December 2015 

While Brian was away on a 6 month submarine deployment – I was home, working full time and taking care of our newborn daughter. In my downtime I was also daydreaming about our next vacation for when he returned home. I was doing my near daily perusing of Groupon Getaways and my eye caught one with the headline ‘Australia & Fiji – airfare & hotels included $1999 each’. I knew Brian would love to go and Australia has always been on my list of places I’d like to see but a few things have held me back booking tickets:

  1. It’s a solid day of travel in each direction to get there and back and with limited time off of work, I was never willing to sacrifice two full days of vacation to dedicate to being on an airplane.

  2. The cost of plane tickets. I haven’t spent an extraordinary amount of time looking into plane tickets to Australia, however the few times I had looked at possibly going, the flights themselves were in the $2000-$3000 price range.

  3. Lack of a traveling companion. While this has never stopped me before, Australia just seemed to be one of those places you’d want someone really great to travel around with and the majority of my previous travel had been by myself.

Since Brian was under the water somewhere and I had no way of contacting him before this Groupon Getaway was going to expire, I called his command to ask if he could take a few weeks off in December so I could buy this trip before it was no longer available. His boss more or less gave me the ‘No promises but it will probably be ok’ (which in military terms is about as good as you can hope for when it comes to scheduling time off). I took that as a thumbs up, got out my Alaska credit card and booked the trip for us. I also called the travel agent associated with the package to discuss extending the trip a few days in Australia and an extra day in Fiji so we’d have more time in each location since we were flying all the way over there! They were able to accommodate our request for another $450 each. Groupon partners with some pretty great travel companies and this is not the first time I’ve called about extending a trip. If you have the time and it’s a place you really want to explore, do yourself the favor and call to get pricing on extending your trip. You might be pleasantly surprised with how affordable it can be. After all these calls, I emailed Brian to tell him we were going to Australia when he got home!

We had spent January 2015 in Mexico getting certified in Scuba Diving and knew this would be a perfect opportunity to do more diving in a different part of the world. Brian came home from deployment and we started planning our dive vacation to Australia! …. And then I got pregnant. This was fantastic news, however it meant our dive vacation was going to look a little different in that I wouldn’t be able to do any diving. Instead we made plans for Brian to dive a few days and to do some exploring the rest of the time together.

We had made the decision that since this was supposed to be a dive vacation, we weren’t going to bring our daughter with us. I took the day off before we left for Sydney to fly her down to San Diego to stay with Grandma & Grandpa while we were gone and then caught the 45 minute flight to Los Angeles to meet up with Brian who was flying in from Seattle. There were a lot of moving parts (and separate flights) involved in order for this vacation to all come together, but we made it work and a few hours later Brian and I were hand in hand at LAX checking in for our overnight flight to Sydney. We touched down in Sydney about 18 hours later and caught a shuttle to pick up our rental car. The rental car was not included in our package price, but definitely worth the investment, as we knew we wanted to do a lot of exploring around Sydney. This was our first time driving a car on the opposite side of the road, on the opposite side of the car. I know we’ve all seen the TV shows and movies where they drive on the opposite side of the road, but watching it on TV is not the same as opening the door to what my nearly 20 years of driving experience has taught me is the passenger side and taking a seat behind the steering wheel. I got volunteered to drive first so I got behind the wheel and away we went. That first left hand turn out of the rental car parking lot was something for the memory books. I was scared and uncomfortable but high on adrenaline and couldn’t stop laughing. Brian was hanging on for dear life as we began our journey to find our hotel in downtown Sydney. There are no words for what that experience compares to, you’ll just have to get to Australia someday and get behind the wheel to understand how unique of an experience it is.

We somehow made it to our hotel in one piece, got the car parked in a lot and checked in. We spent the rest of the evening napping and relaxing, planning our next few days. The hotel we stayed at was in a great location, right in downtown Sydney – close to restaurants, shops, the park and everything else you would expect to see in a large city. I think we were both taken back a little with just how large of a city Sydney is. In my naivety I was expecting to see something resembling Honolulu, HI– next to the water with palm trees and everyone walking around in flip flops and board shorts. It turns out Sydney closer resembles London or New York and is about a 25 minute drive to the closest beach.

We spent our 10 days in Australia visiting all the hot spots: The Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, The Blue Mountains, a Kangaroo sanctuary and more I can’t think of as I type this now. We had a laugh every time we got in the car, always nervous but always excited about the adventure we were off to.

I think a few of my favorite memories made on this trip include:
Getting to pet a koala at the Kangaroo sanctuary
Reading books for hours on Bondi beach under an umbrella – enjoying the sight, sounds and smells of the ocean
Visiting the Blue Mountains and seeing how beautiful and diverse the landscape is in that area
Driving across Harbor Bridge in the rental car and being utterly terrified
Seeing the Sydney Opera House in person
Brian backing the rental car into a tree at the Kangaroo sanctuary – a story for another day and not funny at the time as it caused a large dent – but funny to look back at now and SO happy we invested in the extra insurance for the car.