Family Adventures to New Zealand and Australia: The Ultimate Winter TripOct 10, 2023
An important part of my overall wellbeing is traveling and having adventures, especially with my family. Being a busy mom, wife, daughter, employee and business owner, I prioritize traveling in our spending plan. This past summer, my son, husband, and I took a three week trip to Australia and New Zealand to attend the FIFA Women's World Cup, connect with friends, explore, and make memories.
How it started
As a family, we first visited New Zealand when my son was 4 months old. It was a whirlwind post partum experience. However, after 7 years and COVID-19, it was time to re-visit friends not only in New Zealand but especially in Australia. I am so grateful to have done this as a family because travel is a lived experience and a chance to get to know your family in different ways.
Family travel has so many benefits including quality bonding time, learning through exploration, cultural awareness and empathy, boosting confidence, and building traditions.
This trip was very much privileged in terms of the ability to take time off as well as having sufficient financial means. I often thought about how this trip was not accessible to my family when I was growing up. Although my current family means is different to when I was a child, as an adult, in a world buzzing with technology and busy schedules, the idea of packing your bags and setting off on a family adventure can seem like a distant dream. There might be concerns for time off, finances, scheduling conflicts, school and work but these are constants that will likely never all be solved. That is part of the journey! The potential and value of time spent together should be the focus. Life is short. Take the trip. Make the memories.
Let's explore the top reasons why embarking on journeys together as a family, highlighting my recent trip, is a choice you'll never regret. Itinerary and cool Wandermap to follow!
Quality bonding time
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, finding quality time to bond with your family can be a challenge. Traveling provides an ideal setting to disconnect from routine pressures and distractions and truly connect with one another. Whether it's sharing stories around a campfire or exploring a new city hand in hand, these shared moments strengthen family ties and create memories that will be cherished forever. My favorite memory is from the first day we arrived to Auckland. We were rushing to make the opening game for the FIFA's Women's World Cup. We decided to Uber but had to make it to a pick-up destination away from where we ordered the car. Upon realizing it, we had to engage our "Amazing Race" skills and find the waiting Uber. When we finally jumped in the Uber, my son reached out and placed his hand on my leg and looked me in the eye and then smiled and tipped his head back but did not saying anything. Rather his expression said it all. He got it. We made it to the game and it was an adventure. A precious and priceless memory.
FIFA Women's World Cup, Auckland, NZ. USA vs. Vietnam. July 2023.
Learning through exploration
Travel is a dynamic classroom that offers immersive lessons about cultures, history, geography, and more. As a family, and along with friends, we explored the Maori village in Whakarewarewa. There are so many stories and traditions steeped in Maori culture to learn about or to listen to. The totems and the Marae absolutely caught my sons eye for their ornate and powerful expressions. Scenery wise, we got to experience the Whaka Geothermal Trails on E-bikes and revel in their gaseous, smelly active hot pools, even catching a geyser go off. Whether exploring museums and historical sites to navigating local markets, and scenery each experience is an opportunity for both adults and kids to expand their knowledge.
Cultural Awareness and Empathy
Exposing your family to new cultures and ways of life fosters cultural awareness and empathy. Encountering diverse traditions, languages, and customs nurtures open-mindedness and a broader worldview. These experiences help children develop into well-rounded, compassionate individuals who appreciate the richness of human diversity. My son, through a friend, was invited in to a New Zealand classroom where several students welcomed him with their Pepeha's. In New Zealand, a Pepeha is a way of introducing yourself in Maori. It tells people who you are by sharing your connections with the people and places that are important to you. Learn your story and practice your Pepeha through this interactive website, Pepeha.com. Fun side note, a classmate, Andrew Baker, from my MBA (completed at the University of Waikato in New Zealand) is featured in the video. Kia Kaha, Andrew. For my son, this was an opportunity to share stories and spark curiosity with his new Kiwi friends.
Creating Lasting Memories
Remember that time you laughed until your belly hurt while trying a new cuisine? Or the moment your child's eyes lit up when they saw their first waterfall? Travel is a treasure trove of moments that become lifelong memories. These shared experiences become stories that you'll reminisce about for years to come, strengthening the emotional bonds within your family. For us, it was attending the FIFAs Women's World Cup Games. An absolute bucket list item for myself, it was easy to get my husband on board. We attended the opening game between New Zealand and Norway, then the USA v Vietnam, Norway v Sweden, all in New Zealand and finally Columbia v Germany in Australia. Although we didn't see the final game, we felt overwhelmed by the gracious hosting, the positive vibes, and the ease of accessing and enjoying the games with many, many other fans. One favorite memory is at the Columbia v Germany game, which was our most lively game, and the wave kept coming around and around. My son finally said, "that's it, no more, I am not doing it".
Adventures and Resilience
Traveling often involves navigating the unknown – from lost luggage to missed connections. These experiences teach adaptability, problem-solving, and resilience. Facing challenges together as a family not only brings you closer but also equips everyone with valuable life skills. I couldn't be more proud that my son knows when to haul his bum to meet connections, navigate customs, carry his own luggage (one carry on backpack) and be in charge of his own plane ticket. This kid knows travel and it absolutely boosts his confidence.
Unplugging and Reconnecting
In our digital age, it's easy for families to get absorbed in their devices. Travel provides an opportunity to unplug and be fully present with each other. Away from screens, you can engage in meaningful conversations, play games, and truly enjoy each other's company without distractions.
