It is hard to believe we have come to the end of another great year. Not only did we celebrate some important family milestones, we also made many special memories together through travel. As we look back at some of our favorite family travel experiences of 2017, it is hard to choose just one memory to call the best. If we had to pick just one trip, we all agreed it would be our visit to Vienna and Budapest earlier this year. (Of course, this is written BEFORE we head to London…we will have to include special moments from that trip in the next round up!)

But instead of just naming one trip, I decided to break it down into categories and share some of our favorite hotels, tours, museums, theme parks, and ¬†experiences. Since we share so much of our travels throughout the year, I hope it is helpful to tell you what our very best family travel experiences have been as you start to plan your adventures for 2018. Wishing you a year of making happy memories with your family! If you have any family travel favorites from this year, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Best Hotels for Families

We logged a lot of hotel nights in 2017. Add in all of Glenn’s business travel and I don’t even want to know the total number. These experiences have ranged from luxury resorts to historic inns. Here are our faves:

Favorite City Hotel: Palais Hansen Kempinski (Vienna)

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

We all loved everything about our stay at the Palais Hansen Kempinski. The service was impeccable check rates and reviewsand I know that Gruber is a popular Austrian name but it was still pretty cool to be greeted by name every time we walked in or out of the hotel. We were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite which was huge! Two gorgeous walk in closet with wood built-ins. A very large bathroom with soaking tub, separate shower, double vanities, and a separate water closet. The room was high-tech without being impossible to figure out how to control the lights and temperature.

Tea or cocktails in the lobby during the afternoon was an elegant and relaxing experience. However, our absolute favorite was the enormous breakfast buffet. The buffet featured meats, cheeses, eggs, fresh fruits, a juicer, an entire wall of fresh pastries and breads, and even a kid-level buffet with breakfast cereals and other treats. And hey, champagne for breakfast didn’t hurt! Check rates or read our full review.

Favorite Beach Hotel: Eden Roc at Cap Cana (Dominican Republic)

adult luxury punta cana

This year, Glenn and I went away for five days to the Eden Roc at Cap Cana, near Punta Cana in the check rates and reviewsDominican Republic. It was the longest we have gone just the two of us since Hannah was born and it was a very much-needed escape (for work, Hannah was happily at camp.) I spent a lot of time researching resorts and the Eden Roc was absolutely perfect. It was quiet, peaceful, and very luxurious. The beach was beautiful with water perfect for body surfing and wonderful beach palapas and cabanas for shade from the summer sun. Our suite had its own plunge pool and patio and a gorgeous bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers. Since we were there over July 4th, the hotel was only half full and rates were much cheaper than high season. Check rates or read our full review.

Favorite Countryside Hotel: Basin Harbor (Vermont)

Tamara Hannah Basin Harbor

check rates and reviews

One of our mother-daughter trips this year was to my old childhood summer vacation state — Vermont. We stayed at the Basin Harbor resort on Lake Champlain. Although the lake was still chilly in late June, the resort was all about good-clean family fun. When people are looking for ways to disconnect to reconnect, Basin Harbor is the sort of place they are looking for. Many large family groups have been coming to the resort for generations. Others start new traditions, like the couple recently married at the resort who had met there as kids.

There is both a standard hotel and individual cabins. Our two-bedroom cabin right on the lake offered beautiful views with updated and comfortable nautical styling. The accommodations were lovely but the fun is in the activities. There is the heated pool and lakefront, biking, tennis, lawn games, and special activities from bingo nights to outdoor movies and New England lobster bakes. Check rates or read our full review.

Best Family Travel Experiences

Our family travel experiences ranged from cultural and educational to lots of great food. Here were our favorite experiences from 2017.

Favorite History Tour: Jewish History Tour (Budapest)

Shoes on the Danube Budapest

Learning the tragic Jewish history of Vienna and Budapest was an important element of our trip. In Vienna we had a very informative tour with Context Tours, but in Budapest we really made a personal connection with our guide Kata Nadas. Kata’s grandparents were all holocaust survivors and she was able to tell us their stories, and also about growing up Jewish in a Communist country. The most powerful moment came on the banks of the Danube at the Shoe Memorial. Learning about the men, women and children who were marched out of the city on multiple occasions, forced to remove their clothes and shoes, chained together, shot and thrown into the river was a gut-renching experience. But watching Hannah place rocks next to the bronzed shoes while a Jewish group chanted in the background brought me to tears. We may not remember every fact we learned that day, but that is a moment that we will never forget.

