Posts Tagged With: Australia

Day 4: Sydney

Our flight landed right on time.  There was some confusion as we went through immigration.  We could have gone through the expedited line but the guy told us the electronic passport readers was a faster line.  We waited in that and then someone asked us how old Rachel was and then told us based on her age we had to go through manual processing.  So at that time we went back to the expedited line and continued on our way.

Passing through customs I declared that I had food on me and that we had been swimming in fresh water lakes.  Both of those seemed to be no big deal and nothing was confiscated.

Next up on the agenda was getting a sim card  for my phone.  I researched international costs for my phone using Verizon while we were gone and it was going to be $10 USD per day for very limited data.  Or, I could pay $25 AUD (the equivalent of around $20 USD) and have 6 gb of data and unlimited text and calls.  Seemed like a no-brainer to me.  The Vodafone booth was right as you exited customs.

After getting the sim card we got cash from an ATM and then waited in the taxi queue to catch a cab to our lodging.  You could take the train from the airport, but the cost of that is roughly the cost of a cab. Plus we would have had to walk half a mile from the train station with our luggage….so the cab seemed like a no brainer.

We arrived at our rental around 9 AM. We are staying on Agar Steps, right next to the Sydney Observatory.  We have a two bedroom townhouse which makes it really nice to be able to spread out.  There is also an outdoor space and a park next door. The best two things about rentals versus hotels are kitchens and laundry!

The parents decided to nap, where as the kids decided they did not need to.  Now, we all did get sleep on the plane, but when I was in the cab I realized I was dozing off.  I set an alarm so I wouldn't sleep past 11:45 AM, but then I changed that to 12:15 PM ūüôā  We finally were ready to set off around 2 PM.  First order of business was to find somewhere to eat.

I had a printout that had several gluten friendly restaurants.  We decided to try Mexican and eat at a place called Mad Mex.  The first location on my map apparently does not exist there anymore (or we could not find it).  Luckily there was another location a ten minute walk away so we headed there.  Both Rachel and I ordered tacos on corn shells.  After I had eaten my first taco my husband pointed out to me that they looked like they were flour tacos and not corn.  I went back to the restaurant and asked them to double check and at that point the woman realized that they were in fact flour tacos.  Apparently someone had put the flour tacos where the corn ones normally were.  This is my first "known" about exposure to gluten in over a year so I am curious as to what the effects will be…Rachel only had two bites of her taco before we realized, where as I had a full one.  I thought the tacos tasted really good.

After we had our late lunch Jonas was complaining about not feeling well and you could tell the kids were tired.  We decided to split up.  I took Rachel and we ended up riding a ferry round trip, then we took a metro train and got groceries.  

The first place we went to they had no gluten free substitutes so we walked a couple of blocks to another grocery store, which later we realized was actually in the same building as the original grocery store.  When you eat gluten free and you go into a new grocery store, or a store in a different country you spend a lot of time walking the aisles and looking at products that are gluten free.  We found some GF cookies, GF pizza base, and GF bread.

On our way home from the grocery store I passed a wine shop a block from our townhouse.  I dropped the groceries off and then I headed back to the wine shop.  

I asked the shopkeeper to recommend a good Australian Chardonnay.  For kicks I asked him if he had heard about Yellow Tale wine, which is supposedly Australian.  He had not.  I also noticed the price his shop was selling La Crema for and it made me chuckle.  It is a moderately priced wine in the US (between $12 and $18 I think), but in his shop it was $54 AUD.  I need to go back to his shop and see if he sells Cakebread – I'm sure he doesn't but it is a US wine that he really needs to try.

After my visit to the shop I was hoping to make dinner at our rental.  For dinner I had planned on making spaghetti and corn on the cob, per Rachel's request.  However while I was typing this post Rachel ended up putting herself to bed, and Jonas was already sleeping, so it will be interesting to see what happens tonight.  I am curious how jet lag will affect all of us this week. So, instead of cooking dinner tonight I will be enjoying Hoddles Creek Chardonnay and Cheerios. I guess tomorrow we will have the dinner I had planned on making tonight.

