and I even convinced Scott to take advantage of a perfect opportunity for us to try out bathing in mud)!
The second half of our road trip took us to the Northland Region (north of Auckland) to Paihia and Cape Reinga. We did more hiking, saw more waterfalls, took another boat tour and had encounters with dolphins, sheep and cows along the way. Although closures due to a recent cyclone forced us to adjust some of our plans and routes, we didn't allow our stay to be ruined.
Leaving the more remote countryside, we would soon be headed back to city life in Auckland but not without experiencing some of the forests, sand dunes and beaches down under.
In addition to hiking, boating and driving, we walked and strolled and rode gondolas, bobsleds and ski lifts. We stayed in a motel/lodge, numerous AirBnbs and a VRBO cabin. And, if all that wasn't enough for a vacation, we then boarded a cruise ship for a 24 night transpacific sailing from Auckland to Vancouver. The majority of our days were spent relaxing onboard (which we needed after our jam-packed road trip) as the captain navigated the long route between Oceania and North America. We did disembark at each of the ports of call including Samoa, American Samoa, Papeete (Tahiti), Honolulu, Lahaina (before Maui's recent fire), San Francisco and Victoria. Since we had previously visited all but the two Samoas, we explored most of the ports DIY style.
We disembarked the Grand Princess in Vancouver, Canada and spent five days exploring on our own. Thanks to fellow travelers and plenty of research, we found more than enough to do to fill our time! In addition to lots of walking, we got around by making good use of the city's public transit and private ferries. (Fortunately our hotel had a hot tub overlooking the city which was perfect for evening soaking to prepare for more walking in future days.)
From our hotel in the heart of downtown, we made it to the nearby neighborhoods of Chinatown, Gastown, Yaletown and Stanley Park. We filled two of our days further away from the city with time at Grouse Mountain (just one day before the Grizzly Bear Lookout opened for the season), Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Lynn Canyon Park. After a rainy final day in Vancouver, we wrapped up our stay at the Richmond Night Market.
May 2023: Resort-Style Relaxing in St. Lucia (7 nights)
Less than ten days back at home and we were off on a plane again - this time to an all-inclusive resort on the island of St. Lucia. We started discussing a resort stay early in the year with friends who promptly took the ball and began researching. After narrowing the choices down, we settled on the Coconut Bay Beach Resort just minutes from the island's international airport. Five of us met at Miami International Airport for our flight to the southeast where we joined another couple who had arrived several days earlier. Most of our week was spent eating, drinking and soaking up the sun at the resort.
In addition to participating in some of the resort activities, we tried to explore the entire property. We walked from our room to the beach, swimming pools, hot tubs, lazy river, water slides, restaurants, bars and even to the Coco Corral. We only escaped the resort for one half-day tour - a Piton Sail and Snorkel.
May 2023: Family Visit in Kansas City, Missouri Area (4 nights)
It was a short trip (which felt like we spent as much time in transit as at our destination), but it was an opportunity to spend time with Scott's family. As usual, we stayed with Scott's brother and sister-in-law in Parkville. We were even joined by Scott's son Matt who flew in from San Francisco. The big difference with this visit was where we spent our time. Our days were filled at the assisted care facility in Liberty (where Scott's father had recently moved) and at the short term rehab center in Gladstone (which his mom called home for several weeks).
June 2023: Cruising to Bermuda (8 nights)
When the year started, we had no idea that we would get to check Bermuda off of our "bucket list". After seeing the incredibly discounted price (and all of the included extras) offered by Cru-Con, we knew that we couldn't pass up a 7-night early June cruise. The Celebrity Summit departed from Cape Liberty in New Jersey and after sailing by the Statue of Liberty headed directly for Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard.
After three days that we filled with touring and snorkeling, we sailed back to Bayonne. We did add one pre-cruise night on Staten Island (to make sure that we didn't miss the ship) and wrapped up our vacation with a short bus tour in New York around Manhattan before flying back to Austin.
