Blizzards, baggage fees, body scanners … you don’t have to look far to find bad travel news these days. But as we start the new year, we’d rather look on the brighter side. Why not celebrate what’s going right with travel — you know, all those things that keep us globetrotting in the first place?
We turned to our well-traveled colleagues, Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and asked them to tell us about a travel experience in 2010 that exceeded their expectations. They wrote in with stories of amazing animal encounters, heavenly hotels and in-depth experiences of local cultures. A few of them even had good things to say about the airlines!
We’ve collected a few of our favorite travel experiences below. Check ‘em out and then share your best 2010 travel story in the comments.
“For years, I was preparing for this first major overseas trip (dream destinations). I booked my tour and tickets a year in advance and on the week of my departure to Europe there was a strike on British Airways, not to mention the ash falls from Iceland, so it was all jittery. But overall my six-week journey in Europe and three weeks in North America were fantastic despite the initial dramas.” — Carla B., via Facebook
“Playing with lion cubs at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, and finding you really can tickle their bellies and survive!” — Jayne, @40before30 on Twitter
“Every single thing (except the red ant attack) about the Four Seasons Mauritus. It was by far the highlight of my year.” — Genevieve S. Brown, Travelocity
“Allegramente, a one-week Italian language course at Pintadera in Alghero, helped me to understand how fascinating Sardinia is.” — Sharon Blomfield, @sharonblomfield on Twitter
“My husband and I traveled from Oregon to New Zealand last January and had a fabulous trip. The weather was crummy even for summer down there, but everything else went like clockwork — even the airlines.” — Kathy M., via Facebook
“Stepping out of a cabin in Husavik, Iceland, expecting to just look at the stars and instead seeing the Northern Lights!” — Katie Hammel, @WhyGoIceland on Twitter
“On a long weekend getaway at Denver’s Ritz-Carlton, we were mildly annoyed by some very un-Ritz-like inconveniences by its housekeeping staff (forgetting to clean altogether then showing up at 1 a.m., and other assorted bug-a-boos). It wasn’t Armageddon but it did suck some energy out of the weekend, which was meant to be a relaxing one. And you certainly don’t expect that kind of problem at a Ritz-Carlton. But what transformed an annoyance into an unforgettable experience was the response from the hotel’s front desk manager. After a quick complaint after our first night’s stay, he monitored our in-room service and practically turned himself into a pretzel to make sure there was no relapse. When, alas, the next night offered up a new level of incompetency from housekeeping (there were clearly problems in this department), his response was so generous and caring and concerned that it made us feel like the most pampered people in the world. As editor of a consumer cruise Web site, I get so many letters from travelers whose minor complaints escalated into major ones because cruise lines just didn’t respond properly. This gent cared and we wound up extending our stay (there were no repeats of the housekeeping issue). He definitely made lemonade out of lemons on that one, and earned our loyalty, not just to that particular hotel but to the hotel company who had good enough sense to put him in a position of dealing with customers — and empowering him to solve problems in an appropriate way.” — Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic
“Air Asia was super flexible in letting us change flights because of unrest in Bangkok in June.” — Corinne Levy, @corklevy on Twitter
“Took a multigenerational cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. Liked it way better than we expected except for the kid pool stuck in Siberia.” — Eileen Gunn, @familiesgo on Twitter
“My husband and I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica in September and spent four FABULOUS days at the Riu all-inclusive resort. The food, the service and the Jamaican hospitality combined to make it a wonderful experience.” — Adrienne L., via Facebook
“Heavenly Spa at the Westin Mumbai, relaxing and effective. It was a standard massage, but a blissful one, and I’m not a spa gal.” Caroline Eden, @edentravels on Twitter
“The Atlantis resorts in Dumaguete and Puerto Galera, Philippines are the most fab places in the world! We returned to Dumaguete in March 2010 as well as spent a week on their liveaboard boat. The people at all three of these places spoiled us rotten. They were the friendliest and kindest people and took very good care of us. We spent most of our time scuba diving and they carried our gear to and from the boats, cleaned it, and always had it ready for the next dive. The food was absolutely to die for — in fact, I had the chef share some of his recipes as I shared my recipes for American cookies! They really made a big deal for our 35th anniversary by setting a romantic table near the ocean with flowers and candles and fixed us a special, amazing dinner, as well as a cake and serenaded us!!” — Deb B.C., via Facebook
“Staying in an apartment in Paris was awesome! I always knew that would be a wonderful thing to do — what I didn’t expect was how quickly I felt ‘like a local.'” — Catherine S., via Facebook
– written by Sarah Schlichter