I’m normally not this late in reviewing the year gone by but, of course, we only just flew back from our trip to South Africa – and I thought it wouldn’t seem right not to include it in my review as it just made it into 2017!

It’s been a funny old year – so much has happened, it’s quite hard to know where to begin. Our lives changed irrevocably and for the better in January with the arrival of our beautiful son. I can’t quite believe he will turn one in a matter of weeks, and has already been on so many adventures…

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

It meant that the first few months saw my blogging duties pushed to one side – and our travels much closer to home. And because I’ve been on maternity leave and dealing with redundancy from my previous employment it has felt like somewhat of a rollercoaster! And all the while, gearing up for our huge trip at Christmas.

At times, I have felt that we haven’t really done as much as in previous years, but after taking the time to look back at our best moments, I’ve realised we really didn’t do too badly after all! Here are just a few highlights that deserve another mention…

In March, we were invited to the launch of Chessington World of Adventure’s newest attraction, The Gruffalo River Ride. It was a fantastic evening, Monkey and I mingled with celebrities as well as staying over in Chessington’s Azteca Hotel. He adored the ride, and we were lucky enough to try it before it opened to the public. The icing on the cake for both of us, however, was when we both got to meet Gruffalo creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

When the baby was only around 10 weeks old we thought it would be a great idea to take the family to perhaps one of the ‘hippest’ European cities around, Lisbon. We didn’t really factor in the tiring steep hills and cobbled paving – or the fact that in being one of the places to visit, it would be insanely busy. But we still managed to cram a lot in to our long weekend.

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

And, luckily, we stayed in the extremely family-friendly Martinhal Chiado – which kept Monkey entertained and even allowed us to enjoy a child-free night out. We loved Lisbon, and ate some fantastic food. But we could have done without the crowds.

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

In May, we spent a glorious week in the sunshine in the Costa Smeralda in North Sardinia at the Valle dell’Erica Resort Thalasso & SPA. It was the perfect week, eating and drinking and relaxing with friends. The only downside to our trip was that we were so happy in our surroundings which boasted several buy liquid isotretinoin swimming pools, private beaches, seven restaurants and a kids club, we really didn’t get the opportunity to explore Sardinia properly. This will be remedied, next time…

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

During the Summer, we were unbelievably lucky with the weather when we spent a week exploring the Lake District in Cumbria. I was totally enamoured with the area, which was recently awarded a UNESCO heritage site status. And it’s not hard to understand why – the epic landscapes and beautiful scenery, as well as picture-postcard villages really are something to behold. Our favourites include driving through Honister Pass and sailing on a Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water.

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

When I first started blogging back in 2013, it was just a way for me to record our adventures with Monkey – little did I know how ensconced I would become within the blogging community and how a hobby could potentially turn into a full-time profession. I’ve learned so much over that time, and when I read back to my first published posts, I do so with some embarrassment as they were pretty awful. I’ve also made so many friends and experienced once-in-a-life time opportunities only afforded by this blog. It’s by no means easy… and those who believe that being a travel blogger just means getting free trips and products to review, cannot be more wrong. So when I was awarded the accolade of Best Travel Blogger at the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards, I was totally shocked and over the moon. Winning for me, was validation for all the late nights and stressful times, lack of confidence and self-doubt.

A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

We’ve only been back two days after spending over a fortnight travelling the Garden Route in South Africa. I cannot wait to share our trip with you in more detail, but I will say that we have the most amazing time – and got to do so much including walking with elephants and getting up close to wild penguins. My husband and I rarely go somewhere that leaves such a lasting impression that we immediately want to return.

From Cape Town, we drove some six hours across the most stunning scenery to reach Wilderness, spending Christmas in Kynsna, before returning back to Cape Town via Hermanus. All the while, driving from our bases to explore surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, I am so proud of my two boys who are continuing to prove that it is possible to travel to far-flung destinations with a young family.A Year In Review: My Travel Monkey's 2017 Highlights

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year. I hope your 2018 will be filled with happiness, laughter and joy. And thank you all again for supporting and reading the blog.

It’s been a pleasure sharing our adventures with you all…