June - July 2023: Kansas City, Missouri Area and Panama City Beach, Florida (18 nights)
Less than a week later, we packed our bags and returned to the Kansas City area for some more family time. Matt again flew in from San Francisco, however our time away did not turn out as we had hoped. Both of Scott's parents ended up in the hospital for most of our stay and we didn't get to spend much time with them. (Due to being exposed to Covid shortly after our arrival, we thought it best to stay away so as not to put others at risk, even though we never tested positive.) Our two weeks to visit family turned into almost two full weeks of quarantine!
We took the long road home - we drove from Missouri to Tennessee and further south to Panama City Beach, Florida before returning to Austin. We had a two-day gap in reservations at our condo, and we thought it would be our only chance to check-in and do some minor maintenance before November.
August 2023: Sky High Beach Vibes (2 nights)
We made the last minute decision to partner with a new housekeeping team, so we unexpectedly returned to PCB to ensure a smooth transition. We filled our two very short days with meeting our new housekeeping lead, updating our inventory, preparing information for upcoming guests who might have been unable to reach us when we were "remote" plus other needed maintenance and repairs.
August - September 2023: African Adventure (27 nights)
Following cancellations for three consecutive years, we finally made our first visit to the continent of Africa. After two days and one night in Athens, Greece getting adjusted to the time zone differences, we flew to Zanzibar, Tanzania for four days of exploring with In Zanzibar by Aiysha.
Along with Scott's brother and sister-in-law, we flew to Arusha where we met Baraka, our Maasai Wanderings private guide. We spent the next eight days on a National Park Safari ending in Nairobi, Kenya. We spotted four of the "Big Five" and many more species of wildlife. Two highlights from our week had to be our hike in Arusha National Park (which brought us up close and personal with a "journey of giraffes") and watching the wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park.
Thousands of photos later and we were on flights for our Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park five-day extension. After touring one of the world's largest waterfalls and cruising along the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe we transferred to Chobe Bakwena Lodge in Botswana. Although our final three days on safari was heavily concentrated on the herds of elephants for which the park is best known, we did see a variety of wildlife who enjoy easy access to the Chobe River.
To make the most of the long airplane flights to Africa, we added another two days in Victoria Falls followed by four days in Cape Town for exploring on our own. We were able to complete our goal of seeing all of the Big Five during our game drive at the Stanley and Livingstone Game Reserve where we spotted some rhinos. A bridge tour and a BOMA dinner filled out our time in Zimbabwe before we flew to South Africa.
We kept ourselves busy in Cape Town with several walking tours within the city, a tour taking us to the Cape of Good Hope, a full day wine tour and a tour of Robben Island. After years of anticipation, we are so happy that our African Adventure was worth the wait and we already have dreams of returning.
September - October 2023: Southwest US Road Trip (30 nights)
It had been over a year since we had taken "RV There Yet?" on a road trip and we were both looking forward to the convenience of traveling with our home on wheels. Little did we know that, instead of visiting with my family and friends in the Phoenix area and exploring the three national parks that we had planned, we would spend almost four weeks at the Holbrook Petrified Forest KOA Journey while our tow vehicle sat in the repair shop at Winslow Ford!
After 20 days in the shop, we learned that one of the parts that was needed was on back order with no estimated arrival date. We finally made the decision to rent a moving van to tow "RV There Yet?" back to our Austin area home so that we could get on with our life (and travel plans)!
October - December 2023: A Little Fun and a Lot of Work (40 nights)
We spent just over a month enjoying time at our vacation condo in Panama City Beach from late October through most of November. Actually, although we did have two couples spend a few days each with us, most of our time was spent cleaning, painting, repairing, adding a storage cabinet and preparing for a new city ordinance which required additional signage and a fire inspection among other things.
We did leave Sky High Beach Vibes for four nights when we traveled to South Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends. We finished up on our work items when we returned in late November before heading towards Dallas.
We had tickets to a performance of "MJ, The Musical" in Dallas. The performance dates coincided with our planned return from PCB, and we were able to make some sightseeing stops on our westbound journey. We spent the better part of an afternoon exploring some of the sites that we've seen on HGTV's "Home Town" series filmed in Laurel, Mississippi.
