This is the first annual travel roundup I’ve published since the pandemic. The last one was in 2019, which was our first full year back in the UK after living in India and overlanding Africa. Well, a fair bit has happened since then!
Whilst last year was actually quite a good year for travel (we did spend 4 months living and travelling in Morocco after all) I just didn’t get round to writing a roundup as I was juggling running the three blogs on my own, and balls had to be dropped.
But with a new team member joining the blogging business recently, I felt that 2023 was the year to bring back the annual TraveLynn Family roundup!
So here goes… this is what TraveLynn Family got up to in 2023…
We saw the New Year in at a campsite in Strasbourg with our Bongo.
Except, there was a snag.
Well a tiny bit of slushy snow that made a sledging run of 50 metres. But it was not at all the required conditions for skiing. It was just too warm for snow or even the snow machines to work. Global warming is real folks.
The French Alps were quite a sorry sight. The few resorts at higher altitude were packed with skiers trying to make the best of the conditions, whilst police were putting up blockades to prevent anyone driving to higher resorts without a pre-paid lift pass.
Whilst our ski hire and lessons were cancelled, we couldn’t get a refund on our accommodation, so we decided to make the most of it.
Once we got over the fact that we wouldn’t be skiing that week, we actually had a really lovely, relaxing week doing a few walks, a bit of sledging, Harry Potter marathons, and eating our body-weight in cheese.
However, I don’t think we’ll ever risk skiing in early January again in this region. Perhaps we were just lucky with our family ski trip to Spain the previous year? Who knows. But with talks of lower ski resorts having to permanently close due to global warming and prices at high-altitude resorts going up, skiing is sadly becoming increasingly inaccessible to families.
Return to Essaouria
Come February half term, we were all in need of a bit of warmth, especially as our snowy January trip didn’t work out.
Essaouira, Morocco, was an obvious choice. It’s a place we return to time and time again, and is where we based ourselves for 2 months last year. And if you didn’t know, I run a separate blog all about Essaouria – Explore Essaouira. The cheap February half term flights from Stansted to Essaouira confirmed it was the place for us to go.
Essaouira is our happy place and always feels easy.
10 weeks backpacking Southeast Asia
We spent ten weeks backpacking through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia (including Borneo) and Singapore. The boys (aged 8 and 9 at the time) were deregistered from primary school for the last half of the Summer Term, Jay took unpaid parental leave, and I worked remotely (the beauty of being a blogger).
It felt so good to be back in this region of the world. We love the food, the chaos, the colours, the people, the temples, the tuk-tuks, the beaches, the rainforest, the train journeys…. the list goes on…
Highlights include the rooftop waterpark in Bangkok, the simple beach life on Koh Rong Sanloem, watching the circus in Battambang, watching a huge mother-turtle lay hundreds of eggs on Selingan Island, riding the overnight train from Bangkok to Malaysia, trying all the food in Penang, and seeing Ez’s face light up when we stayed at the Legoland Hotel at LEGOLAND Malaysia.
It was one of those trips that just really worked and filled our cups. This trip gave us time to re-evaluate life choices and set the wheels in motion for exciting changes.
We’ll be back.
Bongo adventures in France
We returned to the UK with three weeks left until the boys were due back in school. Time for a Bongo trip! Well, we couldn’t let the summer pass without our annual trip to France now, could we?
Our regular readers know how much we love the campsites in France. They’re so perfectly set up for families and the huge bonus for us is that the super-fun kids clubs are free (making remote working life much easier for us parents).
We travel rather slow in our Bongo and spend up to a week at each site. The Bongo becomes our base and we use our bikes to explore the surrounding area. It’s a system we’ve been doing for years and works perfectly for us.
The three sites we stayed at this year were:
- Camping Parc des Roches – a campsite on the outskirts of Paris where we could easily get the train into the city to explore.
- Sandaya Camping Le Col Vert – a large campsite in the Southwest corner of France, situated right next to a lake and a short bike ride to some of the best beaches in the world.
- Sandaya Le Grand Dague – a leafy campsite with a fantastic pool area in the Dordogne. It’s a little out in the sticks, so you need a car to explore the region.
And despite having travelled to France countless times with the boys over the years, this was our first trip to Paris with kids. Paris, you did not disappoint.
Another return to Essaouira
Running Explore Essaouira means that I like to visit the region regularly to make sure the blog is up-to-date.