Favorite Food Tour: Walk Eat Nashville (East Nashville)

Nashville food tour Margot cafe

I took a lot of food tours this year — Vienna, Seattle, Atlanta, Kure Beach, and our favorite, East Nashville. It is hard to pick a favorite food tour because frankly, they have all been fun and delicious. We had such a fun time in Nashville with Walk.Eat.Nashville. and we both enjoyed that there was a mix of gourmet tastings, street food, local favorites, and tasty versions of classics.

Favorite Meal: Bazaar by Jose Andres (South Beach, Miami)

I’m stretching things a bit here to late last year, but our meal at Bazaar by Jose Andres in the SLS Hotel in South Beach was one of the best meals of our lives (and we have had a lot of great meals.) We were there to celebrate Glenn’s 50th birthday with his parents and sisters. Luckily we had a big group because we were able to share so many of the small plates. The caviar cones with Ossetra caviar, creme fraiche, capers, onion and egg inspired our New Year’s Eve menu. Every bite was delicious, beautifully presented, and the service was outstanding. We need to find another special occasion to celebrate there again!

Favorite Outdoor Adventure: Hiking at Copper Mountain, Colorado

Copper Mountain trail hike

I guess this year was more about educational experiences and food than outdoor adventure. Unlike previous years with our dude ranch and National Park trips. Hannah and I did do some off roading up in Northern New Hampshire, but we all really enjoyed our time at Copper Mountain, Colorado the best. It surprised us all how much we enjoyed being at a ski resort in the summer. There was plenty to do — zipline, paddle boats, gondola rides, rock climbing, and the awesome Wrecktangle ninja obstacle course. But our favorite was just hiking down the mountain with those beautiful Rocky views and the clean mountain air.

Favorite Special Experience: Honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody Memphis

Peabody Memphis ducks on roof

At first, I was more excited about Hannah’s role as the Honorary Duckmaster at the Peabody Memphis than she was. But then she saw the ducks and witnessed the pomp and circumstance that happens every morning at the ducks come down the elevator from their penthouse home, across the red carpet, and into the fountain in the lobby where they spend their day. Hannah got to be the Honorary Duckmaster for their return trip out of the fountain, back across that carpet, and up the elevator to the rooftop penthouse. We were both grinning ear-to-ear the entire time. If you are planning a visit to Memphis, look into the Peabody’s special Honorary Duckmaster package.

Favorite Museum(s): Birmingham Civil Rights Institute / Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta)

I have a dream speech

We visited a lot of museums during our Civil Rights Road Trip and while there was a lot of overlap, each was unique. Hannah’s favorite museum from this year was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which focused primarily on the Civil Rights history in Alabama. While it wasn’t the most sophisticated of museums, it was impactful. Personally, I preferred the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. While the exhibits were much more modern and high tech, I also enjoyed the human rights exhibit.

Favorite Theme Park Experience: Pandora at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World

Pandora Valley of Mo'ara Disney

Hands down, Pandora in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is the best theme park experience. And knowing how much I love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, that is saying a lot. But the Flight of Passage is without a doubt the best ride I’ve ever done. This simulator hits all your senses as your ride a banshee through the fantastically imagined world of Pandora. You feel the banshee breathing beneath you, smell the aroma of the forest, feel the spray of the waterfall as you dip and soar through a simply gorgeous world.

Favorite Water Park Experience: Krakatau Aqua Coaster in Volcano Bay

This was a year for theme parks to really up their game. Disney did it with Pandora and Universal Orlando rose to watery new heights with its realistically-themed Volcano Bay waterpark. We have tried a few water parks in the past including Water Country USA, and indoor waterparks at the Great Wolf Lodge or Kalahari. But Volcano Bay is a thousand times better. First of all, when you are sitting on the beach in front of the volcano, it could be easy to forget you are in Orlando and imagine yourself on a tropical island. Hannah’s favorite ride was also something new for waterparks — the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. Not just a slide, this dips up and down on a surprisingly long and exciting ride.

So there you go…our list of favorites for 2017. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! I have a lot of planning to do. Please share your favorite trip, hotel or experience of the year in the comments below.


Best family travel experiences in 2017 #familytravel #vacationideas

Note: We received media rates or complimentary stays and services for some of the experiences mentioned above but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission.
















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