Skip to content

TPG Staff Shares Their Most Meaningful Trips of 2018

Dec. 31, 2018
22 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

We're partnering with Capital One on our Purposeful Travel Hub. If you have unique ways you like to pay it forward when you travel or just love exploring new places with family and friends, we want to hear about it. Share your most treasured travel moments and purposeful travel tips with us using #MeaningfulMoments.

TPG staff members travel for any number of reasons: to review flights and hotels, to report travel features, to reap the benefits of our hard-earned points and miles. The list can seem endless. But our travels are often so much more than mileage runs. This year, many of us have been reflecting on what meaningful travel means to us — how travel can be about so much more than where we're going. It can mean giving back; connecting to new cultures; spending time with the people we love.

To help you plan purposeful trips in the new year, we’re sharing some of our most significant travels of 2018, from rebuilding a hurricane-struck island to traveling with our parents, these are the trips we won’t soon forget. And we'd love to hear your most important trips of 2018, too, so sound off in the comments below and on social media with #MeaningfulMoments.

PeaceJam and Paragliding

"Traveling to South Africa for a PeaceJam conference with my family was one of my most meaningful trips this year. Any time I get to spend with my parents is special, but being able to share in giving back to the community with them is even better. Getting to see my dad paraglide for the first time (and overcome my fear of heights by giving it a go) is a memory I'll never forget. The epic safari we went on afterwards was pretty amazing, too." — Brian Kelly, The Points Guy

An Adoption Journey

"In some ways, all of 2018 has felt like one massive, incredibly meaningful trip. My wife and I began our adoption journey this year, and spent a week in August over our anniversary in the Bavarian Alps and Venice, Italy. This served as our babymoon, where we spent the bulk of our time gawking at natural beauty [and] excitedly pondering who we would be matched with and praying for her well-being. A few months later, we flew home from Maui — where we’d spent six unforgettable days exploring Haleakalā National Park with family — to meet the birth mother for the first time. Turns out, she loves travel, too, and grew up hiking and camping. The 6,000-mile trek to meet this incredible woman is one I’ll always cherish, and I can’t wait to see what adventures await our new, expanding family.” — Darren Murph, senior writer

Romance in Greece

"I recently got engaged this year, and right afterwards, my fiancé and I went to take a much-needed relaxing vacation in Greece, visiting Athens, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos. Being able to bond over our new engagement and share relaxing and romantic moments in one of the most beautiful settings in the world was simply incredible." — Becca Denenberg, director of marketing and communications

Rebuilding Puerto Rico

"Hands-down my most meaningful trip this year was to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The TPG team flew down in early 2018 to help with the rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria. I loved going to the Children’s Hospital to visit with the kids and give them gifts for Three Kings Day, and helping clean up damaged houses in the La Perla neighborhood, while getting to know some of the lovely residents and local volunteers, was extremely rewarding. This trip redefined what it means for me to be a tourist, and it's definitely something I want to do again." — Sarah Silbert, senior credit card editor

An AvGeek in Paris

"The TPG team trips to Puerto Rico and PeaceJam in Guatemala were a great opportunity to give back to those in need as well as bond with my coworkers. However, flying to Paris on a whim over the summer to review United's new Premium Economy product encapsulated exactly why I love working at TPG. With about 36 hours of notice, I was on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and then from San Francisco to Paris aboard the retrofitted 777, and it was all booked with miles! Even better, my aunt and uncle happened to be in Paris when I arrived, so I was able to connect with them and explore an unbelievable city for the first time.” — Brendan Dorsey, associate editor


View this post on Instagram


When the “City of Light” takes on a whole new meaning. This was shot at 10 PM last week.

A post shared by Brendan Dorsey (@brendandorsey1) on

Island Mindfulness

"I kicked off 2018 on a tiny island in Thailand, Koh Yad Noi. In lieu of an intense detox retreat or silent ashram, I chose to do a retreat at Island Yoga because of its laid-back Thai vibes. The retreat offered two optional yoga classes a day and plenty of free time to lounge on the beach and eat spicy Panang curries from local restaurants and food stalls. I thought maybe I would be lonely for the three weeks I spent alone in Thailand, but I couldn't have been happier. I was able to focus on the power of the little things, like how wonderful it was to sway in a hammock on the porch of my bare bones jungle hut, finish a good book with no interruptions or see the sun rise over the ocean each morning." — Lori Zaino, senior writer

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Mexico Mujeres

"Over Memorial Day, I flew down to Cancun to see a good friend get married. A group of women I grew close with when working at Brides magazine descended on Isla Mujeres for a long weekend of margaritas and lounging on the beach before Brenda and Corey's beautiful beach ceremony. It was an honor to be included among the invitees and a blast to explore the tiny Mexican island with some terrific friends." — Alyssa Haak, research editor

Costa Brava Crossroads

“In April, I left a position I’d had for five years for my new role at TPG. Between jobs, it was my birthday, and my boyfriend (who’s a teacher) was also on spring break. It was the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together, without any distractions. We booked an insanely cheap flight deal to Barcelona, and took a road trip along the Costa Brava region of Spain. But halfway through the journey, our rental car was broken into and all of our belongings were stolen. It was heartbreaking. But looking back, it was still one of the most important trips I took in 2018. When things go wrong, you have to remember more than ever to cherish the good memories, and the people you’re with. You also have to remind yourself why you’re traveling in the first place. For me, that trip was a celebration, no matter what.” — Melanie Lieberman, travel editor

Giving Back in Guatemala

"In October, I went to Guatemala with a few other TPG staffers on a trip with PeaceJam. The series of events with local youth was led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. Menchu’s work to help the indigenous population of Guatemala is well-known, but I had no idea what a profound experience listening, and talking, to her would be. It was nothing short of a spiritual experience, in the broadest sense of the word. The young Guatemalans who had gathered to listen to her were rapt: and so were we. It’s not an exaggeration to say we went back to New York with a different, and deeper, understanding of what it means to be human. Not only was this the most meaningful trip of the year; it was the most meaningful trip in a long time." — Alberto Riva, managing editor

TPG staff members in Guatemala.