Categories: Sydney | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Day 3: Somewhere over the Pacific

We arrived at the airport about an hour later than we had planned to arrive. There was a minor complication that actually had me stressing for ten minutes. When I applied for our Australian visas I accidentally put my dad's birthday as my son's birthday. I realized that right after I did it and I had gone to the Australian website to see what I needed to do to fix it. The FAQ said to just apply again. So I did…and that was the end of that.

Well, when I went to check in my son they said there was a problem as he had two visas in his profile and as a result the agent could not check him in. She was going to need to place a call to get the visa removed. I was concerned because I was not sure how long it would take to fix…and I was worried he would not be considered checked in and his seat would be given to someone else.

The agent came back ten minutes later and all was well. We then proceeded through security and then headed to the lounge for twenty minutes. The lounge was ok – not as nice as the Delta lounge at JFK. The bathroom was really small – there were only two stalls. And I was not impressed with the food options.

We arrived at our gate right as they were starting to board. We waited in line and took our seats. Rachel and I were in the first row and the men were right behind us. The first thing the flight attended did was confirm that Rachel and I had the gluten free meals.

We got settled in our seats and then we enjoyed a pre-departure beverage. I had champagne, Rachel had a Coke. Take off then occurred around 10:50 pm and we settled in for a fifteen hour flight!

The goal for me on this flight was to stay up as late as I could before falling asleep. This was because we were landing in Sydney around 6:50 AM and I wanted to wake up as close to that time as possible.
By now you may realize that we flew business class to Australia….our four business class tickets cost us roughy $350 for ALL FOUR tickets. We were able to do this as we have saved our miles for years. We also took advantage of generous credit card sign up offers. We knew that if we were ever going to fly somewhere business class that it would be to Australia…that is one of the longest flights you can take and there are not a lot of options on getting there.

Two hours after taking off we received drinks and an appetizer. At first I was slightly excited as the appetizer for Rachel and I had rolls on it. I quickly asked if they were gluten free and then our appetizer was quickly wisked back away. We then received another appetizer….Rachel was being a real trooper…she was extremely tired and was upset when she saw other people eating bread. She really misses good bread…


I asked the flight attendant if Rachel could get her meal a little early since she was starving, and they were fine with that. I was so excited when that meal came out and it was plain chicken, rice, and broccoli. Three things which I knew she would eat.

After dinner the rolled out the ice cream cart. By this time it was 1:30 AM Pacific time. I had vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce while Rachel had vanilla ice cream with whip cream.

Following dinner and dessert I changed into the pajamas. As I walked through the cabin I observed many people were already asleep….yet my kids were going strong. By this time we still had eleven hours plus left of the flight. I changed my seat into a bed and actually managed to sleep for at least seven, possibly eight hours. When I finally got up there was still three hours remaining of flight time.

I drifted in and out of sleep for the next hour and a half. When there was 1.5 hours left of the flight they started waking passengers up for arrival. They asked me if Rachel and I wanted a beverage and we both had a Coke. Less than than two minutes after they handed us the cokes Rachel managed to spill hers all over my seat and my pants. I packed extra shirts for all of us but neglected to pack extra pants…since I figured we were more likely to spill on our shirts than pants….

Breakfast was served and our gluten free meal was actually sufficient enough for Rachel and I. She had some fruit, I ended up eating potatoes and an omelette.

After breakfast service it was time to start cleaning up. I put my contacts in and brushed my teeth. I cannot believe how fast the flight seemed to go by. I didn't even finish the only movie I started….

I am not sure what to expect with customs. I plan to declare everything. I have a mini cooler that contains food and while I think I can bring it all in to Australia I would rather declare it and have them check it than face a fine. Additionally the kids and I have been in lakes in the past week, so our shoes and clothing may need to undergo some scrutiny.

