Our time in Australia and New Zealand

I lived in Brisbane, Australia for four years with my family. I moved there for my stepdad’s company when I was fifteen, and moved back to Utah to go to BYU.

Right after I finished junior high, my mom told me we’d be moving Down Under. I was so excited, which I think surprised my mom a little. But I’ve always had the yearning to travel to new places. I envisioned Australia as a sunny, tropical paradise with charming surfer dudes and kangaroos a-plenty.

My school was much different than a U.S. high school. We wore strict uniforms and abided by a no make-up, no jewelry, hair pulled back at all times rule. Academics were taken seriously. Although it was an adjustment at first, I loved the experience I had at my school and the lifelong friends I made there.

I came to love Australia more than I ever expected.

I took my husband back in 2008, and hoped to go back again someday. We had been talking about it for years, so when cheap flights came up, we pulled the trigger.

We went with my oldest daughter and left our littlest two behind. It was a good move. The 12+ hour flight and the ensuing jet lag was not something we wanted to deal with with our babies when we only had two weeks to explore.

As we descended into Brisbane and saw the familiar coastline, the orange-roofed ceilings,  and the winding Brisbane river, I was elated. It was surreal to be going to the place I loved so much with my little girl.

Our trip exceeded all of my expectations, and it was truly magical to be there again. It felt like coming home.

Leaving was hard, as usual, and I couldn’t help but cry as we said goodbye to our friends and the country that has half of my heart.

But I know we’ll be back again.

My friend, Eleasah, and I met our first year of high school. My oldest daughter is named after her!

The sunsets on Australian beaches are unbeatable.

Our friends were such generous hosts. They were kind enough to show us some of their favorite, lesser-known beaches.

My high school, John Paul College

You’re not supposed to step foot on the special school mosaic in the main building, but Clay’s a rebel.

I loved showing the family around my old stomping grounds.

We held some cute koalas and fed kangaroos.

We even saw a mama kangaroo with a baby joey poking out of her pouch!

We loved Byron Bay. Such a laid-back, artsy beach town. The lighthouse and the walk surrounding it was incredible. We spotted pods of dolphins and stopped at the most easterly point in all of Australia.

We visited “The Farm,” with cute farm animals, beautiful scenery, and a farm-to-table restaurant.

We said goodbye to Clay, then my girl and I headed off to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Milford Sound was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. It was judged by TripAdvisor as the world’s top travel destination, and I can see why. The beauty of the mountains jutting out of the blue Tasman Sea is almost otherworldly.

It made me so happy to watch my girl fall in love with Australia. We both miss it already.

Some of our favorite spots:

Australia

(From Brisbane)

South Bank

New Zealand Natural Ice Cream

Mt. Coot-tha

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Noosa

Mooloolaba Beach

Coolangatta Beach

Kingscliff Beach

Broken Head

Fingal Head

Byron Bay

The Farm Byron Bay

Byron Bay Lighthouse

New Zealand

(From Queenstown)

Botanical Gardens

Gelato from Mrs. Ferg

Ice cream from Patagonia

Skyline gondolas

Milford Sound

Arrowtown

If you want more recommendations, feel free to contact me! 

Utah’s best family staycations

Check out my Utah staycations segment on Fox 13’s “The Place” here! 

There’s something thrilling about exploring new cities and countries.

But so many of us miss the beauty in our own backyards. I live in Utah, and there are so many spectacular places that people come from all over the world to see. So, I’ve decided to play tourist in my own state.

I packed up my family of five and explored some of the best places Utah has to offer. Here are some of our new favorite places to stay:

Conestoga Ranch, Bear Lake

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Exploring Moab with kids

There is so much to see in Moab. It is the perfect outdoor playground. We took our three little kids for a quick 2-day trip, and they were in heaven.

We stayed at Red Cliffs Lodge, and had an incredible experience there. The resort is a few miles outside of Moab, in the middle of a canyon, so it is quiet, serene and has breathtaking views of the red cliffs and the Colorado River.

Plus, it was just a few minutes away from some of Moab’s best adventures.

Here are some kid-friendly spots we hit in Moab:

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Top 10 tips for traveling with kids

We featured a few of these tips on FOX13’s live show, “The Place.” Click here to watch!

Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling. In fact, a U.S. Department of Education study shows that kids who travel (regardless of the destination) do better in reading, math and general education than their peers who don’t travel. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or exotic getaway. What’s important is stepping out of your lived-in routine to create lasting family memories.

Here are some tips from my globetrotting friend, Jenna Haynie, and I to help your family travel go as smoothly as possible:

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Traveling with the Bucket List Family: A Q&A with world-traveling mom Jessica Gee

The Bucket List Family kicked off their world-traveling expedition one year ago with a trip around the Pacific Ocean. Now, they're taking in the sites of Europe.
The Gee family sold everything and set out to travel the world on Aug. 21, 2015. Their 6-month travel plans turned into a year of adventure-filled family fun, and there are no plans to put a stop to it yet. (Photo courtesy Jessica Gee)

For most people, traveling the world is just something to dream about or put off until after retirement. But for Jessica (30) and Garrett Gee (25), it’s a here-and-now reality, even with their two young children (Dorothy, 3, and Manilla, 1).

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