Gratitude in Italy

"Visiting Italy this summer was incredibly meaningful for me. Every place I went was gorgeous, but more importantly, the trip challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and taught me to adapt to discomfort and uncertainty. I walked away with a deeper sense of gratitude for the small things in life that I often take for granted, and a strong appreciation for the chance to meet such kind, creative, resilient people and explore such a beautiful country." — Katherine Fan, news writer

The Aran Adventures

"This year I went to Ireland, the place I spent the second half of my junior year of college. Aside from revisiting some of my favorite spots while I was there, I discovered some new gems as well. The Aran Islands (specifically Inishmore) were something I missed on my first time around. I ended up with a pretty bad sunburn and fell off a bicycle while exploring, but it speaks volumes about the island’s beauty that it was still easily my favorite part of the trip." — Jordan Allen, editorial intern

Seconds of Sicily

"I'll never forget my first trip to Sicily. And my second! I was fortunate enough to visit Sicilia not once, but twice in 2018, first with my mom and sister, and then with my girlfriend and her family later in the year. Both were very different trips, but between the food and wine and the incredible scenery, my expectations were exceeded every day." — Zach Honig, editor-at-large


View this post on Instagram


Oh Sicilia! ?????

A post shared by @ZachHonig (@zachhonig) on

Family First

"Now that I'm in my late 30s, I've been making an effort to travel with parents. I really want to take advantage of the fact that we can still travel together. When my mom had a milestone birthday this year, I took my husband and parents on the trip of a lifetime, using points and miles to have a truly memorable vacation, which included first class airline seats and five-star hotels in Hong Kong and Shanghai. After all, surprise parties after a certain age aren't really welcome, but a first-class trip to Asia is incredible no matter what age you're turning." — Adam Kotkin, chief of staff

New Beginnings in South Africa

"My February South Africa trip wasn't just a bucket list destination and a trip for a friend's wedding: It was actually much more. It also represented a major transition in my professional life, as the day we left was my final day with my old company, and I started with TPG full time upon my return. The trip was incredible but was even more special knowing that I was embarking on a new dream job upon our return." — Nick Ewen, points & miles editor

A Mother-Daughter Trip to California

"In January of this year, I was able to take my mom to Los Angeles for the week — on points! I flew both of us out there in business class, and we even got to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Disclaimer: You can't book this on points, I just reviewed it). I had a blast spending quality time with my mom, exploring a new city and, of course, stuffing our faces with LA's finest." — Samantha Rosen, social media editor


View this post on Instagram


Unintentionally practicing what I’m going to look like in 25 years.??‍♀️

A post shared by Samantha Rosen (@samantha_rosen) on

Discovering the Garden Isle

"My trip to Kauai was definitely the most meaningful to me in 2018. They call it the "Garden Isle" for a reason (the island is unbelievably verdant and filled with nature and wildlife). Hiking through jungles and interacting with marine life is not something I get to do often in New York City, and was a huge eye-opener for me. It highlighted the importance of respecting our environment. The now-ubiquitous ban on straws and single-use plastic items takes on a whole new meaning when you see an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, or snorkel past a giant sea turtle that might actually be put at risk by the straw you tossed from your iced coffee." — Jessica Puckett, assistant news editor

Giving Kids The World

"As our youngest transitioned from the toddler phase to being a full-fledged (and easier to travel with) preschooler, 2018 was loaded with some pretty special travel moments for our family. But, there is one that stands above the rest. In September, my dear friend — Ed from Pizza in Motion— and I attempted to ride every single ride at Disney World in one day to raise money for Give Kids the World: a village in Orlando that houses the majority of the Make a Wish families who visit central Florida. That was amazing in itself (we rode 41 of 48 and raised almost $18,000) but even better was when I got to visit Give Kids the World Village a month later and see what they do firsthand for families with critically ill children. I even got to share the experience with my own kids. While my 3-year-old didn't quite understand the significance, my 8-year-old got it, and now wants to help me raise more funds for them the next time. It was meaningful to take a half-day of our family vacation to Disney World to step out of our regular zone and learn about others: and even more meaningful to share that moment with my daughters." — Summer Hull, director of family content

Ancestral Amalfi

"I wasn’t expecting this, but the most meaningful trip I took this year was one to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. My grandparents, who both have their ancestral homes in the country, reluctantly came along on the trip, only after much persuasion. From the minute we arrived, they were in love. From the sights, to the sounds, to the food, they felt at home. Seeing the twinkle in their eyes daily while sipping morning coffee will be something I'll never forget." — Nick Ellis, reviews editor

A Bermuda Getaway

"This December, I was able to take my parents on a trip to Bermuda. For all of us, it was our first time there, and we can’t wait to go back. Even though it’s a bit on the chilly side in the winter, the island still has so much charm. For New Yorkers like us, it’s the perfect weekend getaway at less than two hours of flight time each way. Spending time with family and creating memories that’ll last forever meant the world to me." — Emily McNutt, news editor


View this post on Instagram


Bermuda is perfect — even in the winter.

A post shared by Emily McNutt (@mcnutt.emily) on