Once we exit customs we have a two things we need to take care of before we leave the airport. We need to obtain Australian dollars from an ATM and I need to get a SIM card for my personal phone. I have a work phone that is enabled for international service but I really only hope to use that when I am on wifi only, and it costs $10 a day for that. If this was just a one week trip I would be fine with that but since we will be gone a while I would prefer to spend $20 AUD for a lot more data.

I have to say this flight flew by. This was my first experience in business class and it was wonderful. Normally when I fly overseas I don't feel rested and feel like I need a nap immediately. However right now I feel like I could go siteseeing. I think we will check into our lodging, change our clothes, and go explore….and then probably come back in the afternoon for an hour nap or two. I wonder how jet lag will be for us over the course of the next week.

Categories: Sydney | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Getting close!

In about ten days we start on our epic adventure. But in 72 hours I will be in Minnesota with the kids before we go on our trip. My daughter is going to a sleepaway camp there and while she is there my son and I will visit with relatives. We leave Minnesota on Friday and head to San Francisco for 36 hours of siteseeing before our flight leaves.

Tonight I took all of my travel printouts out of the binder I have been storing them in and I put them in individual folders. I am not sure what I will do with the folders on our trip. I may discard as we are done with something, I may decide to keep the folders as souvenirs…




We are getting there with packing…daughter is mostly packed while son and I have the stuff I need to pack in Tupperware containers. Each night I say I am packing it up and that never happens. Luckily our flight does not leave until 7:30 pm on Saturday so I will have all day to pack if I need to.

Thanks for following. This may be my last post until our adventure begins.

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The Final Itinerary

Below is our final itinerary.  I may be removing this post in a few weeks when we travel to give new blog followers the element of surprise in where we head next.  Also note that we will actually arrive in San Francisco on Friday, July 21 and will sightsee with the kids for a day before we embark on our trip.

Day of trip Day Day of the week Stay in
1 7/22/2017 Saturday
2 7/23/2017 Flying
3 7/24/2017 Monday Sydney
4 7/25/2017 Tuesday Sydney
5 7/26/2017 Wednesday Sydney
6 7/27/2017 Thursday Sydney
7 7/28/2017 Friday Sydney
8 7/29/2017 Saturday Port Douglas
9 7/30/2017 Sunday Port Douglas
10 7/31/2017 Monday Port Douglas
11 8/1/2017 Tuesday Port Douglas
12 8/2/2017 Wednesday Port Douglas
13 8/3/2017 Thursday Christchurch
14 8/4/2017 Friday Christchurch
15 8/5/2017 Saturday Queenstown
16 8/6/2017 Sunday Queenstown
17 8/7/2017 Monday Queenstown
18 8/8/2017 Tuesday Queenstown
19 8/9/2017 Wednesday Franz Josef
20 8/10/2017 Thursday Greymouth
21 8/11/2017 Friday Nelson
22 8/12/2017 Saturday Nelson
23 8/13/2017 Sunday Nelson
24 8/14/2017 Monday Taupo
25 8/15/2017 Tuesday Taupo
26 8/16/2017 Wednesday Taupo
27 8/17/2017 Thursday Auckland
28 8/18/2017 Friday Auckland
29 8/19/2017 Saturday Auckland
30 8/20/2017 Sunday Auckland
31 8/21/2017 Monday Return home!!!!

