Most memorable travel experiences of 2018 - travel year review and inspiration for your trips

Best of 2018: Our Travel Year in Review (& Inspiration for Your Trips)

In Travel inspiration, What we have been up to by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

It has become an annual tradition here at Full Suitcase to make a compilation of some of the most memorable travel moments of the year.

From the most beautiful places and unexpected finds to some less flattering travel moments and funny stories – these are the moments from 2018 that we won’t quickly forget.

Hope you’ll enjoy reading this, and who knows, maybe you’ll find some travel inspiration for 2019!

Travel inspiration from all over the world

Family trip of the year – Faroe Islands

Without a doubt, the Faroe Islands is the most special destination we visited this year. So close, yet a world apart!

They say that the Faroe Islands is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. I can tell you, it won’t stay like this for long… Here you can read all about our trip to the Faroe Islands – a paradise for all those who love nature and off beat destinations not overrun by tourism (yet).

Faroe Islands was the most memorable family trip we made this year
Faroe Islands was the most memorable family trip we made this year

Best off the beaten path destination – Icelandic highlands

Visiting the highlands of Iceland is a trip worth of any bucket list! Iceland’s interior takes the meaning of off the beaten path destinations to a whole other level.

Can you imagine a place where you can drive the whole day without meeting a single person? The most spectacular hiking trails that hardly anyone knows about? Volcanos, canyons, waterfalls, and endless landscapes that you have all to yourself…

If you are looking for a truly unique travel experience that you won’t find anywhere else, check this out – how to see the best of Icelandic highlands.

Driving to Maelifell mountain in Iceland
Icelandic Highlands is one of the most unique travel destinations ever

Most unique experience – Walking inside Van Gogh’s paintings

Can you imagine walking inside Van Gogh’s paintings? Virtual experience at Van Gogh’s Immersive Experience in Brussels makes it possible. I can’t even find the words to describe the beauty of the things you see.

All I can say is that it leaves you speechless and makes you immensely happy. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, the most unique experience EVER.

I’m strongly convinced that virtual reality is the future; and not just in art or science, but also in the world of travel.

Van Gogh Immersive Experience and 3D virtual reality in Brussels
Van Gogh immersive experience was nice, but virtual reality completely blew us away

Most special place – Hill of Crosses in Lithuania

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania definitely deserves a place on any list of most unique places in the world. Millions and millions of crosses in all shapes and sizes – a very impressive sight!

Here you can read all about this unique place – Hill of Crosses, Lithuania.

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania is one of the most unique places in the world
Hill of Crosses is one of the most unique places in the world

Most frightening travel experience – Driving Gavia Pass

Our most frightening experience of 2018 was driving Gavia Pass in Northern Italy.

We have driven many mountain passes in our lives, so mountain roads don’t easily scare us. However, driving this insane mountain pass in the complete mist had us all holding our hearts during the entire ride.

The roads here are hardly wide enough for one car, yet you have traffic in two directions. Not to mention that the pass is popular with (suicidal) cycling tourists and there are practically no railings anywhere…

At one of the many hairpin turns, our car was hit by a motorbike that had difficulties negotiating the curve. Luckily, we were standing still and the lady on the motorbike was driving real slow, but it will be forever imprinted in my memory as the road to avoid at all cost.

Gavia Pass in Italy
Gavia Pass – you never know what awaits behind the corner

The worst travel experience – Getting stuck in Madeira airport

And just in case you think that travel is always fun… Here’s one of the lesser experiences of 2018…

We got hopelessly stuck in Madeira airport after an incoming airplane failed to land due to high winds and turned around to head back to where it came from. Funny thing is that it was the only flight that didn’t land in Madeira that day, somehow all the other places had no problems with it.

It left us and hundreds of other passengers stranded in Madeira for over 20 hours. I’ll spare you the details of how TAP Air Portugal (mis)treats their passengers, but you can imagine the ‘fun’ of being stuck in a small airport with three kids the whole day.

Madeira airport is known to experience these kind of delays on a regular basis, yet the customer service of TAP Air Portugal is completely lacking. They literally consider it completely appropriate to keep hundreds of people waiting on the airport floor for over 10 hours without any information whatsoever. They also refuse any kind of financial compensation. This was the worst customer service I have ever experienced in a situation like this. So if you ever go to Madeira, do yourself a favor and look for another airline.

Stuck in Madeira airport for over 20 hours
Stuck in Madeira airport for a day

Little accidents that ended well – Levada walks in Madeira

If you are not familiar with levada walks in Madeira, levadas are narrow irrigation canals that bring water from the mountains to the valleys of the island.

There are many maintenance paths following levadas that have become popular hiking trails. Most trails are very narrow, so it won’t come as a surprise that our kids took a plunge in the levadas.

Our oldest got away with a wet leg and a shoe full of water, but one of the twins took a complete plunge. With all the clothing, shoes, backpack and all… Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself, but we had to change our plans for the day and head back to our accommodation to get him dry and avoid catching a cold.

