2017 Year in Review


Last Updated on February 24, 2024 by Grant

Writing this 2017 year in review article feels a bit cliché, but it also feels good! It is fun for us to look back on the new places we visited and relive the fun we had. We also enjoy reminding you, our readers, that you can pack a lot into your year, even with a full-time job!

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

New Year’s 2017 on the Road

We started 2017 in Monroe, LA as an overnight stop on the way home from Texas. Unfortunately, this was not a fun trip for us, as it was for a funeral.

Driving 15 hours in one day from Atlanta to the middle of Texas was not easy. We learned that we don’t necessarily like putting in that many hours at once. But, it’s what you do when you have a friend in need. And we’d do it again if we had to…but we hope we never need to!

February 2017: A Week at Disney World

Thankfully, our next trip was a fun one…a very fun one! Over our Winter Break in February, we took two of our nieces to Disney World. We spent almost a full week camping at Fort Wilderness and visiting all four theme parks.

While we enjoyed our final day, the kids were starting to get tired.

This was the first visit for the girls and we had a blast spoiling them! Disney World is always fun, even as an adult, but oh so much better with kids.

You can read all about how we planned our trip here and how it actually turned out here.

March 2017: Macon Cherry Blossom Festival

March took us to Macon, GA for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival for a weekend. We enjoyed the festival, though it was a bit underwhelming. Unfortunately, the Cherry Blossoms hadn’t quite started blooming yet, which was disappointing. The bed race, however, was unique and fun to watch!

If you want to win a bed race, having four firefighters pushing is the way to make it happen.
If you want to win a bed race, having four firefighters pushing is the way to make it happen.

While in Macon, we also visited Ocmulgee National Monument, which preserves a prehistoric Native American site. We have traveled all over the country visiting national park sites; we were very happy to visit this one only a couple of hours from home.

April 2017: School Trip to Italy

Our only international trip of the year was chaperoning a school trip to Italy. Yes, we were technically working literally the entire trip, but it was amazing! We even managed to see some sights on this week-long trip that we didn’t see when we spent a month in Italy in 2013.

Bonnie and I enjoying our gondola ride. The gondola was an optional activity that our tour director arranged once we arrived in Venice.
Bonnie and I enjoying our gondola ride. We were surprised at how quiet and peaceful the canals are!

Highlights of this trip were a gondola ride in Venice, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and the views from Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence. We traveled with several other teachers and about 30 students and parents with EF Tours. Every bit of our trip was amazing – and we typically hate group travel!

April 2017: Historic Banning Mills

In April, we spent a weekend at Historic Banning Mills just outside of Metro Atlanta. Nestled in the woods only about an hour outside of Atlanta, it felt that we were in the middle of nowhere. The ziplines over the trees and a river were long, exhilarating and, sometimes, a little scary (in a good way)!

Bonnie coming in for a landing after her first zip line.
Bonnie coming in for a landing after her first zip line.

The treehouse room that we had was unique and cozy if a bit rustic. We especially liked the jacuzzi tub in the middle!

If you are looking for a getaway with some fun activities near Atlanta, we highly recommend Banning Mills! It even has an RV campground for those on the road.

June-July 2017: American West Road Trip

The summer months took us on the road to California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado for nearly two months. We bested 2016’s “longest road trip to date” by at least a week and several thousand miles!

Travel Goals: National Parks
Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View.

This trip took us to several new-for-us National Parks, including Yosemite and Great Basin. We also returned to our favorite National Park, Yellowstone, for about a week!

Our first trip in the camper to our “happy place” out west was great, though needing to deal with camper maintenance on the road was not. Taking the bad with the good is part of what makes travel so exciting!

September 2017: Orlando, FL

For our September Break, we spent a week in Orlando with friends and family. Visiting the same place twice in one year is rare for us, so we definitely looked for ways to make it different.

Grant trying a butterbeer in Diagon Alley.
Grant trying a butterbeer in Diagon Alley.