Deviations:

  • Originally I had planned spending our time in Australia among Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne. ¬†Later I changed this to Sydney and Port Douglas to give us more time in Sydney and to have a more lazy time before we head to New Zealand.
  • When I changed our itinerary to remove Tasmania and Melbourne, we were going to stay in Cairns. ¬†After talking to a couple of people and a TripAdvisor forum, I moved our Great Barrier Reef Destination to Port Douglas instead.
  • Originally we were not going to be in Christchurch, and we were going to fly into Queenstown from Cairns. ¬†When I looked into flights from Cairns to Queenstown though, the flights would have involved an overnight layover in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, or Christchurch. ¬†Hence, I started thinking about adding in a day in Christchurch. ¬†So now we have two nights in Christchurch, but essentially just a full day in that area.
  • From Christchurch we were originally going to fly straight into Queenstown. ¬†Then I thought about it and looked at a map and there are some things in the Dunedin area we wanted to check out. ¬†So, instead of flying into Queenstown, we are flying into Dunedin and will then make our way to Queenstown later that afternoon for our lodging.
  • We were originally going to stay at the Pancake Rocks on the West Coast of the South Island. ¬†However, after reading reviews of the hotel and location, I decided to change our hotel to a hotel in Greymouth, 30 minutes south. ¬†Bigger town, more food options, and more hotel for our dollar.
  • I contemplated taking the ferry from Picton, South Island to Wellington, North Island. ¬†Then I realized if we did this, it would essentially eat up a full day of sightseeing. ¬†A flight from Nelson to Wellington is only half an hour…and cheaper. ¬†Hence I chose that option.
  • On the North Island, we were going to stay at the Tongariro National Park in a chateau. ¬†Once again though, I read the reviews of the hotel and it seemed like they price gauged you. ¬†I looked for another centrally located area on the North Island and ended up booking an apartment in Taupo.
  • We were also going to stay in Whakatane on the North Island for two days. ¬†But then I felt we’d be trying to cover too much between our stays in Taupo and Whakatane – both had been scheduled for two nights a piece. ¬†I decided to add another night to Taupo and another night to Auckland.
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Keeping Track of it All

How have I been keeping track of everything for our trip? I created a binder.  The binder starts with our itinerary on the first page, and behind that page is our travel insurance policy.



 I debated organizing it in date order but ultimately I decided to organize by category. I have five different categories: Flights, Apartments, Hotels, Cars, and Activities. As soon as I make a reservation I print it out and stick it in the binder. This has worked great at keeping me organized. When our flights to and from the South Pacific were cancelled I could easily grab our original flight info when I was speaking with a customer service agent. If something changes I print out the new item and keep the original behind it.



As you can see, right now I am using clear plastic sheets for everything. This lets me change things if needed. Right before our trip I plan to take everything out of the sleeves, make copies, and then get everything bound at a copy store. I plan to keep a copy at home for the memories, and obviously bring one on our trip. However after we do an activity or take a flight I plan to rip that part out of the notebook. By the end of the trip I should have nothing.


I am also using the binder to put local area information. I may need to make another section for that…for example this weekend I printed out local maps of the Mossman Gorge area.

The binder also helps me with my excitement for the trip. There is just something fun about printing something and filing it in the binder.

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Christmas Gifts, Part One

What do your kids get for Christmas when you have a big trip planned the following summer? Lots of items that can be used for the trip.  If I am going to buy them anyways I may as well put them under the tree as Christmas gifts.

Both kids will be getting books on Australia and New Zealand. My daughter hates to read, but she is very interested in animals. I am hoping that she may actually glimpse at these items…:


My son, on the other hand, is an avid reader. I am pretty sure he will read all the items he is getting and will have memorized everything in the books as he reads them.


I will figure out tonight if these will be stocking stuffers or if they will be wrapped and go under the tree. I think if I can fit them in the stockings they will go in there, otherwise under the tree they go. 

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Trip planning update

Well, it’s now November 20th…the trip is coming together. ¬†I *almost* have the itinerary completed. ¬†Just when I think it is final I think of something else. ¬†I only have two areas to work out – the North Island stint between Wellington and Auckland (4 nights – I am looking for only two locations there) and if we fly into Invercargill or Dunedin before heading into Queenstown.

I may have reserved all of our apartment rentals at this point. ¬†Right now for the North Island I have us booked in a hotel for three nights, but I may change that. ¬†I’ve reserved our rental cars as well, and only have one more flight to book. ¬†So I’m feeling like we are getting there. ¬†I’m the type that likes to go on vacation with everything fully paid for except for meals, so for me I like having everything booked way in advanced and paid off before we go.

