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Australia: The Highlights ... with a side of Fiji - our family trip Down Under

Australia: The Highlights ... with a side of Fiji - our family trip Down Under

Old Sep 3rd, 2019, 04:33 PM
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Day 6 – Ayers Rock => Sydney

We met our guide, Alex, at 6:15am and headed to Uluru to watch the sun rise. He set up a table with hot drinks (tea, hot chocolate, coffee) and had cereal, muffins, and banana bread for breakfast. There was also a nice platter of fruit - apples, oranges, kiwi, and strawberries.

It was about 3-4 degrees Celsius, so we were happy for hot drinks! After spending about an hour watching the sun rise, we stopped at the Mutitjulu waterhole. We were surprised to see that there was still water in it, and from the patterns on the rocks above, we could tell it would be amazing when the water came and there was a waterfall off the rocks.

We walked around the base and also saw a variety of caves - women’s cave, boys cave, old people cave (I think they probably had a nicer name for it). We also saw at least one other waterhole (this one was dry). Alex told us many of the local aboriginal stories about some of Uluru above. We also saw cave paintings in some of the caves - they’ve been dated to 3,000-5,000 years old!

We walked over to the base where people were climbing - it is strongly encouraged not to climb Uluru, but there were still many people climbing it. After we finished this, we stopped in the cultural center and then headed back to our hotel. We were returned about 11am.

We tried a few different restaurants for lunch - but kept failing. Most of them were too fancy, or just had weird ingredients. (we just wanted something simple!) We tried the cafe adjacent to the pool at Sails in the Desert - and were the only ones. We tried the cafe opposite Gecko's - and it was packed. We tried Ayers Wok (looked like a great option!), but it wasn't open for lunch. We finally ended up at a takeaway place in the Outback Pioneer - where we got chicken tenders and fries. By that time, we were worried about something taking too long, so were just happy for any option.

We arrived at airport about 12:30-12:40 for our 1:50 flight. We didn’t know what we would find so we left extra time. Originally, they announced a 40 minute delay, but ended up only being about 15-20 minutes. We arrived in Sydney a few minutes after 5pm - took a cab to our hotel and got checked in. (No problems carrying on our bags this time - this flight was Virgin Australia).

We are staying at the Marriott Circular Quay (using points) - nice to have connecting rooms and a view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from the 23rd floor. (the photo below is the view from our room). We walked to El Camino for dinner - Mexican. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and headed to bed.













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Old Sep 3rd, 2019, 07:13 PM
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Three places in six days! And I thought I pack my itineraries. Glad you are seeing and doing all that you have shared. And thanks for bringing back fond memories of my own time at Uluru and Kata Tjuta - flies and all.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 07:12 AM
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Day 7 – Sydney

We awoke to blue skies and a strong wind. SD and #3 went down to breakfast at the Executive Lounge and #2 and #3 went and found croissants. We met our guide, Ben, at 8:30 out front of the hotel. This is a private tour that I had pre-scheduled - he has a van and takes only us. He generally has a pre-set itinerary, but we can modify it as needed or desired. We had corresponded in advance with the things we were interested in as well as our travel style. Less "history", more walking/hikes/being outdoors.

We first drove around “The Rocks” area - the oldest of Sydney (where the original settlers (convicts?) settled) and stopped for photo ops of the Opera House. We then drove to the Botanical Gardens and Mrs. MacQuarie’s chair for excellent views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge behind. We drove down along many of the bays and did a small hike started in Rose Bay and finished in Nielsen Park and Shark Beach. (And had a little snack break!) We stopped at a scenic overlook in Watson’s Bay for views looking towards the Pacific.

After that, we drove to Bondi Beach, where we had lunch at “The Bucket List” - hamburgers and a fishburger.. We walked along the beach at Bondi - watching the surfers - to the Iceberg Pool. This is a famous rocks pool - there are a number in Sydney. They were built in the 1930’s during the depression as part of the government social work program. We hoped to have lunch there, but the casual cafe was closed during the week (during Winter) and we didn’t want to eat in the fancy restaurant. We had fun watching a few brave swimmers (some had wetsuits on). There are rocks pools in many different beach communities, but this one is probably the largest or the most well known.

