As the end of the year approaches, I want to share my travel favorites from all the experiences that I had in 2017. It was a wild year, one that took me to 28 different countries, led me to 71 different accommodations and gave me some of the most memorable moments of my entire 18 years of travel.
So, here are my favorites from this year of adventures…
This has to be the perfect gift for someone that loves to travel. You choose from one of the ‘experience collections’ and the recipient receives a gift box containing 300 – 500 experiences in over 80 countries around the world that they can choose from. They then have 2 years to redeem one of the experiences. There are even versions that allow 2 people to share an experience together. Birthdays, weddings or any other occasion…who wouldn’t want to receive such a gift? Really creative and fun idea from the folks at Tinggly!
Timbuk2 Co-Pilot Luggage Roller
With my luggage, things are getting confusing. My excellent Eagle Creek Load Warrior had to be retired as I really gave that thing a beating over the past few years. It was an excellent piece of luggage though and I would highly recommend it. With that said, I decided to replace it with something different – the Timbuk2 Co-Pilot. It’s a smaller company but they make some really quality luggage and this thing is tiny, yet has more volume than my previous bag (up to 50 liters). It fits as a carry-on with any airline, keeps things very organized and is remarkably sturdy (even has ultra-strong skateboard wheels). So, this is my new luggage of choice and I’m loving it so far!
Riad d’Or – Meknes, Morocco
Riad d’Or is just silly beautiful, with unique rooms scattered around an old labyrinth-like mansion right in the heart of the old market.
Mango Beach House – Zanzibar, Tanzania
It doesn’t get more chill and impressive than Mango Beach House, especially if you want a beachfront room away from the crowds.
Merovigla Studios – Santorini, Greece
Mmergovigla Studios just might be the best value on the island of Santorini, with unbelievable views from good-sized rooms and a great location…all for a fraction of what most hotels cost here.
Jaiwana Haveli – Udaipur, India
I’ve been using the excellent Jaiwana Haveli on the India tours I lead and with their new renovated rooms, along with their rooftop views, awesome breakfast and lakeside location, this place has become even better.
Food and Dining
Orivy – Hoi An, Vietnam
I could eat Vietnamese food at Orivy every day. Everything on the menu was award-worthy.
Fish and Zelenis – Novi Sad, Serbia
We found this tiny place by accident while wandering around and we were blown away by the local appetizers and seafood they served. It’s also run by super kind people that treat everyone like an honored guest.
Soy – Berlin, Germany
We went to Soy three times in one week during our stay. Let’s just say that doesn’t happen often.
Argo Restaurant – Santorini, Greece
Argo just needs to be visited if you’re ever on Santorini – the traditional Greek food, the view, the atmosphere, the staff, it’s all something special.
New Country Visited
It was my first time to this country and just the landscapes alone were enough to keep me in awe for two and a half weeks. My favorite parts were the seldom-visited, but spectacular, Dades Valley and spending a night out in the Sahara Desert. I loved the experiences so much that I’ve put together another Wandering Earl Tour to Morocco for 2018 in case you’re interested in an unforgettable adventure 🙂
Cool Town for Hanging Out
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
My girlfriend and I spent 5 weeks in Las Palmas a few months ago and we liked it so much that it just might become our more permanent home base starting next year. It’s walkable, very affordable and easy to reach, it has beautiful city beaches, great food, a relaxed lifestyle, food markets, history and no shortage of excursion opportunities around the island (that’s an understatement as you have more beaches, mountains, canyons, little villages, national parks, lakes and more to explore). And most of the tourists that come to Gran Canaria stay in other parts of the island, leaving the main town relatively quiet. It’s not a town that many people think about hanging out in for a while but it definitely deserves a look. I have nothing but excellent things to say about this destination!
I love tropical destinations and islands and beaches and all that. And now I am certain that I have seen the best out there. There is simply no other tropical location like this small Indian Ocean country and the gorgeous beaches, of which there are dozens, make the Seychelles true paradise in every single way. The island of La Digue was my favorite spot. If you like gorgeous beaches and laid-back island life (almost no cars on the island), it simply does not get better than La Digue in particular.
(Boracay came in second for me, a distant second, but nothing can match the Seychelles. Although, here’s a video I made on Boracay last week so that you can have a glimpse of this paradise too.)
Airfare Booking Site
For years I would use Kayak.com and almost nothing else but this year, it seems that things have changed as I began noticing other websites were offering lower fares much more consistently. And Kiwi.com has become my new favorite because, to put it simply, I’ve found the cheapest fares on this site more times than any other site out there. They also make it easy by often combining separate tickets into one ticket, instead of forcing you to purchase two separate flights yourself if your journey is with more than one airline. That’s a huge bonus when hopping around the world.
