Reminiscing all my trips this year, it feels vividly fleeting. But during the actual moments, big or small, I maximized every second and felt grateful for it. I had the most amazing trips that every unique travel experience had a favorite factor to it so it was a bit hard to choose my TOP 10! HAHAHA! 

Going on YEAR 3 for my annual travel favorites! ENJOY!

Here are my top 10 favorites of #TRAVEL2018!


Travel Favorites 2018 (8)

Christ the Redeemer at Rio de Janeiro

I don’t usually FAVORITE my FAVORITES! HAHAHA! Saaaay Whaaat? For my first 2 Travel Favorites, I just listed my travel experiences randomly but I really have to put this at the top this year.

Brazil was such a dream come true! It was destiny and more. Brazil was a destination I yearned for since I was a teen. And to finally step on its shores, I couldn’t fathom the overwhelming gratitude I felt before, during, and after it all! My heart often felt 3x bigger with every new experience.

Travel Favorites 2018 (9)

Sunrisin’ with Ethiopian Airlines at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport!

This is all thanks to Ethiopian Airlines! Because of that 12 hour + 12 hour flight from Manila – Addis Ababa – Sao Paulo (I KNOW! It is VERY long! You’ll find out my flight experience SOON!), I was able to breathtakingly gaze at Christ the Redeemer. I got to sink my feet on the golden fine shores of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. I experienced a lead-up hike to one of the most incredible waterfalls I’ve ever seen in my life in Foz do Iguacu. I also had the chance to have a Sense8 TV series scene moment at the bustling AV Paulista on a Sunday in Sao Paulo. AND SO MUCH MORE!

If you want to fly from Manila to Brazil, you can book your flights through or inquire at! #FlyEthiopianAirlinesToBrazil #FlyEthiopian #EthiopYEAH

READ: Fly from Manila to Brazil with Ethiopian Airlines!

Brazil was definitely the cherry and the top scoop of the best ice cream of 2018! Even though I arrived last Dec 3, I can still feel my travel experiences in my bones and in my heart. The impact is transcendent! I could remember every delicious food as if I’ve just tasted it right this second. I can still feel the strong winds at the beach blowing my hair all over the place. I can even picture the Christ the Redeemer statue looking down at me while I marvel at Him. 

If Brazil is a part of your bucket list, I hope that the story I share would fuel your dream that is just written down to become reality. I can’t wait to share my #GRATEFULinBRAZIL story! Watch out for it! 

READ MY BRAZIL TRAVEL GUIDE – My Brazil Adventure: A Complete Travel Guide & Tips for Filipinos


There’s what I call a TOUR GUIDE and a BISUMI TOUR GUIDE. What’s the difference? It starts with P! PUSO AT PASSION. From almost 5 years of frequent traveling, I’ve never encountered tour guides that have surpassed the greatness of BISUMI guides. From both my trips to Batanes (Aug 2015 & Dec 2018), I’ve felt this sadness that I won’t get to wake up the next day and experience Batanes with a BISUMI tour guide.

The emotion is like, “gusto ko pa ng isang sulyap!” OA BA? HAHAHAHAHAH! I mean, seriously. It’s like within a span of a few days, they have become our best friends who made us experience an already captivating destination into something more. I feel that the training of these tour guides infused with the inspiring Ivatan culture is what makes them special.

They are knowledgeable, smart, outgoing, creative photographers, funny, and many more. They take care of your travel preferences and go out of their way to exceed expectations. It’s awe-inspiring!

Travel Favorites 2018 (3)

Kuya ART taking a photo of one of my tour mates (Photo from 2015 Batanes Trip)

Back in 2015, if you’ve read any of my Batanes articles, you would know that I had high praises for one of our then BISUMI guide, Kuya Art! He was really fantastic! He was the reason why I started to have high standards for tour guides. HAHAHA!

