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About familyvacationadventures

I love to travel with my family. A big part of the fun to me is planning the vacation!

Next family trip: Ireland

Spring break is during the peak allergy week for our family this year. As such, I vowed that we would go out of town that week. Originally the plan was to visit the parks in South Utah. However, when I went to book airfare it was double what I wanted to pay. I did some querying and discovered we could fly to Ireland for less than the cost of flying to Utah.

I have heard that Ireland is beautiful, but I have also heard that they are a very celiac friendly country…which is important when 50 percent of your traveling crew has celiac.

I *finally* just worked out our itinerary after discussing with several people who have been to Ireland or lived there. My goal was to plan a trip with minimal checking in and out but still seeing everything I wanted to see. Finally after discussing with someone who used to live in Ireland I figured everything out. We are now planning to stay in Dublin for four nights and Belfast for three, and one night at a hotel by the Dublin airport.

While in Dublin I have two day trips planned. I will research if we are going to rent a car or will take tour buses. Each has their advantages. Renting a car gives us the freedom to do what we want. But a tour bus means we get to hear information, don’t have to worry about driving and parking, and we can all relax while sightseeing.

In Belfast right now I am planning one day trip but we will have the flexibility to add another if we want.

Other benefits of this itinerary – my son is super pleased. He had made the request to go to Northern Ireland but originally I dismissed it. But then I decided I really wanted to see Giants Causeway. And I also thought it would be fun to go to the Titanic museum and also learn more about The Troubles. Plus it would be interesting to compare Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. And finally – we will be taking the train between both cities. We live riding the rails.

So, now I have something to plan which always excites me ūüôā

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Puerto Rico, Day 3

At the restaurant we ate dinner at on Thursday, our waitress had told me if we wanted to go to Culebra, we should leave our hotel by 6 AM.¬† So, that we did.¬† We drove to the Farajado ferry station and were in line for tickets by 7:15 AM.¬† I had considered reserving tickets through an agency the week before but they charged a $20 fee and I thought for sure it would be a waste of money because the Puerto Rican kids would be in school by the time we came and the crowds would not be that bad.¬† So I did not do that….

When we got in line there were actually not a large number of people in front of us.  I thought for sure that we would get tickets for the 9 AM ferry.  The line did not start to move until 8:50 AM.  So, the kids and I were standing in the sun for 1 hour and forty minutes before the line moved.  Finally around 9:20 they announced (in Spanish) that there were no more ferry tickets available for the day.  I asked the man if it was possible to reserve tickets for Monday and he showed me where to go.  The kids were not happy that we did not get on the ferry.

I proceeded to the reservation area and the woman told me I could get either 4 AM or 1 PM tickets for Culebra on Monday.¬† Arg.¬† I thought for a minute and then asked her if there were any tickets available for Vieques on Monday.¬† She told me they did have 9 AM availability and then she asked me if I wanted to return at 3:00 or 6:30 PM.¬† I stood there thinking for a minute because to me, 3:00 seemed too early and 6:30 seemed to late for the kids.¬† She told me to wait a minute and she would check with her boss.¬† She came back and printed me three tickets and then pointed out that she was able to get me onto the 9:00 AM ferry for Culebra on Monday.¬† She just pointed to the island and she did not want to seem to say it out loud, I assume because she got me a special override on that ferry.¬† I was very grateful…although I had hoped to go to Culebra today.¬† The three tickets cost us around $8.45 for all three of us.¬† So, if we decide not to do it, it is not the end of the world.

After our disappointing ferry experience, we went to go find a local beach to hang out at.¬† We ended up going to the Seven Seas beach.¬† The minute we got out of the car, it started raining…so we decided to wait it out in our rental.¬† About 20 minutes later we got out of the rental and proceeded with all of our stuff to the beach.¬† Once again, the skies looked ominous.¬† It started sprinkling…then pouring.¬† We decided to return to the car.¬† That “quick” storm ended up being torrential rain for about an hour.¬† At least we were in the AC.¬† The kids entertained each other by playing a game where you had to say a country that started with the last letter of the country you previously named.

Finally around noon the rain stopped.¬† By this time we had snacked in the car.¬† So, we headed to the beach.¬† The kids were amazed at how clear the water was.¬† We immediately saw a blue crab, and we also saw some fish.¬† We kept seeing crabs that would come out and then cover themselves with sand.¬† So this made us slightly nervous to put our feet in the sand.¬† The kids and I snorkeled for a little bit and then we rented a kayak for an hour.¬† After that the kids played in the water some more.¬† We probably left the beach around 3:00 PM.¬† We then went to McDonald’s to get some McFlurries and a lunch for the boy.

Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way back to our hotel.¬† We arrived back around 4:30 PM and then R went swimming for an hour while the boy returned to the room to shower.¬† While at the pool we ran into the people who were behind us in the ferry line and they recommended a place for dinner.¬† Thus, we went to Bebo BBQ which was a ten minute drive from our hotel.¬† ¬†It was all Puerto Rican’s there so I guess it is a place the locals go.¬† While eating there was a stray dog which made R sad.¬† She doesn’t like to see dogs without homes.¬† She convince me to let us feed the stray some of our left over chicken.

We ended our evening by stopping by the grocery store for more sunscreen and a cheap pair of sunglasses for myself.  Then we headed back to the hotel and the kids once again went to bed earlier.

I’m sure some of you may be wondering what the conditions are like in PR right now post hurricane.¬† The roads actually seem to be in better condition than other Caribbean islands I have been to.¬† However, there are exits that are closed off unexpectedly.¬† If you did not know about the hurricanes you would probably not realize some of the damage is from the hurricanes.¬† We did see evidence of US support….we were going to go to a playground but then we noticed it was also a site for FEMA assisstance.¬† As a result, we decided not to use the playground.

Tomorrow we are going to El Yunque rain forest and I hear that there had been lots of damage there…so I guess we will see tomorrow if we notice more evidence of hurricane destruction.

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Puerto Rico, Day 2

Today was our day to relax.¬† The kids and I slept in and were surprised when we realized it was 10:30 when we woke up.¬† ¬†We ended up having breakfast in our hotel room and then we went out to the beach by our hotel.¬† The kids could have spent all day there.¬† We swam in the ocean and played in the sand.¬† At one point I was swimming in the ocean and a wave took my sunglasses off of my head.¬† I was unable to find them – they had been one of my favorite pairs of sunglasses.¬† Oh well….I never spend a lot on sunglasses so it is not too big of a loss.

Once again, after swimming in the ocean we headed to the pool.¬† The kids enjoyed the pool while I spent about ten minutes hosing all of our beach stuff off.¬† After I finished that I heard thunder so I got the kids out of the pool….shortly after we left the pool it poured.¬† By this time it was almost 3:30 so we started to shower and get ready to pick up our rental car.¬† I rented a car from Enterprise which was walking distance from our hotel.

We picked up the rental car and then drove into San Juan for dinner.  The minute we got the car it started pouring down rain.  It stopped by the time we arrived in Old San Juan.  Then, after dinner the same thing happened again.  The minute we got in the car it started pouring.  So we were lucky that both times we were in the car.  We headed back to the hotel and I tried to get the kids to bed early as I needed to wake them at 5:30 AM so we could get tickets to take the ferry to Culebra.  I had heard if you wanted to go there you needed to be at the ferry station very early to purchase tickets.  The kids ended up sharing a bed together and it was very cute.

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Puerto Rico, Day 1

This morning the kids and I flew out of BWI on Southwest and headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.¬† In the spring I had seen a super cheap airfare with them, so I took advantage of it and booked it, knowing I could always cancel and use the money towards a future trip in the next year.¬† The kids have never had a beach vacation and I don’t really like going to beaches along the East Coast.¬† Caribbean is my style.¬† I have wanted my kids to just see what the Caribbean is like.¬† I spent some time researching Puerto Rico to see if it was considered safe now and what I kept reading was that the best thing you could do for Puerto Rico is to visit and spend your money on tourism.

I woke the kids at 4:30 AM and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.¬† I had thought that the kids would sleep on the airplane, but I was mistaken.¬† R was awake the whole time and she is usually my “napper”.¬† I had hoped the kids would nap so our afternoon/evening would be better.

We landed around 1:00 PM and by 1:30 PM we were already at the hotel.  By 2 we were on the beach.  The kids were having a fun time in the ocean waves.  Next we headed to the pool.  We headed to our room around 4:00 PM, changed, and then walked .8 miles to a grocery store to stock up on food and drinks for our room.  We ended up eating dinner in the hotel room and then the kids went to bed early.

My initial observations of Puerto Rico were that I was a little surprised that most signs were in Spanish only.¬† Since they speak two languages here I was expecting to see both Spanish and English signs.¬† Still, I was excited to see this as I think it makes traveling more fun when you don’t speak the language.¬† It also has given me a chance to ask the kids what they think the words are.

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Off to Europe (without the Family)

I’m getting ready for my next vacation.¬† But this one will be a true vacation?¬† No kids and no husband in toe.¬† Just me and one of my long time friends from college.¬† This will also be my first experience dealing with Celiac disease in countries where they do not speak English.

Wednesday evening, April 11th I am off to Prague.  Once I arrive in Prague on April 12th my Dutch friend meets me there in the evening.  We actually have no real set plans for Prague.  Just see where the days and nights take us.

Sunday evening we take a night train to Oswiecim, Poland.  We actually arrive around 5 AM.  I also have a cheap hotel room reserved for after we arrive in case we want to relax/sleep/shower before our tour of Aushwitz begins at 9.

