In 2018 we took 21 flights, flew 38,590 miles, traveled to 5 states, and 6 countries. In general, I like to plan our travel based on where I want to go and what I think my kids will like. In 2018, I tried to include my kids in the decision making process a little more. After all, if they aren’t having fun or aren’t engaged then it makes it less fun for me. We even decided to let our 14-year-old, who is finishing middle school this year, pick the destination of our 2019 summer trip. He picked Australia! As I’m planning our 2019 travel, I was curious what my kids enjoyed most last year – so I asked them. Actually I gave them a survey which they all rolled their eyes at, but they filled it out nonetheless!

Here is what my kids (ages 14, 12 and 8) said were their favorite travel experiences of 2018:

Favorite Hotels

The feedback I received from my kids this year was that they prefer less crowded hotels where they have more personal space. Their favorite places to stay are residences or residences within a hotel. Trying to fit 5 people into one hotel room is usually not allowed by the hotel. Reserving two adjoining rooms is usually the same cost as upgrading to a suite or residence so that’s what we tend to do. And it’s a huge bonus when we get our own pool and outdoor space! The kids’ choice of hotels definitely reflect this.

Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai Thailand

The entrance to the Dhara Dhevi. Chaing Mai, Thailand
The entrance to the Dhara Dhevi

The Dhara Dhevi may actually be our all time favorite hotel! Located in Chiang Mai, about an hour flight north of Bangkok, the Dhara Dhevi was a destination in and of itself. Three nights here was not enough. The hotel is spread over 60 acres. We were completely blown away by the lush grounds, the historic architecture, and the amazing service. We felt like we had stepped back in time to the ancient Lanna Kingdom.

We had a Grand Deluxe 2-Bedroom Villa with a pool. It was spread over two levels, had a living & dining room, kitchen, outdoor shower, and a series of outdoor decks all overlooking a rice paddy. It was as amazing as it sounds. As soon as we checked in we picked up complementary bikes for our stay and we rode them everywhere exploring the property and to all our meals. They had golf carts which would come pick us up and take us wherever we wanted to go, but we always chose to take our bikes!

Riding around the grounds of the Dhara Dhevi
Riding around the grounds of the Dhara Dhevi

We not only had our own pool, but we also spent a fair amount of time at one of the main pools which we usually had to ourselves. We enjoyed a Thai dance show and dinner at Le Grand Lanna and the kids learned how to weave grass animals at the kids’ club. We missed out on planting rice in a paddy which we really wanted to do, but it was offered at limited times and we couldn’t fit it in.

The pool at the Dhara Dhevi. Chiang Mai, Thailand
The pool at the Dhara Dhevi

The only downside to this hotel was that the kids loved it so much they didn’t want to venture into Chiang Mai proper!

Six Senses, Ko Yao Noi Thailand

View from the Hilltop pool at Six Senses Yao Noi Thailand
View from the Hilltop pool at Six Senses Yao Noi

We reserved the Ocean Two-Bedroom Pool Villa. It was set on the hill overlooking the ocean. We did not have direct ocean access, but the beach was a 2-minute walk from our room. The entrance and master bedroom were on the top level and the kids’ bedroom (with three twin beds) was on the lower level along with an infinity edge pool and lots of deck space with lounges and an area for playing chess and board games.

Gathering eggs for breakfast at Six Senses
Gathering eggs for breakfast at Six Senses Yao Noi

Our kids were blown away by the views of the limestone pinnacles in Phang Nga Bay. We loved the meals, especially the buffet breakfast each morning. We collected fresh eggs from the farm and then brought them to the buffet where the chef prepared them for us. There was a wide variety of menu items (both Western and Thai/Asian). Our 14-year-old discovered a love for chicken fried rice during our stay – from that point on he sought out all fried rice dishes. My daughter and I spent an afternoon at the spa getting mother/daughter treatments – while we were there we saw an open-air studio set up for anti-gravity yoga which we wished we had time for. There were free movies on the beach. When we were there they showed the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun, which takes place right in Phang Nga Bay! My 14-year-old loved our stay so much he is incorporating another Six Senses stay as he plans our summer 2019 travels!

