Top 6 Travel Moments of 2023 + What’s to Come in 2024

2023 blew me away with the trips I took. I know I’m going to look back and think to myself, I can’t believe I did that! But if there’s anything I’ve learned from every trip, it just reinforces how capable I am and can reach my fullest potential. Travel has helped me be the best person I can be; it has helped my problem-solving skills (figuring out logistics on where to go and how to get there isn’t always easy), and it’s given me a curiosity about the world in a way that history classes in school didn’t.

So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and let me share with you some of my best travel moments in 2023!

Pssst—if you are wondering, here are my top travel moments from 2022.

Top Travel Moments in 2023

#1) Couples’ trip/early birthday trip to Japan

Cecilio and I have always talked about going to Japan. We were kinda talking about going in 2020 before what-shall-not-be-mentioned hit the storm. I got so worried that our dream of visiting the Land of the Rising Sun would never happen.

At the beginning of this year, we weren’t planning to go to Japan. Instead, we had a trip to Costa Rica lined up in April. But we ended up canceling it because Cecilio renewed his passport in late January and we weren’t sure it was going to come in time. So we decided to cancel and either go to Costa Rica or somewhere else later in the year. Instead, I gifted him (okay, and myself) a trip to Japan as our dating anniversary gift.

Cecilio’s passport eventually did come in time before we were supposed to go to Costa Rica, but ultimately it wasn’t in God’s will for us to go anyway. My uncle died the day after Easter, and my mom and stepdad had to fly to the Philippines immediately for his funeral and to provide support for my aunt. We had to stay behind to watch my autistic sister, Sarah. They were in the Philippines during the time we were supposed to go to Costa Rica, and it also happened to fall on their wedding anniversary when they were supposed to go to Hawaii. They ended up pushing their Hawaii trip back to September.

So we spent 11 nights in Japan—5 in Tokyo, 2 in Kyoto, and 4 in Osaka (with a day trip to Nara). We had an amazing time and we are dying to go back. I would say aside from our honeymoon in Mexico, this was the best trip we’ve ever been on. We ate delicious food, roamed through the temples (in a kimono too!), figured out their ultra-easy public transportation system, played with the deer in Nara, shopped for trinkets and plushies, and soaked in the hotel onsens. Everything was so easy and efficient, from getting your luggage transferred from one hotel to another anywhere in the country to walking into any convenience store around the corner for snacks, water, and other essentials.

We want to go back so bad, especially to Tokyo. I want to visit other parts of Japan like Hakone to see Mt. Fuji, Kinosaki (an onsen village), Hiroshima, and Hokkaido. Maybe next time, we can even take an overnight ferry from Osaka to South Korea; that is totally on my bucket list now!

#2) Mother-daughter trip to New Mexico

I haven’t traveled with my mom and Sarah in 7 years, since I moved out of the house and married Cecilio. So my mom asked if I was up to going to New Mexico, and of course, I’m never going to turn down a trip.

We spent 5 nights in Albuquerque with a day trip to Santa Fe. I fell in love with New Mexico immediately, especially Santa Fe. I loved the Pueblo architecture, delicious Southwestern dishes (you have to try the Indian taco with fry bread), and the art scene. I was blown away by the Sandia Mountains, which is the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains.

We took a 15-minute tram to and from the peak (which is over 10,000 feet above sea level!), and ate at TEN3, the restaurant on top with sweeping views of the mountains. Since we went in December, it was so magical with the snowfall. Going down the ramp during sunset was just awe-inducing; the sky was navy blue with a thin strip of orange and glittering city lights. My photos just didn’t capture the full, raw beauty of it.

While I liked Albuquerque and want to go back to see attractions I didn’t get to visit, I loved Santa Fe even more. I need to go back there. In fact, I am contemplating going on a solo trip there next year! From Santa Fe, I would love to visit Taos, which is one of the 19 Pueblos in New Mexico.

The Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque

#3) Revisiting Vancouver

During Memorial Day weekend, I got to revisit Vancouver for 4 nights. It was my 4th time in Vancouver since I have relatives on my dad’s side and got to stay with them. Their kindness and hospitality are unmatched, and they make me want to be a better person. It always feels so good catching up with them, especially because I hardly get to see them these days since my dad passed away 10 years ago. I got to meet my cousin’s adorable 4-year-old, whom I’ve only seen photos of on Facebook and Instagram.

My Tita and Tito took me around to some of my favorite spots like Granville Island, Grouse Mountain, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Stanley Park. They, along with my cousins, took me to some amazing eateries in Richmond. I almost felt guilty over how much they spent on me, but I am thankful for how they went above and beyond to make my stay enjoyable. And that’s why I want to keep going back to Vancouver over and over. I also want to revisit Whistler, and stay in Victoria (my cousins were telling me how much I need to go there, and based on the photos I’ve seen, it looks so beautiful!).

#4) Glamping in a vineyard near San Diego

I’m not a camper; I like my comforts and amenities, so I’ve always liked the idea of glamping. When Travino invited me to stay in one of their 2 lodges, I immediately booked a trip to San Diego, rented a car, and drove 45 minutes away to stay in the lodge for 2 nights.

