Sunday, April 30, 2017

Australia and New Zealand Trip: Part 16 (Reflection and Budget)

This is my last post about our trip to Australia and New Zealand. Tal and I really appreciate our moms taking care of Savannah and Hadley while we were gone and for making it possible for us to go on vacation for our 10th wedding anniversary. Tal and I loved spending 10 days alone. No cooking. No cleaning. No laundry. No diaper changes. No strollers. No sippy cups. It was a luxury to eat leisurely meals, have adult conversation, get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep most nights, and have several hours of free time each day to read, watch TV, and listen to podcasts.

On our trip, Tal and I were on an airplane 7 out of 10 days. We flew on 9 flights. We spent approximately 55 hours in the air. We traveled by plane, car, bus, shuttle, boat, ferry, and taxi.

Tal and I also saw some beautiful sights, including the Outback, Ayers Rock, Sydney, and Auckland:

When Tal and I got home, Savannah and Hadley were excited to see us...

...and what we brought them from our trip:

During our stay in Sydney, Tal and I got a water bottle, multi-colored pen, mermaid wallet, and Australia magnet for our girls:

We also got T-shirts for Savannah and Tal...

...and some Australian board shorts for Tal:

Tal did an excellent job planning and organizing our trip. However, we will do a few things differently on our next international trip:
  • Don't plan a vacation before or after Easter. There were long lines at the airports, as well as many full and overbooked flights, which caused delays and cancellations.
  • Carry a carry-on. Yes, it would be a pain to pull our luggage around the airport. However, Tal and I spent valuable time (15-30 min) waiting for our baggage in-between flights that caused us to miss or almost miss some of our flights. 
  • Plan 3 or more hours for layovers. Tal and I discovered that flight delays are common when traveling internationally. We also spent 1-1.5 hours in-between flights picking up baggage, going through customs, going through security, and checking our bags before our next flight. In addition, many international flights started boarding one hour before take-off and closed the doors 30-minutes before take-off. 
  • Don't schedule activities the day that we arrive in case our flight is delayed or canceled. Tal and I nearly missed our 8-hour Outback tour because our flight from Cairns to Ayers Rock was delayed a few hours.
  • Use a well-known car rental service (Hertz, Budget, or Avis) that is located at the airport. In Sydney and Auckland, we had car reservations with lesser-known car rental companies (Europcar and Ezi) that were located off-site. As a result, we had to take a shuttle from the airport to the car rental place. In Auckland, we had to get a taxi to transport us from the car rental place to the airport because Ezi was not open at 4:30 A.M. We spent time and money riding shuttles and paying for taxis.
  • Get international cell phone coverage on BOTH of our phones. To save money, Tal and I paid $10 a day for international cell phone coverage on my phone. While we were in Australia and New Zealand, Tal could only use data when he was on Wi-fi. However, Tal still racked up $75 in overage fees. We would've have better off paying $160 for 8 days of international talk and data coverage on both of our phones.
Our 10-day trip to Australia and New Zealand cost $8,700. Tal and I used our tax refund to pay for the entire trip. We paid $7,000 for airfare, hotels, activities, and passports. We also spent $1,700 on the following items:
  • food
  • currency
  • travel insurance
  • international cell phone service
  • car rental 
  • gas
  • tolls
  • parking
  • souvenirs
  • food and activities for Savannah and Hadley while we were gone
Tal and I are already dreaming about our 15th anniversary trip. Maybe an Alaskan cruise? Or a trip to England, Ireland, and Scotland?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Happy 9th Blogiversary!

Last week Tal and I celebrated our 9th blogiversary! On April 20, 2008, I started our family blog. Over the last 9 years, I've written 1,352 posts, which is an average of 150 posts a year and 2-3 posts each week.

Blogging is one of my favorite hobbies and a creative outlet for me.  I enjoy taking pictures, doing DIY projects, sharing family news, and documenting Savannah's and Hadley's childhood.  

Each year I get our blog published and bound in a hardcover book that I plan to give our girls when they are adults. In the future, I hope the blog books bring Savannah and Hadley fond memories of their childhood. Cheers to another year of blogging!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Everyday Moments

These random iPhone photos are dark, blurry, and untouched,
but they capture everyday moments from the last couple weeks.