We continued to walk along the coast and came to Tamarama Beach and then Bronte Beach. (Which also has a rocks pool). The coast is gorgeous and what a nice day! We hopped back in the van and then stopped and walked through Centennial Park (which is larger than Central Park!). After this, we walked through Darlington Harbor - which is filled with some really neat restaurants. And finally, we headed home.

After a break, we headed for dinner to Hard Rock Cafe and to meet a friend for dinner. I know… so many great restaurants and we go to Hard Rock? It is somewhat of a stupid family tradition… we were in Italy about 7 years ago and the kids were tired of pasta and pizza and just wanted a burger. We were in Venice and stumbled across Hard Rock and made them happy. It has become tradition. A friend's daughter is studying abroad in Sydney - and her mom asked me to bring her go pro camera. So it was fun to meet her and have dinner. After dinner, we headed back for bed.



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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 07:20 AM
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Day 8 – Sydney

We woke up to sunshine and wind- not quite as windy as the day before, but still strong.

After the boys had breakfast in the Executive Lounge, the girls found croissants on the way to our first destination - the Opera House for a tour. It was about an hour and we enjoyed learning about the exterior as well as the interior. It is interesting how flexible the auditoriums are and how many different types of shows there can be. Afterwards, we walked back to our hotel (with a detour for a crepe for #3) and made our plan for the rest of the day.

We walked to the Rocks - hoping to go to the markets. However, it was closed due to the high winds, so we just walked around the Rocks area. We ended up eating lunch at Pancakes On the Rocks - which was the longest line we have seen! The variety of pancakes was amazing. SD had a mushroom crepe, #3 had cinnamon roll pancakes, #1 had classic buttermilk, #2 had chocolate pancakes with chocolate ice cream, strawberries with hot fudge, and cream, and I had apple cinnamon pancakes which was cooked apple hunks, ice cream, cream, and cinnamon crunchies.

After lunch, we walked back to the hotel for an hour or so of chill time. We had to be at the Bridge Climb at 3pm for a 3:15pm twilight climb. We were worried that it might be cancelled due to the winds, but I had confirmed in the morning that it would still go. However, we had gotten a call earlier in the afternoon - for the twilight climb, there was supposed to be a band playing at the summit, but the winds were too strong for a band to be up too. We weren’t too disappointed since that wasn’t the focus of our climb.

This was a serious climb - we had to take everthing out of pockets, take watches and bracelets off, and go through the metal detector to check. This was after we had put on a full jumpsuit. We were given a tether to clip on sunglasses, and a beanie hat (clipped on). Attached to our harnesses was also a fleece and a raincoat in little bags at our back (provided by the climb). They climb in all weather - except thunderstorms and extreme winds. (We wondered what exactly constituted extreme winds?!?)

The wind was blowing pretty good - our guide said she thought about 80 kilometers per hour - which translates to about 50 mph. All we knew is that it was whipping at the top! (We could see whitecaps on Sydney Harbor).

At the bottom, we got all our gear off, and headed to our next destination - igloos. One of the local hotels put plastic igloos on their outdoor seating area for winter. You can rent/reserve them for a dinner. There were options of smaller seating areas to eat (6-8 people), larger ones (10-12 people), and one with a hot tub. When I found them to reserve, only the one with a hot tub was available during our free time.

So we walked to the Pier One Autograph hotel - and found our igloo. The kids and SD changed into suits and jumped in. Because of the wind, there was a draft at our feet (inside the plastic), so the kids were happy to get in. We ordered a bunch of food: meat platter and cheese platter, fried mushrooms, then a chicken burger for #3, pizza for #1, fries for #2, beef croquettes for me, and fish and chips for SD. We finished off with hot fudge sundaes for dessert.

Once we felt sufficiently like prunes, we changed back into dry clothes and headed back to our hotel. Bedtime soon followed.



pancakes !


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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 07:25 AM
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Day 9 – Blue Mountains

We were up early to catch our van after SD and #3 made their morning trip to the Lounge breakfast. This was another day of a private tour - we had decided to go see the Blue Mountains. We were able to arrange it so that we would check out of the hotel when we left, throw our bags in the back of the van, and then our guide would drop us at the airport hotel instead of trekking back into Sydney and back out early the next morning. Saved us the cost and hassle of getting out early Monday morning!