READ: How I Travelled to Batanes for ₱8,300 ALL-IN

During our recent trip to Batanes (Dec 2018), we had 3 different tour guides! And they were all so awesome! Sometimes, we can’t help but compare but each one of them had their own unique way of touring that my sister and I said at the end of the trip, “ang galing nila lahat!” that we couldn’t forget what each guide significantly meant to our wonderful Batanes trip as a whole.

Travel Favorites 2018 (5)

Kuya JIMMY making sure our tricycle was parked properly.

Kuya Jimmy was very maalaga. I used the tagalog term so that you could really feel it. Sobrang maalaga! I felt like he was our dad during our Sabtang stay. The respect and genuine Ivatan character is there. He said po and opo in every phrase that I imitated it a few times for the rest of our stay.

Travel Favorites (1)

Kuya ARBIN helping my sister at Valugan Boulder Beach

Kuya Arbin. ANG GALING! That’s all I can say for now. ANG GALING TALAGA NIYA! For me, he has the same vibe as Kuya Art but has his own unique greatness. IBA YUNG GALING!

Travel Favorites (2)

Kuya HARVEY taking a photo of my sister at Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint

Last but not the least, our tour guide for 2 out of the 3 tours was Kuya Harvey. I really liked talking to him and listening to his stories. He was comfortable to talk to and tolerated our jokes. HAHAHA! He also patiently and excitedly helped us locate most of the photograph spots my Lola was in back in 1995. Some of the spots weren’t included in the tour itinerary but he went out of his way to make sure that we revisited it all. He was great!


I have more to say but I’ll save it for my Batanes article! HAHAHA! CLAP CLAP & KUDOS to BISUMI for investing in their tour guides to make them the best pillars in making BREATHTAKING Batanes MORE BREATHTAKING! Thank you so much, Sir Ryan Cardona!

READ –  #GratefulinBatanes: Exploring Batan & Sabtang Islands with BISUMI

If you’re visiting Batanes and want to make the most out of your stay, book a convenient and affordable tour from BISUMI. Tour guides palang worth it na! If you’re a solo traveler, book a JOIN TOUR! Check out the reviews on FB and their website! You won’t regret it! PROMISE!

For more information, visit #BisumiSiglaSaBatanes #GRATEFULinBATANES


Jetstar2Hokkaido (16)

Simply walking in Niseko during winter is an activity I could solely do with every visit. I tried skiing and snowboarding and it’s not something I really want to try again and again.

Some travelers think these are the only things you can do in Niseko but this destination has so much more to offer. If you’re looking for more than just walking and snow sports, you can check out Snowmobiling at White Isle. With many locations for this specific winter activity, why White Isle? Because of its vast space and stunning scenery of ponds & frost covered forests.

Stunning Hokkaido Best of Winter Niseko Sapporo Sounkyo Biei Lake Shikotsu (80)

My mom and our tour guide at the hot chocolate stop at White Isle Niseko!

When my mom and I tried it, we felt like we were in a winter paradise. It was so pristine and magical! Even though my mom felt so cold driving her own snowmobile, she ignored it because the whole experience was too mesmerizing.

I was a pillion passenger so I could take photos but the experience was still jaw-dropping (literally and figuratively! HAHA!). I couldn’t breathe properly because I was freezing too but riding through the vast snow, I couldn’t care less (in the moment ah! HAHAHA!). It was a very beautiful experience.


I can’t recommend this ice cream from North Plain Farm enough! This is the creamiest and top notch quality milk ice cream I’ve ever had! HOKKAIDO MAKES THE BEST MILK PRODUCTS! And so far, for me, nothing has beaten the taste and quality of the soft serve from North Plain Farm.

North Plain Farm Hokkaido Japan Haul Review (1)

During a Hokkaido tour, we accidentally had the chance to taste this. This wasn’t a part of our food trip list or itinerary. I still remember my first lick of the soft serve, OH DAMN! That should have been the first ice cream I’ve ever had! IT WAS TOO GOOD. WAY TOO GOOD!

