Travel Planning: Seeing 2020 by Looking Back

Seeing 2020: Travel inspiration for the New Year

I’m often asked about my travel recommendations — where to go, when to go, and what to do when you get there. So much depends on personal travel goals and preferences, but I’m happy to offer a few of my ideas that I hope appeal to many of our readers based on our own travel experiences.

Our 2020 travel tips at a glance

Set your sights on something new

Is there a destination that’s been calling your name forever? Is there an aspect of a familiar place that you’ve never explored? Make this the year to make it happen.  Each year, we like to make sure that we have added at least one new country (or a region within a country) to our agendas. In 2019 we visited several new countries — Poland, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, and Finland. New regions of France were also in our plans for 2019, but were postponed so that we could be with my dear Aunt Vi (you’ve probably read about her in our article Flying in the Golden Age of Air Travel) before she passed away. So France is now back in the plans for 2020.

Take a cruise

With three river cruises and one ocean cruise behind us, we’re looking forward to more opportunities to sail away. If you’ve never considered a cruise, check out some of the options. There are cruises of many types for many travel styles and goals. Our previous articles can help you decide if a cruise is for you. We enjoy the destination focused itineraries of Viking Cruises and the nice people you can meet on a cuise, too.

Walking back to the Viking Jupiter at night after a day of sightseeing in Tallinn, Estonia

Back to the Viking Jupiter after a day of sightseeing in Tallinn, Estonia

Stay somewhere special

We’ve been fortunate to stay in some very special accommodations in our travels — 5-star luxury hotels, holiday rental villas, monasteries, boutique inns, historic buildings and even the tower of an old Italian palazzo. These may not always be in your budget, but when you can treat yourself, do it! Check luxury hotel rates in the off season and you might find some good deals as we did in Krakow, Poland staying at the newly opened Bachleda Luxury Hotel an MGallery brand in the Sofitel chain. This was our favorite hotel experience of 2019. Of course, a special accommodation isn’t necessarily defined by how much it costs to stay there. It’s more about what makes you think it’s special.

Comfort and luxury at Bachleda Luxury Hotel Krakow MGallery by Sofitel

Comfort and luxury at Bachleda Luxury Hotel Krakow MGallery by Sofitel

Travel by train in Europe

We’ve always loved traveling by train in Europe. The railway systems are generally very good, especially in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Our most recent train travel experience in Poland was also very good and reliable. Many of the European rail stations are beautiful, too. Antwerp, Belgium’s Central Station (shown below) is one of my favorites. It’s nicknamed “The Railway Cathedral”.

Antwerp, Belgium Central Station - The Railway Cathedral

Antwerp, Belgium Central Station

Take a road trip — anywhere

We’ve enjoyed driving trips in North America and Europe (Ireland, Italy, and France). Just make sure to research the rules of the road and particularities of the places  you’ll be visiting. Also, research what types of license or ID you’ll need. We’ve gotten International Drivers Permits from AAA (valid for one year) for our international road trips.

Old Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, California

Route 66 in California

Indulge in great food

We like to keep our meals at home as simple and healthy as possible. But when we travel, we like to indulge in the best the place has to offer, especially with local cuisine and wines. Typically, we’re walking a lot each day while traveling which helps us to keep in shape.

Roast duck dinner at Bachleda Luxury Hotel in Krakow, Poland

Possibly the best roast duck I’ve ever had – Krakow, Poland

Get some culture

Visit museums, galleries, performing arts centers for entertainment and education. Our favorite cultural venue this year was right here in Phoenix. The Musical Instrument Musuem (MIM) takes you on a virtual journey around the world with its extensive exhibits of musical instruments and cultural perspectives.

Touring MIM

Enjoy the outdoors

Whether you are home or traveling, take advantage of outdoor recreation and activities. We love the many hiking trails we have near our home in the Sonoran Desert.

Mr. TWS on the Marcus Landslide Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale, Arizona

Hiking Marcus Landslide Trail

Explore your own city and region

Be a tourist in your own town. You might be surprised by what amazing and interesting places are close to home. Look for historic spots, art galleries and public art, natural beauty, cultural events, and recreational activities. Take an organized walking tour of a neighborhood in your city. We’re always adding to our list of places we want to visit and things we want to do in the Phoenix Metro area and farther afield in Arizona. One of the famous landmarks we have nearby is Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school.

Consider these European cities for 2020 travel

Oh, the full list of destinations we love is very long, so I’m going to recommend five of our current favorite European cities for your 2020 travel inspiration with referrals to some of our previous articles for more information.

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw is a lesser-known city destination in Poland and we highly recommend a visit. But don’t limit your trip — see other wonderful cities like Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk, too.

“We really didn’t know much about it and had modest expectations. But Wroclaw turned out to be the biggest surprise of our three cities of Poland trip with its cultural offerings, vibrant community, beautiful parks, riverside pathways, and great dining options.” — Wroclaw, Poland: Part Three of a Nine-Day Itinerary

Market Square -- Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw, Poland

Don’t miss: Look for public art throughout the city, including the “Wroclaw Dwarves”.