Levada walks in Madeira
Some levada walks are really narrow…

Most beautiful hike – multiple

Choosing the best most beautiful hike is an impossible task this year, since we did some exceptionally spectacular hiking…

Some of my absolute favourite hikes were Pico Ruivo in Madeira (Portugal), Adolf Munkel Trail in the Dolomites (Italy), Seebensee in Tiroler Zugspitz Arena (Austria), Val di Fumo in Trentino (Italy)Villingardalsfjall hike (Faroe Islands), and probably the most special of them all – a hike on a nameless trail near Rauðufossafjöll (Iceland).

You can read about each of these hikes in the following articles:

Seebensee is one of the nicest mountain lakes in Austria
Seebensee in Tirol

Most beautiful beach – Algarve

Yes, we actually visited some beaches this year! 🙂 It was too cold for a swim, but we’re making progress with some real beach time in the planning very soon.

Anyway, the most beautiful beach we visited this year is probably Praia do Camilo in Algarve (Portugal). You can read about this and some other amazing beaches in our selection of the most beautiful beaches of Algarve.

Best scenic beaches in Algarve you shouldn't miss when visiting southern Portugal
Praia do Camilo in Algarve

Best city trip – Milan

Milan wins the city trip of the year this time. This city has really surprised me! If you also heard that Milan is an industrial city with nothing more than the duomo and some expensive fashion boutique, then you have been misinformed, just as I was.

It turns out that this is the most diverse city in Italy that encompasses the best of the country in one place. Whether you are looking for history, food, and culture; modern city life and fashion; quirky places and lively neighbourhoods… or maybe close proximity to nature with places like Lake Como just a stone’s throw away… you’ll find all of this and much more in Milan.

Here you can read about all the best things that you can see in Milan in one day.

Duomo rooftop terraces are must see in Milan
Duomo terraces in Milan

Best road trip – Austria and Italy

Just as any year, most of our travels involved road tripping. Probably the best road trip this year was our 3-week trip in Tirol, Austria and Trentino Alto Adige region, Italy.

We passed countless mountain passes with some jaw-dropping sceneries. It’s an amazing area to explore by car, but it sure helps if you have a dedicated driver/hubby. So you can just enjoy the views rather than worry about narrow roads or overheated breaks.

Stelvio Pass in Italy
Stelvio Pass in Italy

Best unexpected discovery – Achadas da Cruz, Madeira

Little-known tiny piece of land in the northwestern part of Madeira that can only be reached by the tiny Achadas da Cruz cable car was the place that surprised us the most this year. Surrounded by steep mountains on one side and the wide ocean on the other, this small area is our kind of paradise. A place so remote, so beautiful, and so deserted – it was love at first sight.

Secret places and hidden gems of Madeira island in Portugal
Little remote beach accessible only by a tiny Achadas da Cruz cable car

Best winter trip – Tromsø, Norway

Without any competition, Tromsø in Norway is the best winter destination I have ever visited. Tromsø really has it all: winter landscapes, ice creations, as well as a big variety of amazing winter activities. Not even to mention the fact that Tromso is one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights.

Here you can read all about visiting Tromsø in winter.

Tromso Ice Domes - Ice Hotel
Tromso is a real winter wonderland

Most fun for the kids – various

Another tough category this year as we tried so many fun activities this summer. Also, when you have three kids it’s inevitable they all have their own opinions. So to avoid even more quarreling, here are the favorite activities of each of our children.

Adventure parks. We visited several adventure parks this year and I have to say that it’s an activity that truly brings the family together. We all loved it!

Kids ziplining in Bichlbach kletterwald - adventure park in Tiroler Zugspitz arena in Tyrol Austria
Ziplining in Bichlbach adventure park, Austria

Summer toboggan is another of our kids’ favorites. We tried one of the longest summer toboggans in Tirol (Biberwier) and the kids just couldn’t get enough.

Summer toboggan in Tyrol with kids - alpine coaster in Biberwier Austria
Summer toboggan in Biberwier, Austria

Jungle canyoning put a huge smile on all the kids’ faces from the beginning till the end. Sliding down the waterfall, jumping off the cliffs, swimming in a mountain river… the boys loved every second of it. ‘Mom, Dad, please tell the guide this is the best thing we have ever done!’

Canyoning with kids in Trentino Italy
Canyoning in Palvico river (Italy)

Most fun for the adults – Dog sledding

Dog sledding in Tromsø, Norway was as good as I ever imagined it to be. Sitting in a dog-pulled sled is fun, but mustering your own husky sled is a-m-a-z-i-n-g! If you ever get the chance to try it, give it a go!

Dog sledding in Tromso Norway - our experience and practical tips
Dog sledding is such an incredible experience!

Most nostalgic experience – Lithuanian countryside

In spring, I took the twins to visit my family in Lithuania. Together with my mom, we made a beautiful trip visiting family and friends all over the country.

Lying in the hammock under the centuries-old oaks, baking pancakes on the fire, fishing on the lake till the last rays of the sun went down… It’s as good as it gets.

Most nostalgic experience - baking pancakes on the fire in Lithuania
Most nostalgic experience – baking pancakes on the fire

Most adrenaline-pumping experience – Via Ferrata

It’s safe to say that we won’t quickly forget the Via Ferrata experience in the Trentino region in Italy last summer.

