Happy New Year! How is it possible that 2022 is over already? We start 2023 both feeling slightly broken with stinking colds as we worked virtually everyday of December to save for our next big adventure... 2023 will be the year we finally get to Vietnam!
But more on this year later, let's take a look back at a brilliant year for Team Thomas Travels.
We travelled to 8 countries, including 2 new ones!
An improvement on last year's 6 countries, this year genuinely felt more like pre-pandemic travel in terms of tourist numbers and not having to worry about restrictions changing while we were away (the dreaded traffic light system...). The only stressful moment was having to test at Heathrow Airport before flying to the States, as they required a Covid test within 24 hours of our flight, and as we flew on a Monday, no where was open the previous day!! Luckily we both passed, and this trip was also the strictest with regards to showing proof of vaccination, not only to board the flight but also in restaurants and museums.
January: finally back in the USA!
With no post Christmas lockdown this year (THANK GOODNESS!!!), we finally make it back to our favourite country in the world, the USA, for the first time since our 2019 Florida road trip. We combined two bucket list cities into one trip, visiting Washington DC and Chicago and took the Amtrak sleeper in between, another massive bucket list tick. We saw waved at President Biden's motorcade, did loads of the Smithsonian Museums, visited Arlington Cemetery and cheered on the Washington Wizards.
While in Chicago, we partnered with Go City to test out their all inclusive city pass and spent an amazing day whizzing up the Willis Tower, visiting the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium and eating far too much pizza! We were hosted by Hotel St Clair for 3 nights which was the perfect location for our Chicago city break.
February: Dublin, Ireland.
We spent a wonderful few days in Dublin, the beautiful capital of the Republic of Ireland. Good food, great music and that famous Irish hospitality - we fell in love! While we were there we teamed up with Big Bus Tours to spend a day on their Dublin hop on hop off bus.
March: Brecon Beacons, Wales
In March we were invited to the Welsh Brecon Beacons by Blue Ocean Activities and Adventures for an intrepid afternoon of gorge walking. Our group leader took us through a series of challenges in beautiful waterfall country, from jumping into the fast flowing river and shooting some rapids, to scrambling around boulders against white water, to climbing up gushing waterfalls, exploring silica mines with head torches, wriggling on our tummies through tight little tunnels and finished up with a big leap off a waterfall. It was absolutely brilliant! We spent a few more days either side camping in Osprey, hiking and visiting Big Pit - David is Welsh and it's always very special visiting this country.
June: Our big Spanish road trip with a cheeky visit to Andorra!
In June we took Osprey on a massive adventure, a huge lap around Spain, ticking off Toledo, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Valencia, Barcelona, San Sebastian and a lot of beaches and tapas! While we were in Spain we collaborated with City Sightseeing to promote their Seville hop on hop off tour bus route, and were treated to a wonderful pampering day at Hammam Al Andalus in Granada.
Our 5th country of the year was the teeny tiny principality of Andorra, a stunning 3 hour drive through the Pyrenees from Barcelona. We spent a day exploring the capital, Andorra La Vella, before heading back to Northern Spain.
This road trip was absolutely magical - we saw wild flamingos, tried delicious wine, sought out Sad Hill Cemetery (of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly fame) watched the huge Corpus Christi parades in Toledo and the San Juan bonfires in Nerja. We also really enjoyed the ferry trip over and back with Brittany Ferries, more like a mini cruise with fab food and entertainment, whale watching and a really comfy cabin.
July: Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland.
The Edinburgh Fringe is something we've always wanted to tick off our bucket lists, and this year was spectacular. It's been 3 years since the Fringe was able to take place, and the joyous atmosphere was electric. We were in Edinburgh for 3 weeks which gave us so much time to explore. As well as watching some amazing performances, we climbed Arthur's Seat, visited Holyrood Palace, went to Portobello Beach and down into the haunted Blair Street Vaults. We teamed up with City Sightseeing again to demonstrate their Edinburgh tour bus route, and collaborated with Visit Scotland's awarded best visitor attraction (for the last 13 years in a row!), HM Royal Yacht Britannia.
September: Festivals, Narrowboats and a press trip to France!
September was one of our most exciting working months that we've ever had, and we are so proud that our blog and Instagram account has become such a trusted resource over the last 4 years.
We started the month with an invite to Camp Wildfire, an adults only festival down in Kent that specialises in fun outdoor pursuits during the day and a party at night. We had an absolute blast, sleeping in Osprey and enjoying activities like quad biking, crossbow shooting, swing dancing, a tie dye masterclass, shelter building, yoga and going up in a hot air balloon, plus loads of dancing to fab bands in the evenings. You can see the reel we created for Camp Wildfire here, and really hope we can make it again this year!