Later that day we take a train to Krakow, and then we have a day in Krakow before we both return home on Wednesday, April 18th.

Hopefully I’ll find the time to update the blog when I am on my trip!

Categories: Czech Republic, Next Trip, Poland, Trains | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 32: Journey home

The epic vacation finally comes to an end. I barely slept the night before we left. Went to bed around midnight but I needed to wake up at 3 AM. I ended up getting up at 2:45 AM. I just don’t sleep well when I know I need to be up early.

We woke the kids at 3:30 AM. We had them sleep in the clothes they would be wearing the night before. Jonas was very good about waking up, Rachel refused. Eventually we got her up.

Then I tried to request an Uber. Turns out bars close at 4 AM in Auckland so I had trouble doing that. Luckily there was a taxi stand less than a block from our rental so David hailed a cab.

We arrived at the airport and checked in ok but we could not check our luggage in until 5 AM. We ended up going into the Premium Check in so we could get our luggage checked in earlier.

Then we headed towards the flight. We were split up for this flight. The boys were in coach for this flight and the ladies were in business class. Rachel and I went to the lounge for Air New Zealand and we were very excited to see that they had a gluten free toaster and gluten free bread. We both had some real toast. It was awesome.

Our first flight was great (for Rachel and I). I resisted falling asleep. We had two courses with our breakfast. The service though took a while….due to the early flight I would have preferred to nap a little but this turned out to be good that I did not nap. Rachel took a good 1.5 hour nap though.

The flight landed and then we headed to our next flight, Sydney to San Francisco. We went to the Singapore Airlines lounge. At that lounge Rachel found some food to eat. This was good as when we were already boarded on our United flight we learned that they did not have our requests for the gluten free meals. This is not the news you want to hear on a 14 hour flight….thankfully we had a cooler full of food we could eat.

The crew was very friendly on this flight and they apologized for not having our meals. I did enjoy two glasses of champagne and a glass of red wine. I started watching the Land of Z (or whatever it was called) and ended up not finishing it. Then I decided to try to sleep. I was hoping I could sleep on East Coast hours. I was thrilled when I woke up and there was only 45 minutes left of the flight. Rachel slept a little but not much. Jonas slept for over 5 hours, I am told.

We went through customs and immigration and then headed to the United Arrivals lounge to take showers. The arrival’s lounge showers are awesome. We all left feeling refreshed. By the time we finished it was time to head to the gate.

We boarded the plane and for once the kids agreed to sit next to each other! So for one flight David and I could pretend we were on a vacation by ourselves. For this flight we were in “first class”. I must say that domestic first class is so different than international business class…the seats are no where as big and the service seems sub par. On our particular flight there were also no personal entertainment systems so you had to use your own device for that. It just doesn’t feel the same…..

This flight went smoothly. We were flying from the west coast to the east coast around the same time as the eclipse so I was wondering what it would be like. Turns out there was nothing to see. I think had we left two hours earlier we would have seen things.

Our flight landed slightly early and then we went to pick up our bags and take a taxi home. Five minutes after we got home Rachel and I left to go pick up our dog. We got home from that around 8:30 PM. Around the time we got home our groceries were delivered. We then started to unpack. I may have also started weeding our front which got a little overgrown when we were gone.

Some of the family went to bed earlier than others. I actually went to bed at a normal bed time. I was not sure when I would go to bed as I actually slept a lot on the plane. I was actually really excited to go to bed and get back into our normal routine. I was very excited to head back to work the next morning.

In summary – all of our flights back were fine and we had no delays. We were all excited to get home from our trip. We had a wonderful vacation and spent a lot of time together as a family, and it was great taking a break from our day-to-day lives at home.

Also – as a side note Jonas ended up having six breakfasts this day:

1. Auckland airport

2. Flight from AKL to SYD

3. Lounge in SYD

4. Flight from SYD to SFO

5. Flight from SFO to IAD

6. Waffles for dinner at home (as that is what we had in the freezer)

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Day 31: Last full day of vacation!

Wow, can you believe it? ¬†Our vacation is finally coming to an end. ¬†We start heading home tomorrow and it will involve 22 hours of flying, plus layovers. ¬†Should be an interesting day. And now 3/4 of us have colds….

This morning David and Jonas walked to a bridge to take pictures. ¬† While they were on their walk I was tasked at figuring out the day’s plans. ¬†I decided visiting the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) would be the most pleasing for the family as they have hands on exhibits.

We ended up taking a cab to the museum. ¬†The museum had lots of interesting exhibits. ¬†As we arrived at the museum Jonas spotted a tram and was immediately excited. ¬†Even at his age, he still loves riding trains. ¬†It always reminds me of my paternal grandfather when I see Jonas’s excitement with trains.

