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Australia Recap + Top 5 International Travel Tips

Happy summer! I’m still pinching myself after our Australia trip. I want to remember every city we drove through, every hug, every sense of “Ahhh THIS is what I missed,” every good meal, every adventurous day.

I’d been aching to return to Australia since I left in 2012, and we decided this summer would be the right time for a big trip in celebration of Alex’s graduation and before moving to Tyler for Alex’s new job.

At 8 weeks pregnant, 20+ hours of travel didn’t seem ideal, but I have a hunch our baby bear enjoyed the trip. Though I definitely tired more easily, I never got sick and felt mostly great throughout the whole three weeks! All praise and glory to God for that. The trip went smoothly and was so much fun – minus missing our flight from Brisbane to Melbourne the day before we left Melbourne for the U.S. Then I lost my Kindle later that day. No one was hurt or hospitalized though, so I call that a win.

After staying the first week in Mornington catching up with friends, we went on a two-week road trip across Victoria to Adelaide, through Wagga Wagga to Sydney and up to Brisbane with stops along the way in amazing, picturesque little towns . . . totaling 2,500 miles on the road! This map shows where we drove:

From Brisbane, we flew back to Melbourne, stayed in Mornington one final night, and then Sue and Rod took us to the airport in Melbourne the next morning. Whew! We made it back to LA exhausted and elated.

Looking back a few weeks later, the trip was as memorable and as meaningful as I prayed for. And now that our family is growing, I am all the more thankful we were able to get away for the journey. While all international trips are different, and I am by no means a travel expert, here are 5 tips I wanted to share to help make your next trip smooth, safe, and tons of fun – wherever you go!

1. Get your hands on a guidebook. We purchased Lonely Planet’s Australia guide at Barnes and Noble in the spring to start getting ideas. It was a huge help in finding restaurants and things to do once we arrived in a particular city.

2. Plan ahead, but not too much. While we booked things like plane tickets in advance, called our bank, and researched the best way to pay for things so there wasn’t an exchange fee, we planned and booked almost everything else while in Australia – usually just a day or two before. Maybe it had to do with visiting in winter instead of summer, but there were plenty of Airbnb options in our price range that we booked the day before. And Alex and I aren’t into a super structured vacation schedule, so this worked well for us.

3. Treat yourself right during an international flight. One of the best things to do before and during a flight is drink LOTS of water and little to no coffee or soda. If this means you have to get up several times to go to the bathroom, just think of it as bonus stretching time. I also try to avoid bread and other foods that make me feel less than light on long flights. And when the cabin lights go off, I brush my teeth in the bathroom to make it feel like bedtime, then put on my eye mask and try to sleep several hours. My sweet husband let me wear his compression running socks, and I didn’t have any swelling in my feet or ankles. (He did. Sorry Al.)

4. Pack purposefully. I didn’t do this well and packed way more clothes and shoes than I needed. And I realized 2 weeks into the trip that those skinny jeans didn’t appeal nearly as much as yoga pants while 10 weeks pregnant. When we arrived at the airport, our friend Ian gawked at our large suitcases. “What’d you bring all that for??” he asked. He had the same reaction six years ago. Ha.

Along those lines, be sure to look up the maximum weight per checked bag allowed by your airlines. We ended up paying extra on top of the original fee in Dallas because one of our bags was over Spirit’s 40 lb. limit. We only checked Air New Zealand’s 50 lb. limit. But if you’re packing minimally in the first place, you’ll probably avoid this issue.

5. Choose to relax and have fun. Enjoy the time off work exploring a different part of the world. Take a chance on that Airbnb on a banana farm. Wander to the nearest park for some exercise and views of the gum trees you don’t have at home. Talk to locals. Everything won’t go perfectly, but if you choose to be content and grateful despite whatever bumps come along the way, you will truly be able to unwind and create memories to last your whole life!