Welcome to my 2022 Year in Review post, coming to ya fresh from halfway through the first month of the new year 😉
Happy 2023, friends! Last year was a good one for us, travelwise, with some major bucket list items ticked off. As we begin to fill out our calendar with new travel hopes and dreams, it’s always fun to look back on the year that was …
We had the absolute most amazing visit with Nan & Poppa back in March, which included their first time meeting Emilia and our first stay in Winter Park.
We were able to take so many fun trips this year and spend so much time with people we love, and after the past few years, we definitely don’t take that for granted. Traveling with kids is hard and expensive, it’s exhausting and there are parts that, to be honest, are just not fun. But at the end of the day, we always end up with amazing memories, and as the girls get older it only seems to get better and better.
This year we’re hoping to make some trips out to New York, potentially head to California for my birthday, and then visit Disney Land (the girls don’t know!) in October. Who knows what else we’ll get up to, but having some trips to look forward to always helps me feel optimistic about the year ahead.
Hope you’re all having a great start to the New Year, with some fun things planned for the upcoming months, as well. Bis bid!
What’s a trip to Australia without a proper visit to the beach?!
The final leg of our Australian holiday journey was a trip to Forster, the beach where Chris almost every post-Christmas holiday with his family and two groups of family friends growing up.
But before we headed to the beach, we flew from New Zealand to Sydney and hopped right quick on a train to catch up with the kids in Circular Quay and take some necessary touristy shots of the quintessential Aussie sites:
We were also finally able to catch up with Chris’ grandmother — and all of his other family members on his mom’s side — after missing them on Christmas when Nannan got Covid. Thankfully she was doing much better, and getting everyone together before heading off to the beach was absolutely the best.
We decided to head straight from dinner to Forster to make the most out of our few days left. That meant a three hour drive, but the girls did incredibly well, and Chris and Vince volunteered to take ALL THREE with them so that Cath and I could drive and chat in silence.
I mean, how sweet is that?
We arrived after dark, obviously, but once the morning hit, it wasn’t hard to see why Forster has meant so much Chris and his family. Here’s what we got up to during our few short days there.
And that was Forster, friends. It was the most amazing beach time, and I’m so glad we were able to make it work.
Then we were back in the car headed to our final night in Sydney before flying out the following morning.
It’s absolutely impossible to sum up what this trip and all of its parts has meant to us. I have 12,000 photos to relive the memories, of course, but I’m hoping to hold on to the feeling for as long as I possibly can.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.