We toured the museum, then took the tram to another museum, the Aviation museum which is a part of MOTAT. ¬†The kids ended up enjoying this museum more than the first one. ¬†The aviation hall reminded me of a mini Udvar-Hazy center. ¬†There was a military tank you could ride in and a train you could take a quick trip on. ¬†I told the conductor that Jonas loves trains and he invited Jonas to ride in the front of the train when it returned to it’s original departing point.

After that museum, we then took a cab to a Belgium restaurant so the boys could enjoy a bucket of mussels.  They had that, I had french fries, and Rachel had an ice cream sundae.

Finally, to end our site seeing day I took Rachel and Jonas on a train ride on Auckland’s public transportation system. ¬†We ended up riding on two different train lines. ¬†You should see the growing list we have of cities around the world where the kids have ridden train systems.

We got back to the rental promptly at 6 pm, and then I started packing things up for our journey home tomorrow. ¬†Our flight leaves at 7 AM, we need to be checked in by 5 AM, and the airport is at least 35 minutes away from our lodging. ¬†I don’t even want to think about what time I need to get up tomorrow. ¬†I hate to see what I will look like after all of that traveling….I hope I am able to sleep somewhat on the plane. ¬†I think by the time we get home we will have been served Breakfast/Lunch/Breakfast/Breakfast.

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Day 30: Auckland

Once again, we had another leisurely day.  We started with everyone sleeping in.  It was pouring in the morning, so this turned out to be a good option.  Eventually we decided to take a ferry to the town of Devonport which is right across the harbor.

This was a nice little town to walk around.  We went though as we thought there would be antique stores close to the ferry terminal, but apparently the antique stores in Devonport are not that close to the ferry.  Instead of going into antique shops, the kids and I ended up climbing to the top of Mount Victoria.  It was not so much fun climbing up to the top, but it was worth the climb once you saw the views at the top.

After that we met back up with David.  We split up once again as Rachel and I had heard that the grocery store in town had gluten free donuts.  At times I have felt this trip is basically a big gluten free product hunt for Rachel and I.  Rachel managed to find the gluten free donuts :).  Then we met the boys for lunch.  As we were eating lunch, it poured once again.  Thankfully we were inside.  By the time we left the restaurant, the rain had stopped.

We caught the ferry back to the rental, then I took a very brief nap. ¬†The kids and I ended up grabbing dinner from a restaurant across the street from our apartment, and David enjoyed the kid’s leftovers. ¬†Rachel had trouble falling asleep, I think it is because she is so excited to come home and see our dog…

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Day 29: Auckland

The trip is rapidly coming to an end.  At this point half of the group has a cold.  Thus, we all slept in and then enjoyed watching the harbor from our rental.  While the kids were sleeping I trekked to a grocery store and picked up some groceries for the rental.

Eventually we ate lunch and then did an Auckland Harbor Cruise.  This was a nice little cruise as you went around the harbor and stopped briefly at the Rangitoto Island which was created from a volcano.

Our boat arrived back to the harbor a little after 3.  At that point Rachel and I went to do more souvenir shopping.  Then we met the boys back at the apartment.  The boys ended up eating a seafood dinner at a restaurant close to our apartment, whereas Rachel and I had Mexican and brought it back to the rental to eat.

Not a very busy day today, but a relaxing one!

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Day 28: Taupo to Auckland

Today (Thursday) we left Taupo and drove to Auckland. We stopped at a town called Tirau on the way which had some interesting buildings. One of the buildings had a sign out front that said History of Wool or something like that and I thought it was actually about this history of wool. Turns out it was just a shop selling wool related items….

After that stop we had a picnic lunch at a rest area, then we continued to Auckland. Once we were in Auckland we went to a store called the Elephant House. This store sells items that are made in New Zealand. I bought a carved wooden bowl (I have a thing for wood) and a price of glass with the New Zealand fern that is so prominent here. I could have spent a couple of hours in the store just looking at their things.

We still had a couple of hours to kill before we could check into our lodging so we ended up going over to Mount Eden. This is the highest point in the city. Once we got there half of our party did not want to walk to the top, so we decided to look for ice cream instead. We headed for the ice cream shop just as school was letting out as soon our car was surrounded by school aged boys and we had to dodge them on the way to get ice cream.

We enjoyed our ice cream. On our way to get ice cream Rachel saw a playground and she wanted to stop there. So after our ice cream we went there and the kids played there for about an hour…in a drizzling rain as well. Jonas even declared that it was a pretty good playground.

We then went to our rental which is on Princes Wharf in the harbor. Our final rental is a two bedrock place. It overlooks all the ferries coming in and out. It is very centrally located with great views. We ended up having dinner at a place near the water a few blocks away. Coming from less suburban areas of New Zealand it is nice to be able to walk around to find a place to eat.

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