We met Ben about 7:45 and first headed to Featherdale about 45 minutes outside Sydney. Featherdale is a wildlife center with Australian animals. As soon as we walked in, the pademelons greeted us looking for food. They look like small kangaroos and many times people come straight in and feed them with food you have purchased as you come in the door. We also saw lots of interesting birds, koalas (sleeping), kangaroos, wallaby’s, a very large crocodile, dingos, snakes, lizards.... all native Australian animals.

We then drove to Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. We hiked down to the viewpoint - wow! Gorgeous scenery. They are called the blue mountains because they are mostly eucalyptus trees that secrete an oil. The oil reacts with the air and creates a blue haze. There were a lot of people - this was one of the few touristy things that has been really crowded. Apparently, it snowed overnight in the Blue Mountains - the first time in 15 years, so our guide was guessing that people were flocking to see the snow. We could see the snow clouds in the distance and at one point, actually got a few flurries. (They melted as they hit the ground).

After hiking to the waterfall, the difficult part of hiking back up was accomplished. Ben had called our order ahead for lunch, so we went to the Conservation Hut (within the National Park) for lunch. SD had a pasta with pesto and mushrooms, #1, #3, and I had BLT’s, and #3 had fries.

After lunch, we drove through Leura - a cute little town in the way to our next destination. We then went to the overlook by the Three Sisters. We hiked down and went across Honeymoon Bridge and actually onto one of the Three Sisters. After returning to our van, we drove to Katoomba, where “Scenic World” is. There is a cog railway as well as a gondola car (we just viewed them). And the overlook the Boar’s Head from that platform.

By this time, we were a little chilled, so we stopped in a hotel built in the 1880’s and had hot tea, coffee, and scones as a snack. From there, we drove back to Sydney. Our guide dropped us at the Sydney airport hotel (Rydges), we found something to eat for dinner (there actually were a lot of choices pre-security at the airport), and headed for bed.






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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 04:07 PM
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Sounds like a few great days in Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Looking forward to the Fiji piece too.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 02:09 AM
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Thanks for continuing with your TR, Surfmom.

The annual Sculpture by the Sea (between Bronte & Bondi Beaches) is on just now & I walked it with a friend from Scotland last Tuesday. Anyone else reading - it’s on at the same time each year & well worth a visit.

Just a note about the Bondi Icebergs - the Bondi Icebergs Club is very casual & provided you have ID, welcomes visitors every day. It has the same stunning views as the more expensive restaurant upstairs & good quality food at club prices.


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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 05:45 AM
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tripplanner001 Bokhara2 thanks for reading along!

I'm so jealous that the sculpture by the sea is going on. We could have spend an entire day (or longer!) in that area... we didn't really wander shops, we just through the football a little... and it really wasn't warm enough to swim. In spite of the wind, we loved the views, the sunshine, and the vibe.

Good info about the Club... I will remember that for next time! Oh, and next time? We aren't doing the multiple plane trips in not enough days - we are picking a location (ie. Sydney) and staying for a month or something.

Fiji incoming.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 05:50 AM
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Day 10 – Syndey => Fiji

We were up early (4am.... ouch!).... walked over to the airport, through security, and were at the gate early for boarding at 5:30am. We took off on time - and with the time difference of 2 hours, landed on time about 12:30pm. After retrieving our bags, we found our contact, where we took a van over to the domestic terminal for our transfer to our resort.

We took a helicopter for the 15 minute flight across the water. The water is gorgeous blue. We also saw sea turtles in the water below as we were en route to our island (Malolo). After landing, we had a quick tour of the resort and sat down for some lunch. #3 had a burger, #1 and I shared tacos, #2 had fries, and SD had the best prawns he has ever had.

After lunch, we were able to check into our villas - we have two connected villas - each with their own little plunge pool. They are connected by a breezeway. They are not beach view or water view, but what was available and worked for our family of 5.

SD and the kids headed back to the beach to swim and throw the football. (I took a 10 minute power nap). There was a volleyball net, so they asked for a volleyball and just as that arrived, it was time for a surf lesson. We spent an hour in the lagoon learning how to paddle, maneuver, and stand up to go surfing. Tomorrow, we will head out to a reef where there are waves.

After our introductory surf lesson, we headed to the dock area where we met our sunset cruise. They have been cancelled the last few weeks due to strong winds and there has been cloud cover, but we were blessed with the most gorgeous sunset cruise. It was perfectly clear and you could watch the sun disappear from the horizon. Then, on the way back, the moon (almost full) came out and was so bright heading back. We even had a bird land on the boat! We could tell it was a good sunset cruise when the crew was excited and pulled out phones and took photos.

After we returned, we showered and changed. As we came to the main restaurant, we were able to see the fire dancers. They were really fun to watch! We ordered pizzas for dinner and headed to bed.










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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 05:55 AM
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Day 11 – Fiji

We all slept in - the kids had closed their blinds and it was a bit cave-like... of course, it is 2 hours ahead of Sydney, so waking up at 8:30 was like 6:30 Sydney time?

We went to the restaurant for breakfast - it is a buffet with pastries, bread, fruit, cereal, and yogurt. You can order a hot dish from the menu also - SD had a crab omelet and the kids had pancakes. (They have their own chickens here and kids in the kids club can go collect them for their own breakfast eggs - called Cluckingham Palace... I like that name!)

After breakfast, the kids went to the beach for a bit and threw the football around- we then stopped at the deli and ordered food for later this evening. At 11am, we met Riley and Angus (our surf instructors) to head out surfing. We headed to the “swimming pools” and “hammers” - surfing spots. #3 was the first up (his first wave) and #1 and #2 did great also. SD was a good flopper and I was a good photographer from the boat. We returned about 1:45pm.

We met our next boat for the afternoon - an island hopper snorkel cruise. We had pre-ordered lunch, so our food was loaded and we were ready to go. First, we stopped at Sunflower Reef and snorkeled there. The coral wasn’t as spectacular as other places, but there were lots and lots of fish. Including some that surrounded us because others have fed them. We then went to a sand bar where we could walk on it. It gets smaller and larger as the tide goes out or comes in. There were a few other people around the sandbar - it was probably half an acre in size when we were on it.

After we climbed back in the boat, we went to Modriki Island - this is the island where the movie “Castaway” was filmed. It was fun to see the recognizable landmarks - the mountain, the beach, etc. Someone had used coconuts to write “help me” on the sand. There was less broken coral on the edge of the beach around Modriki Island than there was around the sandbar.

Our next destination was Mushroom Reef for more snorkeling. The coral was better as Mushroom Reef but the fish weren’t as plentiful.

After this, we headed back to the resort- arriving about 6pm. We went to the main restaurant for dinner and the kids had a grilled chicken breast, #2 had penne, and #1 had the best chicken fried rice (we found out the chef put cilantro in it - yum!) - SD and I ate leftovers and what the kids didn’t finish. We headed back to our villas, played a few games and went to bed.












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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 06:06 AM
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Day 12 – Fiji

Once again, it was hard to motivate the kids this am, but they managed to rally for breakfast at 9am. SD had Fiji scrambled eggs (eggs with cumin) and #3 had pancakes. The rest of us had pastries, fruit, toast, and cereal.

We had a little bit more lazy morning - went to the beach and chilled and read books. Went out in the bay on kayaks and saw sea cucumber and blue sea stars below us. At 1pm, we met our boat for the afternoon.

We snorkeled at Castaway Wall first - it actually is so shallow, the waves were breaking over the reef - we just snorkeled on the deep water side of it. Then we went to Cloud Nine for lunch.

Cloud Nine is a floating structure that is a restaurant/bar. You pull up in the boat and climb aboard. Once on, you can order pizzas (the only food they have) and get drinks. You can swim next to it and jump off the first or second story into the water.

After lunch, we returned to the marina to get the “biscuit” or “donut” a large two-person tube that is pulled behind the speedboat. Everyone (other than me.... my contacts would not have been happy) had fun being pulled around and bounced off.

We returned to the resort about 5pm, sat at the main building and watched the sunset. After sunset, we walked back to our villa, showered, and scrounged for dinner. We had ordered chicken breasts the night before, so had those, caprese salad, and ordered one big order of chicken fried rice for dinner. We managed to craft together our dinner in the room – it was nice just to chill and hang out.





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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 06:25 AM
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Day 13 – Fiji => home

We had another lazy morning and headed to breakfast about 9:15. Normal routine: buffet, kids had pancakes, and SD had eggs avocado and quinoa.

We were supposed to be jet skiing, but there were some issues getting it booked, so while the staff figured it out, we hung out at the beach and read. About 11:30, we headed to the mainland - to the Sofitel resort. It was about 40 minutes boat ride to get there and then we rode the jet skis (#3 wasn’t old enough to go solo, so he drove and I was happy to just be a passenger). After jet skiing, we returned to the resort - spent some more time on the beach reading, walking, and swimming in the pool.

We all showered, organized, and took a 45 minute boat ride to the mainland for our flight. There was a short rainstorm while we were showering and changing, but the sunset was spectacular and there is a full moon lighting up the evening sky.

Side note: the guys told us how amazing our sunset cruise was.... yet being here we understand. That was the only night that the actual sun (orb) touched the water - there have been scattered clouds to mostly clouds other nights. The night that it was scheduled as a group excursion it had to be cancelled due to high winds. The day we went surfing was also amazing - the surfing guys talked about how the winds were from the right direction. Yes we was probably the calmest day - there have been pretty strong winds other days.

We got to the airport and after a 30 minute security line, we made it to the lounge. We boarded on time but took off a few minutes late. The flight was pretty close to on-time, but wow! the LA airport! We got in a massive crush of people heading towards some doors – we assumed the lines for passport control. After about 15 minutes, we were close enough to the doors to read there was a separate area for Global Entry. When we walked up there, we realized the crush of people was just trying to get INTO the cattle chutes for passport control. We were extremely relieved that we had Global Entry. Until we got up front… and realized that my Global Entry was linked to my old passport number (I had gotten a new one since our last trip). Immediately, I thought ‘eeek, do I have to go back into that massive crush of people?’ A kind immigration guy helped me look up my information using my name and voila! we were through.

Customs wasn’t much better. We later discovered this was when all of ICE computers had gone down and people were waiting in massive lines. I wonder if this was the warning that systems were going down or if LA was just ahead of the curve!

After walking through darkened, empty tunnels in the airport (it was odd) – we found our gate. We had 30-ish minutes until boarding, so we quickly grabbed some food. We boarded – and a few hours later we arrived home in Philly.




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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 07:15 AM
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Ok, so a few comments that didn't make it in the "sanitized" version.

We stayed at Six Senses Fiji. The resort is relatively new (about a year old?) and was recently acquired by IHG. When I was searching for places to stay in Fiji, I realized we didn't want to stay on the mainland. We are water people and wanted to be out in the islands. I was able to get the 2 bungalows for a price that I could swallow (just barely). Six Senses is also building attached houses to the resort - that seems to be the "thing" that all the resorts are doing. Some people had complained about the noise of the construction, but it was never an issue for us.

One downside is that you have to take a golf cart to the resort dock for all the water activities. And there really isn't "great" coordination - I feel like they are trying - kinda. There is a little deli/resort shop that is adjacent to the water activities area. It has basic food items and some touristy gift items (not many). We ordered a chicken breast to be picked up later ... unfortunately, we didn't specify for it to be cooked, so we had to delay it and get it the next night. They also give out free ice cream, which was a big hit. Honestly, they "tourist" items left something to be desired - my kids were looking for something fun as a souvenir, but we really didn't find anything.

Six Senses uses a GEM- Guest Experience Manager - and each bungalow is assigned a GEM. The resort was at full capacity - and we felt it with our GEM service. When we got to our bungalow originally, instead of walking us inside - showing us how to use the controls for lights, a/c, etc., he opened the door and waved goodbye. We kind of stood there like, "ummmm...." I don't really care, it was just odd. We just found him slightly lacking. (I fully admit, he was being compared to our concierge guy at Bora Bora St. Regis... and the guy at the St. Regis was awesome!)

We did have an issue with one of the activities we had booked. Before we arrived, we had given them a list of things to do - we didn't want to get there and find out we missed things or they were booked. Well, we ended up with exactly that happening. We were supposed to go jet-skiing our last day - #3, a 15 yr. old boy - really was looking forward to it. It was one of his favorite things we did in Bora Bora, so we really wanted to make it happen. I had emailed with the water activities people prior to arrival and this was set for our last morning. The evening before, we asked in the water activities bungalow about it and got a very non-committal answer. In retrospect, we should have pushed more then. The following morning, when asking about it, we got lots of non-answers ... and eventually, "I'm sorry, it wasn't booked and it is full." My husband chewed out our GEM ... and he eventually found the jet skiing at the Sofitel on the mainland. Unfortunately, even that didn't go as planned. We were supposed be leave our island at 11:30 - we were told it would be 30 minutes to the mainland, an hour jet skiing, and back.

I forgot about island time. It was 45 minutes into the mainland. The boat couldn't pull up to the beach, so we climbed out and walked through the water... then there was a wait for paperwork, jet skiis... it was after 1pm by the time we started. The girls wanted some "chill time" on the beach, so they were stressed. We were calling our GEM from the mainland ... but the boat driver had dropped us and gone to get gas. He had mentioned going back to Malolo and then coming back for us and we made it VERY CLEAR that he was not to go anywhere without us. That he had to return straight to the Sofitel after gas and when we got off the jet skis, he should be waiting. That was the only thing that worked.

We ended up jet skiing for about 45-ish minutes - and were ready to go back to Six Senses. The one upside is that after walking around the Sofitel, we realized that our decision to be on an island was absolutely the right one. No one was on the beach ( wasn't really a nice, groomed beach) and everyone was in beach chairs around the pool with a large restaurant facing it. It could have been south Florida.

When we returned, we asked to speak with the resort General Manager - who we had met previously. He expressed dismay at our last day and some of the other issues we'd had (small ones... but they add up). For example, we were charged for a breakfast (when it should have been included) and had some other incorrect things on the bill, some towels/washcloths were never replaced (the eco-friendly method - dirty ones in the basket to be replaced, if hung up, use again... we had put them in the basket but they were never replaced), the issues with the last day (we had the email confirmation of what was planned). He was kind enough to comp our food for our stay - which, while expensive, wasn't a ton - we were conservative and did a lot of sharing where possible. I also got the sense that he was an IHG guy and there might be some personnel changes over the next few months. I felt like we gave him ammunition for his dossier.

Would I go back to Six Senses? I don't know. I might be tempted to try another resort. I felt like the infra-structure is there - the facility is gorgeous. The staff were friendly and welcoming, but they just didn't "get it". We are a pretty low-maintenance family, but if I am paying for five-star service, I expect it. I don't expect to be fawned over, but for us, the family activities are what is important - and I had made that clear. In retrospect, we should have let them solve it another way - go water skiing, or tubing again, or something that didn't take 4 hours and leave everyone frustrated. The boy is such a great kid that we all wanted to do something for him and it just didn't work. The girls got frustrated and then they were mad that they were frustrated. They all knew it was something their brother wanted to do, and honestly, they even got mad at themselves that they were annoyed. It just was a bad situation all around and a really horrible way to end our trip. The aftertaste was sour.

I compare that to Bora Bora where our concierge got us the "Royal Estate" as a shower "room" and place before we departed. At least, we were able to stay in one of the two bungalow rooms, so we had moved all our stuff there and could shower and change before the massive flight home. I had gone back about an hour before everyone else to take a leisurely shower and organize stuff - what we needed for the flight (in small carry-ons), what could go in the duffels in case we had to check them (we never did), and make sure all electronics were charged. I was thankful we had at least one room to shower, change, and get organized.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 07:36 AM
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So all in all - we had a great trip. It was a bummer that it ended the way it did. It was nice to end in Fiji - with warm weather after the wind and even snow we had in Australia. We had hit all climates in our trip!

What would I do differently?

We moved alot. We knew that going in. If I had to add days... we could have spent another day on Hamilton Island. Ayers Rock is perfect for a 24 hours in and out. The only other thing the kids would have been interested in was the sunset camel ride. But we made the decision that 1) we would rather see the Olgas 2) it wasn't worth spending another day. Everything is expensive in Ayers Rock and crowded and we were ready to leave after 24 hours.

We would have loved to have seen the Great Ocean Road along Melbourne. But, it was winter there, so it would have been cold and windy. We made that decision to lose a day there and spend an extra one in Fiji. We loved going to Phillip Island and seeing the penguins.

Sydney was about right. We probably could have added another day - but just would have spent more time in Bondi, or along the coast. The Blue Mountains - while stunning - were a long day and we felt like we spent a lot of time in the car.

So... while I wish we had more time, knowing what I know, I probably would make the same - or at least similar - decisions. This was the trip that scratched the surface. There are so many amazing things to do in Australia, but my kids will have many many years to explore. I feel like we've peeled back one layer of the onion and seen all the rings below it.

I don't know if others could go on such an itinerary. I know with older kids - everyone is self-sufficient and can communicate what they need. They can carry - and pack their own bags - they can tell me when they are overwhelmed. I am lucky that - for the most part - we love being together as a family. We've learned how to manage when one sleeps on the plane, and one watches movies, and when one reads. Who will tip over on whom. Who will take the window seat and who doesn't care. Who will share a bed and who will get their own. Who will take the pull-out. Who will shower first or last. Who will share a meal with me. Who needs a snack NOW. Who will help me walk to the corner and figure out where we are going. Or who will just quietly sit in a chair and chill until things are ready. We still have our blow-up moments (okay, maybe me), but for the most part, we enjoy traveling together. And I am sad that I feel like this window is only open for such a short time. We are managing different school schedules, with sport schedules, with internships. And we've been lucky that they are still happy to go with their family and it isn't all about friends and/or boyfriends/girlfriends.

I'm trying to find our next window of time... and where we can go! stay tuned....

questions?
surfmom is online now  
Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 12:08 PM
  #35  
 
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It’s awesome that you are all able to travel as a family and create the memories that you do together. It’s how I travel too, and I cherish every moment of it.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 03:09 PM
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I think you did extremely well with the time you had.
As you say, it helps to know your group dynamics, tolerances & pinch-points at any time, but especially on a fast, varied Itinerary like this.

It’s a pity the Fiji leg didn’t pan out as well as you’d hoped - and as well as it should have.

Fiji can be a bit “Island time”. And their reluctance to disappoint can be frustrating, when an early “ Sorry, such & such has broken down/can’t be done “ would allow for alternative plans to be made.

The good bits bits seem to have well outweighed the downsides though & I’m glad you had such a good time.

Thanks again for sharing some of it ( and your great photos) with us.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 05:28 PM
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Surfermom,, thanks for the excellent report, accompanied with beautiful photos. We agree with you about the feeling of leaving Australia with so many places yet to discover. We empathize with your frustrations at the beginning and ending of your trip. But, hopefully, those fade and you'll have great memories of your trip. We also used Fiji as "downtime" after being on the go in New Zealand and Australia. More happy travels to you and your family!
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Old Nov 4th, 2019, 12:18 AM
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Thanks for writing all this, I loved reading it. A question about your flight into LAX, what is Global Entry? Is it only for Americans? It sounds good if it means less queueing after a long flight!

Kay
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Old Nov 4th, 2019, 06:28 AM
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tripplanner001 glad to hear that someone else has our crazy style! We have evolved over the years as the kids have grown!

Bokhara2 I think you put your finger on it... I think if we had known earlier and made a zag instead of the planned zip, we would have been okay. The good bits definitely outweighed the bad bits!

tomarkot Interesting to hear that you also used Fiji... I think if we were big time surfers, it would be high on the 'return' list!

KayF Global Entry is a program where we apply in advance and they do a security check. With that, we can bypass passport control by going to the kiosks and quickly logging in. I just looked and it also includes these countries: Argentina, India, Colombia, UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Mexican nationals. I didn't know that!
:

I share the ups and downs, because that is the reality of traveling. Sometimes things go your way... sometimes they don't. We probably didn't deal well with the "it didn't" on the last day - we should have pulled the trigger more quickly and gone on to Plan B. But overall, we had a great trip!
surfmom is online now  
Old Nov 4th, 2019, 05:43 PM
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So true about the ups & downs being the reality of travel, Surfmom. What makes the difference is IMO
1) whether you have the flexibility in your Itinerary- and how you deal with the inevitable snafus

2) having realistic expectations. This is often learned the hard way.

Case in point: I’m in Dubbo, a small city about 5 hrs drive west from Sydney. I didn’t like it when I lived a lot farther west & it was our “ big town” & I don’t like it now. But, here I am for my third night.

I’m on a trip out west & was heading out yesterday morning, when my car refused to start. Fuel pump kaput. Late delivery of new unit from Sydney would have put me in “ ‘Roo time” before I reached my family’s place.

So, I re-booked into my accommodation, called an old school friend, and am off to their Melbourne Cup do this afternoon.

It’s cost me a bit in hotels, but could have been so much worse if it had happened a couple of hundred kms down the track - and I get to see some friends I’ve not seen in eons!

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