Blogger’s note: So the order of this post is a tad misleading—we were in Melbourne before heading to New Zealand, but for the sake of keeping my posts organized by country, I’m including Melbourne here.
After spending an adventurous five days up at the reef and rainforest, we took a three-hour flight down to Victoria to spend some time in Melbourne. To us, this was one of the coolest and hippest cities we’ve ever been to (Montreal and Austin are also on that list). If we ever moved to Australia, we would totally live in Melbourne.
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Melbourne at night, from 55 stories up at the restaurant Vue de Monde
What We Did
This was a fascinating tour that took us through all the little alleys (known as arcades) throughout the city of Melbourne. Not only are there tons of cool little shops and restaurants in some of these alleys, but there is an INCREDIBLE amount of street art that changes every month. Here is some of the amazing artwork that we were lucky enough to see.
Blogger’s note: After our experiences in Queensland, Australia, we actually headed south to Melbourne for a few days before heading over to New Zealand. But for the sake of keeping my honeymoon posts organized by country, I’ll talk about Melbourne in the next post.
After a short three-hour trip, we were in Queenstown, New Zealand, where the weather was drastically different from what we experienced in Australia. While it was in the 80s and 90s in Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, it was barely 40 degrees when we got to Queenstown. But despite the frigid weather (and me having a cold during this part of the trip), we were awed by the majestic beauty of Queenstown.
All photos personal unless otherwise noted
View from in front of our hotel
Although most people prefer to go on their honeymoon right after the wedding, I am SO glad we decided to wait a few months. There were a number of good reasons, but the best one was that, other than officially being married, this gave us something as epic as our wedding to look forward to (and plan)! We spent 26 days between Australia and New Zealand, visited nine different cities, took eight different flights…and amassed a lifetime of incredible memories.
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Now that I’ve married into a Packers family, showing some love with the Sydney Opera House in the background
We worked with Down Under Endeavours (a Chicago based travel agency specializing in travel to the South Pacific) who booked the majority of our trip including flights, accommodations, excursions, car services to/from airports, and more. If you are planning a trip or honeymoon Down Under, I highly recommend arranging your travel through them.
Before I delve into the first part of our trip in Australia, I gotta talk about the flight to Sydney. Because Mr. M travels a lot for work, he has racked up a ton of miles over the years on Delta, so we exchanged a bunch of them for free round-trip tickets to Sydney—in first class. For a flight that’s almost 15 hours, having seats that recline 180 degrees, pillows, and a comforter, three-course meals (with a sundae cart!), and unlimited amounts of booze was like no other flying experience I’ve ever had. I totally would have taken more pictures of us lounging but I didn’t want to be that girl. I did manage to snap a picture of Mr. M enjoying a glass of champagne while looking over the dinner menu, though!
Early in the honeymoon planning we’d mapped out our park days (both to help make our dining decisions as well as to have a general plan); this also came in handy when we were given the option of scheduling FastPass+ attractions. The basic plan was:
Images via PhotoPass photographers
Mr. RT hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom before, so that was our obvious first park. We had FastPasses for Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safari in that order. While a lot of Disney fans consider scheduling rides like this to be way on the micro-managing side of things, we loved the convenience of it and not having to go from one side of the park to the other and back again collecting the paper passes. It also allowed us to get the big rides taken care of first thing in the morning, so if we wanted to take a break after lunch we weren’t in danger of missing much of anything.
While it was tempting to sleep in the day after the wedding, we were both anxious to get on the road and on our way to Walt Disney World.
First, though, we had to repack the cars (thankfully I’d packed up all the decorations they delivered to the cottage on Saturday rather than putting it off), drive home and unload said cars, grab the honeymoon luggage, and drop T’s suit back at Men’s Wearhouse. We we there right when they opened at 11:00 AM and at 3:00 PM we were driving under the Disney entrance.
Lesson learned: if you plan to take photos from the car, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wash the windshield!
We made excellent time and absolutely no stops. I even managed to stay awake the entire ride, which is probably a first for me!