Los Veneros, Punta Mita Mexico

Our private pool at Los Veneros. Punta Mita, Mexico
Our private pool at Los Veneros

Los Veneros is a complex of residences next to the W hotel in Punta Mita, Mexico. It’s not a hotel, but they have access to the facilities at the W hotel. We stayed here through our Inspirato membership so we had daily housekeeping, a personal concierge and someone who came daily to cook us breakfast! We stayed in a 3-bedroom residence with a private pool plus access to multiple shared pools throughout the property as well as the beach.

Lunch on the beach. W. Los Veneros. Punta Mita, Mexico
Lunch on the beach

A two-minute walk and we were on the W property. We had lunch at this beach truck a couple of times.

Sunset swim at Los Veneros. Punta Mita, Mexico
A sunset swim overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Los Veneros

The pools at Los Veneros were separate from those at the W and we usually had them to ourselves, especially at sunset.

Favorite Activities

Something occurred to me as I began listing out my kids’ favorite activities – most of them are not destination specific, meaning you don’t necessarily have to travel far if at all, to have these same experiences. To me, it’s not how far we travel, but simply that we remove our daily distractions and spend time as a family making memories. On top of that, we do want to expose our kids to other cultures and make them more globally aware citizens. While I know travel has made them more empathetic, open-minded, and adaptable, this global awareness is not necessarily their favorite part of travel (yet). They are still kids after all who are looking to have fun – and what they don’t realize is that even though they are having fun they are still learning a lot. So what was their favorite part of travel in 2018?


Parasailing in Oahu
Parasailing in Oahu

Parasailing is something that our 12-year-old daughter had been asking to do for over a year. In an effort to incorporate more of their requests into our trips, parasailing was at the top of our list when we traveled to Hawaii over Thanksgiving. We went with Hawaiian Parasail in Waikiki and chose an 8-minute parasail with an 800′ rope. Despite some high winds, choppy water, and a little trepidation, all three kids LOVED it – even getting dipped in the ocean! I rode with my 12 and 8 year old who both screamed with delight the entire time. Their only complaint – the ride was too short!

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing in Krabi Thailand
Our 8-year-old rock climbing in Krabi, Thailand

If you search for things to do in Krabi, rock climbing is at the top of the list. The kids had done indoor rock climbing in gyms, but never the real deal. Our 12-year-old was beyond excited, but the boys were a little more unsure (as was I). It was a little nerve-wracking watching our instructor shimmy his way up the face of the rock to plant our ropes, but once we got going it was a really fun and rewarding experience. We had two courses to climb and all of us finished them. Our instructors were so encouraging and helped us with foot & hand placement as we climbed. We all ended up loving rock climbing!

Boogie Boarding & Stand Up Paddleboarding

The thrill of boogie boarding!
Boogie Boarding in Costa Rica

Put my kids on a beach and they will entertain themselves for hours: chasing waves, building in the sand, collecting shells, boogie boarding, kayaking, surfing and their newest favorite: Stand Up Paddleboarding. We definitely tend to travel to beach destinations and for good reason – beautiful scenery and our kids love it!

Stand Up Paddleboarding in Ko'Olina Oahu
Stand Up Paddleboarding in Ko’Olina Oahu


Getting ready to zipline through the Costa Rica jungle! Manuel Antonio Park
Zip-lining through the Costa Rica jungle!

We first zip-lined in 2014 and four years later it is still a family favorite! Pretty much any place we travel, the kids ask “Is there zip-lining?” In 2018 we zip-lined twice: in Mexico and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica there was an added bonus of rappelling and a free-fall swing plus monkeys scurrying around in the trees above us. We’ve done other ropes courses in the past which they also love – scaling suspended rock walls and nets and balancing across rope bridges and platforms…basically, our kids are monkeys.

Zip-lining in Sayulita, Mexico on her 11th birthday!

