10 Great Travel Experiences Make You Happy

While I have included some great travel experiences here that will make you happy, I certainly realize there are countless other great travel experiences all over the world. Let this serve as a starting point for discovering your own Happy Travel Experiences. I would love to hear what amazing travel experiences make you happy so I can try them on future trips.

1. Skydiving

Gotta drop the mic on this first great travel experience. Jumping from an airplane was the craziest thing I have done. Well, not so much jumping, as falling. Scary? Heck, yes. I kept my hands to myself because I feared clocking the instructor, knocking him out, and I would not know what to do in that situation.

great travel experiences: Skydive Delmarva
amazing travel experiences: Skydive Delmarva

McCool Travel NOTE: Skydive Delmarva is now closed but there are so many other skydive places to try. This fantastic travel experience was through Skydive Delmarva courtesy of Visit Southern Delaware. Yes, someone paid for me to skydive. How awesome is that?

>>> Find places to eat in Delaware Sensational Places to Eat in Delaware from Casual Restaurants to Fine Dining

2. Soaring

Soaring is a different travel experience but somewhat similar to skydiving. A small propeller airplane tows your motorless glider airplane into the air. Once you reach a certain altitude, the glider pilot releases the towline and you ease back to terra firma. For the few minutes you are free floating it is very quiet and surreal. I loved it.

Great Travel Experiences: Harris Hill Soaring, Elmira, New York
soaring in a glider plane at Harris Hill Soaring, Elmira, New York

This great travel experience was through Harris Hill Soaring in Elmira, New York courtesy of Corning Finger Lakes. Yes, someone paid for me to go soaring. How awesome is that? Hey, I might say the same thing again so get used to it!

Great Travel Experiences: Harris Hill Soaring, Elmira, New York.
Harris Hill Soaring, Elmira, New York

>>> Find things to do in Finger Lakes 8 Great Things To Do Near Keuka Lake

3. Fly Fishing

The third new amazing travel experience I did this year was fly fishing. While skydiving and soaring are definitely great travel experiences I wanted to try (even if not 100%), fly fishing was not really on my radar. After three different people asked me within the same week if I wanted to try fly fishing, I finally got the hint. They say a bad day fishing is better than a great day at work. Lucky me, I had a great day fishing, catching a 22 inch brownie (brown trout).

Great Travel Experiences: Steamboat Flyfisher, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
wonderful travel experiences: Steamboat Flyfisher, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

This great travel experience was through Steamboat Flyfisher courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber. Yes, someone paid for me to go fly fishing. You know what I was going to say next, right?

4. Kayaking

I love kayaking. It is a great way to explore an area and provides some exercise. While kayaking on Loften Creek on Amelia Island, Florida last month, I tried to remember all of the states I have kayaked in. I decided I should just start over and kayak in every state, just to make sure.

great travel experiences: Amelia Island Kayak Excursions
kayaking in Amelia Island. Liquid Road Trip on Loften Creek

A couple of months before that, I had the great fortune to kayak two times in the same week in gorgeous southern Delaware. The area has an abundance of natural settings and great restaurants, within a short drive of millions of northeastern US residents.

8 Great Travel Experiences: kayaking in Southern Delaware
Kayaking in Southern Delaware. Photo credit: FuninFairfaxVA.com

I have kayaked so many times along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that I wrote a comprehensive guide: Complete Guide to Kayaking in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast Here I am in Ocean Springs harbor looking at the mighty shrimp boats. Mmmmm, love me some shrimps!

#BigShrimpin on a kayak in Ocean Springs Mississippi
#BigShrimpin on a kayak in Ocean Springs Mississippi

These great travel experiences included: Delmarva Board Sport Adventures and Adrenaline High courtesy of Visit Southern Delaware and Amelia Island Kayak Excursions courtesy of Visit Amelia Island and Wild Flier in Ocean Springs, Coastal Mississippi.

For more cool kayaking places, please read Fun Places to Kayak in US

5. Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)

Another super fun water adventure activity is stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Many places that rent kayaks and canoes also rent SUP equipment. Two places I have SUP’d are Paddles Up in Ocean Springs, Coastal Mississippi and with Eh Brah!, South Padre Island.

Charles McCool on SUP on South Padre Island
SUP with Eh Brah! in a wonderful winter activity on South Padre Island

6. Camping Fun

A couple of weeks ago, JUCY provided me a complimentary 5 day rental of one of their mini RVs. We enjoyed camping along Big Sur and California Central Coast, making breakfast and dinner with views of the mighty Pacific Ocean, and driving the coolest vehicle in California. The JUCY Champ mini RV can sleep 4 persons, has a solar-powered refrigerator, 2 stoves, a sink, plenty of dishes and amenities.

colorful camper along Big Sur highway California
great travel experiences: JUCY camper in Big Sur, California

This great travel experience was courtesy of JUCY.