Since we’d already done online check-in and received our Magic Bands (Disney’s RFID answer to tickets, room keys, and Fastpass+ data) a month ahead of our trip, check-in was a breeze and we were soon being handed our celebration buttons and settling into our room. Now, I’d requested a first-floor corner room and we’d gotten a passholder discount about a month or so out from our trip on a Garden View room. This put us all the way in the back corner of the resort, which was great for getting to the parking lot and boat dock, but not so great for getting to the buses. Had I realized how much that would matter to me by the end of the trip I might have asked for a different room, but once we were unpacked it didn’t seem worth the bother. What’s a few more steps, right?
In my last post, I reviewed our travel agent and resort, and while we did spend most of our days on the resort doing some combination of napping, eating, drinking, and the like, we managed to get off resort twice for some excursions we booked on site.We hesitated to plan anything beforehand because we really didn’t know how we were going to feel once we got there. By our second day of rotating lounge chairs, we felt that some exploration was in order. We met with our resort’s concierge to set up two excursions—one to Xplor and a catamaran ride to Isla Mujeres.
ON-SITE CONCIERGE: 5
When we first arrived at our resort on Monday afternoon, we were instructed to go meet with the travel desk to arrange our transportation back to the airport the following Monday. They wanted to ensure that our flight times were accurate and we were all on the same page. The weekend we were there, there was a time change in Cancun, and if not for the Amstar counter, we may not have made our flight home! We booked both of our excursions through Amstar as well, and though we may not have saved big money here, we felt safe every step of the way and all of our drivers and Amstar representatives were professional and friendly.
XPLOR NATURE PARK: 4
“Looking for cute and affordable favors? Put the treat of your choice in adorable boxes from Weddingbee Favors!”
I honestly cannot believe it’s been a WHOLE month since our wedding and Turkey Day is just on the horizon! (How excited is everyone for stuffing and cranberry sauce!?)
Less than 36 hours after the end of our ceremony, the Newly-Jets boarded a plane on a freezing cold Boston morning bound for Cancun!
Way too early for both makeup and completely open eyeballs
After a half-day’s travel, we landed in Cancun and promptly…stripped off our New England layers to find this:
I’ll be the first to admit I was in a major funk when our honeymoon came to an end. It had been the most fantastic vacation I could have ever imagined. But as they say, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened…and book another trip for next year!
If you’re thinking about Aruba for your honeymoon or just a tropical vacation, I offer you the following suggestions for your consideration.
And really, how can you resist?!
Probably the best thing we did on our honeymoon was a big secret until now.
I didn’t share our plans with the hive beforehand, but I decided that while we were on our honeymoon, I wanted to do a trash the dress shoot!
(Well, maybe it wasn’t a true “trash the dress” as my dress is far from trashed. Insert “rock the frock” here, if you prefer.)
At the recommendation of the wedding coordinator at our resort, I emailed a few photographers prior to our trip and ultimately decided on Victor Winklaar from Winklaar Photography to photograph our session. He was the perfect choice, offered the best customer service prior to and after the shoot, and I think his photographs speak for themselves. If you are planning a wedding or honeymoon (or just a vacation!) to Aruba and are looking for someone to capture those memories, please consider Winklaar Photography! I cannot say enough good things about this company!
OK, enough yapping—let’s get to the photos!
All photography courtesy of Winklaar Photography unless otherwise noted
As I mentioned in my previous post, half of the days of our honeymoon were spent being adventurous. Here are some of the excursions we booked for our trip (again, based almost entirely on Trip Advisor reviews and recommendations).
First up was an ATV tour of the island with Aruba Sunrise Tours. We didn’t actually see the sunrise, but the early morning departure time meant we got to enjoy some of the most beautiful parts of the island without having to deal with droves of other tourists, including a natural pool, caves, and a deserted beach. The tour was a little pricier than others Mr. Plane researched, but it was totally worth it for the personalized experience we received.
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The ATVs we drove (top left) were pretty fun! And I still swoon over the beauty of that secluded beach (top right).
We also booked a fishing trip with Hatts Off Charters. This probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for a honeymoon activity, but Mr. Plane was really excited about going fishing, so I was happy enough to sit on the boat and watch (without getting seasick—thanks, Dramamine!).
The Airplanes decided early on that if I (Mrs. Airplane) was planning the wedding, then he (Mr. Airplane) could take charge of managing the honeymoon. And let me tell you, Mr. Plane did a fantastic job. My only requests when it came to honeymooning was that the active days be interspersed with relaxing days—he’s more active, I’m more, “Let’s take a nap on the beach.” Oh yeah, “beach” was a must-have for me as well.