READ: North Plain Farm Hokkaido Food Haul + Taste Test


If you’re tired and sleepy inside a crisp warm bus riding through a winter wonderland and YOU DON’T SLEEP then that means the scenery must be the worthiest in the world. YES! YES! YES! The bus ride from our hotel in Sounkyo to actually riding through the Biei Snow Fields was the BEST BUS RIDE I’ve ever had. Who has best bus rides, right? HAHA! WELL, I DID!

Stunning Hokkaido Best of Winter Niseko Sapporo Sounkyo Biei Lake Shikotsu (60)

It was a mix of winter scenery comparable to those I’ve seen in Niseko through my travel experiences and media like Game of Thrones, Switzerland, Aspen, Vail, Canada, and many more.

Stunning Hokkaido Best of Winter Niseko Sapporo Sounkyo Biei Lake Shikotsu (57)

I’ve said this in my Hokkaido article. If Maldives is the epitome of a summer or beach destination, then Biei Snow Fields, for me, is the epitome of a winter or snow sight. The hues of the sky and the clean scenery of luscious snow make it a winner. If you’re visiting Hokkaido during winter, BIEI SNOW FIELDS IS A MUST EXPERIENCE!

READ MY HOKKAIDO TRAVEL GUIDE – STUNNING HOKKAIDO: Experiencing the Best of Winter in Niseko, Sapporo, Sounkyo, Biei, & Lake Shikotsu


Travel Favorites 2018 (10)

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

  • Waking up to a spectacular sunrise view from Windsor California hotel.
  • Breakfast in Bed.
  • A lovely beach morning at Copacabana.
  • A classic vibe lunch & drink at Parque Lage.
  • A breathtaking experience at Sugarloaf mountain.
  • A bittersweet goodbye to Copacabana Beach & Rio de Janeiro.
Travel Favorites 2018 (6)

Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro

My last day in Rio was a plethora of different feelings coming at me bit by bit or all at once. Being in a place where you feel you’re destined to be in was kind of a high, the good kind?! That day was just one of those days that you never want to end or feel that 24 hours wasn’t enough! It really wasn’t!

Even though I was on to my next Brazilian destination, Foz do Iguacu, I felt like I needed more time in Rio. It was too quick. It made me realize how grateful I was to have maximized every second and to keep maximizing every second I had left in Brazil.

Travel Favorites 2018 (4)

Iguassu Falls (Brazil Side) in Foz do Iguacu

It was definitely one of my favorite days in Brazil! Basking in the sun while the cold waters of Copacabana play at my feet and my butt imprints on the golden sand was a beach moment I will never forget! I have more Rio travel experiences to share! Wait for my #GRATEFULinBRAZIL story!


Luxury Stays HTM Niseko (21)

Ki Niseko is still the best accommodation I’ve stayed at so far in my entire life. During our Hokkaido trip during the start of 2018, I had the chance to experience another stay in a 1 bedroom condo with a resort view at Ki Niseko!

IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE ROOM! I’ve been saying that a lot! HAHAHA! But it was such a beautiful room! PROMISE! What made it even better was that I had the chance to experience it with my mom. She loved it too!

Luxury Stays HTM Niseko (50)

Ki Niseko is the #1 Hotel in Hokkaido according to Travelers’ Ratings on TripAdvisor.

If you’re interested in staying at Ki Niseko, visit or inquire at

READ: Travel Gratefully with Ki Niseko


Back in 2015, I experienced a 2 hour wait for a less than 5 minute ride (Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey). Looking back, it was grueling but still grateful for the patience gained through it. I still recall the annoyed face my sister had while we were waiting in line. HAHA!

Universal Studios Japan With KKday (3)

USJ Passes

During our recent trip to Kansai, my sister and I had express passes this time around. And the relief we felt at every ride that clearly showed benefits of the universal express pass was definitely a favorite moment! Because of the pass, we had the chance to cover almost all of the shows and best rides available. Sometimes, falling in line takes its toll and wastes precious time.

