Holidays In Australia Part 3: New Zealand

The excitement began before we even got off the plane, friends … look at that view!

After spending Christmas and the next few days at Chris’ parents’ house in Bathurst, we loaded up the car and headed off to Sydney, where the girls would be staying with their grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins, while Chris and I headed off to New Zealand — BY OURSELVES — to celebrate our 15-year meet-a-versary, our 10-year anniversary of being married, New Years Eve (which just happens to be the anniversary of both of those aforementioned things) and the upcoming year of our 40th bdays.

But really, you don’t understand. We never leave our kids, and we especially don’t leave them overnight. In fact, we’ve only left Lotte & Grace overnight once, and that was the last time we were in Australia.

In other words, this was long overdue!

Despite knowing how much we’d enjoy the trip, we definitely waffled. Leaving three kids with any number of adults is bound to be a lot, and flights and accommodation during the holidays are astronomical. After going back and forth on it, we finally decided to JUST GO FOR IT, and we settled on spending our three-night getaway in Queenstown.

I’m so glad we did.

The Details

With so much to celebrate on this trip, we decided to just really go for it. All of that is to say — we splurged in a way we don’t normally … and I don’t feel badly about it one little bit 😉

The largest expenses by far were the flights ($2,515) and the lodging ($2,243).

Even the airport had stunning views!
QT Queenstown lobby views.

We stayed at the QT Queenstown and would highly recommend it! Besides the fact that they treated us royally (with the sweetest welcome/happy anniversary package of champagne, chocolate, bath bombs and free drink tickets at their hotel bar), the (absolutely spectacular) breakfast was complimentary and in a gorgeous dining room, the location was perfect, and the views were out of this world.

We also went all-out with our meals (besides breakfast, which was always free and always at our amazing hotel). Because hey, you only have a 10-year-anniversary and you only turn 40 once!

Day One: Arriving

Here’s a little pro tip from me to you — when you’re an American traveling from Australia to New Zealand (ie. me), you do need a travel Visa, and it’s best to get this sorted before you head to the airport. Also, Quantas and Jetstar both have weight limits for carry-ons (not sure about other airlines, but these are the two that we traveled). Both of these are fun things we learned the hard way.

After our initial hiccups, we landed in gorgeous Queenstown, checked into our hotel, then set out to take in the town at twilight and have dinner at The Bunker, a romantic hidden gem offering a prefix menu and wine pairing situation that we were all too happy to enjoy.

Also delightful was the fact that Queenstown was still all dolled up for the holidays.
This place is a must if you’re looking for a romantic and low-key dining experience!
I mean … yum.
This view was a short walk from our hotel.
Queenstown is probably one of the cleanest, most picturesque places I have ever been, and it certainly has some of the nicest people I’ve met.
Cute when kidless!
Delight.
Stunning water ….

Day 2: Biking Around Queenstown

Renting bikes has become a little tradition for us while traveling (see Japan, Iceland, London, Rome, New Orleans and Manhattan, to name a few), so we knew we wanted to do that in New Zealand if we could, as well.

Of course, I’m never one to let a little biking come between me and a cute outfit. (Please also refer to Munich.)

Anyway, we woke up whenever we wanted to on our first full day in New Zealand, had the breakfast of our dreams at our gorgeous hotel restaurant, then rented our bikes and hit the dusty (and sometimes very narrow and very close to the side of a cliff) trail. We traveled 18 miles out to the Queenstown Golf Club for a drink, then back via a stop at Altitude Brewing.

I basically had to re-learn how to use the gears properly — as well as remind myself to ride on the other side of the road — but it all worked out in the end!
More than worth it for these views!
Plus my riding partner was cute <3
Quick beers at the gold club before turning around!
It was even prettier on the ride back!
See?!
Altitude Brewing was a delightful highlight.
As was the jack fruit bao bun from the food truck!

After our ride we were more than ready for our dinner/adventure with Skyline Queenstown. This included a ride up the mountain in a gondola, dinner at the Stratosfare and three Luge rides (which I was incredibly nervous about but which turned out to be basically adult go-karts down a hill and incredibly fun!).