Travino’s lodges are located in the vineyards of Principe di Tricase Winery, and they partnered together so that anyone who stays in Travino can get a discount wine tasting from Principe. I got to do a wine tasting with Principe, and their wines are all organic with no sulfites, leaving you headache-free. The owners kindly gifted me a bottle of their white sangria since that was my favorite wine out of the bunch I tasted, and I got to enjoy it while relaxing in my little box.

The interiors were beautiful and cozy. I slept in one of the comfiest, bounciest beds in my life, and it was pushed against the walls with large windows so that you could wake up to the gorgeous views of the vineyard.

I loved the green kitchen cabinets (since green is my favorite color) with gold accents. The kitchen came fully stocked with cutlery, plates, mugs, wine glasses, a cutting board, mini fridge, microwave, and Nespresso machine with pods, creamer, and sugar.

Travino’s lodges are perfect for solo travelers and couples; in fact, the only reason Cecilio couldn’t come with me was that he had already taken time off for our Japan trip.

#5) Anniversary trip to Portland

Last year for our anniversary, we spent a few days in Seattle and took a day trip to Portland. It took me a while to warm up to Portland, but I liked it enough to want to come back. This year, we celebrated our anniversary in Portland for 4 days, and I fell deeper in love with the city. The people are so nice and accepting (I mean, I’m a little weird, and they’re all about keeping Portland weird, right?), the food is top-notch (and cheap!), and the nature is drop-dead beautiful. You’re just a few minutes away from Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s most popular waterfall. And on a sunny day, you can see Mount Hood as the backdrop to the city.

Out of anywhere I’ve visited in the US, I could see me and Cecilio living in Portland the most. I’m happy to say that we are going there again next year, but this time in the summer…so we can finally experience it when it’s actually warmer (our wedding anniversary is in March, when it’s still cold).

#6) Kicking off our first 2023 trip in Solvang

Last Christmas, Cecilio gifted me a trip to Solvang…which also happened to be on his birthday, at the end of January! He tried to book it during MLK weekend (mid-January) so that I wouldn’t take too much time off work, but it was more expensive then.

Solvang is a little Danish town in Central California. I like to call it the “Denmark dupe of the US”. I went to Copenhagen a few months before going to Solvang. When I was in Copenhagen, I got to see the Little Mermaid and climb inside the Round Tower to the top. But it was also just as cool to see the replicas of both of them in Solvang!

On Cecilio’s birthday, we took a day trip to Santa Barbara. I fell in love with the town and I’m dying to go back. I loved the beaches, Stearns Wharf, and walking through the vintage shops and cafes in the Funk Zone. There’s a lot more I want to explore like trying the different wineries, going to other beaches, and heading to Channel Islands National Park. I’m gonna do my best to go there next year!

Upcoming trips in 2024

  • Crystal River, FL: I gifted Cecilio a trip for us to go to Crystal River, the manatee capital of the world. Crystal River is the only place in the world where you can legally swim with manatees. We saw two manatees when we were in Xcaret during our Mexico honeymoon, but they were in their little lagoon. I’m so excited to be swimming and snorkeling with them, and I’m going to book a snorkeling tour that includes photography (but we will also be bringing our GoPro). This is our first time going to a Southern state too!
  • Carnival Cruise: I’ve never been on a cruise before, but I’ve always wanted to go on one out of curiosity. I’ve been begging Cecilio for us to go, especially because it looks so relaxing and you don’t have to worry about driving or parking anywhere. But he didn’t want to deal with seasickness or another Titanic scenario. In the end, he gifted me a Carnival Cruise from LA, and we will be stopping at Catalina Island (which is where we always wanted to go to) and Ensenada, Mexico. We are going in early March, so it’s also basically an early wedding anniversary trip.
  • Portugal and Spain: I will be going to San Sebastian, Spain, in late May for the TBEX Conference. I’ve never been before and I’m so excited! But I will be spending a few days in Lisbon before I go to San Sebastian. I’m super excited, as I have never been to Portugal either. I have a layover in Amsterdam, but it’s only 3 hours so I won’t have enough time to explore the city. So I’m thinking after the conference is over (and if after I go on a FAM trip), I can stop by Amsterdam for a few days (with a day trip to Bruge) and then go back to Copenhagen for a few days. I want to see as much as I can!
  • Portland: I gifted Cecilio tickets to see one of his favorite bands, Los Campensinos, in Portland. Sure, they are also performing in San Francisco, but doesn’t seeing a band in another city sound much more fun? That way, you can make a trip out of it! There’s a lot more I want to see and cover there, and it’ll be our first time going in the summer.

This doesn’t count other trips I have in mind, like maybe going to the WITS (Women in Travel Summit) in Utah, the many California road trips with Cecilio, and somewhere abroad during Christmas.

Thank you all for your love and support!

I am eternally grateful for YOU, who reads this. I couldn’t keep this blog running without you, and it’s my mission to help you travel and see the world with fresh eyes.

Here’s to an exciting 2024 🥂

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Hannah is a travel writer, graphic designer, and the founder/editor of Hannah on Horizon. She is based in Sacramento, California, living with her husband and two adorable dogs. She shares tips on how to experience luxury travel on any budget, and how to maximize time at each trip or destination, no matter what your budget or amount of vacation time at work. She enjoys making you feel like you have visited each destination with her through her storytelling and informative writing style.

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