St. Petersburg, Russia

“Eagerly anticipating the early morning arrival of our ship in St. Petersburg, Russia, I awoke to the first glimmer of light through the windows of our stateroom on the Viking Jupiter. I had been interested in visiting Russia for a long time, so I was excited that St. Petersburg, the country’s second largest city, was on our Viking Homelands cruise itinerary.” — Two Days in St. Petersburg: Russia’s Venice of the North 

Don’t miss: Take a ride on the city’s Metro. St. Petersburg has a very efficient system with 67 stations, many with artistic and symbolic decor. I loved the experience of riding with locals and getting a feel for life in modern St. Petersburg.

Neva River

St. Petersburg, Russia — City on the Neva

Matera, Italy

Matera was on my recommended list last year, too. Because of its rugged terrain and ancient cave dwellings, the city has been chosen as a location for a number of biblical movies, including The Passion of the Christ.

“Imagine the cities of biblical times and you’ll probably come close to a vision resembling much of Matera in the Basilicata region of Italy. Once called “the shame of Italy”, Matera continues its rebirth attracting worldwide attention for its history, culture, and extraordinary architecture and terrain. We spent several hours there on a recent trip to Southern Italy.”  — Shame-less Matera, Italy: A Cultural Rebirth

Don’t miss: There is also a vibrant, contemporary side of Matera. For food and cocktails in a unique venue, spend some time at Area 8 on Via Casalnuovo adjacent to Palazzo Lanfranchi. It is a popular place for locals and visitors from all over the world to socialize and relax. You might find some surprises there, too.

Ancient cave dwellings of Matera, Italy

Matera, Italy

Tallinn, Estonia

What a beautiful city on the Baltic Sea! We were entranced by the charm and history of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town. There are many shops, restaurants, and galleries in the main square and along the cobbled narrow streets. We’ll have a post coming soon about Tallinn and other cities on the Baltic, so stay tuned.

Don’t miss: Stroll up to the top of hill for panoramic views over the rooftops of Old Town and Tallinn Bay from the Patkkuli, Piiskopi, and other viewing points.

Flower market outside of Old Town Tallinn, Estonia

Flower market at the gates of Tallinn’s old town

Paris, France

I know. This is on the travel wish lists of many people every year. But visiting Paris is, indeed, always a good idea.

“Seeing Paris for the first time is a dream come true for many travelers, particularly those, like me, who have been inspired by a lifetime of enticements from movies, books and travelogues. But the excitement doesn’t diminish with follow up trips to the City of Lights. We can now count four visits, and I’m hoping to go again and again.”  — 3 Days in Paris: Best Things to Do 

Don’t miss: Visit Atelier des Lumières for amazing digital exhibitions. Vibrant mages of art are projected onto the walls and floor all over the gallery creating a wonderfully immersive interactive experience. We were there for the Gustav Klimt exhibit in 2018.

A man walks by a brasserie on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, France

A brasserie on Boulevard St. Germain, Paris

A few other suggestions for your 2020 travels and beyond

Pack light and smart

We’ve got two articles that will give you some guidance to make packing a smooth and successful process.

Traveling Light: Packing Tips for the 21st Century is a comprehensive guide with tips about what to pack and how to make sure you’re bringing everything you need.

Packing Light: Tips for Women Travelers offers simple steps and tips for taking the stress out of packing based on my personal travel style. I also provide an example of what to select and how to pack for a 10-day trip. By the way, although there are some references that apply mainly to women, men will also find great ideas in this post.

Bring home a keepsake

We don’t bring home many souvenirs when we travel since we travel light. But it’s always nice to bring back something special as a remembrance of special places. This year, my favorite souvenir was a pair of amber earrings purchase in Gdansk, Poland which is considered to be the capital of Baltic amber (known as “Baltic Gold”). Other great keepsakes are Christmas tree ornaments (light and unbreakable ones, mainly) bought at European Christmas markets, historic sites, and other special places we want to remember.

Don’t wait — travel now!

I know that time and money are two of the big factors in making travel happen. But there are so many different ways to travel depending on personal travel goals that can meet many budgeting levels. Don’t wait until you think you’ll have more time years down the road  — get out there now and see and do what you can, close to home or in distant lands. Let your heart and dreams lead the way.

All the best from the TWS duo for great travels in 2020!


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8 thoughts on “Travel Planning: Seeing 2020 by Looking Back

  1. Lori

    Love your tips and these places. Especially like traveling Europe by train and indulging in great food and culture, two of our favorites. Your list is perfect for slow travel. Thank you.

  2. Bola

    Spoilt for choice!

    One tip I’ll be trying out is to pack light and smart. I always bring home a keepsake, like a purse, postcards, keyring and a few fridge magnets.

    Matera is on my list and would prefer to visit as part of a round trip. Thanks for you 2020 travel tips.

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