Dear Travel Beet, our trip Down Under was fabulously over the top, thanks to your planning help and recommendations. We would like to describe some of the highlights of our first experience traveling to Australia and New Zealand. We’ll try to do several posts and add a “Cliffs Notes” version for those who prefer the bulleted highlights only, including some good travel advice we learned and experienced.
Janice and Craig Thompson
November 20, 2015 The excitement of our trip started sooner than expected. At O’Hare airport we were fortunate to have a super friendly and experienced Delta agent. We chatted and went calmly through the check-in process until Charles asked for our electronic visas. We lost a little color in our skin and responded like he was speaking Arabic. Say what?? Turns out this was a fairly recent requirement. Without the visa there would be no boarding and no making our successor flights. Charles ushered us up to the Delta administrative office where the manager was terrific. It was touch and go until she received the visa approval from overseas. Luck was crazily on our side, especially since was 4:00 a.m. in Australia. The threat was vanquished and the trip was back in order! Thank you Delta airlines and your wonderful staff.
Travel Lesson – Make sure you have all the details covered when travelling abroad; sometimes a passport isn’t enough.
For the longest leg of the flight, from L.A. to Sydney, we upgraded to Comfort Plus (Thank you again Travel Beet). This was well worth the investment and made the lengthy flights much more pleasurable! Yes, an extra three inches can make a difference. Didn’t get us away from long rest room lines, but hey at 35,000 feet you have nothing but time (and many using the bathroom seemed to agree).
Fast forward and we have arrived in Sydney. Travel tip – make sure you carefully consider the time zone on a distant excursion. We eagerly checked in to pick up our rental car and head to Blue Mountain and our AirBnB accommodation only to learn our planned day one was yesterday!! So we arrived on day two. “No worries man!” We heard this frequently on our visit. Our first AirBnB was owned by a young couple (husband was a recent Harvard graduate – kind of cool). Back balcony looked out over a nice park and a banana tree in the small backyard. By the way, we stayed at many AirBnB homes and had some memorable experiences with friendly locals; this is a great way to travel and save some $$$. Dropped our bags and headed to breakfast at Ruby’s in the Queen’s Park neighborhood and the Coogee beach walk, 6km of breathtakingly gorgeous coastline between Bronte and Bondi beaches.
Arrived at Bronte Beach. Check it out – one of the most breathtaking coastlines we’ve witnessed abutting the beautiful turquoise Pacific. On this exquisite sun-filled day, people were out and about, doing yoga on the shoreline rocks and hiking the coast.
Down the coast to Bondi Beach we came upon one of the many unique Australian creations, an outdoor public pool that was built in naturally along the shoreline and spilled over into the bay. No obnoxious blue painted pool and no chlorine. There were lap swimmers in the pool, Dads and kids in the bay, and volleyball on the sand court. We continued along the bay and eventually arrived at the Bondi Beach Junction transportation terminal. A quick train ride on the clean and efficient train system, which we highly recommend, and we arrived in Sydney to take in the iconic views of the opera house, Harbour Bridge, and the harbor. Didn’t have time to take the famous Harbour Bridge climb walk above the Harbor Bridge, but took a nice walk along the bridge. Ate outdoors near the cruise boat dock in Circular Quay; cute but pricey area with tourist pricing – here you have the opportunity to pay lots for a little less. Trained back to our B&B and grabbed a sandwich in a local fast food grill where we got lots for a little less! Our first night sleeping in Australia. 6:00 a.m. and back on our way to Bondi Junction by foot, with a delicious smoothie from Ruby’s in hand, then a flight off to New Zealand. Travel tip – We packed everything for our sixteen-day adventure into 40-45 liter backpacks, which proved to be a coup. We were nimble travelers and there was no chance of an airline mishandling our luggage. Two pairs of ExOfficio undies and some wrinkle free quick dry clothing was seriously helpful.