2016 – Our Wander-Filled Year in Review


This past year was a busy one and a fun one to review! Not only did we travel more often than ever before, but we also took our longest trip to date and, most importantly, we launched this blog!

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

January in Review: Return from Christmas Trip to Western U.S.

We started 2016 in Pagosa Springs, Colo. on the tail end of a two-week trip through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. Many of our U.S. travels have been to this part of the country, but rarely in the winter. We decided to see if we could handle the cold and snow. We got to enjoy a White Christmas and found several towns that we could see ourselves moving to if we ever decide to leave Georgia!

View from Pagosa
The view from Bonnie’s uncle’s back deck

Some of our favorite stops on this trip were Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, Cody, Wyo., McCall, Idaho, and Pagosa Springs. We truly enjoyed each of these stops and look forward to returning to all of them in the future – any time of year!

March in Review: We bought a camper!

With Grant stepping down as the drama director, we weren’t sure if we would be able to continue teaching at the same school…it was all dependent on if there was a teaching position open in the English department. Once we got word that he would be able to stay at the school, we decided to spend the money earmarked for the second vehicle on a camper instead!

Exterior of our camper
Our camper!

We purchased a Passport Elite 23RB in early March and spent a couple of weekends getting everything outfitted and set up. Unfortunately, it would be a couple of months before we actually got to put it to use, but it was good to have some extra time to figure out what we needed and pay for it all!

April in Review: New York City

We traveled to the Big Apple as part of a school field trip with the drama and chorus programs at our school. Along with touring all the major sites of Manhattan, we saw Matilda, The King and I, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Being responsible for 60-something high school students in New York was a bit overwhelming at times, but once we realized that we should trust ourselves and not our travel agent/tour guides, it went a lot smoother!

Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City

We have been to NYC once before, but still have A LOT to see and do there! We aren’t sure when we will return yet, but I’m sure we will soon.

Mount Dora, FL

A few days after returning from NYC, we traveled to central Florida for Grant’s cousin’s wedding. We stayed in a house in Mount Dora with the rest of Grant’s immediate family. It was really nice to spend some time with everyone. It was great to take a trip where we weren’t super busy all the time!

Sunset at Mount Dora
Took this picture following my cousin’s wedding on Mount Dora.

The wedding was held on the lakeshore and was absolutely beautiful! There’s not much to do in Mount Dora, but it did provide the opportunity for us to visit a friend who lives in Orlando.

May in Review: Chattanooga

In mid-May, we finally were able to take the camper out on its maiden voyage! We spent two nights just outside of Chattanooga, Tenn. at the Holiday Travel Park. The campground was a perfect first stop with the camper! We had a level, paved, pull-thru site. The campground was just a short drive from Wal-Mart so that we could stock up on the things we forgot (or didn’t know we needed), and we were only about 15-20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

The view from Point Park on Lookout Mountain
The view from Point Park on Lookout Mountain, part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Our big stops on this trip were the different locations within Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. We admired the view from the top of Lookout Mountain and drove the auto tour at Chickamauga Battlefield.

Mexico Beach

Our second trip with the camper was to Mexico Beach, Florida. This gave us the opportunity to see my parents and sister who live in Tallahassee, before heading out on our big summer road trip. While the campground left a lot to be desired, we really enjoyed Mexico Beach. There were a few good restaurants, the beach was nice, and it was not overly touristy!

Sunset on Mexico Beach
Sunset on Mexico Beach, Florida

We figured out that it definitely takes longer to get places with the camper and you have to be very selective about where you pull in for gas or food!

June/July in Review: New England

The summer brought on our longest trip to date. We spent more than six weeks on the road with the camper touring New England. We drove nearly 6,700 miles, visited 28 National Park Sites in 10 different states (and Canada). Our anniversary dinner was our most expensive meal ever at VOLT in Frederick, Md… Thankfully, the food and service were well worth the price!

Grassy Pond in Baxter State Park
Grassy Pond in Baxter State Park

We got pretty good at backing up the camper (Grant) and getting it level (Bonnie). And slowly reduced the amount of time spent going to Wal-Mart to get supplies we didn’t realize we needed.

This was also the trip that officially kicked off this blog!

September in Review: Northeast Alabama

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled to Northeast Alabama to visit Little River Canyon National Preserve and Russell Cave National Monument. While fairly small, both sites were interesting. We love visiting the smaller park sites and learning about things that we didn’t know we would find interesting!

Top of Little River Falls
The top of Little River Falls in Little River National Preserve

Savannah, GA

One of the things we like best about the school system where we teach is that we get a week off in both September and February. Yes, it means a slightly shorter summer, but having a week-long break every six weeks or so is very nice! September is a great time to travel as the crowds aren’t too bad and the weather is generally fairly nice (depending on where you go).

