Spinalonga, One Week in Elounda

ROUND-UP: My Top 10 Travel Moments from 2023

Ten Travel Highlights as a Family of Three

2023 has been the most unique year of my life and it’s felt like a million years and a split second at the same time. Days before I gave birth to Kaia, a client of mine described the first few months with a newborn as a ‘beautiful blur’. Nearly 12 months after delivering Kaia, I feel that. The year felt like a beautiful blur in many ways. So many adventures, so many new moments, and so much life that we’ve lived over the course of 2023 that went by in a blink. I have so much yet to recap from this year’s adventures and honestly, life has taken precedence in many ways. Having a baby with us has made us appreciate travel in a new way (and to appreciate how much simpler it was prior to her arrival!). Beyond welcoming Kaia, we completed our first full season at Borgo San Vincenzo, which blew us away, and I had the busiest year with Compass & Vine, sending 40+ clients off on adventures around the globe.

By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 13
New Continents: 1 (Antarctica!)
Airplane Legs Flown: 26
Babies born: 1

We spent 2023 living between 3 countries: Malta, where we rung in the new year and where Kaia spent the first six weeks of her life; Anguilla, where we spent about 4 months in total for the year; and of course, Italy, where we spent the bulk of our year learning to balance work, baby, and life. Our travels took us around the globe: from Dubai and Oman to Argentina and down to Antarctica and many places in between. Compass & Vine had its busiest year to date — and I was awarded the ‘Next Generation Travel Advisor’ award by most host agency, an award given to advisors based on age and sales, which was both a serious honor and a huge surprise. Our new life with baby begun to take shape this year and our promise to each other – to not stop traveling with baby in tow – was something we clung to. Below, I’m sharing our top trips from 2023. ⇣

Dubai, UAE

Dubai, UAE

10For years it shocked people that somehow, some way, Scott and I had never been to Dubai. We’d passed through many times when flying Emirates but the UAE – Dubai in particular – wasn’t really on our radar for a trip. We have always favored old-world Middle East and Dubai’s modernity was a stark contrast to that. When we began planning our long-awaited trip to Oman (keep reading!) though, spending a few days in Dubai made sense. I’m so glad we finally made it happen, but suffice it to say I’m not in a hurry to return and would add Abu Dhabi to my itinerary over Dubai on a future visit (though I do think Dubai makes more sense for first-timers to the UAE). That said, Dubai’s transformation over the past three decades is utterly astounding and it’s impressive to see it all first hand!

Paris, France

9We’ve spent countless 2-night stays in Paris over the years, connecting there en route to other destinations within Europe, but this was the first trip with our little one in tow for her first brush with France. We had a brief three nights, checking out a new hotel in Paris (a mix of work + pleasure), and made sweet memories exploring the city with baby (wine bars! museums! food tours!). City travel with a tot is definitely different but we didn’t let it slow us down. Also, Le Marais is now one of my favorite neighborhoods to stay in in the city.

Malta

Marsaxlokk, Malta

8We spent 4 months in Malta between 2022 and 2023 and began our lives as a family of 3 in Sliema, on the waterfront facing Valletta. I’ve been to Malta many times in the past on heritage trips and for medical appointments, and having Kaia in Malta was unbelievably special for me and our family. I had mapped out a ‘plan’ after Scott and I got married; our kid(s) would be born in Malta where we could keep the connection with my Maltese family alive and where that culture and heritage wouldn’t get too watered down and lost over time. Flash forward to January 2023 and we brought it all to life. Kaia was born in Malta, we had a wonderful birth experience, and we got to enjoy that time with both of our families there, the first time I’d ever been in my mom’s home country with her. Malta will always hold a special place in my heart and will be a place we visit regularly for the rest of our lives. 🇲🇹

Sonoma County, California

Sonoma County, CA

7Traveling to California has never felt so special. This trip brought the most incredible memories for us, bringing Kaia to California to meet my sister and my grandmother for the first time. It was simple: a lovely house in Kenwood where we spent a week dining in, hanging at the pool, playing board games, going wine tasting, etc. and it was perfection.

Read my full post on wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma for inspiration!

Italy

Procida, Italy

6Our new home in Europe, Italy never ceases to amaze me. We spent the majority of our year based in Tuscany running Borgo San Vincenzo as we embarked on an ultra-busy season that wowed and inspired us. We leaned into the Tuscan lifestyle, headed to Procida for our anniversary, spent a few nights in Lucca, and enjoyed the essence of Italian lifestyle with a baby in tow. 2023 was a clear reminder that we made the right choice in anchoring into Italy with our hotel life, seeing Kaia thrive with her Italian family and friends.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Argentina

5BA surprised me in a great way! We spent three days in Buenos Aires en route to Antarctica and the city wowed me with its cosmopolitan vibe and affordability. South America is a continent we continue to explore slowly as we discover our favorite parts of the region, but BA definitely ticked the boxes for a South American city fix that offers a blend of Latin American culture and European flair.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

HOTEL INSIDER: A Stay at Belmond Maroma, Mexico

4Oh, Mexico, with your highs and lows! We met our besties for two weeks in Mexico and had such a great time being part of Belmond’s opening of Maroma, enjoying beachfront time on the coast, and casual nights in with our friends noshing on Mexican cuisine in Tulum. We also faced Kaia’s first stomach bug and international pediatrician visit (learning experiences and part of life!), and lived to tell the tale.

Antarctica

Antarctica

3The White Continent! What a dream to make a trip to Antarctica a reality. Antarctica had long been on my wishlist but we were never quite sure when it would happen, especially with a new baby. Flash forward to November, and we set sail with Swan Hellenic to Antarctica and left Kaia for the first time ever (for two weeks!). It was magic to see the landscapes firsthand and to be on a continent that so few people get to explore. We just scratched the surface with our 9-night journey, but it did inspire us to explore more of the polar areas. Next up: the Arctic!

Crete, Greece

Spinalonga, One Week in Elounda
My favorite picture of Kaia from this cute, chunky stage of her life! 🇬🇷

2Greece is a perennial favorite; my go-to for summer and my most booked destination for Compass & Vine. It’s a place we go to every year and continue to explore more deeply. This year, we opted for Crete, focusing on the tiny town of Plaka as our home base. To be honest, this was the first trip that we really enjoyed our travel with Kaia fully, watching her play in the water, seeing her first teeth pop in, seeing her eat solids for the first time, and watching her develop over the course of the week in this little village on the Cretan coast. Crete always felt so big to ‘do’ so our solution was simple: we’re not going to ‘do Crete’; we’re simply going to visit one lovely village in Crete and enjoy the simple pleasures of that. It was exactly what we wanted and needed out of a Greek getaway and brought some of my favorite memories with Kaia from the year.

Oman

Two weeks in Oman

1Oman, you were a dream. Traveling to Oman with Kaia made the trip more challenging than it would have been sans kids (obviously) but it was still my favorite destination of the year. Zighy Bay in particular was such a wow for us and a place we’ve vowed to make a regular in our repertoire, but Oman in general just wowed me with its spirit. A true Middle Eastern experience with an old-world soul and such a friendly spirit. I’ll be a champion for Oman for years to come and hope to return at some point as Kaia gets a bit older and we can enjoy it more deeply.


2024 is set to bring even more amazing memories for us with family trips, new countries, and some serious bucketlist moments that we’ve been looking forward to. Cheers to everyone on a fantastic year ahead with more adventures and new memories around the globe!

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.