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! 

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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What to do in Newport

Jack & Lola Photography
Jack & Lola Photography

 

I have major vacation FOMO, so I research all of my options when it comes to food and activities before I take a trip.

I got some great recommendations from friends who live in the Newport area or have visited there, so we had enough food and activity choices to keep us busy for a year.

Here are our favorite beaches and food spots:

Beaches:

Thousand Steps Beach

Treasure Island Beach

Crystal Cove: The little beach village at Crystal Cove beach is so quaint. We ate at Beachcomber, which is a cute little cafe right on the beach.

Corona del Mar

El Moro Beach: A little slice of beach that’s perfect to watch the sunset from.

Food:

Bear Flag Fish Co: This was my favorite. The fish is fresh, flavorful, and surprisingly inexpensive. Their clam chowder is some of the best I’ve ever had, and their fish tacos were amazing too.

Slapfish: Casual, yummy seafood. The chowder fries were surprisingly good.

Lumberyard:  Yummy American food with a unique atmosphere.

Gelato Paradiso: We went there two nights in a row, because YUM. The salted caramel was crazy-good, but you can get up to four flavors in your cup, so don’t worry if you can’t pick just one.

La Rue du Chocolate: We were sold at homemade chocolate. The peanut butter cups are a must.

Go Greek Authentic Yogurteria: I get serious about my frozen yogurt. I hate the synthetic stuff. If I’m eating strawberry yogurt, I want it to taste like an actual strawberry. Not something that was concocted in a laboratory and tastes akin to children’s cherry Tylenol. Go Greek knocked my socks off. The yogurt is a heavenly, creamy consistency and the flavors are real. Even my husband, who doesn’t care what his yogurt is made of, was going on about how amazing it tasted. I can’t believe we only went twice.  I could eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Other stuff:

Fashion Island: A big, beautiful shopping center with tons of great stores and restaurants.

Knott’s Berry Farm: I know Disney is a must for most people, and don’t hate me, but I just cant face the crowds, the long lines and the price tag with kids as young as mine. I went to Knott’s Berry Farm when I was little, so it was fun to take our kids there. We never had to wait in line, and tickets were a measly $40. There’s a huge section of rides that were perfect for our kids and they had the time of their lives. And I didn’t have a panic attack from claustrophobic crowds. Win-win.

Balboa Island: Driving through the picture-perfect beach houses in Balboa Village then taking the $1 ferry to the island is a must-do. Our kids loved riding the ferris wheel, playing on the playground by the beach, and walking to the end of the pier. The food at Ruby’s at the end of the pier is definitely nothing to write home about unless you’re really into mediocre greasy diner food, but it was still fun to get a shake and be on the ocean.

Marriott Newport Coast Villas: We booked this resort with some Marriott rewards points we had, but it’s hard to imagine ever going back again and not staying there. The villas are beautiful and overlook the ocean, which is just five minutes away. There’s a kid’s center with daily activities, a movie theater, arcade, volleyball court, tennis courts, basketball court, tether ball court, putting green, fire pit, grills, koi pond, and fitness center.

The pools are big and beautiful, and my kids loved getting the free saltwater taffies from a local candy shop that were in little bowls throughout the resort.

 

If you have more recommendations for the area let me know. I’m sure we’ll be back soon! My kids are still talking about it and I have a feeling they will be for a long time.