Year End Review: Best of 2019

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Our year end review for 2019 starts in the most emotional ways.  It was the year we welcomed our baby girl, and 30 days later lost the Papa of our family who was cruelly taken by Pancreatic Cancer at just 39 years of age.  Yet, here is our year end review, that includes the best family holiday destinations in the world.

How can I even write a ‘best of’ post when it has been such a tough year?  To start with, we didn’t stop living.  In fact, with 2 young kids and a newborn in the house, we never stopped living.  Grief came mostly late at night in private moments.  Loss hits you at the strangest times; during the normality of daily life when you MISS them so much.   Accepting the process of his cancer came through blogging about the journey (though I still don’t accept his cancer journey).  I found healing through celebrating Norman on Instagram and discovered how enormously supportive the Instagram community can be.

Mostly, in reviewing 2019, we did what I know best: escape.  We took lots of long and short trips during the year.  We were busy – too busy – but that was good; it allowed the grief to come and go in bursts but not dwell around us like a dark cloud.

On holiday in Phuket. I’m squinting horribly because Master 5 has my sunglasses.

I loaded the kids with experiences; we rarely spent a full weekend at home.  At the same time, we often found it awkward being around friends, so we visited many of Perth’s superb playgrounds. In wet weather, we went to Latitude and museums.

This is a family travel highlights post as opposed to “coping in the months after losing your father/partner”.  That might come later as I continue to process our family’s journey via writing.

This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.

Year End Review: Best Holiday Family Destinations In The World

What is remarkable in this 2019 is that we visited three of the best family holiday destinations in the world this year!  Without a doubt, Thailand, Singapore, and Cairns, North Queensland have to be amongst the best places for a family to take a holiday

As in the past, my year-end review focuses on specific experiences rather than whole destinations.  I have included things that we all loved, that made us smile.  They are special family travel experiences that we hope can inspire others.  I’ve included them in no particular order as it’s impossible to pick the best.

Horse Riding On The South Coast, Western Australia

Riding a horse along the windswept pristine beaches of the South Coast was my daughter’s favorite experience in 2019.  These beaches are known to “locals” and adventurers, to be invited to ride a horse along them was an amazing stroke of luck.  I buried my toes in the sand and breathed in the deep salty air; friends held the baby, the boy ran in the dunes.  A re-invigorating experience for us all.  11 Great Things For Kids To Do On The South Coast of Western Australia gives you insight into the beauty of this area.

Fitzroy Island, Far North Queensland

I went to Fitzroy Island as a 7-year-old; my main memory is my brother falling out of the top bunk and breaking the old-fashioned louvers in the shack where we stayed.  When I saw a frequent flier sale to Cairns, I snapped up the tickets in a flash.  I knew that the main place I wanted to stay was Fitzroy Island.  We stayed for 4 nights, and while a massive storm dampened our time on the island, we loved the frontier feel and the short walks around the island.

Kuranda Train and Skyrail, Cairns

I loved the Kuranda Train as a kid; so to travel it again was another ‘must-do’ Cairns experience for this Mumma.  The gorgeous carriages and elegant curves of the railway did not disappoint.  I loved the Kuranda Train and its rich history.  The kids preferred zipping back down through the forest on the Skyrail which was rather thrilling, and we all loved stepping out to explore the ancient Daintree Rainforest and admire the power of the Barron Falls.

Port Douglas, Far North Queensland

Port Douglas with its groves of palm trees, small village atmosphere, and lovely Four Mile beach has to be one of the best family holiday destinations in the world!

We were in Port Douglas for the anniversaries I wanted to avoid.  That is my birthday and the day that Norman got the confirmed cancer diagnosis including the devastating understanding that it was “advanced” cancer and unresectable (they couldn’t operate).  After his death, I’d wanted to fly the drone almost obsessively – I suppose it was a way of keeping his memory alive.  I flew nearly every morning in Port Douglas and loved our time down on Four Mile Beach in the mornings.  Port Douglas also makes a great base from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

Khao Lak Swimming Pool & Beach Rope Swing, Phang Nga Province, Thailand

Khao Lak is a quiet family-oriented beachside area resort area about an hour north of Phuket.  You can see the wide range of things to do in Khao Lak For Families.