After many visits to Disney World, we finally took the plunge and went to Universal Studios! Grant enjoyed all the movie stuff and REALLY loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as we both knew he would. While we enjoyed Universal, it is not a place we’ll be eager to return to.

We did visit Disney World, again, though only Epcot for the annual Food and Wine Festival. Any visit to Epcot is fun for us, but the Food and Wine Festival is our favorite time to visit, by far! We also were there with my sister to celebrate her 35th birthday.

October 2017: Gaffney, SC

This trip took us to two battlefields in neighboring South Carolina. Cowpens National Battlefield and King’s Mountain National Military Park both commemorate Revolutionary War battles. Both sites are bare-bones in what they offer but provide some good trails. Seeing the terrain at King’s Mountain really gives you a feel of how difficult the battle must have been on both sides.

Cannon at Cowpens
While there were a few cannons at the Battle of Cowpens, this is all you will find of them on the battlefield… A first for us… An eastern battlefield without a cannon overlooking the field.

The second part of this trip was having the opportunity to winterize the camper. Since our camper is stored at a facility without electric or water hook-ups, we have to take it to a campground to get it prepped for winter. Yes, you have to think about freezing pipes even in a camper!

November 2017: Southwest Georgia National Historic Sites

Here again, we finally got to visit a couple of sites that are not just close (about three hours away), but also more-or-less on the way from our house to my hometown, where my parents live. Meaning we have driven VERY close to these sites MANY times over the years, yet never stopped.

Plains Train Depot
The old train depot in Plains served as Carter’s campaign headquarters on the sole basis of it having a working bathroom… Which, ironically, no longer works.

Well, this Thanksgiving, we finally made a point to visit Jimmy Carter NHS and Andersonville NHS. These sites are both interesting, though vastly different. The Carter site preserves and shares the history of President Jimmy Carter. The Andersonville site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war, on a site that was one of the worst Civil War prisons.

While it is difficult to say we enjoyed Andersonville, we are glad that we finally made it to both of these sites. And, we are still left wondering why the closest sites are sometimes the hardest to get to!

December 2017: Mid-Atlantic

At the end of this past summer, we realized we had visited 41 states together and set a goal of getting to all 50 by our 10th anniversary in July 2020. This trip adds two more, taking us up to 43 states together in eight years.

As usual, we are visiting national park sites…this time in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. On this trip, we have confirmed that New Jersey does have some redeeming qualities – there are more trees than a lot of people would likely expect. Also confirmed…New Jersey is not a place we are eager to return to – there are just too many people and too much congestion!

Great Falls in Paterson, NJ
Great Falls in Paterson was the spark that created an industrial community that created everything from silk to Colt revolvers.

On the other hand, Delaware and Maryland (at least the non-Baltimore/DC areas) are reasonably nice and pleasant. And it’s a good thing we don’t hate this part of the world because there are several national park sites around here that aren’t open right now, so we know we’ll be coming back sometime.

Looking Ahead to 2018

As we look ahead to 2018, there are still a lot of question marks as to where we will visit. We anticipate our summer trip will take us to the Pacific Northwest, adding Oregon and Washington to get us up to 45 states together.

We are also in talks with Grant’s dad and stepmom to do a family cruise, along with his sister and her family, to Alaska this summer. This is still in the early discussion/planning stages, so we’ll have to wait and see how this unfolds. We actually did an Alaska cruise for our honeymoon, back in 2010, but we are still excited about this trip!

That is really about all that is planned at this point, which is a little unusual for us! We almost always have several trips in the planning stages at one time. It seems that 2017 finally got us visiting several sites close to us…maybe we will continue that trend in 2018. There are still tons of sites in the South that we have yet to visit.

As always, if you have any suggestions for us, we welcome them! Otherwise, stay tuned to see where we end up.

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.

We recently partnered with Stay22 to add interactive maps to each of our destination posts. This will allow you to see a plethora of hotels and vacation rentals all in one responsive map of the area.

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 for 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 can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viator 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.

Our 2017 Year in Review: a look back at our travels throughout the year. Highlights include a couple trips to Disney World, a week in Italy and a seven-week road trip through the American West.
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