Hotel Booking Site
Agoda.com and Booking.com
This is a toss up but it’s always one of these two. With Agoda, the prices are often lower and you earn ‘Gift Cards’ almost every time you book with them. In just the past 3 months I’ve racked up $40 of gift card money to use on future bookings. But with Booking.com, once you get to the Genius Member level (only takes 5 bookings), you can really get some good discounts and perks. Between the two, I always find the lowest price for accommodation anywhere I go around the world. (I also use Airbnb a lot when an apartment would be more suitable than a hotel or guesthouse.)
*If you use this Booking.com link, you’ll get $25 off your booking (I will too!).
Travel Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
This credit card is simply incredible. While it’s only for US citizens, the $400 yearly fee is nothing once you see the benefits. Those benefits include a $300 yearly travel credit, Priority Pass membership (access lounges in airports worldwide for free), great medical, trip and luggage insurance, 50,000 point sign up bonus, 3 points per travel dollar spent, Global Entry fee credit and 1.5 times points redemption ($1500 worth of points is actually worth $2250 when you redeem it for travel) and more. I’ve had the card for over a year now and it’s saved me a ton of money, led to a couple of free flights and the airport lounge access has been extra sweet. Well worth looking into if you travel a decent amount!
Symphonized NRG 3.0 Earbuds
When I wear these on an airplane, I can’t hear any of the noise around me. The noise cancelation is that good and the sound quality when I’m listening to music is excellent too. These are not a $300 pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones, but for $25, they do an awesome job. They’re also very sturdy, great for a traveler like myself that just stuffs everything in their bag.
High-quality, pickpocket proof, good-looking travel clothes. That was the goal of founder and friend Adam Rapp when he set out to create a travel clothing brand. A few years later that brand has grown big time and he’s definitely producing some of the highest quality travel clothes out there. They’re not super cheap but they are super comfortable and super durable while protecting you in very unique ways from potential pickpockets as you travel.
I use TripIt pretty religiously as it helps me stay organized. Every travel booking I make, I simply forward to TripIt and just like that everything – dates, airlines, hotels, reservation numbers, reservation details, etc. – are all in order and neatly visible in my app. I pop open the app and I can access any reservation I need in mere seconds.
Trover is great for finding random things to do wherever I might be. Open the app, let it find your location and suddenly you have recommendations, along with photos and usually additional details, of places to visit and check out nearby. It’s better than a guidebook in my opinion and much more enjoyable to use!
WiFox was created by my friend Anil from FoxNomad.com and it allows you find Wifi networks and passwords in airports all over the world. Choose an airport from the map and a box pops up with the details you need to log onto the internet. All of the information is crowdsourced, allowing you to also add networks/passwords to the app that you find as you travel yourself.
Masai Mara Safari, Kenya
Our 3 day trip from Nairobi, Kenya into the Masai Mara Game Reserve was an absolute highlight of the year. With barely any other travelers around, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, with a private safari vehicle, a very comfortable and budget-friendly log cabin in the park and endless sightings of the Big 5 as we ventured across the wide savannah each day. We also had a chance to hang out with some Masaai villagers that invited us on a wander through the local town. A lot of people have asked me if a safari in the Masai Mara is really worth doing (and paying for) and I can definitely answer with a huge YES!
Lost Campers Road Trip – USA
Renting a van from Lost Campers, we set out for a trip through California a few months ago. And it was brilliant as our reliable van allowed us to explore every destination we wanted to visit (including some remote state forests and mountain ranges) while always having a place to sleep. The van came with all the gear we needed, as well as a comfy mattress inside, and with a handful of locations in the western part of the US, picking up and dropping off the van is a breeze.
*Lost Campers has also given me a great discount code that you can use. The code “WanderingEarl” will get you
10% off ANY Lost Camper campervan, at any of their 4 locations, with no duration limit from December – March 2018
For a few years now this has been my favorite airline. From aircraft to comfort to service to price, I’m not sure there’s a better value out there, at least for many of the routes I’ve flown. With that said, I only flew with them a couple of times in 2017 as I was traveling in different regions of the world than normal. But I still haven’t found another airline that matches what Qatar Airways can offer overall.
Specific Flight Route
Yeti Airlines – Biratnagar to Kathamndu, Nepal (right along the Himalayas)
Any flight across Nepal is an absolute treat if you get a window seat on the correct side of the plane. A few weeks ago I was able to stare out at the Himalayan Mountains as I soared through the sky, at pretty much the same altitude as some of the peaks. It’s something to experience at least once and will instantly become one of your own travel favorites!
Precision Air – Dar es Salaam to Nairobi (right over the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Our February flight in East Africa caught us by surprise when the pilot suddenly announced we were only five hundred meters directly over the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. We rushed to the window on the left side of the plane and looked down. It was absolutely surreal.
And that’s my list of travel favorites for 2017. I’d be curious to hear what some of your favorite experiences, destinations, gear, meals and more might have been from your own travels!
Did I miss something? If you have a question about any of my travel favorites from this year, just let me know and I’d be happy to answer!
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