Again with the views!
My very chill Luge face 😉
Stratosfare dinner views.
Happy.
I kept saying that I felt like Frank Costanza on this trip, wearing my travel resort gear!

Day 3: Burgers, Gardens, & New Years Eve

After a fairly intense Day 2, we were happy to lay low on Day 3 and do some more relaxed activities. We tried out the famous Fergburger (my mushroom sandwich was to die for, but Chris said his actual burger was only okay), took a stroll around the Queenstown Gardens, HAD TWO NAPS and had dinner and watched the fireworks/welcomed 2023 from the restaurant in our hotel.

I did eventually dip my feet in, just to say that I had 😉

And that was our short-but-sweet New Zealand trip. It was absolutely everything we had hoped for and more. Thanks for being awesome, Queenstown. You’ll have a special place in our hearts forever.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the final part of our trip — a visit to the beach where Chris and his family grew up vacationing.

Until then … bis bald!

Holidays In Australia Part 2: Christmas In Bathurst

Welcome back to my Holidays in Australia series, including a surprise 24-hour layover in San Francisco, Christmas in Australia, our anniversary and New Years Eve in New Zealand, and a visit to the beach that Chris visited every year growing up! We saw friends and family that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic (I blogged about our first trip out with Lotte & Grace in 2019, including here), and friends and family got to meet Emilia for the very first time. Emotions were high (in both the best and saddest of ways … traveling, and especially traveling with children, is never not fraught), but while I sit here typing this up, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. So very much planning and buying and packing (and stressing!) went into this trip, and it was definitely one for the books, friends.

I have, as you can imagine, approximately 12 million photos to add here and to look back on for years to come. I’m going to break the trip up into sections. First up — Christmas at Chris’ parents house in Bathurst. We were so excited to be spending the day with Chris’ NanNan, but she sadly came down with Covid (on Christmas Day, no less!) so our plans had to shift. Still, we spent the day with all Chris’ siblings and all of our Aussie nieces and nephews, and it was magical, nonetheless.

Swimming, sleeping, eating all the tasty treats and getting in as many cuddles as possible topped our list of priorities for this first half of the trip. We also managed to get in some kangaroo and cricket viewing.

After we spent the holiday in Bathurst we all packed up and drove to Sydney, where Chris and I would be leaving the girls before we headed off to our own separate little holiday in New Zealand to celebrate the New Year and our anniversaries (10 years married, 15 years knowing each other!). We stopped off at the Three Sisters in Katoomba along the way.

And that was the first third of our trip in a nutshell, friends! It was filled with all the love and fun that we imagined, and then some. Next up was our SOLO trip to New Zealand … until then, bis bald, friends!

Holidays In Australia Part 1: A 24-Hour Layover In San Francisco

Happy New Year, friends! I hope everyone had a fabulous and fantastic holiday season filled with all the fun things.

We sure did.

We arrived back LAST NIGHT from our holiday trip. It included Christmas in Australia, our anniversary and New Years Eve in New Zealand, and a visit to the beach that Chris visited every year growing up! We saw friends and family that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic (I blogged about our first trip out with Lotte & Grace in 2019, including here), and friends and family got to meet Emilia for the very first time. Emotions were high (in both the best and saddest of ways … traveling, and especially traveling with children, is never not fraught), but while I sit here typing this up, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. So very much planning and buying and packing (and stressing, if I’m being completely honest! I was SO SURE someone would get sick! Spoiler alert: WE DID NOT!) went into this trip, and it was definitely one for the books, friends.

But first, we had to get there.

Things started optimistically enough! We knew that weird weather was rolling into Denver, and our flight out to San Francisco was scheduled for early evening, with a layover of only about an hour to make our connecting flight to Sydney.

Needless to say, that didn’t end up happening.

We sat for about 2.5 hours on the tarmac before finally taking off and landing in San Francisco around 1 a.m. United Airlines, to their credit, gave us two hotel rooms for two nights, since the next flight out they could get us on didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m.

Instead of looking at it as a lost day in Australia, we decided to find the silver lining and consider it a free (Kind of. Well, the hotel rooms were free, at least) and unexpected day in San Francisco.

Here’s what we got up to.

