Our third annual edition features highlights from our network of Flashpacker contributors on their previous year of travels. After the stay at home year of 2020 we were grateful for opportunities to safely explore during the last 12 months. Here are our favorites with travel tips and gear suggestions included!
Jillian, Flashpacker Co
Santa Fe, New Mexico
To celebrate my 30th birthday this year, I opted to spend a week exploring Santa Fe. While early January provided some chilly weather & snow, the views, cuisine, and hot springs made up for it tenfold.
I chose to stay 2 blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza, where you’ll find the majority of restaurants & shopping. This location was perfect for evening walks around the city down to Canyon Road, admiring the Christmas lights & farolitos (little lanterns atop the local adobe businesses) still up from the holiday season. After days of exploring, I’d head back to my cozy Airbnb, complete with a warm Kiva - an adobe walled fireplace in the shape of a beehive, to enjoy a peaceful night's rest.
All of the highlights of my trip were a quick drive away from Santa Fe, making for easy day trips to see the sites. I’d recommend a trip out to the Bandelier National Monument to get some hiking in while learning about the Pueblo people. Then, to relax your legs, head to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs for an afternoon soaking in the naturally heated mineral water. To re-fuel, treat yourself to an unreal meal at Sazon, where you’ll get to taste the chef’s local mole sauces and re-invigorated Mexican cuisine.
To accompany me on the many hikes around Santa Fe, I stuffed my ChicoBag Packable Daypack into my carry-on, to ensure I had the proper bag to keep me traveling light, while also providing enough space for extra layers, snacks and water bottles (hydration is key in those high elevations!).
If you’re looking for an easy getaway, or a change of scenery to work from, I highly suggest putting Santa Fe on your list!
In January I decided to venture off the mainland and travel to Oahu, Hawaii. This trip was special for me in many ways. It was my first big trip since the pandemic started and it was also my first time visiting Hawaii.
During the 5 days I was there I traveled around the island to the leeward side, windward side, and up to the north shore which was my favorite of them all. I really liked the north shore due to the local feel it had in that area. There were lots of boutique shops and it felt more quiet compared to a big city like Honolulu.
Prior to going out each day we visited Chinatown to pick up some fresh produce that we could enjoy while we were out. I highly recommend visiting there as we were able to find some really cheap prices on rambutan, soursop, and longan berries, all of which tasted so fresh and delicious.
If anyone is interested in visiting Hawaii I definitely recommend Oahu as one of the first places you visit, especially if it is your first time. In the future I hope to explore some of the smaller islands as well. One thing I also realized when I arrived is that life moves a little slower there versus the mainland so if you visit, remember to soak it all in and enjoy every little moment. It truly is a tropical paradise giving the impression of always wanting to stay.
Summer Sunsets in Croatia
In July of 2021, I traveled to the breathtaking country of Croatia with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends. This trip was an exciting one for me because it was my first international trip with my boyfriend…it was my first international trip with any significant other. Clear blue waters, island hopping, vibrant sunrises & sunsets, majestic waterfalls...nothing could go wrong. Right?
We started our trip exploring the Old Town of Dubrovnik…aka King’s Landing (for all you Game of Thrones fans). Between Dubrovnik’s stonewalls’ resilience and beautifully added medieval character, this historic fortification system was absolutely jaw-dropping.
We rented a car and drove along the coast of the Adriatic Sea to make our way towards Split. Four hours felt like nothing when there was so much to admire. The drive allows you to appreciate all the scenic towns and hands you a crystal clear blue platter of beach options. At Split, we enjoyed Diocletian’s Palace, which was filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and apartments. A city within a city.
From Split, we got to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park and went island hopping, wandering into some of Croatia’s blue caves. From there, we took a ferry to Hvar. If you want to enjoy a long fun night, followed by a beautiful sunrise, I recommend a solid nap and taking a 10-minute boat ride from Hvar to Carpe Diem Beach and sticking it out to watch the sunrise after a night of fun. I think it’s safe to say, we definitely seized the day.
Afterwards, we jumped on another ferry, taking us back to Dubrovnik. For our last dinner, we enjoyed a meal at Panorama Restaurant while adoring a delicious sunset at the top of Mount SRD.
With all the irresistible blue waters, waterfalls, and boat rides, I highly recommend carrying a waterproof phone pouch. Ours kept our phones and cards safe and dry, allowing us to purchase delicious food/drinks and take photos to capture all our favorite moments.
I think you’d be doing yourself and all of Croatia’s locals a huge favor, if you add this vacation destination to your must-see list.
Stephen, Flashpacker Co
Late Summer in Ireland
In September of 2021, my wife and I were lucky enough to take a quick getaway across the pond to Ireland. Our 7 days on the Emerald Isle slipped by so quickly, and we could not get enough of the natural beauty that Ireland has to offer.
We jam packed the trip with quick stays in Dublin and Greystone on the east coast, and a cross-country drive (if you can call a 3 hour drive that) to stay in Limerick and Galway on the west coast. The Irish cities had lots to offer in terms of history, food, and drink, but the countryside was the real gem. Our favorite part of the trip had to be the tiny two lane coastal highway called The Wild Atlantic Way. Situated on the west coast of the island, this highway brought us through breathtaking cliff views (including the Cliffs of Moher and Kilkenny Cliffs), gorgeous countryside, castle after castle, and more. If you can’t make it to the west coast after flying into Dublin, a day trip up to Howth is certainly in order to show some of the coastal beauty of Ireland.
