As we rang in 2019, I was almost seven months pregnant with our first child, and we knew our lives would change forever—including if and how we traveled. For years people told us we needed to get travel “out of our system” before we had kids. And, frankly, as we stared into the terrifying unknown of parenthood, I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to manage a trip to the supermarket down the street let alone to the other side of the world. I mean, just thinking of trimming tiny fingernails was enough to give me anxiety. Was travel something we had to put off until we retired or our daughter was “old enough to enjoy it,” which, according to many people, seemed to be about two weeks before she started college?
Well, I had the baby. And while trimming her fingernails still kind of terrifies me, it turns out we could keep traveling with a baby. In fact, we did a lot of traveling this year. In total, we traveled in 10 countries and 6 states, slept in 23 places (not including airplanes!), visited 20 cities, and flew 32,514 miles on 7 airlines. So, while we logged less than half the miles we did in 2018, we still managed to pack in some amazing adventures. It wasn’t always pretty or easy. Traveling with a baby is definitely another ball game. But we have already made some amazing memories as a family of three.
These are some of our 2019 travel highlights.
We wanted to do a quick getaway just the two of us before the baby was born, so we headed up to the mountains for a weekend. We stayed at the Chanticleer Inn in Lookout Mountain, GA, (which is right by Chattanooga, TN) and passed a few days of blissful relaxation.
I enjoyed bubble baths in the jacuzzi, reading by the fire, a heavenly prenatal massage, and some shopping. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful chapter of our lives.
Piedmont Fayette Hospital (Fayetteville, Georgia)
The next time we packed our bags was for a very different type of overnight destination—the labor and delivery ward! (Ok, I know this isn’t technically a trip. But it would seem wrong not to include it, since it was the most monumental part of the year!) I’ll spare you the gory details, but after 43 long hours of labor, we welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world.
We’ve had some amazing experiences through the years ranging from cage diving with sharks in Africa to beach hopping in Asia to zip-lining in Central America. But nothing compares to the experience of holding your first-born child. Parenthood has definitely been our wildest, most emotional, exhausting, and thrilling adventure yet—and we’ve barely even gotten started!
When Claire was nine weeks old, we were ready to jump back into travel with a trip to Saskatchewan with my mom to visit her sisters (who are some of my favorite people in the world). Much to our delight, Claire was a champ and slept the whole way there! We even got upgraded to first class one of our flights, so she was traveling in style.
We spent a pleasant (albeit, sleepless) four days introducing Claire to the country of my childhood.
From Saskatoon, we boarded a plane to the west coast to spend four days with my brother and his family in Victoria. Vancouver Island is such a beautiful place, and Claire enjoyed meeting her cousins. She even got to go to the beach for the first time.
Besides seeing family, the highlight of the trip was visiting The Butchart Gardens while all the tulips were in bloom.
Further Reading: A Guide to Victoria, Canada
Turks and Caicos Islands
To end my maternity leave with a bang, we decided to cash in some of our Chase points for a last-minute Southwest Airlines flight to the Turks and Caicos Islands. We hadn’t been to the Caribbean since our honeymoon five years ago (when we took a Royal Caribbean cruise), so we enjoyed spending a few days hopping to different beaches. The only downside was the we managed to visit during some of the only rainy days of the whole year.
The highlight of the trip was definitely snorkeling over a coral reef at Smith’s Reef beach. The marine life was incredible, and we had the whole beach to ourselves!
Our next trip was a little closer to home—a few days in Birmingham, AL, for a work conference. We spent most of the time either in the conference center or the hotel, so we didn’t really see much of the city. We did enjoy popping into the The Pizitz Food Hall a few times and eating some delicious food.
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
In July, we flew up to New England to spend a few days in Maine with Sam’s family. Sam’s brother and his wife had a daughter only 20 days after Claire was born, so it was extra special to get the whole family together for the first time and watch the two baby girls get to know each other. We visited a flower farm, hit the beach, and ate lots of delicious food. (Unfortunately, we visited during a major heat wave! We were hoping to leave the hot weather behind in Atlanta).
Further Reading: A Weekend Guide to Portland, Maine
Though we really enjoyed visiting Boston in 2018, this time it was only a stopover on our way to and from Maine, since plane tickets into Portland were super pricy. So we didn’t get to see much on this visit!