#KKdayPH #TravelWithKKday Universal Studios Japan (10)

Express Lane at Minion Mayhem

If it’s your first time visiting Universal Studios Japan and you only have 1 day to experience everything, I recommend purchasing the express pass. It’s more expensive but definitely practical and convenient. You have less time in lines and more time in experiences!

You can purchase a Universal Studios Japan entrance and express pass combo through KKday! #KKdayPH #TravelWithKKday

READ: Universal Studios Japan in Summer + Booking Passes with KKday


I’ve always been content connecting to wifi at my accommodations or airports. I’m not the type who needs to post on social media immediately after I take a photo. I’m good with posting before or after I start my travel itineraries.

READ: Stay Connected while Traveling with Big Sky Nation!

Travel Favorites 2018 (7)

‘Sky’ chilling at the Selaron Steps in Rio

But planning my Brazil trip, I read a lot of articles on how dangerous it could be for solo travelers. Fear from what was written online really affected me. Using the Skyroam in Brazil really helped me stay connected 24/7. I was able to book Uber anywhere and update my family on my whereabouts. It made me feel safe being connected and using the safest means of transportation.

When fear was decreased, I was able to enjoy Brazil more which resulted to being one of the best trips of my life. It started with knowing that I was safe and one of the reasons was staying connected. Thanks to Big Sky Nation!

Hanoi Food Trip Guide (25)

My family loved it too when we used it during our trips to Hanoi and Batanes. My sisters love posting their stories live on IG/FB so the Skyroam wifi was definitely perfect for them. During rest and airport time, connecting to the wifi was easy! We didn’t have to register any personal data for airport or public wifis available.

If you’re interested in renting a travel wifi, book your unit at! Use discount code GRATEFULTRAVELS for 10% off! #TravelWithBigSky #Skyroaming


#Jetstar2KIX Kobe (28)


READ: Osaka – Kobe – Naruto, Japan: Thrilling Rides, Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Beef, Mesmerizing Whirlpools & Many More!

#Jetstar2KIX Kobe (10)



Here’s a new segment for my travel favorites! HAHAHA! Here are 2 travel moments that I loved with my family! Kunyari lang new segment?! Ang dami ko pa kasi gustong isama sa TOP 10! HAHAHAHA!


During our 4 day stay in Hanoi, we had Bun Cha 5 times! HAHAHA! We had it twice at Bun Cha Dac Kim, once each at Bun Cha TaTruly Viet at Lotte Mall, and Bun Cha Hang Quat. What I loved most about it is that we were all on the same page, always excited to have that Bun Cha! Once we got home to Manila, the first thing we requested to have for dinner was of course, BUN CHA!

Hanoi Food Trip Guide (13)

Bun Cha at Bun Cha Dac Kim (2nd time)!

It was also the first time we traveled internationally with our long time kasambahay and 2nd mommy, Tebby! We are so grateful to have her in our life that we’re so happy that we had the chance to bring her along and enjoy with us!

READ: Hanoi Food Trip Guide: What & Were to Eat in Vietnam


#Jetstar2Okinawa Zamami Kerama Islands (19)

I sat down beside my sister on the white sand taking in the cerulean waters while the sunlight hits it (for beautiful photos) and us (sunbathing) in the right places and I realized how weird it was that I was experiencing a very nice beach in Japan.

It was never something I imagined traveling to – island hopping in Japan? Who would’ve thought? I shouldn’t be surprised because Japan kinda nails everything, right? HAHAHAHA!

#Jetstar2Okinawa Zamami Kerama Islands (8)

Gahi beach was my favorite site during our stay in Okinawa. One of my favorite moments during this trip was the way my sister thanked me at Gahi beach. I could feel her gratitude as she thanked me for making her experience that beach and bringing her along for the whole Kansai – Okinawa trip.

It’s always a nice moment to give and receive gratitude. It makes moments with loved ones and beautiful places much more meaningful. As I always say, Always Be Grateful!