I think this picture is adorable because Hadley was stretching out her arms
and saying, "Hold me, Mommy:"

Due to her good behavior, Savannah was a star student in art class this week:

Hadley LOVES to swing in our backyard!

Savannah typed this letter to Grandma Barbara:

Hadley and I took her teddy bear Pinky for a walk down our street:

Then, Hadley stood inside our screened porch and watched Tal grill hot dogs:

I THOUGHT Savannah was watching Hadley... 

...but Hadley was stamping and drawing on her legs:

Savannah did a beautiful job coloring this picture: 

The Easter Bunny brought Hadley a toy hair dryer and curling iron. Hadley has enjoyed brushing and curling my hair, as well as putting clips in it: 

Hadley took my picture:

Thanks to Aunt Angie for sending Savannah and Hadley an Easter card and some stickers:

Hadley thought it was hilarious when her tongue turned blue after she ate a blue sucker:

 Savannah's 2nd grade school picture:

Earlier this week, we received 6 inches of rain. Since it was raining outside while Savannah was at gymnastics, Hadley and I went to the inflatable playground across the hall:

Hadley loved sliding down the inflatable slide...

...and driving the truck:

Savannah's Easter artwork:

Hadley climbed the climbing wall in our backyard ALL BY HERSELF!

The area by our mailbox was overrun by weeds, so last weekend Tal pulled out all the grass and weeds. Today our irrigation company flagged our sprinkler heads, so Tal can lay new sod around our mailbox this weekend: 
This morning Savannah got dressed and into the car before I had a chance to approve her outfit:

When we got to school, I discovered that Savannah was wearing small, tight shorts on top of her gymnastics leotard with high heels (that were too big and uncomfortable):

Savannah and Hadley LOVE doing flips and handstands in their personalized chairs in our living room: 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Australia and New Zealand Trip: Part 15 (Random Moments)

These random iPhone photos are dark, blurry, and untouched,
but they capture random moments from our trip to Australia and New Zealand.

During our 21-hour flight to Australia, my feet got so painfully swollen from inactivity and cabin pressure. My swollen feet caused blisters and made my Rainbow flip flops feel too small on my feet for a few days:

 When we were in the Cairns airport, I bought myself some flip flops in a larger size that were so much more comfortable:

Our flight from Cairns to the Australian Outback was delayed a couple hours. The good news is that our airline gave us each $25 each in vouchers for meals. We used my voucher to buy breakfast from Hungry Jacks (Burger King). We used Tal's voucher to get some sandwiches for lunch on the plane:

We thought of our Savannah when we saw this coloring book in a souvenir store:

A beautiful view of the mountains in Cairns while Tal was walking to our flight to the Outback:

On our trip, Tal and I spent 7 out of 10 days on an airplane. 
Tal passed time by listening to music...

...while I listened to my podcasts and read 3-4 magazines on each flight:
(By the way, Australia and New Zealand didn't have Diet Coke or Pepsi products...only Coke Zero)

The day we left the Outback, we had to check-out of our hotel room by 10 A.M. After checking-out, Tal and I ate a relaxing brunch outside at our hotel restaurant before we left for the airport:

In the Outback, Tal boarded our flight to Sydney:

Easter was a BIG deal in Australia. On our flight to Sydney, the flight attendants passed out chocolate bunnies to all of the passengers:

On our return trip, we waited in the Auckland airport for our flight to Sydney. Tal and I thought it funny that the computer monitor told us to "relax" until our gate was ready:

Tal and I  saw "I Love/Eye Love" stores in every airport:

While Tal and I were on vacation, our girls stayed with my mom at our house for 5 days. Hadley had lots of fun swinging in our backyard with Grandma Judy:

Savannah enjoyed dyeing Easter eggs with Grandma Judy:

Then, the girls spent 6 days with Grandma Barbara at her house. Savannah and Hadley enjoyed sleeping late and eating cereal in the mornings:

Hadley's Bedhead