Holidays In Australia Part 4: Forster Beach

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:

The cutest twins!
We have a similar photo of these two from our trip back in 2019. Time. Sigh.
Emilia obviously had no idea what she was seeing, but I wanted her to see it, nonetheless.
Just a couple of cuties πŸ˜‰
Also cute <3
The girls did surprisingly well with all the photo taking, considering ….
Train rides are fun.

I also forgot to mention that while Chris and I were livin’ that kid-free life in New Zealand, the girls did some pretty fun things with their fam back in Sydney, including a visit to the Simbio Wildlife Park where they got to SEE KOALAS AND PET KANGAROOS!

So incredibly grateful to this crew for watching our own little zoo for a couple days, allowing us a very much appreciated solo getaway!
While getting away by ourselves was the main objective of our New Zealand trip, obviously, Chris and I were both so incredibly grateful that the girls got to spend some one-on-one time with this delightful family of theirs that they don’t get to see very much.
They unsurprisingly had a blast, plus …
FED KANGAROOS! An experience that at least Lotte and Grace will, I’m sure, always remember <3

We were also finally able to catch up with Chris’ grandmother β€” and all of his other family members on his mom’s side β€” 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.

Absolutely priceless.
The best there is.
The (absolutely incredible) gang <3

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.

Our cute little condo is the same place Chris’ family has been staying for years!
Vacation necessities.
Our girls would have slept in the water if we left them. Other than a few terrifying moments where we lost Grace (which, bright side, afforded us the opportunity to discuss what to do when you get lost!), we had THE BEST TIME at the beach!
Lives here now, thanks.
Beach treasures.
Lotte & Nan <3
They had a blast together in the water!
<3
Chris’ best friend even drove hours from his home to stay at the beach with his own family while we were there. That was so special and sweet!
This was the first time these two had ever had their families together, so that was a lot of fun for us <3
His daughter became fast and adorable friends with Lotte and Grace <3
Too. Stinkin.
We had a cookout on the beach the second night we were there, which is another one of Chris’ families’ traditions.
Another mediocre dining view πŸ˜‰
Having family around was the. best. Chris’ mom took Lotte and Grace for a walk on our second morning, which gave me and Chris a chance to take a walk with just Grace. It was so delightful.
Walks with Nan.
Morning beach walks for the win!
My cutie.
This little beach “pool” was so great. It was a sectioned-off area of water separate from the actual ocean, which meant there were no waves/riptides contend with. The girls did have fun splashing around in the actual ocean for a bit, but we spent most of our time here, which was a nervous parents dream come true!
Fearless.
So much fun with all these adorable people!
Fun and more fun.
Cute and more cute.
See? Adorable!
That beach life.
Emilia wasn’t totally convinced on this trip that she loves water … but I have faith that she’ll get there!
We ordered fish & chips for dinner and went out for ice cream on our last night, which is also a Connor Clan tradition!
Our last day before heading back to Sydney was cloudy and rainy, but that didn’t stop the girls from a beach trip!
Breakfast at a restaurant on the beach was also a highlight!
Some members from one of the other families that used to vacation with Chris while he was growing up also stopped by for lunch and a beach hang, which was yet another amazing highlight of this trip.
Lots and lots of cousin time was the other major perk. (I have no idea what this is, by the way, but I am HERE FOR IT!)

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.

All the feels.
The best aunties.
Can you even?
The best Nan & Poppa.

Until next time friends … BIS BALD!

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 β€” BY OURSELVES β€” 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 β€” we splurged in a way we don’t normally … and I don’t feel badly about it one little bit πŸ˜‰

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 β€” 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 β€” as well as remind myself to ride on the other side of the road β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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 πŸ˜‰

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 β€” 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 β€” 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!

YMCA of the Rockies β€” 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 completeΒ 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 β€” this time in Estes Park β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
We took a cute, short guided nature walk that involved hugging trees!
Borrowed some clubs for some mini-golf!
The library β€” and more specifically the story time at the library β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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 β€” 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!