READ: Summer in Japan: Exploring Main Okinawa & Zamami Islands



From all the articles I wrote this year, I want to share:

  • YOUR FAVORITES – My most viewed article for 2018 is a guide I wrote for TripZilla Magazine.

READ: Winter in Niseko, Japan: Travel Guide & Tips for Filipinos

On my website, the most viewed article is our stunning winter experience in Hokkaido last January – February 2018.

READ: STUNNING HOKKAIDO: Experiencing the Best of Winter in Niseko, Sapporo, Sounkyo, Biei, & Lake Shikotsu

  • MY FAVORITE – One of my favorite YouTube series this year is BuzzFeed Video’s WORTH IT. I loved it so much that I made my own mini WORTH IT when I went to Japan last June 2018. The show basically features 3 dishes of the same ingredient with 3 drastically different price points. So for my written version, I featured having Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan! It was really fun experiencing it and writing about it!

READ: Osaka – Kobe – Naruto, Japan: Thrilling Rides, Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Beef, Mesmerizing Whirlpools & Many More!



  • FAVORITE LIPSTICK – Pat McGrath Matte Trance Lipstick in Vendetta
  • FAVORITE YOUTUBE CHANNEL Anne Clutz / Anne Clutz Vlogs! She’s just so genuine plus loving & always grateful to her viewers and family! She’s pretty inspiring and a very good example to others! I feel like if we met, we would be very good friends! HAHAHA! FEELING KO LANG! Subscribe to her YouTube Channel!
  • FAVORITE POWDER & BLUSH  Ellana Mineral Cosmetics Pressed Powder in Hazelnut and Multipurpose Pressed Pigment in Fulfillment
  • FAVORITE SKIN CARE  Sisley Hydra-Global Intense Anti-Aging Hydration Moisturizer! I got this as a sample during a purchase and I was very surprised on how well it worked on my skin. I looked healthy and radiant! SOBRANG TINIPID KO YUNG SAMPLE! HAHA! I hope I can invest in this skin care item in the future.
  • FAVORITE DESSERT  Oreo Cheesecake Pops from S&R! Sooooo good & creamy! 
  • FAVORITE SCENT  Jo Malone in Honeysuckle & Davana and Armani Code Satin!
  • FAVORITE BOOK QUOTES I only finished 3 books this year and I don’t have a favorite among them but two of them had quotes that I liked!
    • “Remember death. Even for those who wield great power. Life is brief. There is only one way to triumph over death and that is by making our lives masterpieces. We must seize every opportunity to show kindness and to love fully.” – Origin by Dan Brown
    • “Our marriage hasn’t been perfect. No marriage is perfect. There were times when she gave up on us. There were even more times when I gave up on us. The ‘secret’ to our longevity is that we never gave up at the same time.” – All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
  • FAVORITE MOVIE  Mowgli on Netflix! HAHAHA! The story was a bit fast tracked but SUPER LOVE Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shere Khan and Andy Serkis’ Baloo! OUTSTANDING! I keep imitating the way they say MOWGLIIIII! HAHAHA!
  • FAVORITE LINE FROM A SONG  “One taught me love, One taught me patience, and One taught me pain. Now I’m so amazing…” – Thank U Next by Ariana Grande

NOTE: My experiences with travel products and services may or may not be the same as yours. With skincare/makeup products mentioned, these worked for me. The products MAY or MAY NOT work for or be preferred by you. I highly suggest that you do your own research first or if available, ask for a sample before purchasing full sized items.



3 thoughts on “LIST: TRAVEL FAVORITES 2018

  1. Errol Becker says:

    Irene you sound so excited about your travels, Its inspiring. I want to feel the same emotional experience that you have, when I travel. everything you write about, makes your article worth reading, and actually makes it better if you have experienced the location personally. Even glad to know your choices of lipstick and skin care as well as chocolate. I hope to read about other travels you do in 2019, Wonderful blog. EB



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