Even though my last visit was in February, by October (the time of this next trip) it was interesting to see how much had changed with new activities, new restaurants, and changes to prices. Essaouira is really on the cusp of becoming a very popular tourist destination, and now is the time to visit.
Unfortunately the boys couldn’t come with me on this trip, so I invited my parents along for their first experience of Morocco.
Every time I return to Essaouira, there’s something new to explore, and this time, a highlight was an Essaouira cooking class my mum and I took with local mum, Latifa. We spent the morning shopping in the souks for ingredients and then returned to Latifa’s family home to prepare the feast. Preparations took a good few hours, so we were rather famished when it finally came round to eating our home-cooked Moroccan meal later that afternoon. It tasted amazing!
Andalucía for October half term
Arthur was invited to a goal-keeping training camp in Madrid just before half term, so we thought it a good opportunity for all the family to explore more of Spain during the holidays. The flights deals directed us to explore Andalucía with kids.
Jay flew out to Madrid with Arthur for the training session (he had permission to take time out from school for this) and then we all met in Malaga at the start of October half term. Arthur and Jay got the train from Madrid, and Ez and I caught a flight from Manchester. Miraculously we arrived within ten minutes of each other.
Here we share our 6 day itinerary around Andalucía with kids, taking in Malaga, Granada and Seville, three stunning cities in southern Spain. Includes details on things to do, where to stay, and how to get between cities using public transport.
What a beautiful region of Spain! It’s definitely given us a taster and we’d love to return as part of a road trip. I still hold that dream of driving from the UK through France and Spain to Morocco (for newer followers, this was originally the plan for last year, but COVID restrictions were still in place for taking the ferry to Morocco). One day.
Unfortunately there are no Christmas travels for us this year. I (Jenny) need to have some minor surgery. It’s something that I’ve been putting off for a while, because there’s never a convenient time for these things is there?
But with a big adventure planned for 2024, we’re all happy staying put at home in the Peak District this coming school holiday, especially if there is snow. Please let there be snow!
The family business
There were both big changes in the blogging world and to my business in 2023.
Google and Amazon both threw a few big spanners in the works to keep us all on our toes, and I made changes to the advertising and affiliate management companies I work with (welcoming Raptive and Stay 22 on board); advertising and affiliates are the main income streams for blogging. Plus, I launched pdf walk guides on Peak District Kids and the Explore Essaouira ebook (I currently run three blogs), and TraveLynn Family got a new logo to better reflect our style of travel.
But the huge step for our family was Jay quitting his software engineering job of over 20 years to join the blogging business. This is something that we had been talking about for some time, but when we heard about the drastic changes to his company after returning to work from Southeast Asia, we saw this as a massive sign and took the plunge.
This means that us parents are now fully flexible with our work and location, and it really does open up more travel opportunities for us. Plus, from a financial point of view, there is now no salary ceiling and we can really take the blog to the next level.
Jay is a brilliant writer (he’s written most of the recent TraveLynn Family content) and his technical background has already saved me months of work.
We make a pretty good team if I do say so.
What’s planned for 2024?
You guys know we’ve always got some sort of travel plan up our sleeve 😉.
2024 will bring another big adventure for our family and plans are locked in with a return to Southeast Asia. All will be revealed soon.
If you need some travel inspiration for 2024, check out our best family travel destinations.
Final thoughts for 2023
We recognise that we live a privileged life that allows us to travel so much. Indeed, people often message and comment to say how ‘lucky’ we are, but this is a life that we have moulded for years and made bold choices along the way. Click here to read our blog post on how we afford to travel.
Our time in Southeast Asia was an absolute highlight of our family travels to date and naturally that trip formed the focus of 2023 for us. But our European and Essaouira trips bookending the year are what keep us ticking between the big adventures. And behind all these adventures is normal family life of school runs, running the after-school clubs taxi service, homework, sleepovers and playdates, and various bumps along the way. Travel, whilst it’s a big part, is still only a part of what makes our family.
I also want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU for supporting TraveLynn Family in 2023. Every post like, comment, and website share is very much appreciated, plus I always love seeing photos and reading your messages from your adventures after reading our recommendations and guides. It’s your interaction with this community that keeps my small business alive.
And also a big HELLO to those people we met on our travels who follow the blog; I couldn’t believe how many families we bumped into in Southeast Asia this summer!
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and here’s to more travel adventures in 2024.