Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Family New Zealand Vacation 2013: The Awards Show Version

We're just back from two weeks in New Zealand. I've got trip stories and a couple of other posts planned about the trip, but since I had fun writing awards show summaries of my 2011 and 2012 family vacations, I decided to call it a tradition and do the same for the New Zealand trip.

We drove to LAX and flew to Auckland- the commuter flight between San Diego and LA adds quite a bit of expense when there are four tickets to buy, saves only a bit of time, and increases the risk of lost luggage. We paid the extra to get the "Sky Couch" section on the flight, and that was worth every penny- the kids were able to lay flat and got a full night's sleep. Next time, we may pay for two Sky Couch rows so that the adults can stretch out a bit, too.

We spent four days in Auckland, then drove to Taupo for a couple of nights, then drove on to Wellington for 5.5 days with my in laws. I'll cover the details in the trip story posts... on to the awards!

Best hotel: Comfort Inn, Taupo. We were upstairs, with a loft, which the kids loved. And there was a trampoline and a kids' play house. Also, we could walk right out of the parking lot to the lakefront path, and the people who ran the place were very nice.

Best playground: Botanic Garden playground, Wellington. This is on a hill (like most everything else in Wellington), and they did a great job of incorporating the slope into the playground. There were great long slides that did not require great long ladders, for instance. The park had a flying fox (for my American readers: this is like a zipline), which is a classic New Zealand playground toy that we don't have in the US. They also had a Rocktopus, which is a cool new New Zealand playground toy that we don't have in the US. The kids loved this park so much that when we offered them a chance to pick what we'd do one day, they picked to go back to the Botanic Gardens so we could visit the park again.

Best parenting moment (Mommy): Replacing my so-so purse with a new, big purse. After one day walking around with my purse falling off my shoulder, I decided to buy a new one. For some reason, this largeish red purse caught my fancy- and I am glad it did. It was big enough to hold food for the kids (Pumpkin often had a hard time finding something she'd eat on menus, so I always carried snacks), hats, gloves, and coloring supplies. Many meltdowns were averted because I could pull the right thing out of that bag.
It holds more than you think it will.
Best parenting moment (Daddy): Singing "Old MacDonald" with Petunia so that she would finish the walk at the Craters of the Moon. Craters of the Moon is a thermal area that you can walk through and see steam rising from the ground and craters with boiling mud. The kids liked it... but the walk got a bit long for Petunia. 

Biggest parenting mistake: Not taking jetlag seriously enough on the return trip and letting the kids nap in the car all the way home from LAX. They slept well on the plane, so we really should have stopped at least once, possibly twice, and insisted they wake up and run around at a park or something. We couldn't get them to bed until midnight on Saturday night, our first night back. The grown ups, meanwhile, hadn't slept that well on the plane and didn't nap in the car and were exhausted and ready for by 8. We're all still trying to get back in the right time zone, and I think that mistake on the first day is why. Oh well- we'll do better next time!

Best kid moment (Pumpkin): Riding the flying fox at the Botanic Gardens playground in Wellington. She was too afraid to ride the first flying fox we saw, at the park at One Tree Hill in Auckland. I figured she would never get on one, but Mr. Snarky talked her onto the one at the Botanic Gardens park and she loved it, riding it over and over. It was great to watch.

Best kid moment (Petunia): Drawing a picture of a ferry and explaining how the circles in the middle of it were the tires on the side. We rode a ferry to Devonport in Auckland, and saw another ferry there that had tires on the side to protect it from hitting the dock. Apparently, that made quite an impression on Petunia, because when she drew her fairly abstract representation of a ferry later in Wellington, she included the tires. We were all blown away when she described the picture to us.

Best "Only in NZ" Activity: Night time swim at the hot pools in Taupo. Mr. Snarky gets full credit for this one- I thought it was too cold to go swimming outdoors at night (there was ice on our car in the morning!) but Mr. Snarky said it was something he remembered from his childhood visits to Taupo, and the kids were excited by the idea, so we did it. And it was awesome.

Best Tourist Trap Activity: Visiting the Skytower in Auckland. The kids thought it was cool to be up so high, and Pumpkin really got into figuring out where other things we had visited (or were about to visit) were. Also, we saw some people do their controlled free fall bungee jump thing past the observation deck, which was amusing.
The kids look out towards Rangitoto.
Best Random Stop: Hot chicken and chips at the playground on the beach in Paraparaumu. I had been hoping for a little cafe where I could get some of the wonderful Kapiti cheese, but it was Sunday evening and most things were closed. So we got chicken and chips from what was essentially a bar, and took them to the playground by the beach. We snagged a table with an awesome view of the beach, and watched the sun go down behind Kapiti Island while the fishermen pulled their boats out of the water with their tractors and the kids played on a pretty nice playground.
Just about perfect
Best Pie: Patrisha's in Island Bay, Wellington. I had a scrumptious classic steak and cheese pie. Yummmmm.