In a nutshell we:

  1. Took the Caltrain into the city
  2. Walked to get lunch at the Ferry Building Marketplace
  3. Ate lunch at Gott’s Roadside
  4. Took a water taxi to Pier 39
  5. Checked out the sea lions
  6. Caught the metro back to the Caltrain
  7. Ordered in pizza to our hotel room/showered/repacked
  8. Headed back to the airport around 8 p.m.

You know what’s great about catching a 14.5-hour flight at 10:45 at night after spending the day running your kids ragged around San Francisco?

They. Are. Zonked.

Seriously, the flight from San Francisco to Sydney was probably one of the best we’ve ever had, courtesy of exhausted children who slept seven to eight hours and then watched tv/snacked/did crafts the whole rest of the time. I was BEYOND impressed with my kids’ travel abilities and their willingness to go with the flow and find adventure in every little thing (even the snags) … but more on that later.

For now … bis bald, friends! See ya when we’re in Sydney!

YMCA of the Rockies — The Estes Park Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we had just spent the weekend at the second YMCA of the Rockies location. Since the trip was a sponsored press trip, I waited to post this until the story for the publication that sponsored me went live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, loves! Our little family was lucky enough to try out the second YMCA of the Rockies location — this time in Estes Park — the weekend after the holiday. (You can find information on our stay at the Granby Ranch location here.)

While similar in many ways, and with many of the same amenities as Granby, the Estes Park location did feel slightly different. There is less property at this location, which means the cabins and activities are closer together. This is nice if you’d like to opportunity to walk around more easily, but the vastness of the Granby location also had its perks. Whichever you visit, you honestly can’t go wrong. Grace spent the entire first-day-back-preschool-morning-check-in walking up to her little friends and her teacher and saying, “I went to the YMCA of the Rockies!”

It obviously had a lasting impact. Here’s a little bit why …

Even the check-in area was charming!
We had a real fireplace at this cabin, which you just KNOW Chris loved!
Games were another big part of our stay.
So glad we got to check out the pool on this trip!
The most fun!
Who doesn’t love a good air throw?
Just like in Granby, the cafeteria was a big hit.
Me and my cute little crew 😉
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library — and more specifically the story time at the library — is a MUST if you come here!
Grace did some rock climbing on the scrambling wall, while Lotte …
… gave the big wall a go!
Nature Center cuties
We made ice cream!
We explored some trails!
We made art!
We made a mess 😉
We tried out the playgrounds!
We got cozy and colored by the fireplace in the lobby!
We made smores in our jammies back in our cabin!
And on Sunday morning, we woke up to gorgeous, snow-dusted vistas.

And that was our action-packed, amazing trip in a nutshell, my friends! Check out the YMCA of the Rockies in the Good Housekeeping travel awards here.

Bis bald, friends!

YMCA of the Rockies — The Snow Mountain Ranch Version

Edit Note: I wrote this post the Monday after we made our actual visit, but had to wait until the story was actually live. You can find the complete Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Rewards story here!

Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends! We have been battling all the illnesses over here lately (just like literally everyone else in the world, I know), but we did manage to pull it together this past weekend for a quick press trip out to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.

As you’ll recall, we are already big fans of Granby, but the YMCA property took that love to a whole other level. I won’t go into a ton of detail here (because all of that is covered in the actual story that the press trip was for, which you can find here), but I’ll just say, this is the best, most upgraded camp experience you could ever have, dropped right in the middle of the most majestic mountain setting.

Some of our activities included:

  • Meeting the sled dog team and going on a little ride
  • Checking out the Kiva/Rec Center
  • Making crafts in the Craft Center
  • Smoresing and bonfireing
  • Building a float for a mini Thanksgiving Day parade
  • Enjoying our SPECTACULAR mountain views

We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this iconic spot.

We stopped off in Idaho Springs on our way home, as well, and had lunch at Beau Jo’s <3

I hope you guys are staying healthy and have some relaxing and fun holiday plans ahead. Until next time … bis bald!

Colorado Springs Bday Bash Part Two: Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds

Dads work on their birthday weekend trips, don’t get it twisted 😉

Happy Monday, friends! Back to yesterday, when we were spending the second part of Chris’ birthday getaway at Garden of the Gods and on a cave tour at Cave of the Winds.