Family travel can lead to the creation of cherished traditions. From annual beach getaways to exploring a new city every summer, these traditions provide a sense of continuity and anticipation that can be passed down through generations.
Grand Canyon Track, Katoomba, Australia
New Zealand Australia Itinerary
Our trip was approximately 2 weeks to accommodate some of the FIFA Women's World Cup Games, visiting friends, and exploring.
Day 1-3: Auckland. I booked us into the Avanni Auckland Metropolis Residences in Auckland City Centre. It was nice and central, located by Albert Park. One door led to city streets and the opposite door led to a huge park where I spent mornings walking around taking in the cool, yet sunny winter weather and snapping photos of local foliage. I used Chase points which got us a 2 bedroom, high rise apartment. It was a great way to decompress and to slowly lean in to our trip. We attended two games while in Auckland and on our free day we took Beam scooters around town.
Day 4 Hamilton. We stayed with friends on the outskirts of town on their beautiful lifestyle block. Delicious food to be had at Camarosa Cafe, Restaurant, and Bar in a sundrenched building with a fun outside play area for the kids. Then on to the Hamilton Gardens to enjoy the varying and unique garden designs.
Day 5 Rotorua. Just 90 minutes from Hamilton, not to be missed, this cultural activity hub, offers so much family friendly culture and adventure. Some friends joined us to visit the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village where we took E-bikes around the geothermal pools. We also briefly visited the spiritual Maori village. We gorged on delicious New Zealand pie's and quiche's at the village cafe for a snack.
One final stop at the Rotorua Luge. You start at the bottom of the hill and take the Gondola up to the top where there is the infamous RotoVegas sign, a cafe, and where you catch a quick ride down. The world-famous Luge opened in 1986 and Skyline Rotorua continues to lead the way with Luge technology - all components are designed and manufactured in Rotorua and then shipped around the world to our other Luge locations. The Luge always delivers fun. My son and husband rode the Luge 5x. It is still unclear who won.
Day 6 Waitomo. The Waitomo Glow Worms Caves is such a special place. They deserve a visit by every tourist. We wanted to do the Black Water Rafting but little ones need to be 12 years or older. We opted for the Ruakuri Cave Tour. Then back to Hamilton to watch Sweden vs. Norway. It rained about every 20 minutes but we didn't budge from our field facing seats.
Day 7 & 8: Sydney, Australia. Within just a few hours from leaving New Zealand by air, we were soaking up the winter warmth at the Darling Harbor. We stayed on the at the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbor and were upgraded to an apartment with a balcony view of the Harbor. It was absolutely breathtaking both day and night. We left the doors open 24/7 to soak in harbor life. Bonus, there was great access to the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens on the opposite of the hotel where I could get my early walks in.
The evening we arrived, we hopped on a ferry across the Harbor to Manly at sunset to enjoy the amazing views and grab some eats in this fun little neighborhood. We snagged an outside seating reservation at Pocket Pizza. It was a great way to soak up the neighborhood culture and people watch.
We spent both days exploring the city and went to the wonderful Centennial Park which was hosting the FIFA's Women's World Cup's Fan Festival. Such a great park, large park, with playground and an extensive water play features. There were small food places right across the street. This would definitely by my go to on Friday evenings after a long work week. We also went to Bicentennial park for an afternoon play.
A special time in a special place. We celebrated 7 married years together with a special dinner at Grana and their food and service were exquisite. This was before we headed to our first Sydney Opera House String Quartet performance. However, it was canceled an hour before the show start. I have to admit we were a bit stunned, walking around aimlessly.
Day 9 & 10: We jumped in the rental car and headed to Katoomba, NSW Blue Mountains, only a short 90 minute drive. This sleepy by majestic mountain town offers a lot of access to adventures in the winter because the weather is so mild. We enjoyed hiking the Grand Canyon track, a Grade 3 and 6.3km walking hike that offers native plants and waterfalls galore.
We stayed at The Carrington, a character hotel in the center of Katoomba. It is Australia's oldest resort-style hotel and we enjoyed seeing all the different rooms ornately decorated resembling the era including the Library, the Grand Dining Room, and the Ball Room.
Day 11 & 12: Wollongong. We headed here to meet up with a dear friend and spend some time with her family. We stayed near the beach and got to enjoy Towradgi Beach Playground and Beach. It was so beautiful and the water absolutely stunning. The kids got to play on the award-winning play structure and then we transitioned to the beach where the kids enjoyed the rocks, the shallow and calm water and watching the swimmers in the public sea wall pool. We finished at the Towradgi Beach Hotel for a delicious meal before heading back to Sydney for our last FIFA Women's World Cup, Germany vs Columbia. It was a great way to end our trip.
As you contemplate your next family vacation, remember that it's not just a trip – it's an investment in the growth, connection, and happiness of your family. The shared experiences, laughter, and challenges you encounter while traveling together will form the foundation of lifelong memories. So, pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and watch as your family's bonds strengthen amidst the beauty and wonder of the world.
Questions: email [email protected]
Mariah Hudler, MSW, MBA, CFT-I™ is a financial therapist, coach & consultant, who provides premarital financial counseling, financial therapy, financial coaching & consulting, and financial wellbeing services. She works with individuals, couples, entrepreneurs, and groups to build their balance and create a healthy relationship with money.
Disclaimer: This blog is for education only. Please consult with a qualified professional when you have any questions about your personal financial, tax, or legal situation. Information contained in this post is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace professional advice.
Build your balance with my monthly newsletter!
I hate SPAM. I will never sell your information, for any reason.