Best Local Beer Sampled: Yeastie Boys' Pot Kettle Black (Mommy), 8 Wired's Hopwired (Daddy). But there was some stiff competition. We were impressed with the range of NZ craft brews available.

Best meal: Lamb medallions cooked to perfection by my in laws. The first time I've ever actually enjoyed eating lamb! 

Best breakfast: Maranui Cafe in the Surf Lifesaver's club, Lyall Bay, Wellington. OK, this was our only breakfast out, but it was a great one! Good view, yummy food, fluffies (warm frothed milk with sprinkles on top and marshmallows on the side) for the kids, and even a camel ride that only cost 50 cents.

Best chill out: Drinks with good friends at the Lumsden Freehouse in Newmarket, Auckland. Good beer and snacks and a grassy area for the kids to run around on.

Biggest bummer: Pulling a muscle (or something) in my ribcage during a massive coughing fit on the first day (I was just getting over a bad cough/cold when we left). I spent the next 3 days or so wincing whenever I coughed or sneezed, several more days wincing if I tried to lift something heavy (like, say, a child) and am still a bit sore.

Runner up: The fact that I only had three pies during the entire trip, and one was at the airport in Auckland on our way out. Pumpkin didn't like any of the food available at the bakeries that sell the best pies- so mostly we had to eat at fancier cafes that could do plain pasta or had cheese scones or at food courts that had a fast food place that sold chicken nuggets. On the bright side, I got some really good Indian food at a food court in Auckland and had a lot of nice cafe food.

Most unexpected cool thing: The toys on the wall in the Auckland airport departures lounge.
A great last impression


  1. Wow! What a wonderful adventure! We had to give up our annual migration across thousands of miles to visit family (east coast to PNW) this summer, and we are feeling very sad about it (esp in the broiling heat). I love traveling with my kiddos, and New Zealand has always been a dream of mine.

  2. That sounds terrific! I've been to Australia, but not to New Zealand--and would love to go there one of these days.

  3. This was such a fun post! Love the bag.
    I have never been to Australia or New Zealand, would love to. Perhaps some day...

  4. Alexicographer9:56 AM

    Welcome home, sounds like a fabulous trip!

  5. Wow! I'm still impressed you took little ones on such a long trip - but whatever a Sky Couch is, it sounds like it was worth it.

    Maybe we'll have to try New Zealand in a few years.... (my kids are already pointing to Australia...)

  6. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Sky couch...what an awesome idea! It looks like you had a great time! Now, I need to put going to NZ on my to do list...

  7. Nice! DK took me to Taupo the very first time I visited NZ to see him . We swam at night, in mid-winter at DeBretts and I thought he was a little nuts at first as well - but then, it's just magic. He told him about his childhood trips to Hanmer in the South Island and how, once - it had been snowing while they were in the hot pools. I haven't experienced that yet, but I have definitely spent FAR more time in the water in winter in NZ than in summer now.

    Lumsden Green is the location of my post-work watering hole when I worked in Auckland, back when it used to be Hugo's Frog Bar! I worked just up Carlton Mill towards the Domain. It looks SO much nicer than it used to be. I actually found Newmarket really disorientating when I was there earlier this year because it had changed so much from when I lived in Auckland - so many new apartments and buildings.

    Also - a rocktopus - is that what those things are called?!? I think they might be uniquely kiwi, because I haven't seen them in Australia but there are plenty around here. I totally agree with the blog you linked to that an awful lot of kiwi playgrounds seem to have been built with the premise that if you don't come away with at least a few grazes and a bruise or two, you haven't really had fun.

    In terms of handbag friendly kid supplies, I love the party sized mini-play dough tubs. A few of those are great entertainment (for the adults as well).

    And Maranui is going my list to try next time I'm in Wellington on a sunny day. It looks like a sweet spot. From the explanation provided - do you not get fluffies (or in Aussie lingo, babycinos) in the US? They are an art-form at some cafes. One of our local cafes does a really cute little pig face one using a pink marshmallow for a snout.

    All in - I'm glad you guys had a good trip. (and to the commenters above - NZ is totally worth the flight. I'm only a bit biased in living here!)

  8. ooh, that sounds awesome. love the new bag - it reminds me of the magical one Hermione Granger had in the last Harry Potter book ;)

  9. So want to go back with kids (we spent a way too short 3.5 weeks in 2004)...now how to find the time to gather myself together, put an application together, and get that Fulbright so we can stay for 6 months!


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