Happy New Year, everyone!*
Having looked back over some of our favorite things from last year, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the things we’re excited about for 2018. Thus far, it looks like this is going to shape up to be our biggest travel year ever — I’ll get into the reasons why down below.
To start, what are we excited for in 2018? Pretty much everything. We are pumped to have a bunch of family and even some friends coming to see us, which is always a blast. We love sharing this island with the people we care abut most!
I’m also determined to work on improving my absolutely abysmal Italian, starting by getting more consistent with my classes. We’ve been here more than a year, damn it, and I shouldn’t still be a complete deer-in-the-headlights every time I don’t understand what people are saying.
I’m also hoping to spend more time hiking, especially now that the kids are getting older and should be able to walk more on their own. There are a ton of good trails around here and I want to make sure I see more of them in 2018. Note to local friends: who is with me?! Note to all the local friends who already do this a lot: make me go too!
Finally, I’m pumped for some seriously exciting trips that we have planned for this coming year. So far none of them are completely planned, but a general outline is starting to come together. The ones that are at least partially booked, either airfare or some kind of hotel include:
1. Brussels, this winter. We bought these tickets on a whim because they were insanely cheap, $41 dollar each for a round-trip, nonstop flight. Remember how I talked in this post about being flexible in searches for flights? We did just that and now in this case and we’ll be flying out of Comiso airport, about an hour to the south of us. Considering I’ve rarely seen flights for less than $200 to Brussels from here, we had to jump on it. Chris was in Belgium last year with a friend, but we are hoping to see take side trips to Ghent (where he hasn’t been) and Bruges (where he didn’t see enough) as well as seeing Brussels.
2. Paris, this spring. Ok, so this one is actually only a “me” trip, not a family one. I am meeting my best friend in Paris for a couple days, then we are coming back to Sicily. I could not be more excited to spend time with my bestie! It will also be the first time I’ve really been away from the kids, except for a single night away from Owen when Fiona was born and a single night away from both kids for my husband’s 30th birthday. They’ll have fun with Daddy though!
3. Berlin and Scotland, this spring. Visiting Scotland has been high on my list for a long time, but originally we thought we’d wait until another year to do it. Well, we changed our minds and I’m thrilled (and overwhelmed trying to decide what to see, ha!) Berlin was also a bucket list item for us, and I explained why these two ended up combined in a post here.
4. Slovenia (and Croatia? or Budapest?), this summer. This one is actually the least planned out, largely because finding cheap fares to that area has been tricky. This is why we usually travel more in shoulder season, guys! Anyway, we booked a stay at a treehouse hotel near Lake Bled — bucket list for Chris! — for a couple days, but beyond that we are still deciding where to go in Slovenia and maybe Croatia. Have you been there? Shoot me some suggestions, please!
5. Malta, this summer. This will pretty much our ‘last hurrah’ before Owen starts big-kid school (sob!) in the fall. I used my 200,000 Hilton points (accrued almost exclusively through sign-up bonus from two Hilton cards at a cost of $75, total) and the fifth-night free perk to book us our first “resort-y” getaway. We’ll see how we like it!
Other than that, our main hopes are to see more of our own island this year — we haven’t venture out to the west coast yet but want to! — and perhaps try taking the ferry to the mainland to drive around southern Italy. With family members coming in, we might also end up spending time in other Italian cities like Rome or Florence, depending on what they all decide they are interested in.
If that sounds like kind of a lot– well, I can definitely see that. But, this is the last year that we won’t have a kid in elementary school. Right now, it doesn’t especially matter when we take Owen and Fiona out of school because hey, it is only preschool. While I’m told that the base school is more flexible than most about absences for family vacations, it still isn’t realistic to think we’ll be able to take Owen out of school for too many days — even if we find plane tickets that are only $41 each. It is also possible that 2018 will be our last full year in Sicily, if we are unable to stay longer. So, with that in mind we are going to spend this next year soaking up every opportunity to travel as much as we possibly can.
I’m going to be a doing some later posts about credit card points again — especially since I just walked a few friends through the basics recently — but I just wanted to mention as well that if you travel or want to, points can really help defray the costs. I’ve mentioned that we used our entire 146,000 Chase UR miles for four tickets back to the United States last Thanksgiving already (and tickets to Paris, and a hotel for Oktoberfest, and half our tickets to the states in 2016 …), but so far for 2018 I’ve used points/perks to book 11 hotel or AirBnB nights at a total out-of-pocket cost of $24. For the out-of-pocket spending we’ve been doing, we are building up more Chase points that we’ll either use for hotels or flights this summer, or stockpile for our next trip back to the U.S. You’d be surprised how quickly they can stack up! But more on that later. In the meantime, I’d like to know …
What are you most excited for in 2018?
*Ok, so this post was meant to be posted rather closer to the New Year than Jan. 3. But, you know, life happens.