Best of 2017 – Our Favorite Travel Memories

Posted By Allison on Dec 27, 2017

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Happy New Year!

I hope that you and your family have enjoyed a wonderful holiday season. It’s a great time of year to make family memories, reflect on the ups and downs of 2017 and make goals for the future.

Friends ask us what our next trip will be, and we don’t yet have many plans for 2018. We’ll be visiting the Black Hills in South Dakota for a family reunion in July¬† – now is the best time to talk to extended family about reunions and book summer vacation homes – but we don’t have anything else on the calendar. As I reflect on 2017, I’m not worried at all.

This was the year I checked off a bunch of places on my travel wish list. They were things I had wanted to do for some time and 2017 was the year we got them done. Our family cruise, the Grand Canyon and Dodge City, Kansas were a few of the checks on my bucket list.

It was also the year of unexpected travel. Our last-minute day trip to see the total eclipse in Idaho is one example. We also visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both California and Florida. None of those trips was on our calendar the month before. When opportunities arose, we pounced.

Here are my 10 favorite travel memories from 2017.

Cruise with my kids

My husband and I have been on several cruises together, but 2017 was the year we finally took our kids on their first cruise. They loved it. We sailed on Royal Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Haiti and Jamaica. My kids loved the activities onboard, they loved the ports and they especially loved the food.

Surprisingly, my kids (ages 10 and 13) did not love the kids clubs. They preferred to spend their time together or with us. They learned their way around the cruise ship quickly and liked that they could come and go whenever they wanted.

Click the images below to read my tips from this cruise.

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Tips for cruise dining

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Labadee, Haiti

Blue Hole, Jamaica


Universal Studios

If you told me a year ago that we would visit both Universal Studios parks in 2017, I’d have been astonished. The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood was on my short list and that trip came together in June. Our trip to Universal Studios Orlando was a complete surprise. We spotted $75 round trip airfares to Orlando last fall and the rest is history.

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Both parks have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it’s twice as large in Orlando since the opening of Diagon Alley. Universal Studios Orlando has two large parks while Universal Studios Hollywood has one. The advantage at Hollywood is that the park is built around the real Universal Studios and the hour-long studio tour is the best ride in the park. Whether you choose Orlando or Hollywood, you really can’t go wrong.

Click the images below to read more tips for visiting Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.

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Universal Studios Hollywood

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Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort

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Express Pass at Universal Orlando Resort

Grand Canyon North Rim

I have been wanting to visit the Grand Canyon with my family for years. The North Rim is within a day’s drive of our home, but it is only open in the summer and the timing was never right. This year, we made it a priority and picked a date several months in advance. We invited my parents to come with us and we rented a roomy vacation home in Kanab, Utah.

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That turned out to be the week that my sister’s three kids would be staying with Grandma and Grandpa, so we added them to the group. My other sister decided it sounded like fun and jumped in with her four kids. In the end, all nine of my parents’ grandchildren visited the Grand Canyon with us! It was similar to a Grand Canyon trip I took with my cousins when I was my daughter’s age, and now my kids have wonderful cousin memories from the Grand Canyon too.

Click the images below to read more tips from this trip.

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Grand Canyon North Rim

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Mammoth Cave National Park

I rarely accept press trips, but when the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau invited me to Kentucky to see all the fun things to do there – including Mammoth Cave – I couldn’t resist. I love visiting the national parks, and Mammoth Cave is one of the oldest and best known national parks in the U.S. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave in the world. They still haven’t found the end of it!

We took one cave tour and it left me hungry for a return visit. There are several tours to choose from. There is also a lot to do above ground. The region is absolutely beautiful.

Click the images below to read more tips from this trip.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Fun things to do in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Everglades National Park

We tacked a few extra days onto our spring break cruise so we could visit Everglades National Park in Florida. It’s a place my husband and I had always wanted to visit, and my animal-loving son dreamed of seeing alligators in the wild. Seeing wildlife is elusive in some places, but it’s hard NOT to see alligators and other wildlife at Everglades National Park.

We also drove from Homestead to Key West and back in one day. It wasn’t nearly enough time to see the Florida Keys, but it was another check off my bucket list and it gave us some good ideas for a future trip.

Posts from this trip are coming soon!

Knott’s Berry Farm

I’ve been wanting to visit Knott’s Berry Farm for more than thirty years and this was finally my year. Knott’s has big coasters for thrill junkies and Camp Snoopy for little kids. This trip was a romantic getaway, so my husband and I enjoyed the thrills, the shows and Knotts’ famous chicken restaurant together.

We went to Disneyland on this trip too for the opening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride. It was pretty great, but Disneyland has been on this list for the past two years (for good reason), so Knott’s Berry Farm gets the heading because it sets this year apart. Both parks are just a few miles from each other and it’s easy to do both on the same trip.

Click the images below to read more about this trip.

Knott’s Berry Farm

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La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits have been on my travel wish list since the 5th Grade and it was satisfying to check it off my bucket list in 2017. The La Brea Tar Pits are located in a city park, surrounded by skyscrapers in the middle of Los Angeles. They are still bubbling and still full of fossils.

There is a family-friendly museum on site and we had fun exploring the indoor and outdoor exhibits. If the La Brea Tar Pits are on your wish list, I do recommend a visit. Click the button below to learn more about our experience.

Click the images below to read more about this trip.

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Dodge City, Kansas

Dodge City is probably not on everybody’s wish list, but it has been on ours ever since my sister and her family moved there a few years ago. We finally made it last summer and it was one of my kids’ favorite trips of the year. Why? Because we did almost nothing except hang out with family. It was a truly relaxing vacation – which is something we often have a hard time accomplishing.

Please don’t assume that there is nothing to do in Dodge City. There are plenty of interesting cultural and historical activities. We took all the kids to the Boot Hill Museum and my husband and I took the trolley tour. Our unofficial taco truck tour was also a lot of fun. Dodge City is a prosperous place that invests in itself, making the city a nice place to live and visit.

Click the images below to read more about this trip.

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Boot Hill Museum

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

St. George, Utah

I can’t count how many times I have visited St. George, Utah, but this is the year I re-discovered it. My husband and I usually visit St. George in February for his work conference and I have two days to fill on my own. Some years I went shopping at the outlets. Some years I spent working from the hotel room. I always spend time walking or hiking in the sunshine because the weather is usually fantastic.

This year, I checked TripAdvisor to find out what was new in St. George and try some of the things that I’d never done. I toured the Brigham Young Home and the new Children’s Museum. I revisited Dinosaur Discovery. My new favorite place in St. George is Pioneer Park. This red rock paradise is a free public park that overlooks the city. It’s a fun place to explore, with or without kids.

Click the images below to read more tips for visiting St. George.

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Tuacahn at Christmas

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Total Eclipse in Idaho

I planned to see the not-quite total eclipse from my front lawn in Utah, but about three days prior to the big event I decided that I had to see the total eclipse. The path of totality was about three hours north of our house, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. There were no hotels to be found, so I decided that we would drive up and drive home on the same day. The drive up was easy. The drive home was awful, but we saw it coming.

I loaded our minivan with my kids, two of their friends and tons of snacks and headed north early in the morning. We made good time and met some of my college friends in Rigby once we arrived. Seeing the eclipse in person was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon and I’m so glad we made the trip.

I’m so glad we made all the trips! If you’re looking for vacation ideas for your next family trip, I hope this list provides some inspiration. Happy travels from my family to yours.

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Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

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