Climbing vertical cliffs attached to each other and the mountain with a rope is forever imprinted in my memory. It’s frightening and exciting at the same time – the most exhilarating experience of all times, not just 2018.

Via Ferratas come in all shapes and adventure levels, but they are definitely not for the faint-hearted. Especially if you are doing this with kids. However, if you are looking for that tiny bit extra, a truly adventurous family break, I can tell you – Trentino has it all!

Via Ferrata with kids - Ferrata Preore Trentino Italy
Ferrata Preore

Best museum – Vilnius Museum of Illusions

Vilnius Museum of Illusions in Lithuania was so much fun that we managed to fill several hours in one of the smallest museums ever. It might or might not have something to do with getting stuck on the ceiling for a while. 🙂

Hanging on the ceiling in Vilnius Museum of Illusions, Lithuania
Hanging on the ceiling in Vilnius Museum of Illusions – we had so much fun taking pictures here!

Most special food that kids actually ate – Limpets

We tried quite some really delicious food all over the world this year. However, as the kids grow older it’s getting more and more challenging to find local dishes that our kids would actually enjoy.

To give them credit, I have to admit that they are more willing to try new dishes when we travel, but often it also stops with that one bite. Not so much with these delicious limpets in Sao Vicente in Madeira – this plate was empty before we realized…

We even returned to this restaurant a few days later (and it was on the other side of the island, so I guess it says it all).

Eating limpets at a local restaurant in Madeira
You must try limpets at Restaurante Caravella in Sao Vicente

The wettest experience – Mykines island

There are quite a few travel experiences in the running for this category this year, so it’s a tough choice. Don’t ask me how we managed to have the wettest travel year when the whole of Europe was experiencing the driest summer ever… Anyway, here is our wettest experience of the year.

Getting stuck on a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in a storm is a wet story we’ll remember for a very long time. All I can say is that Mykines island on the Faroe is not a place to be when it rains.

We have never been so wet and muddy in our lives! Each and every single one of us fell in the mud and slid down the mountain when trying to get back to the village. We’re forever grateful for the unscheduled boat that brought us back to civilization four hours earlier than foreseen. And also for the washing machine at our accommodation…

Visiting Mykines island in the rain - Faroe Islands
Mykines was amazing even in the rain, but we got soaking wet

The windiest experience – Madeira

Have you ever been blown away by the wind? It’s definitely not something we expected when we set to hike São Lourenco in Madeira on a beautiful sunny day…

However, the wind at this peninsula was so strong that our kids were literally blown off the trail. We walked backwards while holding the kids in front of us, shielding them from the wind, and trying not to lose balance ourselves. Never experienced anything like this before!

Best hikes and levada walks on Madeira island in Portugal
Hiking at Ponta de Sao Lourenco in Madeira – before the wind got really bad

The coldest experience – Mt Titlis, Switzerland

You’d think that visiting an ice igloo or watching the Northern Lights high above the Arctic circle would win the award of the coldest experience of the year.

No! It was a walk on Europe’s highest suspension bridge on top of Mount Titlis in Switzerland that left us all freezing cold. It’s not every day that you get to experience temperatures of -18°C, not counting the windchill factor.

Mt Titlis suspension bridge in Switzerland in winter
A very cold walk on Europe’s highest suspension bridge at Mt. Titlis

Best wildlife encounter – Dolphins in Madeira and puffins in the Faroe Islands

Tough choice, so I selected two experiences for this category.

Surrounded by hundreds of dolphins within hands reach from our speedboat in Madeira and thousands of puffins all around us on Mykines island in the Faroe – this is as good as wildlife watching ever gets.

Wild dolphins near Madeira coast
Dolphins in Madeira
Puffin on Mykines in the Faroe Islands
Mykines is the best place to see puffins from close by

These are just a few experiences from another amazing year of travels. Please check our blog for more inspiration from all over the world and follow us along for more travel adventures in 2019. We’ll be visiting Thailand, Croatia, Lithuania, and probably quite a few other destinations next year.

What about you? Leave a comment below to share some of your favorite moments from 2018 or travel plans for 2019!

If you found some travel inspiration in this post, feel free to share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Most memorable travel experiences of 2018


  1. You’ve certainly had a lot of fun this year Jurga and what a variety of holiday types! I can totally relate to the hairpin bends of Tyrol from our trip there this year, pretty hairy and very scary when you get crazy Italian drivers trying to overtake!! Yes I said overtake!
    By the way, where is the Palvico River you mentioned in Italy – I definitely want to mark that on my map incase we end up there with the kids one day, they would totally love that!
    Happy 2019 travels and I can’t wait to meet you properly in London!

    1. Author

      Hi Alex, yes, it was another great year. It just scares me how fast the time flies…
      As for Palvico River, the canyoning tours that we did start in Storo (see map). It’s best to check Mountain Live website and book in advance if you want to be sure that you can go on a specific tour on a specific day.
      Here you can find a bit more info on canyoning and the rest of our visit to Trentino with kids.

      And yes, I’m really looking forward to exploring London with you!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.