We’ve been to Garden of the Gods a number of times (like here, with my bestie), but yesterday was magnificent. The weather — while windy — was remarkable in all her fall glory, and we got there basically as the park opened to avoid the (always) crowds.

The girls basically love anywhere they can run unencumbered.
Happiness is …
Fall foliage AND these spectacular rocks <3
YOU try getting a photo of an almost-two-year who is NOT in motion!
Cuties.
Lotte’s new favorite thing is asking me to take specific photos — often with specific poses — and it is just delightful.
Emilia was over it by this point, but here’s a photo of me and 2/3 of my ladies.

After Garden of the Gods, we hopped back in the car and drove 10 minutes to our Cave of the Winds cave tour. It was about 45 minutes long and the girls were so great during it! I definitely think there were moments that were scary/hard for Grace (like when they turned the lights completely off and we were plunged into darkness — to show us what the cave used to be like before they added electricity — or some spots that were slick to walk in), but she was such a champ, and I was so proud. They both asked awesome questions (Lotte about stalagmites and G about bats) and, I think, had a really fun time.

It’s hard to take a ton of photos in a dark cave, as you can imagine, but here’s what I did get:

So pretty! Do NOT take this tour if you’re claustrophobic!
Cute little cave dwellers!
Emilia was great throughout, as well!
More formations whose names I forget but that still look beautiful.

And that was that, my friends! A successful birthday trip all around, made all the more fun by the tons of leftover birthday treats we had to bring home 😉

Happy fall, everyone … and bis bald!

Birthday Bashin’ for Chris in Colorado Springs – Part One

Say cheese, it’s almost your birthday!

Happy Monday, friends! We just got back from spending Chris’ birthday weekend in Colorado Springs, where we stayed at this Airbnb in Old Colorado City, to be exact.

Even though we’ve been to Colorado Springs a number of times (like this special trip, for example), we had never stayed in this part of town, or done the activities that we came to do this past weekend.

Let me start by saying, our Airbnb was magnificent. The place itself was very nice, newly remodeled, etc., but really, it’s the location that sets this place apart. It’s right across the street from a great park (which just happened to be the main stage of the town’s adorable fall fest on Saturday afternoon with live music, face painting, plant potting and more), and is right on the main street, making it walking distance to tons of restaurants, bars and activities. The places that we visited on our stay included:

This is a long list for having only been there for two nights and one full day, but even so, there were so many other fun places we wanted to try! (And hopefully will, sans kids, one day.)

Grace is me when it comes time to pick treats … GIVE ME THEM ALL, PLEASE!
Even Emilia got a vegan chocolate treat to devour 😉
Air throws are all the rage these days <3
We grabbed breakfast early on Saturday and took a quick walk in town before heading for the main attraction of the day. These sweetest little farm owners were setting up their stand for the fall festival later in the day and gave the girls each a free pumpkin — what a fun way to start the day!
My favorite pictures are the ones that girls request, like Lotte, with this one 😉

The main reason we picked this particular Airbnb, though — even though all the other perks were top-notch once we arrived — was its proximity (about seven minutes) to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These ancestral Puebloan Ruins date back 800 to 1000 years, and they’re so well preserved that you can walk and explore in them which, naturally, the girls were obsessed with. It was so fascinating learning about their way of life, and it really makes you realize how smart they were, especially given the fact that their habitats are still standing today despite having so little to work with.

I mean … incredible.
These cuties LOVED exploring! (Chris, too .. hah.)
Hi!
Never goes anywhere without her tiger these days <3
The surrounding area is so picturesque, too.
These two.
The museum did a great job explaining more about the daily lives these people led. Not entirely sure Lotte should have put her tiger inside the fake fire pit, but sometimes ya gotta pick your battles.
Emilia loved it, too!
Love a good stranger pic!

After spending a few hours at the cliff dwellings, we headed back to our Airbnb and spent some time on our front porch listening to the live music of the fall festival before heading over to partake in the festivities.

It was Emilia’s first “concert,” and she was HERE. FOR. IT!