Choosing Aruba came down to finding a place where we could both relax and be adventurous, somewhere free of extreme weather (Aruba is outside of the hurricane belt), with great dining and lodging options. English speaking and US currency acceptance were also taken into account, as was travel time to arrive at the final destination.
Once he determined Aruba was the place for us, Mr. Plane spent quite a bit of time reading reviews on Trip Advisor and posting questions on the forums. Because of his diligence, I sincerely believe we saw the best of what the island had to offer during our seven-day stay.
Traveling to Aruba was fairly unremarkable. We saw quite a few honeymooning couples in the airport, and it was fun to swap stories and guest photos with other newlyweds. From Detroit, we made a quick stop in Atlanta before flying on to the island. On the second leg of our journey, the flight attendants played a little scavenger hunt game, which the Airplanes (along with the third person in our row) won with flying colors!
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Hey look, Airplanes on an airplane! That bag contained a bunch of snacks, and we each won an alcoholic beverage as well.
Arrival into the Aruba airport was very easy. We waited in a short line to turn in our customs form, made quick stops at baggage claim and the duty free store, and found our cab driver, Bully. Bully was a Trip Advisor find that we booked a few weeks before departure, and he was even nice enough to make a quick stop at the grocery store so we could pick up a few essentials before checking into our resort.
Now that you’ve heard about our trip to Barcelona, San Sebastian, Venice, Florence, and Rome, I want to talk about our travel and offer some tips and reviews.
We were lucky enough to get first class tickets for our flights due to Sparky having saved miles pretty much since he was 18 (all of his work trips certainly helped, too). He picked our flights largely based on plane types, which worked out well. We ended up with lie flat seats on both transatlantic flights!
Flight to Barcelona / Flight home from London
We flew with American Airlines (and British Airways on the way home) and had no problems. They took good care of us, both on the flights and in the airports.
Fortunately, after our difficult travel to Florence, we had a much smoother ride to Rome. Our train was about a half an hour delayed, but once we boarded, we made it to Rome without any problems. We took a cab to our hotel and dropped our stuff off before hopping immediately on a tram toward Vatican City.
We were in such a rush, you see, because we had to arrive at the Vatican just before closing so we could go our on after-hours tour of the museum which included a semi-private visit to the Sistine Chapel. We were able to see areas of the museum typically closed to the public (such as the Pope’s private chapel), which was amazing in and of itself, but nothing compared to entering the Sistine Chapel with eleven other people. Closed doors, reverent silence, and a full thirty minutes to be in there with our guide (and I have no pictures, unfortunately, as photographs are not allowed).
Hive, I’ve missed you! I know, I know, I keep saying that and then I disappear for a really long time, but this time I’m back and I’m finishing my recaps.
For those of you who may not have met me yet: Hello! I’m Mrs. Otter, and I got married six months ago on a chilly—but beautiful!—April day. I’ve actually blogged almost all of our recaps, but life comes up and gets in the way so I’ve never quite finished. Since we celebrated our six month wedding anniversary over the weekend (where has the time gone!?), I wanted to come back and finally finish the posts I have for you.
(Photo by the wonderful Stacy Able Photography)
To jump in right where I left off: we were on our mini-moon in Chicago, and we spent our two days there being as tourist-y as possible. Even though we live in Indiana, I had never been to Chicago and Mr. Otter had only been once, so it was time for us to explore our way through the city. One of our first stops was Garrett’s Popcorn. I eat a lot of popcorn, so it had been recommended to me several times leading up to our trip and it definitely did not disappoint!
I spent months searching the internet for reviews of every single thing that Disney has to offer, and it really helped me pick out the best things to do that would make our honeymoon epic.
So it seems like a good idea to put loads of reviews in one place. Reviews of grownup Disney experiences for adults to enjoy on their honeymoon.
Meeting Tinker Bell is optional.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour
Jack had never been to Disney World before, and I thought it would be nice for him to really see the inner workings of The World before we explored it for ourselves. Jack loves knowing about things in detail and my senses were right—he loved this tour.