McCool Travel tip: If you are interested in RV travel experience (whether renting or buying), a convenient place to begin research is Go RVing, particularly the Where to Find: Rentals section.

7. Road Trips

Many of the great travel experiences in my lifetime have been road trips. I prefer curvy, smaller roads like (Road to Hana) to major highways (like German Autobahn), but, heck, any new road in a travel destination can be fun. Some memorable road trips that were great travel experiences, besides Big Sur (above), were England (always fun to drive around), the gorgeous Czech Republic/Germany mountain region, and an autumn Shenandoah Valley road trip (with a Mazda MX-5 Miata) and a summer Virginia road trip (with a Mazda CX-3).

great travel experiences: Mazda MX-5 Miata Convertible along Skyline Drive
great travel experiences: Mazda MX-5 Miata Convertible along Skyline Drive

Most often, though, I am exploring the unpaved roads of Virginia in my very own Subaru Forester.

great travel experiences: exploring dirt roads
off road travel experiences: McCool’s Subaru Forester in Loudoun County, Virginia

See also Uniquely American Road Trips and 16 Fabulous Road Trips Around the World

8. Hot Air Ballooning

There is nothing like a hot air ballooning experience and luckily there are so many places in the world to try it. I have only been up in the air in hot air balloons in two places but both were magnificent. Over the red rocks of Gallup, New Mexico, I was vey fortunate to balloon on two consecutive mornings in two different hot air balloons. A few months later I had a super fun ride over the Sonoran desert in Phoenix Arizona.

Gallup NM hot air balloons
Gallup NM hot air balloons

9. Exploring and Relaxing

One of our recent great travel experiences was a Jeep tour into the heart of the San Andreas fault near Palm Springs, California. The tour allowed time to explore (with guidance) the slot canyons where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet. I am glad there was no rumbling ground during my visit.

great travel experiences: Palm Springs, Desert Adventures (Red Jeep Tours)
amazing travel experiences: San Andreas fault in Palm Springs, California

This great travel experience was through Desert Adventures courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.

>>> See also things to do in Palm Springs

During our super fun trip to Iceland this summer, my family hiked to natural public hot springs. It was about a 3 km hike (yes, each way) starting about 45 minutes from Reykjavik. McCool Travel Tip: We saved more than 300 Euros compared to a visit to the Blue Lagoon.

great travel experiences: Iceland public hot spring
great travel experiences: Iceland public hot spring

Last month, the same morning as the above epic fly fishing experience, we visited Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs Colorado. It is a magnificent facility about a 20 minute drive from downtown Steamboat Springs.

great travel experiences: Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
soaking at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Complimentary admission for this great travel experience was provided by Strawberry Park Hot Springs in conjunction with Steamboat Springs Chamber.

10. Your choice? Let me know.

OK, I listed my own great travel experiences and reached out to some travel friends for suggestions. Please read their wishes and recommendations for great travel experiences. After doing so, please, please let me know what great travel experiences you have in mind for next year (or any year).

Scott Eddy, Mr. Scott Eddy (web : Facebook : Twitter)

My top goal this year is to go on a luxury safari in Africa, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s some magical about seeing animals in the wild, where they should be, not behind bars.

Christina ThomasGo Epicurista: (web : Instagram : Pinterest)

This year I hope to finally sail on Royal Caribbean’s newest Quantum class of ships and indulge in over thirty different dining experiences! I also hope to compare sea vs. river by sailing on a European river cruise. After reading about the mind-blowing dining on Viking River Cruises on McCool Travel [Ed. Note. Thank you!], I promptly added this to my someday list and plan to #MakeSomedayHappen.

Richard Kerr, The Points Jock (web : Facebook : Twitter)

I am hopeful of getting to the Galapagos, Easter Island, and my current golden goose – the Falkland Islands. All can be reached using British Airways Avios for free flights!

Sarah Dandashy, Ask a Concierge (web : Twitter : YouTube)

I would love to visit Machu Picchu! It is one of those places that has always been on my list, but I really want to make it a reality this year. I am certain it would be one of those “life-changing” experiences and fun to do with family.

Johnny Jet, Johnny Jet (web : Facebook : Twitter)

I want to try flying with my three month son Jack for the first time! I look forward to showing him the world.

8 Great Travel Experiences That Will Make You Happy
great travel experiences Photo credit: Johnny Jet

Julie McCool, Fun in Fairfax VA (web : Instagram : Twitter)

A trip with Viking Ocean Cruises Into the Midnight Sun is at the top of my travel wish list. My previous Viking Mediterranean ocean and Viking Danube river cruise cruises with Viking were spectacular, and they would be ideal guides for exploring the coast of Norway and cruising above the Arctic Circle. Stunning natural beauty, remote villages, and endless summer nights sound like a winning travel combination to me.