The city of Marshall made for a good stopping point on our final night away from home. Ever since living in east Texas, I had been wanting to visit Marshall during the holiday season to see the Old Harrison County Courthouse all decked out in white lights!
December 2023: Arizona and New Mexico Road Trip (5 nights)
In mid-November, we received a call with the good news that the repairs on our tow vehicle were finally complete. Because of other plans, the first opportunity that we had to retrieve our Expedition was in early December. As neither planes, trains nor buses have convenient (or cost effective) routes between Austin and Winslow, a one-way car rental ended up being the easiest way for us to return.
After picking up our car, we made the last minute decision to extend our time away to see some sights on the way. We purchased an America the Beautiful National Parks pass at Walnut Canyon National Monument. After more up and downhill hiking than we thought we were in for, we headed to the nearby Wupatki National Monument. Although we did make a few other short stops, most of our next two days were spent at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. While none of these monuments were on our planned October itinerary, several were places that we had hoped to visit at some point.
December 2023: New Year's Eve Beach Ball Drop (15 nights)
We had so much fun in 2022 that we decided to return to Panama City Beach for New Years Eve '24 - this time with family. Our final 2023 stay at Sky High Beach Vibes was all about fun - finally! In addition to sharing our second home with Scott's brother and sister-in-law, we enjoyed our view, cooked, strolled the beach, met some neighbors, ate at "new to us" restaurants and relaxed in the hot tub. (Plus, we stopped for beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans during our outbound drive!)
How to Learn More about Destinations that We've Visited
If you're interested in learning more about any destination(s) that we've visited, our Search Engine may be able to help. First, select from posts (our original content) 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". You also may find some curated posts (an assortment of helpful articles from others) full of ideas and inspiration that we've used for planning.
Your result will be links to articles matching your criteria. Since we spent more time traveling than posting on our blog this year, some searches may not yield any results. In that case, feel free to "contact WE". We'll happily forward any information that we have that may help you with trip planning. We strive to post helpful information on each destination that we have visited. Because of our high number of travel days in 2023, we are working to play catch-up, but may be able to modify our posting schedule to help out a fellow traveler!
What's on the Horizon for The Wordy Explorers in 2024?
We started last year with some planned travel for 2024 and, as usual, added more as the year progressed. As it stands now, we already have plans to be away from home for about 50% of the year - and that doesn't include any last minute trips that will undoubtedly be added to our calendar. Our preliminary plans for the upcoming year include:
- After ringing in the New Year, spend the first few days of 2024 in Panama City Beach with Scott's brother and sister-in-law before heading to Kansas City to visit the rest of his family;
Gearing Up for the Countdown to 2024 in Pier Park
- Fly to Kuala Lumpur where we will join a cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel with stops in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia;
- Fly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to spend a few days with friends before our second cruise of the year - 14 nights to "circle" the Caribbean;
- Road trip to Panama City Beach to prepare Sky High Beach Vibes for what we hope to be a busy rental season;
60 Years and Counting!
- A short 3-night RV trip to experience the total solar eclipse in the "path of totality";
- Fly to Dubai for a six-night stay before our third planned cruise of 2024. Barring any itinerary changes due to conflicts in the Middle East, we currently have tours planned in Oman, Jordan and Egypt and still need to make final plans for two ports in Cyprus and several nights post-cruise in Athens;
- An annual (but yet unplanned) spring or summer stay with friends at an all-inclusive resort somewhere (most likely in the Caribbean);
- A westbound RV trip (with a stop in Phoenix, Arizona to visit family) which will hopefully get us to most of the places that we missed during our 2023 fiasco;
Looking Forward to Getting "On the Road Again"!
- Our final two planned cruises of the year will bring us from Port Canaveral to Lisbon, Portugal and then from Barcelona, Spain back to Florida. We have 18 "land" days in between the two cruises that we still have to plan - not yet sure where we'll spend those days, but we have some ideas that we'll soon be researching;
- Enjoy the final weeks of December in the Florida Panhandle as we wrap up 2024 and prepare Sky High Beach Vibes for early rentals in 2025.
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Reflecting Back on 2023What was your most memorable trip in 2023 and why does it rank at the top of your list?
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