Places we have apartment rentals for are: Sydney, Port Douglas, Queenstown, Nelson and Auckland. ¬†We are in hotels for Christchurch, Franz Josef,¬†Punakaiki, and the North Island (possibly). ¬†I have to admit that apartment rentals keep us sane when traveling as a family. ¬†By the end of the day we all need our own space. ¬†An apartment gives us the capability to spread out and relax on our own. ¬†It also allows us to prepare our own meals in case we aren’t in the mood to eat out. ¬†It also helps us pack light as we can use a washing machine in the apartment to wash our clothes every few days.

The kids are starting to become more interested in the trip as well. ¬†The boy would like to go to Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand. ¬†The kids also want to go skiing when we are in Queenstown. ¬†The boy has also requested a helicopter tour…we will possibly do that at the Franz Josef glacier but with it being winter there is a high probability that the ride might now happen. ¬†And the girl may participate in the Sydney zoo’s Zookeeper for a Day program. ¬†It looks pretty neat. ¬†I have been telling the kids to expect clothes this Christmas since we’ll be doing some expensive outings on our big trip. ¬†They were not too thrilled ūüôā

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Next Adventure in the Works

Our next family adventure is in the works.  This week I finalized our tickets to Australia and New Zealand.  This started out as a two week trip to New Zealand…and then I thought about it and realized how much I would regret not seeing some of Australia while we are in that part of the world.  It is so far for us to fly too, so I figured we might as well make the most of it and try to see both places.

The plan is to fly into Sydney.  My husband will have to work when we are in Australia as he can’t take off the extent of time that I plan to take off. Right now, I tentatively want to see Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne.  Other places I thought about but ruled out are the Whitsundays and Cairns.  They could make it back into the itinerary, but it is doubtful.  Those places are farther to fly to in Australia.  Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne are relatively close to each other and easy to get to.  I will limit the Australia portion of our trip to no more than three destinations.

For the New Zealand portion of the trip, I’ll primarily let my husband design that itinerary.  I know I would like to see Queensland, the Franz Josef glacier, perhaps the Abel Tasman National Park, Rotorua, and Auckland.  But I’m pretty flexible on everything we do in New Zealand.

In regards to our tickets – we used frequent flier miles to fly all four of us to Australia and home.  I’m somewhat relieved to finally have the tickets purchased.  The four tickets ended up costing us only around $300.  I expect that we may have to pay up to $800 additional in change fees before we finally go….for instance – I was not able to book our segment from our hometown to SFO.  As of right now we are flying United to Auckland and then connecting to Sydney.  I’m hoping eventually a flight opens up for award tickets from our hometown to SFO, and when that happens I’ll have to pay a $100 per person change fee to add it on.  Still – it would be cheaper than booking a one way flight there.  If I also see award availability open up on the direct flight from LAX or SFO to Sydney I may switch to that as well so we don’t have to connect in AKL.

I had to lengthen our trip slightly due to award availability…originally I wanted to plan a Saturday to Saturday trip.  This is because when we fly out there it essentially takes two days and I didn’t want my husband to be missing any work on the flights.  This past weekend though United changed the award availability…they had been showing Wednesday and Saturday availability for the flight I wanted and now the availability is for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  So we come back on a Monday now.  Ideally if we came back on a Saturday we would have time to adjust before heading back to work.

I also bought segments as two one way tickets.  This is because when you are trying to fly four people on award tickets to that part of the world, you book the tickets when they are available and don’t take a chance that they won’t be there when the return portion is available.  With both of the “big” flights, right after I booked our tickets the award seats were no longer available on each of those flights…so I guess United may only allocate four seats at first.  Eventually I’ll write a post at how we were able to accumulate so many miles when we only fly about once a year.

So – now the fun begins – the planning and the dreaming ūüôā

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