In which I reflect on what’s worked so far, and what hasn’t. 

We’re in Darwin now, at the tip of the Northern Territory in Australia. It’s true tropics here – 88 degrees and humid. In our time in Australia we’ve gone from the damp cold winter of Sydney to the warmer tropical Queensland, then to Red Centre Desert and finally here. I’ve realized that our days fall into one of three broad categories : Traveling, in which we are on the move from one place to another; Touring, in which we are actually looking about at things; and Vacation days – where we just chill for a day and do very little of anything. Yesterday was a travel day, today is a vacation day, so I’m going to use it to talk about some other travel details of what’s worked so far and what hasn’t, inspired by a friend’s recent post of the same. 
What’s working, in no particular order. 
1. Travel cubes: The little travel cubes I purchased to keep our clothing compartmentalized in our backpacks are a dream. Without them, everything would be crammed into one large compartment and it would be impossible to pick out something you needed without destroying the contents. I bought one cheap set off ebay for $10, but the zippers are cheap and I think it’ll break. I spent a bit more – $20 on 2 more sets from Amazon and they’re much sturdier. Great buy. I thank every travel blogger who suggested them.

2. The backpacks: I’ve been very happy we have these as opposed to suitcases. One thing I didn’t anticipate is that in Australia and New Zealand, all packs have to be less than 7 kg to carry on. We made this happen for the first international flight by switching stuff around, but since then have been checking mine and Eric’s bag for the domestic flights and making sure that the boy’s backpack is under. 

3. The clothes: For the most part, the clothes we bought have worked out very, very well. The only time I’ve been disappointed in what I brought was when we were in Sydney and I felt woefully unfashionable and really like an American Tourist (fanny pack and all, see below). I suspect I’ll feel the same once we get to Tokyo too, though I’m guessing I could wear the most stylish clothes I own and still feel like a frump. 

4. Trip pacing: NZ was a bit fast, but expected. Everywhere else we’ve had one day after travel to have a down day and then start touring again. This has worked very well for us overall and as such we aren’t feeling travel burnout. Yet. I just asked the kids and Eric and they all said that this is their #1 thing that has been done well.

5. The degree of planning: Again, for the most part not having things entirely booked in advance has worked out very well for us and allowed us to maintain flexibility – if we weren’t up to a tour one day, we didn’t have to do it. In Darwin, I do wish maybe I’d booked a couple days out at Kakadu National Park, but perhaps it will all work out for the better, see “trip pacing” above.

6. Food: we mostly eat dinners in because it’s easier and it saves money, at least here in Australia and NZ. We’ve had some delicious food out as well, but when we can plan simple dinners at home especially after a long day of doing stuff, everyone is happier, including the parents! (Side note: everything here is made with full cream, real butter and while delicious, is also giving me a bit of a spare tire. Oof. Guess those pilates classes really were helping me at home.)

7. The technology: Discussed in an earlier post. Caveat – I couldn’t justify the money but I do wish I had a lighter ipad to truck around. It is by far my heaviest item. 

8. The kids: Have really been fantastic the entire time overall.  They have their moments, sure, but no more so (and possbly less) than they would have at home. Lesson #1 – Make sure to keep the boy fed else he turns into a gremlin. Of cranktaculousness. Yes, that is a real affliction. 

Things I wish I’d done differently:
1. Products: In the largely humid environments, bringing any sort of facewash/lotion/etc was a mistake. Our skin and hair is completely different then in arid Denver, and everywhere we’ve been has provided anything we’ve needed. This was an unnecessary source of weight. Some of the pricey ones I brought have been shipped home.

2. Bags: Eric’s backpack has a small zip off backpack he can use for when we are in cities, which mine doesn’t have. We brought a second small backpack but it’s cumbersome when traveling to wear that one on my front for the plane and then the bigger one on my back. It would have been nice to have a mid size one strap backpack for moving about that I could put my camera in also. I bought a cheap messenger bag at a Kmart here and that’s been better, but not really ideal. I have a smallish travel purse that can be and I have, sigh, converted to a fanny pack. It is SO much easier than having a purse flopping about you and my hands are free. 

3. Journal: I brought a journal to write in. Who am I kidding? I don’t write in journals. I put most everything here. Aspirational but heavy. Haven’t sent back yet, will see. 

4. Weather: Man, it was colder than we expected the first week through Sydney. We had warm enough clothes and all, and knew it was winter and wouldn’t have changed going there, but we were definitely glad to get out of the cold. 

Things lost:

1. Kiwi printed gloves, purchased in NZ. Left on the plane by the girl in a fit. 

2. The boy’s kindle, twice, recovered both times. I was wrong about who would lose theirs first! 

3. Once left in a rolled up sleeping bag, once left in a hotel room. We are TERRIBLE at sweeping hotel rooms when we leave. You’d think we’d have learned better by now.

4. A very nice headphone jack splitter with 6 out jacks so we could all watch movies/listen to audiobooks together. This was a bummer. We’ve bought 2 smaller splitters we stick together to give us 3 outs, but it’s not as good. Left on the plane from US. 

5. Nice set of markers, the girl’s. Who knows. 

6. One electronic toothbrush, the boy’s, left in Raglan. 

7. My wallet – not really lost. Forgot I’d put it in my checked luggage and had a very nervous flight from Cairns to Alice Springs. See above about sweeping hotel rooms. 
Things given away:

1. All warm weather clothes after the Uluru trip, as we won’t have cold weather until October. We brought clothes specifically for this purpose – gloves the kids were about to outgrow, fleece sweater same, and a warm hoodie I have but is hideously ugly. Salvation Army in Alice Springs, thank you. We did not get a tax receipt. 
Things sent home:

1. All souvenirs bought up until now, except for a boomerang which didn’t fit in the box. A few shot glasses, snow globes, mug, some books, aforementioned hair and beauty supplies, woodcarvings, clothes we didn’t want to give away. The painting we bought shipped separately by the gallery. Total cost $40. Let’s hope it all makes it home. 🙂

One thought on “In which I reflect on what’s worked so far, and what hasn’t. 

  1. willjstenzel says:

    I am really trying to imagine you with a spare tire, and that is impossible!!! I love the Kmart messenger bag (without seeing it of course, I just love the concept!!). I always feel frumpy when I travel in cities abroad – except NZ, where I felt very normal. I felt like a sperm whale in Tokyo – a sperm whale dressed in a burkini. I hope you fare better!!!


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