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Best Travel Destinations of the Year

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As another year comes to a close, some may look back on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. Others set career and personal goals for the coming year. Many will vow not to break New Year’s resolutions (for once!). But travel enthusiasts like us here at Travel Mamas look at everything through travel-colored glasses. We are plotting journeys for the year to come and reflecting on where we traveled this year. Maybe some of these destinations will make you want to cast your net somewhere new in the year to come. Here are our personal picks for the best travel destinations of 2013.

Best travel destinations of the year

Hana, Hawaii

My solo trip to Hana reminded me of who I am…without a husband, without kids, without distractions. I unplugged and spent time with myself. I chose where to go, what to eat, and what activities to do. I learned how to throw-net fish from a fourth-generation Hana fisherman and gained a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s people and culture. I rode a horse by Hana’s magnificent stretch of sea and remembered the teen I used to be, the one who rode horses competitively. I swam in Travaasa Hana‘s stunning infinity pool, the cool water gliding over my skin, the words, “You are so blessed,” rolling in my mind. I slept to the sound of ocean waves and my own thoughts. I went to Maui, fretting over turning 40. I came home focused on the time I have today.

Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Infinity pool at Travaasa Hana, in Hana, Hawaii

Infinity pool at Travaasa Hana, in Hana, Hawaii (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Los Cabos, Mexico

“A year of adventurous travels and journeys, with or for families and children, makes it tough to choose a favorite. But my mind returns faithfully to Los Cabos and Grand Solmar, with the brilliant beaches and all the experiences we had there. We ventured away from the resort just enough to taste the land’s mystery,  and learned of the resort’s bountiful offerings for families.”

Gabe Miller, The Philosophical Travel Daddy

El Arco de Cabo san Lucas (Photo credit: Grand Solmar Land's End Resort & Spa)

El Arco de Cabo san Lucas (Photo credit: Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa)

Mexico City, Mexico

“My fave trip was Mexico City. Why? It was so unexpected. It was like being in Europe, but in North America. The architecture, the food, the revitalization that’s going on downtown, it was almost overwhelming. I mean, the historical district is 34 blocks! I felt like a fool for being swayed by reports about safety and not travelling there sooner.”

Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

Chapultepec Park in Mexico City

Chapultepec Park in Mexico City (Photo courtesy of MX City)

Dordogne, France

“Our favorite trip of the year as a family was our tour de France: Paris to Dordogne. It was the hottest time of summer, and I felt that a good old American road trip-style adventure was the kind of experience none of us would forget. Seeing my boys take in the Eiffel Tower for the first time, and our magnificent trip to the south in Dordogne are memories that I will always have. They’re still asking to go back to the family hotel by the dinosaur caves next summer and we’d love to go back too.”

Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama

Courtyard and pond at Le Chevrefeuille, a family-friendly bed & breakfast in Dordogne, France

Courtyard and pond at Le Chevrefeuille, a family-friendly bed & breakfast in Dordogne, France (Photo credit: Farrah Ritter)

Southwest Florida

“Hands down my favorite trip of 2013 was to Southwest Florida. The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village was a luxurious new 236-room retreat perched overlooking the massive Caloosahatatchee River, waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. I had a blast kayaking the 400-mile network of canals (more than even Venice) and exploring Captiva and Sanibel Islands, ranked the No. 1 travel destination in the world from Frommer’s travel guide. I had the most surreal moment of my life when I gathered piles upon piles of seashells that formed a thick ribbon along the shore!”

Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama

Kayaking Southwest Florida's canals

Kayakers in Southwest Florida’s canals (Photo credit: Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village)

Kauai, Hawaii

“One of our favorite trips was spending spring break on our favorite Hawaiian island of Kauai. This Garden Island paradise has it all: sun, sand, surf, good food, shave ice, and lots of things to see and do. On a family holiday, there is nothing better than relaxing on the beach, watching the kids surf the waves, and enjoying some homemade mai tais, while watching a brilliant Hawaiian sunset. It’s the stuff that wonderful family travel memories are made of.”

Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Waimea Canyon, The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Hawaii (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

London, England

“We had another year of incredible travel experiences but my favorite trip was our end-of-summer family vacation in London. This was my third trip to London and our second family trip but it’s a city that I will never grow tired of visiting and one of only a few places that I could imagine myself living. For the first time ever we took along a friend for my teenager and it worked out incredibly well. We spent nine days sightseeing, taking in several shows in the West End, and day-tripping to Windsor and Stratford-upon-Avon. We also spent a day at Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter which was a dream come true for the teenagers who grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies. My girls were a few years older than the first time we visited and I happily watched as the two of them truly fell in love with London.”

Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

National Gallery London

The National Gallery in London from Trafalgar Square (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Carmel, California

The travel memories that stand out most to me are the ones that transform in some way. My 12-year wedding anniversary trip to Carmel and its neighbor, Monterey, along California’s Central Coast transformed my relationship with my husband. This romantic getaway was just what we needed to revitalize our marriage. The slow-down pace, the natural beauty, the romantic dinners, and the friendly vibe enabled us to remember why we had chosen each other so many years ago.

Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, California (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

What was your favorite travel destination of 2013? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    I think I’ve added a few more places to my travel wish list now! Thank you for having me as part of this great team at Travel Mamas! Have a wonderful holiday season with your family!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Lisa – Thank YOU for all of your wonderful contributions to Travel Mamas! Happy holidays to you – can’t wait to follow your upcoming holiday travel adventures!

  2. Ellen Lanin says

    My favorite trip this year included Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. The many varieties of birds, the weather, nature, and friendly people and guides made for a wondrous vacation.

  3. you missed one of my favorite place. that one is Tajmahal from india. i like the places you sharing with us. all are such a beautiful places. thanks for sharing this one with us..

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Suresha – Maybe it will make next year’s list?! I have never been to India but I hope to someday see the Tajmahal in-person!

  4. We re-booked for next summer! Can’t wait. When you find a sure thing it’s hard to not go back 🙂

  5. It would be Singapore for us as the best because of win-win with food and shopping (for me) as well as the kid-friendly attractions. I can actually say though that the worst vacation we’ve ever taken was in 2013 to Kauai but it’s because our extended family wanted to actually stay in Waimea where there is nada to do and no beach. Stay elsewhere!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Katie – It’s hard to imagine a bad vacation in Kauai…I hope you can visit again sometime and get to enjoy the island’s beauty and friendly vibe (and beaches!). Singapore has long been on my must-visit list. Someday…!

  6. Keliʻi Brown says

    Aloha Collen! Thank you so much for including Hāna, Maui as well as our sister Island Kauaʻi. As a “local boy,” I am thrilled two Hawaiian destinations made your list.

    The “throw net” experience sounded pretty lame when I first heard of it. Then I was with a group of travel writers who did it a few years back it was truly a lot of great fun. I hear the women tend to do better than us men. I am not surprised.

    Thanks for your support of Hawaiʻi…we appreciate you and your team of Mamas. Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Aloha, Keli’i! Mahalo for stopping by to say “hi!” I had such an incredible time in Maui, and in Hana in particular. I have a soft spot in my heart for Hawaii and hope to return soon. My next stop will likely be the Big Island so I can check that off my bucket list!

  7. wanderingeducators says

    this year we stuck close to home – we’re lucky we live on a lake, and right near michigan’s sunset coast. glorious!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      There is so much to explore and enjoy in this world…sometimes right in your own backyard. I have seen the gorgeous photos of your lake. I can see why you enjoy your hometown!

  8. I love your description of your trip to Hana. I also love your choice of the Monterey-Carmel-Point Lobos area as a favorite. It is my favorite getaway in California.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Jenna – I was surprised by how much I loved both Hana and Monterey/Carmel…maybe that’s why they seemed so magical to me?!

  9. Kristi {} says

    London is one of my favourite cities in the world.

    Hawaii, is on my to-do list for 2014 travel!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Kristi – I hope you can make it to Hawaii this year! All of the islands are so beautiful and worthy of a visit in their own rite!


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