However, if you ask our kids what they remember most about Khao Lak they will tell you two things: the awesome swimming pools at the Centara Seaview Resort and the rope swing on the beach.  Every night we went down to watch the sunset and the kids would swing and play on the rope swings (though they did have to get off for people to take their Instagram shots)!  Check our review here.

Phuket Splash Park, Phuket, Thailand

We’d picked Phuket’s Splash Jungle Park and its associated hotel the Splash Beach Resort for its easy access to the Phuket International Airport but this was much more than a practical choice.  We spent every day of our last 4 days at the Splash Park.  Our once reticent kids grew more and more confident on the water slides, and by the final day were going down the highest and fastest water slides.

This is also the benefit of slow travel – by allowing the kids 4 visits to the water park (one each day) they were able to naturally grow in confidence. They were glowing (from sun and exercise) by the time we left the Splash Jungle and it was a superb decision to stay.  Check out our review of Splash Jungle Water Park and Splash Beach Resort here.

All Of Singapore

I rarely include a “whole’ destination in my year end reviews because there are good and bad parts of everything.  However, Singapore was so fantastic I find it hard to separate one part or another.  I need to unreservedly add Singapore to my list of the best family holiday destinations in the world.

From Chinatown to the murals of Arab Street and surrounds Singapore is a melting pot of cultures.  Yet at the same time, Singapore is one of the most modern cities in the world.  Everywhere we visited, including the very special Gardens by the Bay we were blown away by this fantastic city.  If you are looking to go overseas for the first time with kids, we would definitely put Singapore on your family-friendly holiday list.

Singapore Art Science Museum

If there is one place that you must put on your Singapore with kids list, we would say it is the Art Science Museum.   When you combine art, science, and interaction in one place – we could not help being blown away at every turn.  This is not the kind of place where there are children’s activities and the adults participate.  I noticed my 75-year-old mother and myself as caught up in the joy of discovery as the kids.  Highly recommended.

Dwellingup Ropes Course, Dwellingup Western Australia

From high tech to high a ropes course in the forest, our year end review covers things that left our kids grinning from ear to ear.  The Trees Adventure Course has the kids zipping through the forest like pros.  By spending the weekend in Dwellingup Western Australia we also got to experience some typical Australian bush experiences in the Jarrah forest.  If you get a chance to go on a Trees Adventure course anywhere in Australia – do it!

 

Legoland Malaysia

With a Lego mad 5-year-old in the household, Legoland Malaysia was always going to be on our list.  In our biggest splurge for the year we decided to stay in the Legoland Malaysia Resort, and even upgraded to a Zane themed room!  In many ways staying in the Resort itself was as big a highlight as the Legoland theme park.  It is hard to separate one part of the theme park, but the kids went on roller coasters for the first time and grew in confidence immeasurably!

Ethical Elephant Experience

After having an elephant experience in Bali a couple of years ago, our daughter has been elephant mad, loving these great big gentle creatures.  Having learned from our first experience we now knew that it was important to select an ethical elephant experience where the elephants were treated well, and not ridden.  With few elephant parks around Phuket offering verifiable credentials, I spent a lot of time researching Ethical elephant experiences.  Things To do in Phuket with kids (link) touches on the process I used.

Pancare Walk for Hope

When the Pancreatic Cancer foundation Pancare announced its inaugural Walk for Hope in Perth Western Australia, I knew we would be supporting it.  We reached far and wide in our fundraising efforts and raised $3000 for the cause.  On the day we cried with others who had lost their loved ones to Pancreatic Cancer – and we laughed too.  As with many things in this year of grief, it was bittersweet, sad but happy, and helped us inch our way towards some kind of acceptance.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our 2019 Year in Review. Thanks for sharing our journey with us; it certainly has been a year full of travel as we’ve visited some of the best family holiday destinations in the world.

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