Downtown Savannah
Downtown Savannah from the Hilton Savannah DeSoto

For this break, we spent a few days in Savannah. We visited the squares and parks in the downtown area, walked along River Street, toured Fort Pulaski and saw the lighthouse on Tybee Island. It also gave us the opportunity to meet up with a couple of friends (I lived in Savannah for eight years before moving to Woodstock, where Grant and I met).

We used our free weekend night voucher from the Hilton Citi card, along with Hilton Honors points to pay for the hotel, making the trip relatively inexpensive!

October in Review: Cloudland Canyon State Park

We have been motivated lately to spend more time visiting local places of interest. It is easy for us to think that a vacation has to take us far away from home, seeing several new and interesting places. We are trying to find the gems closer to home, not only for our own enjoyment but also to provide content for this site!

Cloudland Canyon in northwest Georgia
Cloudland Canyon in northwest Georgia

Cloudland Canyon, in northwest Georgia, is a perfect example. It only took us a couple of hours to get there and provided a great afternoon escape! Unfortunately, all the waterfalls were dry due to the drought, but we still had a great hike and saw some nice fall colors.

November in Review: Southern Caribbean Cruise

Another highlight of the year was our Thanksgiving cruise to the Southern Caribbean! We flew to San Juan, where we embarked on The Adventure of the Seas, visiting five more islands (six countries since St. Maarten/St. Martin is split between French & Dutch rule). We enjoyed several different excursions and lots of sea and sun!

The Adventure of the Seas, our boat for our southern Caribbean cruise.
The Adventure of the Seas, our boat for our southern Caribbean cruise.

Not having to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner was the best treat ever! Nor did I have to feel guilty that another family member was doing all the hard work!! While we would have loved for some of our family or friends to be able to join us, it was still a great vacation.

December in Review: Southeast Alabama

This year, we spent Christmas in Tallahassee with my family. We took a few days detour on the way down to visit several National Park Sites in lower Alabama and Florida.

We first drove the auto tour in Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, which commemorates the Creek War in the 1800s. Next was a visit to the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed, and they weren’t doing tours of Booker T. Washington’s home the day we were there. We did very much enjoy the nearby Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Battery 234 was a coastal artillery emplacement during World War II designed to protect Pensacola Bay from attack.
Battery 234 was a coastal artillery emplacement during World War II designed to protect Pensacola Bay from attack.

The last stop before heading to Tallahassee was Gulf Islands National Seashore. We visited four of the six sites in Florida. There are additional sites in Mississippi that we will visit on another trip. The white sand beaches were amazing! The coastal forts are interesting and the live oaks provide some great shade for walking the various hiking trails. We definitely found more than we expected for a national seashore!

Read more about southern Alabama national parks and Gulf Islands National Seashore.

December: Texas

Unfortunately, our year ended with an unexpected trip to Texas for a funeral. A couple of days after Christmas, one of our dear friend’s father passed away. It did not take us long to decide that we were going to drive to Texas to support her and her family.

We left extremely early in the morning and drove straight from Woodstock, Ga. (metro Atlanta) to Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport to pick up our friends. From there we had another nearly three-hour drive to get to our destination. All said, we were on the road for about 18 hours that day.

There was nothing fun about this trip…it was purely to support our friend who is as close as family to us.

We spent two full days there and then spent two days driving back to Georgia. While we would do this again in a heartbeat for a friend in need, we learned that we definitely don’t have the stamina we used to. This drive was absolutely exhausting!

2016 Reflection

One of the big things we learned this year was that this blog is hard work! It definitely takes a lot more time and energy than we expected, especially now while we are still in the “launch phase.” We are staying busy with not just travel, but also writing and social media. We are slowly figuring out what it takes to get things done and learning how to plan and budget our time better.

We know that for future trips we will need to build in time for the blog – it doesn’t just write itself in a few minutes! That is good, though, in that it forces us to slow down and not rush from one place to another.

Coming up in 2017

As we look ahead to the upcoming year, we plan to visit Disney World in February with our nieces (ages 7 and 9). March will bring a weekend in Macon, Ga. celebrating the Cherry Blossom Festival.

April will take us to Italy for a week on a school field trip. Yes, we will be chaperoning high school students, but we will be doing it in Italy! We are super excited to be going back to some of our favorite places and getting a different perspective by traveling with a group.

The summer of 2017 will finally take us to California and Nevada (a first for us together)! We will spend time in Yosemite, Great Basin, and Yellowstone national parks. We will also be in Cody, Wyo. for the Cody Stampede Rodeo on the Fourth of July. There will be many other sites along the way…there is a lot to see between Georgia and California!

We also hope to return to Disney World in September for the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. While we’ve been to Epcot before, but it has been several years. It is always a great time and something that we would do every year if we could!

We will hopefully be adding much more to these plans. Stay tuned to find out all the details!

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
Click here to get a AAA membership.

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