My family’s 15-day trip to Australia and New Zealand came to an end late Saturday. We had a fantastic time! Admittedly, we were also very excited to get back home.
I’m slowly getting back to a normal sleep schedule and my regular life. The trip was so intense that honestly we’re still processing it a bit. But, I do want to share my overall thoughts.
Don’t Let the Long Flights Deter You—Just Go
For many years, I didn’t give visiting Australia or New Zealand a thought. The 20+ hour flights seemed so daunting. I knew that even with miles and points, my family would have to fly in economy or coach class, and I figured we’d be miserable. I remember flying 14 straight hours from Korea, and it wasn’t fun.
The only reason we even attempted this trip is because of my husband. He talked me into it. I figured that we would just suffer through the flights because the prize would be worth it.
But guess what? The flights weren’t even an issue! Our 17-hour nonstop flight on Qantas from Dallas to Sydney was downright enjoyable. My husband and I agreed that it was our most comfortable long-haul flight ever. We all slept, and the time flew by.
On the trip back home, our longest flight segment was 12 hours from Auckland to San Francisco on United. While we didn’t sleep this time and the entire experience wasn’t as nice as our flight on Qantas, it really wasn’t that bad at all. Sure, we are still trying to get used to the current time zone, but I really had prepared for much worse travel conditions. I plan to write a separate post just about the long flights and the tools that helped us the most.
I’ve seen a few travel bloggers mention that they won’t fly down under unless it’s on a lie-flat seat. Award availability is hard to find on those routes, which means some folks just don’t go. No, no, no! Just go!
We Loved Sydney More Than We Expected
The primary purpose of our trip was to see New Zealand. We decided to stopover in Sydney for three days to get over jetlag and get used to the new time zone before attempting to drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand. We really didn’t have any expectations for Sydney. However, we were pleasantly surprised at how much we loved the city.
Circular Quay area, near the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is spectacular. The opera house itself is stunning, and I could stare at it all day. Sydney was very easy to get around, and we especially loved the ferry system.
And of course, interacting with koalas and kangaroos was very special.
Rotorua Is a Great Home Base in New Zealand
We stayed at a farm seven miles south of Rotorua on the way to Taupo. Rotorua was an excellent place to stay for a longer period of time. In the area, there are many thermal/volcanic attractions as well as extreme sports/recreation, cultural performances, museums, hiking, mountain biking, etc.
Since we used miles and points for our flights and other lodging, our biggest splurge was on our house rental in Rotorua. I have no regrets. We looked forward to coming home to that farm every single day.
Some people describe Rotorua as the “Las Vegas of New Zealand.” We couldn’t have found that to be farther from the truth. Of course, we went in the off-season, but we couldn’t find many similarities between the two cities.
We did notice that there appears to be a friendly rivalry amongst New Zealanders as to which island is superior. We heard a few natives on the North Island talk about the crazy cold of the South Island. At our last stop on the coast, we talked to a South Islander who told us we went to the wrong island for scenery. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, as the scenery on the North Island was breathtaking. We saw rolling green hill after rolling green hill, interfused with rainbows, forests, waterfalls and majestic coast line.
The Food Was Unremarkable
When I told a friend about our trip a few months ago, she told me that the food in Australia wasn’t very good based on her experience. I have to agree.
It wasn’t that the food was bad per se, but there was nothing spectacular about it. Fish n Chips was a staple everywhere. And both countries used a lot of barbecue sauce on everything.
Two of my kids are picky eaters, so being in another country was a good test for them. (Our trip to an all-inclusive in Mexico didn’t really count—there was so much variety on the buffet that they had no problems there). In Australia and in New Zealand, my kids really had to adjust their expectations and make compromises.
On one excursion, my son was very hungry, and the only option was eggs. He doesn’t like eggs. But he was desperate, so he tried eggs again. Lo and behold, he ate eggs the rest of the trip and somehow doesn’t hate them anymore.
For my picky eaters, they learned to order meat without sauces. In one restaurant, they both ordered burgers with no sauce. My daughter is especially fond of plain burgers with nothing on them, just meat and bun. We laughed when both burgers arrived with no sauce, “except for barbecue sauce, of course”. Waiters looked at us like we had two heads if we didn’t have barbecue sauce on everything.
On some trips, food is a huge part of the culture and plays a prominent role in tourism. On our previous trips to France and Italy, the food was spectacular. I’m just advising not to go to Australia and New Zealand for the food. Not that those places are known for excellent food anyway.
We Traveled Too Long
As much as I’m embarrassed to admit this, especially because I am a travel blogger, our trip was just a few days too long for us. After 10-12 days, we’re just done. We start to miss our beds, our dogs, our food, our friends, etc.
I already knew this about my family, but because the flights were so long and we used so many miles to get there I figured we’d maximize my husband’s vacation time from work. In retrospect, we should have stayed just five nights in Rotorua and shortened our trip by two days.
Our trip to Australia and New Zealand was the trip of a lifetime. I felt like I was dreaming or in another world much of the time. I’m so glad we tried a new destination and went outside of our comfort zone a bit. I’ll be writing more posts about our experiences soon! Hit me with any questions you have.
Our vacation music video:
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.