A couple of weeks later we were hosted by the Epic Boating Company on their GORGEOUS canal boat, Kings Landing. Taking a scenic narrowboat holiday has been on our bucket list for years, so we were thrilled to be invited on board. We spent 4 days exploring the Grand Union Canal, navigating not only the curves of the waterway and over 100 bridges, but multiple locks and the famous 3km long Blisworth Tunnel.
We finished the month on a fantastic press trip in collaboration with Normandy Tourism and the Alencon Tourism Board visiting the pretty City of the Dukes, Alencon, France and the surrounding countryside. We stayed in a French Chateau, sampled some outstanding food, visited an organic cider farm and took a guided bike tour around one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of France. You can read about our press trip here.
It was during this trip that we came up with the idea for our next adventure...
November: Exploring the Netherlands by train
Catching the Eurostar to Amsterdam, we spent 4 days there before exploring the Netherlands by train, visiting Rotterdam, Delft, Schiedam, the Hague and Kinderdijk. Cycling past dreamy UNESCO protected windmills, strolling the canals, sampling jenever in tiny brown cafes, visiting the Anne Frank House and getting a major culture fix in the Rijksmuseum and Mauritshuis, this was a fantastic trip and our 2nd new country of the year.
In the Netherlands, we partnered with Iamsterdam to try out their 3 day city pass (you can read all about what we got up to here), were gifted free tickets to review the Heineken Experience and in Rotterdam we had a fantastic stay in collaboration with Cityhub.
We worked with 22 other brands throughout the year
That's a really satisfying growth from 15 last year and 9 in 2020, the world is getting back to normal!
We worked with our favourite travel shoe brand, UIN Footwear, twice more in 2022 (you'll recognise the brand from our Instagram and also our 2021 recap) and I even did a collaboration with my mum to promote UIN's National Gallery collection!
In February, Sonisk sent us both a travel electric toothbrush to take to Dublin and it's become a vanlife staple - no charger required!
In April we were absolutely thrilled to work with Bluefin SUP, who kindly gifted us a 15' Cruise Tandem SUP board. You can read our full review of the board here, and check out this Instagram post on our feed. Or this one. Or THIS one! Our paddle board is so versatile - it easily converts into kayak mode and it fits under the bed of our van!
Another super piece of sponsored travel kit we were sent that month were two awesome headtorches from Everbeam - here is the reel we created for them.
We teamed back up with Tog24 who sent us lots of lovely clothes for our Spain trip, we were gifted 2 tickets to the Mary Rose Museum, helped to promote One Gin's beautiful new bottle design, created to be used as a water carafe once you've finished the gin, cutting down on bottled water bought (our post), and partnered with Pocketalk to promote their amazing translator - unbelievably useful on our Spanish road trip, not only did it translate Spanish, Catalan and Basque for us, but it has 2 way speakers AND a camera to translate text! We wrote a sponsored blog and created these two reels.
Once back with Spain we worked with Coffee Friend for a van life treat, teamed back up with The Adventure Challenge to promote their scratch off couple's adventure book, and we have been invited by Wonderdays to book one of their driving experience days, which we have lined up for April 2023!
Wrapping up the year, in October we wrote this sponsored post for Orange promoting their prepaid travel eSIM cards, and our final collaboration for the year was with WeDrifters, where we posted about their insect repellent sleepwear, which will be SO useful in Southeast Asia.
Let's look at last year's travel wish list for 2022 - how did we do?
"Our New Year's wish list for 2022 is to do lots more exploring in Osprey - we'd love to take him to Portugal, and also through Spain to Morocco. We have a planned trip to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana that we cancelled in 2020 and 2021, so hopefully 2022 will be our year! Oh and we'll roll over last year's wish to get to Vietnam... watch this space!"
So turns out we totally changed our plans!! Osprey made it to Spain and Andorra, and did lots of driving around Wales and England, but we reckon Portugal through to Morocco is still on the cards, maybe in 2024. That Colorado/Wyoming trip will most likely happen then as well, and we didn't make it to Vietnam again...
However, we had some of the best working partnerships we've ever had on the blog- just look at September! Gorge walking, a festival, narrowboating, Normandy, our paddleboard - here's to another year of growth and adventures!
And this year? Here's our travel wish list for 2023:
Vietnam is getting ticked off at last in February, plus we'll add on a side trip to Cambodia. We'd love to take Osprey back across the the Republic of Ireland to explore the countryside, and maybe then take the ferry to Brittany! September we're planning a trip to Australia for my (Emma's) dad's 70th, which would mean David will achieve his 7th continent!! I still need Antarctica... and hopefully we can squeeze in a couple of European city breaks! We're very good at country-wide epic road trips, but it wold be nice to have a couple of focused long weekends as well.