Given the amount of bouncing around and traveling that we planned to do within the country, we wanted to make sure that our luggage was extremely mobile. I packed the full 8 days of clothes and gear into my RMU Mountain Brief Travel Backpack and it was perfect for the trip. Big enough for all my luggage, comfortable enough to carry through airports, trains, and city streets, rugged enough for use as a secondary daypack and hiking backpack. Speaking of hiking backpacks, we brought our Caribee X-Trek Daypack as our airline personal items, and it was the perfect pack for Cliff exploring and our day hike in Howth.
If you’re looking to recharge your batteries with unbelievable food, drink, and beauty I’d highly recommend the Emerald Isle.
Allyson, The Traveling Twilley Travel Blog
Falling for Ukraine
In late October of 2021, I went on an unforgettable two-week road trip around Ukraine. Visiting the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown in Ukraine had been on my bucket list for years. Before my trip, all I knew was that Ukraine had been part of the Soviet Union and was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. But, during my trip, I discovered that Ukraine is a hidden gem with friendly people, hearty food, a unique culture, and beautiful countryside. Simply put, I fell in love with Ukraine!
Some of the highlights of my Ukrainian adventure were… (1) venturing inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone (with a dosimeter in hand to monitor radiation); (2) visiting the Nuclear Missile Museum (where I descended 12 stories underground into a decommissioned Soviet-era nuclear missile launch facility and got to "press the button" that would have launched the nuclear missiles – ahhh!); (3) taking a Ukrainian cooking class; (4) hiking in the Carpathian Mountains; and (5) experiencing the incredible coffee house culture in the charming western city of Lviv. I'd love to visit Ukraine any time of year, but visiting in the fall, when the trees were covered with golden leaves, was absolutely magical!
During my visit to Ukraine, there were a few things that tripped me up…like trying to figure out the Cyrillic alphabet and my utter inability to pronounce Ukrainian words correctly! Also, the electrical voltage in Ukraine is different from the voltage in the U.S, and although I had a plug adapter, I forgot to pack a voltage converter to use with my hair styling tools. Total fail! I searched for a voltage converter all over Ukraine, but I was never able to find one. So, if you're visiting Ukraine, make sure to pack a voltage converter!
I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to visit Ukraine before the recent escalation in tensions with Russia. My Ukrainian road trip was the most unique trip I've ever taken. I absolutely fell in love with Ukraine, and I think it deserves a spot on everyone's bucket list!
Jason, Flashpacker Co
Turks & Caicos Diving
In October 2021 I spent two weeks working & diving in the beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI as it’s known locally). There are two primary destinations in TCI; the large island of Providenciales which includes Grace Bay, consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the world; and Grand Turk, the smaller island with historic Cockburn Town. Both are mind blowingly beautiful but on this particular trip I stayed exclusively on Providenciales to easily access some of the best diving in Turks and Caicos.
Grace Bay lives up to its top beach reputation without a doubt. Endless floury white sand and expansive turquoise water as far as you could see. The diving was also spectacular, among the best I’ve experienced globally and certainly top notch in the Caribbean.
The islands are very easy to get to from the US but they are expensive. For the price of 2 weeks in TCI you could spend 6 weeks in Barbados. It's an incredible short term destination and well worth a visit. An Airbnb will help keep costs manageable but even still, expect to spend more than a usual vacation.
Every day I was either on the beach or on the dive boat (or both!) so it's no surprise I relied heavily on my Overboard dry bag to protect my valuables from the salty water & powdery sand. Traveling with dive gear meant I needed a large, hard shell suitcase to fit everything and protect it while in transit. The Thule Revolve 63 liter suitcase did the job perfectly. It's just large enough to fit a pair of men’s fins and keeps all of the dive gear safe.
Whether you go diving or just need some quality beach time to relax, TCI is highly recommended to check out. It’s truly one of the most beautiful Caribbean destinations with world renowned beaches and bays.
What Will be Your Favorite Trip in 2022?
We’re excited for a new year of adventures and can’t wait to see how 2022 turns out. If you’re just as eager to get back out there sign up for our newsletter below to get the best travel tips, gear recommendations, and exclusive discounts!
About the Authors
|Jillian Giometti is the social media manager with Flashpacker Co and a regular contributor in the Flashpacker Travel Blog. She is a lifelong traveler with a passion for animal rescue and fitness, both of which she regularly works into her adventures around the world. Follow Flashpacker on Instagram @FlashpackerCo.|
|As of 2022 Sean has visited 37 countries on 6 of the 7 continents while working full time. He recently graduated with a degree in recreation, parks, and tourism, and now with more free time, he's hoping to carry on traveling to far and distant locations uncovering the underrated and unseen destinations of the world. Follow his adventures on Instagram @carryonsean.|
|Ella is an adventure seeker, trying to make sure life doesn’t escape her. As a travel Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), she was able to take temporary jobs around the U.S. and travel internationally in between each job opportunity. More recently, she's found a more “permanent” job and home in Greenville, S.C. but continues to explore at every chance. Her favorite quote is "you should wonder less and wander more."|
|Stephen Gary is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co. He’s been a digital nomad for the past 5 years traveling all across the globe exploring new cities, languages and new passions. Find more from him over on our travel blog.|
||Allyson is the creator of the Traveling Twilley, a travel blog featuring travel tips and inspiration, comprehensive travel guides, itineraries, packing guides, and more.|
|Jason Kraemer is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co. When he’s not testing the coolest travel gear you can find him searching for the best beaches, the tastiest tacos, or the most exciting dive sites. Read about his adventures in our travel blog.|