From weekend trips on the U.S. east coast to relaxing jaunts to the Caribbean to active adventures in the northernmost and southernmost regions of the world — we traveled more in 2022 than any other year since we met. From bougie to budget, we had highs and lows at all points on the scale, and we wanted to share our best and worst moments. Note: This post is about the journey, not the destinations, (which were all equally amazing), so we’re just discussing planes, trains, accommodations, and experiences on the road. We are so incredibly thrilled that we’ve had this opportunity to travel the world — so please understand that any criticism doesn’t take away from that feeling at all. We all know travel has its highs and lows and these are some of ours most memorable moments from 2022 — which was and absolutely amazing year.
1. Best Meal on a Plane
I have to start with this, because I’m still dreaming of Iceland Air’s cold salmon and soba noodles. This might have been one of the best meals I had all year, let alone on a plane. Add the artisanal bread and delicious dessert — and it’s absolutely divine. We flew with Iceland Air for 6 legs this year, and while all the meals were great, this one was the most outstanding. It’s worth noting that I also loved the lamb and slow cooked beef — two things I usually don’t eat.
2. Worst Meal on a Plane
This one goes to United’s egg breakfast on the way home from Mexico City. Rubber eggs and off-tasting mystery meat sausage??? Ew. If you’re a frequent United flier, let’s just say it was even worse than the za’atar chicken, which is pretty much inedible. We love you the most, United, but these meals were terrible. On the plus side, I loved the falafel served on the way to CDMX (pictured below) — and of course, the food we had in the city itself was absolutely delicious!
3. Best International Business Class
Now that we’ve talked a little trash about United, we have to give them some love, because we really do think United has been spectacular during the last few years when so many airlines have been horrendous. And the Polaris business class with a 1:1:1 configuration was truly a luxurious experience — our favorite part might be the amenity kit with the best chapstick on the planet! This was by far the best upgrade of the year!
4. Worst International Business Class
No question Avianca failed us in so many ways this year. Getting to the southernmost city in the world in Patagonia took 32 hours on seven flights round trip in just 10 days. So we finally decided to make this bucket list trip a reality when we found affordable business class fares on Avianca. However, they changed most of our business class flights to “economy only” planes, gave us laughably inadequate vouchers for the expense and inconvenience, and provided truly dismal customer service.
Avianca’s complete lack of service on the only leg that still had business class seats makes it our lowest ranked airline of the year. They basically tossed disgusting turkey sandwiches and stale Oreos at us — which is unacceptable even for a 6-hour economy experience. And that was the extent of any service. We did not get anything close to what we paid for. We used to love Avianca but never want to fly with them again.
5. Best Economy Flight
This award goes to Southwest even if that’s surprising after the recent service breakdown ín December. But looking back on 2022, we have to say that Southwest did a fantastic job updating its products and services — which were vastly improved from 2021. We remember being freezing and achy after a coast to coast SW journey in 2021, but the new seats, ambient lighting, and easier access to priority boarding made SW so much more enjoyable in 2022 (and so far in 2023).
This airline provides a great way to get to your destination on a budget. We almost always transfer point from our credit card to purchase SW airfare — which makes it even better.
6. Worst Domestic Flight
So this one is going to Americas Airlines because of a complete debacle that was entirely their fault, and they refused to remedy the situation. We had ideal economy seats on our short flight home from Atlanta. They upgraded us automatically to first class, but soon realized that Theo was flying on an award ticket and sent him back to economy — but they left me in first class with an empty seat next to me. We almost missed the flight trying to resolve it and sit together. I actually really liked the seats we originally had in economy, but they were no longer available, nor were any seats together (except the ones in first) so we were going to be separated no matter what.
The absolutely lovely flight attendants let us sit together in first, but a minute before the gate closed, Theo got kicked out of his seat by the gate agent in favor of a non-revenue passenger. This was absolutely ridiculous, especially since the airline made an auto-upgrade based on our status and it was their fault. The silver lining is that we had a great laugh with the flight crew who gave Theo first-class service back ín economy for the entirety of the short flight.
7. Best Airport Lounge
The obvious choice is United Polaris at Dulles. This is no contest for 2022. Only long-haul business class passengers have access to this gorgeous space. You have a wonderful selection of food and wine and views. You have private booths for business calls, lounge areas for relaxing, showers and sleeping areas for the weary traveler, and even an ala carte restaurant — so much loveliness.
Flying with this level of luxury is quite new to us, and we’ve learned a few tricks on how to access super pricy long-haul business class tickets at a significant discount. We didn’t accumulate enough miles to purchase these tickets outright but we put in successful bids for miles + money upgrades to get them for much less. Also, United is one of the best airlines for purchasing last-minute upgrades, which tend to drop in price after check in time. The flip side is that you are less likely to get a free upgrade based on elite status alone — but there’s a balance.
8. Honorable Mention Lounge
Even though it’s hard to compete with United Polaris lounges, we love Iceland Air’s Saga Lounge in Reykjavik, which we visited several times this year — and once for a 5-hour layover that we actually enjoyed. So we had to give it a nod. The food offerings are minimal but adequately, and the space is huge and still cozy and so relaxing. We love the loungers that overlook the apron. You can make yourself a mimosa or coffee and relax and enjoy the view.
9. Worst Airport Lounge
This one goes to Mexico City. The Priority Pass accessible lounge near our gate — The Lounge Mexico by Global Lounge Network — was in a weird basement that felt like a fish bowl. Although I was able to get a glass of wine, it was pretty claustrophobia inducing and crowded, so we actually left and went to a restaurant — which I hate to do when the lounge access is covered by our credit card fees and airport restaurants are so expensive. But it was really that uncomfortable.
