WE ARE HERE!
WE MADE IT!
A day after our arrival in New Zealand we are resting and relaxing in the hotel after our first few adventures. Getting here was an adventure in itself. Though it went well overall, I’m glad to have it behind us. Traveling overseas was bound to be a stressful process; add a toddler to the mix and it could have been a recipe for disaster. Honestly, the most difficult part was all the dang luggage. I realize that if we were simply traveling and not moving overseas, we could have easily traveled with far less luggage. However, knowing that we wouldn’t have our stuff for 2-3 months and not knowing for sure what would be available to us in country, we were trying to plan ahead.
Getting on our first plane at DIA was, let’s say, not fun. We got to the airport plenty early. Had some small stress getting checked in, but got it worked out and went through security fairly easily (aside from having to take Patrick out of his carseat and then waiting almost 10 minutes to get it back from the security folks, and Ben having to forfeit one of the tools he had packed because it was about 2 inches too long). We got to our gate and found a seat. We thought that getting to the airport 3 hours early would leave us lots of time to have Patrick run around. Nope. Mommy didn’t even have time to use the bathroom before we boarded the plane (since we have a young child we were allowed to board with the first group of passengers, hooray! Kind of…) However, getting on this plane was something that we were NOT prepared for. With 3 carry on items, 3 under seat storage items, and a car seat strapped to a rolling cart. Oh, and an actual toddler. Add to that the fact that the car seat is too wide to be rolled through the aisle. It took a team of 2 flight attendants to help us get to our seats. Ben hit his head on the overhead storage compartment (which he would do again on the next plane) and I had to buckle the car seat in while Patrick and daddy waited. But eventually we all got safely on our plane. The flight itself was fairly uneventful and smooth. The next leg of our journey would test how determined we really were to make this trip.
We arrived at LAX feeling as though we had learned a thing or two about traveling with a toddler. Ha! We had a 2 hour layover and everyone assured us that would be enough time. We made it with about 4 minutes to spare.
First off, the international terminal at LAX was about as far from the terminal where we landed as it is possible to be. Great. Second, in order to avoid going through security again (boo), we opted to take the old underground employee tunnel system to get to our international terminal. I wish I could say that it was worth it. I guess we’ll never know. It was, honest to goodness, a 2 mile hike. Up hills, down hills. 4 or 5 elevators. And a couple of times we had to stop and ask if we were indeed going in the right direction. Oh, and the departures list doesn’t tell you what gate your international flight departs from until you get to the international terminal. So after walking for probably 45 minutes with all of our luggage and Patrick strapped into his carseat (and asleep by this time because it was about 9 pm by our body clocks), we finally arrive at the international terminal. The flight to Auckland says it leaves a half an hour earlier! Good thing we walked fast, right? Nope. It turns out there were two flights to Auckland leaving within 30 minutes of each other, yet only 1 flight was listed on the departures board. I am very glad that we didn’t sit and just wait for our flight to be called, because we were at the wrong gate. We got our (hopefully) correct gate information and rushed off.
And when we got to our correct gate, it was like we had stepped into a separate airport in a small country. It, honestly, reminded me of the airport in the Bahamas when we were on our honeymoon. There were people everywhere! I don’t know how else to explain it other than to say that it felt like we stepped into an annex of the airport that is used for ‘lesser’ airlines. But oh, it gets better.
When we get there we realize that Patrick is soaking wet, and needs a diaper change. So I go off with him to change him. As soon as I get back, Ben goes to the Air New Zealand desk to gate check our car seat. Then we decide that we will walk downstairs to be nearer to the gate for when our flight boards. We walk downstairs and, I kid you not, I hadn’t even put my bag down on the chair when they called our flight for boarding. Great! Not so much. Turns out our plane was no where near that gate. They had us all walk outside to board a bus, with all of our luggage and ride a bus (in the dark I might add. The bus turned off all the lights while it was in motion) to what I can only assume was the side of the airport where we started. We walked inside and had to wait another 10 minutes on an extremely long ramp before we could board the plane. I am convinced that it was a test of our resolve to make this move happen. It was an incredibly stressful 2 hours. But we got on our Air New Zealand flight and took off shortly before 11 pm central time.