Further Reading: The Ultimate Weekend Guide to Boston
England (London, Oxford, Morton-in-Marsh)
When Claire was five months old, we finally bit the bullet and took our first long-haul trip—to England with my parents. It was my third time in England, but a first for Sam and Claire. We spent the first few days in London. My dad is a major history buff, so he was excited to visit Hampton Court and Westminster Abbey. Claire even got to go on her first boat ride—a water taxi down the Thames! We spent the rest of the week based in Oxford and took a few day trips.
The highlight of our time in England was definitely visiting Highclere Castle (aka DOWNTON ABBEY). The castle is only open to visitors a limited number of days per year, so we were super pumped we were able to go.
Scotland (Inverness, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Glasgow, Edinburgh)
Once we finished in England, my parents flew home and Sam, Claire, and I flew up to Inverness to start an 8-day Scotland road trip. We had wanted to visit Scotland for years and I’d seen lots of pictures, but I was still blown away by how beautiful the Scottish landscapes are. Though we have visited some truly beautiful countries (like Ireland and Iceland), I think Scotland might have the most stunning landscapes we’ve seen yet. On our road trip, we were able to tick off many of the major sites: Loch Ness, Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Edinburgh.
Our favorite part of the trip was hiking the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Another highlight was having Sam’s parents join us for several days!
Our next trip was to a place we’ve visited many times: Destin, Florida. We go every year with my family, but it was an extra-special trip this year since it was the first time Claire has been with us! And after a few years of terrible luck, we were thrilled to have great weather for our whole trip this time. We loved chilling on the beach with a book, and Claire enjoyed her first dip in the pool.
In November, we made our second trip across the ocean for the year, this time to my all-time favorite destination: Paris. I had always dreamed of taking my daughter to Paris, and when we saw RT tickets from Atlanta for only $293, we knew it was too good of an opportunity to pass up!
Sam’s mom lived in Paris as a child, so it was wonderful for her and Sam’s dad to join us there. My favorite part of our time in the City of Lights was taking Claire for a ride on the carousel with the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. (And also eating a copious amount of pastries.)
Prague, Czech Republic
From Paris, we hopped on a flight to Prague, where we spent three days exploring Prague Castle, strolling through the Old Town, and eating delicious Trdelník (chimney cakes). It was very cold, but also beautiful.
Sam visited Bratislava on his first ever trip to Europe. But I wasn’t sure what to expect, since it isn’t a place I have heard people talk about very much. So we were surprised that it ended up being one of our favorite stops of the trip. It is a lively city with great food and a fraction of the crowds and cost of other European capitals. Definitely an underrated European destination.
A highlight of our visit was eating the best pork buns of our lives at a street food park near our Airbnb.
While we were based in Bratislava, we took a day trip to Austria, only about an hour train ride from the Slovakian capital. Since we had such limited time, we decided to spend most of the day at Schönbrunn Palace. While the interior of the palace was beautiful, our favorite part was touring the extensive gardens. We visited in late November when the fall foliage was gorgeous. Afterward we explored a Christmas market in Vienna old town, which was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.
The last stop on our Europe trip was Budapest, Hungary, a city we’ve heard about a lot during the past few years and have wanted to visit for a long time. Though we were a little worn out from two weeks in five countries with a nine-month-old, we really enjoyed our time in the city. We visited the Christmas market, explored Fisherman’s Bastion, took a river cruise down the Danube, and hit up the food stalls at the Central Market Hall. We can certainly see why it’s such a popular destination right now.
Victoria, Canada (again)
Our final trip of the year was a jaunt back to Victoria, Canada, to spend time with my family after Christmas. It was the first time all six cousins have been together, we made some special memories. We loved seeing the Christmas lights at the Butchart Gardens, hiking up Mount Douglas, and visiting Beacon Hill Park.
Another highlight was finding out that our flight was oversold, so for the first time in two years we were able to volunteer our seats and earn $1,200 worth of Amex gift cards (in the past we’ve always gotten Delta credit).
Further Reading: What to Know Before Volunteering your Airplane Seat
All in all it was a very full travel year—especially considering we had a baby! Though our travel style has certainly changed, we are excited to keep experiencing the world as a family of three.
Here is a recap of our year: