Taupo NZ – Adventure Day 1

So last night with no heat. I slept in my fleece and a down vest and was fine. Perhaps this was aided by my cold meds. The kids had three or four blankets piled on, and we’re fine. Poor Ty was loaded up with fleece, a beanie, and his coat with the hood up but still couldn’t get warm. At one point he noticed the temp was -3 Celsius = 26 Fahrenheit. So we definitely woke up seeing our breath inside the RV and frost on the ground. But aside from Ty we all slept great. Even if I was woken up at one point by the cows licking the RV. πŸ˜†

It was a simple breakfast since we couldn’t get the propane to work on the stove. Yogurt and cereal for all!

We drove just down the road. So beautiful!

Then stopped for a brisk walk at Rotopounamu Lake. The trees have been incredible everywhere we’ve driven so far. So many different varieties. We played hide and seek along the trail and the kids wanted to start a business building perches for birds. No matter how cold it is outside, or how sick we may feel, it’s always nice to get outside.

After our morning walk, we plugged the kids into an audiobook and headed north to Taupo.

Ty had read about an RV Park with thermal heated pools, a swim up bar, playgrounds, and movies at night. So after all our issues with the RVs heater, we wanted to plug in for the night or two. This place would be madness during high season but now there are only a handful of other campers here. We also have a giant bouncy pillow right outside our door. Wonderful!! We pulled into the campsite in the afternoon. We had lunch and called family, since this was our first time on WiFi in days.

We decided to check out Crater of the Moon Park. This was such a neat experience. The thermal clouds were everywhere. Fun to experience as adults and to explain the process to kids. It was an easy 45 min walk, they even had strollers you could borrow. Have I mentioned how kind, and friendly every New Zealander has been?!

After Crater of the Moon, we drove into Tuapo. Hit up the grocery store, and then walked to find dinner. It was about 4:30pm and half the restaurants were closed. The other half were closing at 5! And here we thought we were going for the early bird dinner. We came across an amazing burger take away. Came back to the RV Park and ate our meal as they parted some hokey Jackie Chan movie by the pool. Ty played some Uno with the kids and I was trying not to fall asleep at 7:30. I’m blaming the cold and jet lag.

Waitomo NZ – Adventure Day

So we found out last night that our battery wasn’t fully charged for the heater. 😱 It was a frosty night! Also unless our RV is plugged in the outlets and the microwave don’t work. It’s a learning curve for sure! We woke up seeing our breathe in the camper. So Ty started up the engine and we used the stove to help warm things up. I should also note we’re all pretty sick. R was in the ER with croup just days before we left. So now we’re all dealing with some form of a cold/cough. Not the best conditions to try and get everyone healthy.

But the morning was clear, cold, and beautiful. The camp host showed us the mini donkeys, chickens, sheep, turkeys, and even a possum.

Then we packed up and headed to the glowworm caves. It was very neat! Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside. It was a short walk into the caves. The guide was informative about the caves and the glowworms. The tour ends with a silent boat ride in the dark. The guide pulls us along a roped path with hundreds of glowworms overhead.

After the glowworm caves we drove to Otorohanga to get the battery on the RV checked. The battery performed perfectly for the mechanic of course. πŸ™„

We got back in the RV and headed for the Tongariro National Park. Home to Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings!

The kids have been listening to audiobooks on these long drives. It’s been working out well. They plug into my phone and use their headphones since the RV is quite rattly and loud.

The National Park was beautiful and so cold!! We arrived about 4:30pm and it gets dark around 5 so we didn’t have much time to explore. But we managed one quick walk to a short falls. This was actually where they filmed the scene of Gollum eating the fish from the river! So neat to come across sights like this.

We left there for a camp spot Ty found just outside the National Park. We got to stay in a field with horses and cows. The cows were hilariously friendly. They swarmed the camper and started licking the back of it. You could feel them moving the RV and it sounded funny inside. We cooked an easy meal and played some Uno before bed. We were all out by 7pm and hoped for the best with our heater. But to be safe we put the kids to bed in their warmest clothes.

Anchorage to New Zealand – Travel Days

Thursday night/Friday morning we woke the kids up for our flight at 1:30am. We’re big believers in letting the kids get whatever sleep they can at home before a late flight. They will still sleep on the plane.

The flight that started this adventure was a $400 from Seattle to Auckland. So he then found us a cheap ticket on Jet Blue from Anchorage to Seattle. But to make the flight times work we arrived in Seattle at 5am but didn’t leave till 5pm. The lesson we’ve learned is it’s best to book a hotel for the night before we get in. Then we show up at 5am and ask for a late check out. This way we’re not stuck waiting till noon to check in. Since this has worked for us in the past we stuck with this method. Don’t be tempted to go explore the city and see the sights. It’s worth the hotel cost to eat real food, and grab a few hours of sleep.

We ate the free breakfast offered by the hotel and then headed up to our room. The kids of course had slept on the flight. Neither Ty or I had though, so we were pretty wiped. We ended up letting the iPad babysit the kids for a few while we got some sleep. Best parents ever! 😬

After our nap we went to the hotel pool to let the kids burn some energy. One of the things R insisted on bringing was this cheep mermaid tail. Also L loves the GoPro we got.

We ate lunch in the hotel restaurant before packing up and heading back to the airport. We actually check our bags in for this flight. They were all small enough for carry on but it’s nice not schlepping them through the airports. Planning for this trip we knew we would be renting an RV and it wouldn’t have huge luggage storage. So we used two duffles, and a roller bag that folds down. We also brought an empty duffle just in case.

Got though security quickly and went to the kids play area. However, we didn’t stay long due to another child pooping on the floor. 😬 So we went to the lounge for a quick bit. Grabbed some snacks and drinks then went to our gate. Our flight was supposed to leave just after 5pm. However, due to weather in San Francisco we were delayed. The kids were starting to crash so I asked L if he wanted to nap in the carrier. Never expecting a yes, that’s exactly what he said! He went up on my back and 5 minutes into our walk, he was out! R soon fell asleep in Ty’s lap.

Thankfully we had a 2.5 hour layover in San Francisco so the eventual delay of 1 hour wasn’t a big deal. I carried L on the plane asleep and he slept the whole way there.

I’m always so thankful for the kind travelers who don’t mind a passed out kiddo pressing on them.

We got off the plane in San Francisco and pretty much just walked onto our plan for Auckland. We flew Air New Zealand and Ty had found out they offer a sky couch. The three seats on the side of the plane, the footrest comes up level to make a ‘bed’. The kids loved it! It was perfect for 2 people but when I tried to squeeze on next to them it was too tight.

So I pretty much just sat upright for the next 12.5 hours. But the movies were good. The food and drinks were all included. So that was all nice. The kids slept for at least 8 hours which is amazing! They came off the flight feeling great. We landed about 5am on Sunday.

Customs took quite a long time. But that was fine since the RV rental company doesn’t open till 8am. We took a shuttle from the airport to the rental shop and initially the company seemed great. We were super excited to get it, and get on the road!

We headed south to Waitomo, about a 2.5 hour drive. R of course threw up on the way. She’s got a self imposed sensitive tummy. But what’s funny is she pukes and rallies. We never even stopped driving. I gave her a fresh bag. L may have complained about the smell once but we kept on rolling. πŸ˜† We knew this might be an issue, so we brought their big boosters, so she could look out the window. We also brought ginger gum, and anti nausea bands. We’d rather she not actually throw up. We stopped by the grocery store and then checked out the Otorohanga Kiwi House.

It was a nice place to learn a bit about the kiwi bird. They’re super weird! We stretched our legs for a bit and then went to a quiet little campsite.

The owners converted a train car, an airplane, and a large ship into cabins you can stay in. He also built a Hobbit house you can rent.

I’ll wrap up here, continuing the saga later.

Alaska to Hawaii for the Weekend – Our Last Day

We woke up early like usual. Had a bit of bagels and fruit in our room. Packed up a bit and headed to the beach to meet our Colorado friends. They had brought an inflatable SUP board along with full face snorkel masks.

The SUP and the full face snorkel were awesome! I’m not a super comfortable swimmer but that snorkel makes all the difference. Ty took all the kids out on the SUP board so they could check out the reef. I was able to take the SUP out and A sea turtle popped up next to me! So Ashley took the kids out two at a time on the SUP board. They all got to see the turtle this way.

Ty went to check us out 11, while we stayed at the beach. The hotel would store our luggage for us and then offered us a room at 6pm for us to use and shower in for one hour. Such a nice offer!

We also had signed up for a free lei making class. The kids actually loved it! They were so sweet making them for each other.

We needed some lunch at this point so we introduced our friends to the yummy hole in the wall, we’d found last time, Burger & Sushi. The name says it all! πŸ˜‰

The family was staying just around the corner so we took our food to go and ate it at their incredible pool area! Then more swimming, of course!

We stayed here playing and hanging out till it was time to get ready for our flight. We got to the hotel and picked up our luggage. Went to our temporary room and that’s when I noticed L didn’t have any clothes. They had been left behind in the previous hotel room. 😬 A few frantic phone calls to lost and found, and five minutes later they delivered his clothes. Thank goodness, since he really only had his swim suit. We all got showered and cleaned up. Then took a taxi to the airport.

At some point L fell asleep in the carrier. So I carried him through security and while I ate a quick dinner. He woke up for a bit waiting for the flight but once we got onboard both kids zonked out. It was a nice uneventful flight. We got home about 7am. Ty went right to work by we let R sleep for an hour or two before taking her to school.

It was a whirlwind weekend but we made some new friends and had a wonderful time!

Alaska to Hawaii for the weekend?

So when you think that the flight from Anchorage to Honolulu is just over 6 hours, plus the extra hour or two you get to the airport prior to a flight, plus the check in, baggage pick up, and taxi times that’s another two hours. We left Thursday afternoon and returned early Monday morning. That gives us about 56 hours total vacation minus 18 hours of travel time, thus we had about 48 hours on the ground in Hawaii. Which doesn’t sound like much but was actually very worth it! We had a blast!

Here’s our luggage situation. Again since we were flying Alaska Airlines, Ty wants us to check one bag each. That way in case they exceed their 20 minute luggage rule, we can get an extra 3,000 miles. It’s seems piddly but we’ve done this enough where we’ve racked up a large quantity of miles this way.

Happy to be leaving this cold grey weather. Also we stopped into the Alaska lounge after security. The kids love to get a steamer, we usually try and stock up on some snacks, an adult beverage is also a nice option! We love our Priority Pass, and use it most every chance we can! It may seem silly to duck into the lounges for just 10 minutes prior to a flight but to use a clean bathroom, grab a drink or snack, and get away from the crowds is worth it every time.

Love my kids that can sleep on planes. I still haven’t figured that skill out.

Since we were taking 4 suitcases, small ones but still we were going to be somewhere warm for only 48 hours. We didn’t need many clothes. We allowed the kids to pretty much pack their own suitcases. I gave them their packing cubes with their clothes in them and said, fill up the rest how you’d like. They went crazy!! We’re always so controlled with our suitcases, weight, size and such. It was fun to allow them this little freedom. L I think packed mostly hot wheels. R brought her Leah doll, along with outfits, and bedding for her.

Walking to the grocery store in the morning. Leah joined us on this walk. This was her only time leaving the hotel I think!

Also R apparently packed a dress up dress to wear since that’s actually an old dress of mine. πŸ˜†

Since the last time we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki was less than thrilling. Too many people, too cold of pools, too spread out. We reviewed the map prior to this trip and decided to try the beach area first, hopefully we’d find less people. Then Ty staked out a smaller pool we didn’t even know was there, which would hopefully be less crowded and in full sun.

The beach was a fantastic idea! Since our kids wake up about 7am no matter where we are. We had our breakfast walk, played in the hotel a bit, and then made it down to the beach by 9am. Which was practically empty. We found ourselves a great little spot by the cove and started building a giant sandcastle. After a while a little girl about R’s age came over and started playing with the kids. Turns out she was 6 and her brother was 8. They were soon digging and playing with R and L, like best friends. We then started chatting with the mom, she was from Colorado, there on Spring Break with her kids. Her husband was busy commercial fishing in Alaska. Such a small world! She and her kids were delightful. The kids entertained each other wonderfully, and us adults just got to sit back on the beach and relax for the most part. We left just after noon, agreeing to meet back up again the next day.

Since R had earned her 3rd Sprachmeister flag, for speaking German non-stop in her class for 10 days, we celebrated with ice cream! This place is so over the top yummy! But I recommend against the dipped cone, it’s just too much sweet.

We then rinsed off the ice cream by checking out the secret pool. It was in a separate tower from our own. You actually needed a key to get into the pool but we just walked in behind some other people. It was definitely less crowded but quite small. The kids happily played between the pool and the hot tub for quite a while.

Around 5 o’clock I realized we needed to get moving, if we were going out for dinner. These kids were going to crash soon. So we hustled to get changed and we walked down the street to an indian restaurant we’d found on our last trip. The kids started melting down soon after we arrived. We entertained them as best we could but it was a bit of mess. I left Ty with the bill and hustled the kids out as soon as everyone had eaten at least some food. I had to carry L back to the hotel, while poor R was just as exhausted. I think when Ty caught up with us he carried her too.

It was a long day but totally worth it and so much fun!

Baltimore Maryland Spring Break β€˜18 Part 2

So we left Honolulu in the evening and flew to Seattle. Hung out in the Alaska lounge, eating breakfast for a while. Then boarded our plane for Baltimore. After another wonderfully uneventful flight we landed in Baltimore. They were way past 20 minutes on our luggage so Ty was thrilled. We requested our 2,500 miles for each delayed bag. The only reason we travel with 4 bags on Alaska. πŸ™„ But it adds up!

The main reason for our trip to Baltimore was to visit a college buddy of Ty’s. Brad and Claire live there with their three amazing kiddos. E is close to R’s age. Z is close to L’s age. Then they have cutie little O. It’s wonderful traveling to meet other families. Every time we were together the kids played beautifully, instant besties, and the grown ups got to catch up.

Brad picked us up at the airport and took us to dinner at a food hall, the Mount Vernon Marketplace. It’s basically a grown up food court with all sorts of yummy food options. Ty and R had amazing burgers. L had handmade pasta, and I had guacamole and chips. Brad then dropped us off at our hotel, just around the corner and we all crashed.

The next morning we arranged to meet at the Maryland Science Center. This was a huge hit with the adults and kids alike! We left for a bit after lunch to try and play at a nearby playground. However, it was way too windy and cold for everyone. So we actually headed back to the Science Center and explored some more till it closed.

We went back to the Mount Vernon Marketplace for dinner. So nice with multiple kids and adults!

The next day we arranged to go check out Climb Zone. It was AWESOME!

We went back and hung out at Brad and Claire’s. Picked up some sushi burritos for dinner. Amazing!! Then crashed back at our hotel.

Our final day in Baltimore we went to the National Aquarium. I will say, Ty and I were rather hesitant about visiting. We’ve been to enough ho-hum aquariums but Claire had some coupons. That made it affordable, so we went for it. I’m so glad we did! This aquarium is incredible!!

We even got to see a sawtooth shark, which is still a huge highlight for me!

Afterward we grabbed some Chick-fil-a and walked back to our hotel. Claire graciously offered to take us to the airport so R and E could get a bit more time together. Fast friends!

We had wonderfully uneventful flights and were back home in no time.

It definitely seemed a bit silly to make two cross country destinations for our spring break but I’m so glad we went for it. Always a fun adventure!