Cooking Lessons

Chefs in the making at Peninsula Bangkok
Making pizza at Peninsula Bangkok

All three kids love spending time in the kitchen and have expressed an interest in learning how to cook. Their first experience cooking while traveling was in Ecuador where they learned how to make empanadas. When we saw the Peninsula Bangkok had a cooking class for kids we signed them up! While this kids class didn’t offer Thai cooking, they did get to make pizza and desserts which they loved! We’ll continue to seek out cooking opportunities when we travel – we even did a fruit carving class in Chiang Mai.

Street Food Tour

Colorful streets of Bangkok
Colorful streets of Bangkok

We almost didn’t do this street food tour in Bangkok. I wasn’t sure the kids would like it and I was nervous about what we might eat. But after reading lots of reviews, I decided we had to try. I’m so glad we did! The food was the best we had on our entire trip and the kids absolutely loved it! We all enjoyed it so much that we booked another food tour on our trip the following month to Charleston, South Carolina. Food tours are a great way to see a city from a local’s perspective and learn about the history of the area through food. Food tours are our new go-to activity when we travel – and we even want to try some local tours at home in San Francisco!

Preparing spinach dumplings
Preparing spinach dumplings

Read the entire post on our Bangkok street food tour here.

Poo Poo Paper Park

Leaving the paper out to dry. Poo Poo Paper Park. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Leaving the paper out to dry

Let’s face it. Kids think poop is hilarious. So when we heard about the Poo Poo Paper Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand we had to go. We learned how they take elephant poop and use the fibers to make paper – and we got to participate in the entire process: from poop to paper. At the end of the tour, there is an area to purchase products like notecards, notebooks, and boxes and then decorate them with letter & shape cutouts all made from the paper products. My older kids and I each decorated notebooks to house pictures from our trip and my youngest decorated a little box and a mini-book.

Favorite Destination

“Family Camp”, West Virginia

I need to write an entire post dedicated to the idea of family camp or multi-generational travel. The truth of the matter is that it’s not so much the destination that my kids love, but rather the values that this trip embodies: tradition, family, friendship, and freedom.

Annual Family photo at Capon
Annual Family photo in West Virginia (missing my sister & her family)

This is a trip we make every summer with my mom’s side of the family. We have a long-standing tradition at this “resort” (I use the term loosely as it’s not fancy like you might expect a resort to be): my grandparents first came in 1939 and they returned the same week in August every year with my mom and her brothers, my mom brought my sister & me and now we bring our kids – always the same week in August. Many other families hold this same tradition and we all return together – the kids I grew up with now return as adults with their kids. My kids not only bond with our extended family but they also look forward to seeing their dear friends from all over the US who they only see this one week a year. It’s a really special place. The kids run wild and free all week. They play outside (tag, golf, swimming in the frigid spring fed pool, badminton, frisbee golf, tennis, hiking, corn hole, shuffleboard) or they play cards and do puzzles when it rains. The only rule they have is to come to all meals (served family style in the dining room) on time. The Wifi is terrible, there is limited to no cell reception, there are no TVs; instead, we spend all day outside, hang out on porches talking, linger at the table after meals, and stop and talk to people because we have nothing but time.

Favorite moment: jumping into the pool fully clothed after the mile race
Favorite moment: jumping into the pool fully clothed after the mile race

It means a lot to me that even though my kids have been all over the world and have seen some pretty incredible places that this is the destination they love most. It isn’t fancy and there isn’t dazzling entertainment – there are hayrides for the kids, a bonfire with camp songs, Bingo night, and a talent show.

There are a lot of reasons why we travel and show our kids the world, but there is so much to be said for just removing the daily distractions and spending time together – whether it’s a hike near your home, a camping trip, or a flight halfway across the globe.

Hopefully this list provides some inspiration for your travels. I’m looking forward to seeing what tops the kids’ list in 2019! Let me know if you have any favorite destinations, hotels, activities or restaurants that we should be sure to check out!

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