I will say that the Air New Zealand flight is different than any domestic flight I have ever taken. The staff take very good care of the passengers. Because it was a long flight, we were served 2 meals. They were very good. Patrick got a kids meal for both, and Ben and I had a choice between 2 different meal options. They also walked the aisles multiple times throughout the flight with a pitcher of lemon water and cups, offering a drink to anyone that wanted one. Oh, and alcohol was FREE! I didn’t have any, but Ben did get a mimosa with his breakfast. I thought it was awesome that after the dinner service, they walked the aisles with 2 bottles of red and 2 bottles of white wine, offering after dinner drinks. We also each had an interactive monitor on the back of the seat in front of us. Pattick watched Cars 3, Toy Story, and the Lion King during the flight. And he even played some Angry Birds. You could even order food and drinks from the screen. And it was all free! It was very nice to be able to order a soft drink about an hour before breakfast was served and have it brought right to us! The on board experience of Air New Zealand was fantastic. It was just the getting to the plane that felt like a nightmare.
Now that we have been in country for a little over 24 hours we are getting our legs under us. The jet lag hasn’t been as bad as I expected it to be. Patrick and I took a nap on our first day here while Ben went out in search of a decent car rental. We all took a walk in the afternoon of our first day and found a lovely little row of shops. We went in search of some grocery items and found a small convenience store, but we also found 3 or 4 cute little cafes/restaurants. It was a very nice little walk that gave us a chance to see some of the local greenery and see our first roundabout in use. For our evening meal we had to force ourselves to wait until the hotel restaurant opens at 5 pm for dinner. Ben ordered lamb chops with lemon potatoes. I ordered the curry of the day with Naan bread. Both meals were phenomenal. But we were exhausted. As a family we called it a night at 6 pm local time.
We all slept quite well that night. I was the first to wake up at 3 am. Not bad considering I had taken a nap earlier. Ben and Patrick slept till about 4:30 am. I figure we’ll try pushing our bed time back an hour each night until we get to a more normal bed time. Hopefully our wake up times will get later too.
It is currently just after noon, local time. We’ve had a productive day so far. We walked back over to that row of shops for breakfast at a yummy place called Lady Bird. Both of our meals were simply delicious. Ben had a banana brioche with bacon, while I had a large breakfast platter with scrambled eggs, bacon, chorizo, meatballs, tomatoes with pesto, mushrooms, potatoes, and bread. We have been very pleased with the food in New Zealand so far.
After breakfast we went on our first car trip together to the local store. It’s still a little confusing even to me how the the shopping works. We went to a store called The Warehouse. It’s similar to the non-grocery areas of Walmart. Prices are very comparable, though the selection of items is not as vast. There were lots of items that we didn’t expect to see. So when I say selection wasn’t vast, I mean that within a section of items there would be fewer choices. But we found it to be very inclusive in terms of items you can get. The furniture areas felt very IKEA-like even. 🙂 However, we wanted to get a NZ cell phone so that we can use things like Data and have an NZ phone number. Instead of cancelling our current phones, we will keep them with our provider until our contract runs out in March and then we will switch to an NZ phone provider. In the meantime, we wanted to buy a ‘cheap’ phone that would get us to March with a month to month service. We had great help in selecting the phone we wanted, but because the electronics section of the store was a separate entity from “The Warehouse” we had to have our salesperson take the item to the register for us (or we had the option of checking out with him, but only with the phone and not any of the other items in our cart). I hope to understand this process a little better in the near future.
Alright. So that brings us current. I am typing this while Patrick is napping and Ben is relaxing watching some rugby. Tomorrow we leave for a 4 day journey to Wellington. We plan to stop off in Taupo on the way and stay for at least a night, maybe up to 3 nights. I won’t have my laptop out then, so next update will likely not be until we are in Wellington and checked into our AirBnB.
Thanks so much for following along on our journey!