10. Best Deal on Points and Miles
This one goes to our bougie weekend in NYC! We got an amazing miles deal on American Airlines to LaGuardia, which was so much more reasonable than taking the train. We flew to NYC for one night on American miles, stayed at the Ritz Carlton Central Park on Marriott Bonvoy points and had an amazing dinner at Le Bernardin — a 3-Michelin star restaurant — which was covered with Chase Sapphire points though their Pay Yourself Back offering. I plan to write more about this memorable and luxurious weekend, which was a perfect way to cash in our travel points from multiple sources. We paid cash for pizza, Lyft, a few drinks, and entrance to MoMa. But that’s it!
11. Best Airfare Deal
We will gladly fly Iceland Air any time. Even though their business class seats don’t lie flat, they are extremely comfortable (especially with the added foot rests) and you get all the perks that come with a b-class ticket: lounge access, meals (which are top-notch on Iceland Air), priority boarding, champagne, amenity kits, etc. With deals for $900 to Reykjavik and $1250 to many other cities in Europe from Washington, D.C., you just can’t beat it,
12. Scariest Flight
No matter how often I fly, I’m still incredibly claustrophobic and paranoid about being ín confined spaces. We were so fortunate to be able to explore the ABC islands this year (Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire) but the only way to hop from one island to the next is by tiny plane. I literally have full-blown panic attacks on these little planes sometimes, but I continue to book them because my wanderlust is greater than my fears!
13. Best Train Ride
TGV France — we love taking the train through Europe and really enjoyed a relaxing ride from Nice to Paris. The journey was comfortable — even though it took six hours — and was a nice switch from all the budget flights we took through Europe prior to our train ride.
14. Best Airbnb
This one is going to be a triple tie between: 1. our stunning condo at the end of the world ín Ushuaia, Argentina; 2. our gorgeous little casita in La Jolla, San Diego, California; and 3. our colorful apartment in the heart of old town Nice, France. The photos below speak for themselves.
15. Worst Airbnb
Every once in a while you stay at an Airbnb that just doesn’t meet up to the description, reviews, or photos. We had that experience at Hollywood Beach, Florida. The building was in a great location on the boardwalk but it was dilapidated, weirdly vacant in parts that probably used to have shops, and full of interesting characters. After we retrieved the key from the concierge behind a bulletproof window, we couldn’t get the door to the unit open — but a talkative neighbor came to our rescue and explained how everything worked. Still, the hallways were moldy, the floor was warped, and everything was just drab. Oh well. Fortunately l, with our Hilton status we were able to get a free night at the Diplomat, which is just four minutes down the road!
16. Best Hotel
Our hotel in Mexico City was an absolute work of art. The Umbral is a Hilton Curio Collection property in walking distance to Zocalo, the cathedrals, the museum, and the best street food. The hotel room was so big, and the design was so cool (high ceilings, long black curtains, little nooks) I got lost trying to find the bathroom at night! The hotel staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and the rooftop restaurant was divine.
17. Best Boat Ride
Ok, this one is probably cheating because it doesn’t fit the theme of transport and accommodations — but our boat ride to see the penguins in the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia was a perfect experience. The weather is so volatile at the end of the world, and yet, we had calm waters and sunshine for three hours as we viewed lighthouses, birds, sea lions, and penguins. We ran into a big storm that lasted the entire way back — but we didn’t mind at all.
18. Best Layover
Bogota. On our long journey home from Patagonia, we had a perfectly timed layover in Colombia’s capital. We had plenty of time to explore the city, enjoy a sushi dinner, and even see a Harry Styles concert!
19. Worst Transport Fail
Iceland is gorgeous any time of year — it also happens to be freezing in the winter. But taxis are very expensive, so we booked a shuttle bus from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon, which was supposed to pick us up at a designated stop … but it never did. After standing outside in the wind and snow for 40 minutes, we realized the shuttle was never coming and we couldn’t feel our limbs. We had to head back to the hotel and spend an unexpected and whopping $200 for a taxi! The bus service promptly gave us a refund but we were out the difference.
On the bright side, we got to regroup at an adorable cafe and have a delicious lunch while enjoying the beautiful view.
20. Best Hotel Deal
We all know travel is super expensive these days, but we were able to find some great deals on flights and accommodations, mostly by booking well in advance, monitoring our deal alerts, using points, and being flexible on where we traveled.
One of the best hotel deals we found was in a perfect location with an outstanding view for only $150/night, We only had one night in Buenos Aires before heading to Patagonia, so I wanted to stay somewhere close to a main attraction — and we happen to love cemeteries.
We found this gorgeous, spacious room with the most amazing view of Recoleta cemetery and ín walking distance to restaurants. We wish we had more time to enjoy it, but we’re so happy we got to spend some time here and enjoy the view.
Overall, we had an outstanding year exploring the world. Travel is amazing but it isn’t always easy — and our philosophy is that the things that don’t go as planned make the best stories later!
What were some of your best and worst travel experiences in 2022? Let us know in the comments.
2 responses to “Our 20 Best and Worst Travel Experiences of 2022”
I love love this blog. It’s my goal to upgrade to Polaris this year. And Theo, I have a travel uniform also!!😂😂😂
Thank you 🤩 I love the idea of a travel uniform ❤️ We have been able to upgrade for 20k miles and $400 each way. Once, though, the upgrade was just $499 to buy direct without having to deal with points or waitlisted. It may seem like a lot but it’s much less than the $4.5k RT fare!