Cathy Merrifield, RoarLoud (web : Instagram : Twitter)

Want to try something new this winter?  Go beyond snowshoeing or skiing and try freeride airboard by Undiscovered Pyrenees!  Snowshoe up the French Pyrenees with incredible views wherever you look.  Sounds like a challenge but the reward is well worth it.  Zoom back down the mountain on your inflated kevlar airboard.  This is most definitely a RoarLoud adventure.

Pam Rossi, Always5Star (web : Facebook : Twitter)

I have spent several years trying various methods to add luxury to my travel at more economical costs. This year I am on a quest to further expand my knowledge through connecting with other travel experts. A large part of my travel will be focused on meeting other travel bloggers, including international travel conferences. I have a goal of connecting with @CharlesMcCool and his wife @FuninFairfax [Ed. Note. Definitely!]. Expanding relationships with people that share your travel passion is exciting. I look forward to sharing these experiences on social media as well! Cheers to you and your travel dreams!

What great travel experiences are on your mind?

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These 8 great travel experiences will make you happy, and include some suggestions from leading travel experts. What are your great travel experiences?

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48 thoughts on “10 Great Travel Experiences Make You Happy”

  1. Kayaking sounds like oodles of fun Charles. I did a little bit in Vietnam but that was it. Rocking list of activities here.

  2. Hi Charles, I’d been following your blog on and off for years, so, knowing your travel style so to speak, I was curious what would you consider as a “happy travel experience.” I am impressed. Along the way, I learned a new word – soaring. Funny though, that I knew about this activity per se and hoping that one day I would do it myself, but I did not know how it’s called. Kayaking – yes! It is so much fun. I would like to add a couple of my favorites too: 1. sailing – I did it for the first time in Sweden last summer and can’t wait to do it again. It was an absolutely incredible experience to be in command of a 40+ feet yacht and feel how it was following (or not 😉 ) your orders; 2. city walks – this is by far my favorite way to discover any new place. Forget about directions and maps, and just wander through streets getting lost along the way, chatting with locals (or just smiling if the language barrier gets on the way). As a bonus, I discovered a few excellent restaurants this way too.

    • Thank you so much, Elena, for you note. I love sailing. I have a friend with a sailboat in Annapolis Maryland and have been a few times. City walks are indeed fantastic. I try to get lost and that is typically when I find really fun places.

  3. Sorry not as adventurous as must of your readers. I’ll stick to road trips always a wonderful way to stop and find interesting spots to visit.

  4. Spot on with this list! I can’t pick just one though…my favs are skydiving, kayaking, exploring, road trips and hot springs.

  5. I like that you included fly fishing! I haven’t done that. I have jumped from a plane, but would love to explore via helicopter or the more serene soaring.

  6. Hi Charles. I must say, my list would be much different than yours. I think my happiest travel moment ever, was being slathered in molten chocolate at the Pure Jungle Spa in Costa Rica, and then having to wash it off myself in the outdoor jungle shower. I was totally giddy with the endorphins released from the cocoa and higher than a kite from it! 🙂 Have a wonderful festive season, my friend.

  7. I plan to take a road trip in 2018. From San Francisco to Las Vegas, probably via Death Valley. I’ve done it before through the back door via the Tioga Pass in Yosemite, but that will be closed when I go in January. So I’ll do this other route, which I’ve also done before, but long enough ago that I’ve forgotten most of it.

  8. What makes me happy is exploring and discovering new things. But I also love long distance hiking and hope to do more of that in 2018.

  9. Wow, you are much more adventurous than I am! My happiest travel moments come in much more relaxing activities, like getting a good spa treatment or enjoying the view on a Viking Ocean Cruise!

  10. Road trip on the Miata was one of the best experiences we’ve had. Now that we’re much older, we look for comfort more.

  11. Nice list, Charles! As a regular kayaker, I will definitely vouch for it making me happy. There’s something so soothing about being on the water, completely alone with your thoughts. I would love to try soaring sometime; that looks incredible. 🙂

  12. Great list of great travel experiences that make you happy! I would also add hiking! Anything involving getting outdoors while travelling abroad, or in my backyard really make me happy!

  13. Happy to report that we have done all of the above, and yes, they did make us happy. Speaking of happy,

  14. My best travel experiences are hiking, exploring and discovering new things. I hope I’ll be doing a lot more of all of them in 2017!

  15. I experienced my first river cruise this year and think it’s a great travel experience that will make you happy. What a change of pace to have all the details taken care of for you and unpack once and let your hotel do the moving around. Big smile here!

  16. Agree with you re: Skydiving…it’s such a natural high, I compare it to what it must be like to get a hit of some drug!
    I love glamping since I discovered it (glamorous camping) and now feel I’m a bit spoilt!

  17. You left out scuba diving and snorkeling! My most recent diving was in Jordan, just south of Aqaba. It was magnificent! And I’d also add a whale-watching trip: there’s something magical about spotting that whale!

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