Joe Biden recently proclaimed the pandemic “over.” And if an American president declares something, it must be true, right?

Even if his pronouncement is a misguided oversimplification of the wider public health picture, the husband and I have decided that COVID—barring the emergence of a variant akin to the one that mangled our Christmas trip to England—has been sufficiently subjugated to permit foreign travel! In fact, I’m less worried about picking up a virus than I am about not picking up my bags on the luggage carousel, if ya know what I mean . . . 💼

But where to go?

Trip 1: Jamaica

Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 1/10

Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 1/10

Swim-up bar

This spring break trip has been years in the making . . . because that’s literally how long it takes me to accumulate enough personal days to take time off during the husband’s spring break. But I’ve finally done it and we’re celebrating by returning for a relaxed week at our beloved couples-only resort in Jamaica.

Stroll-up bar

Travel planning consists of little more than booking the flight and reserving our cabana at the resort. The pleasure of this trip lies not in the planning, but in the execution. And though we’ve had stress and mega-stress getting to Jamaica in the past, I’m not wasting any precious worry points over this trip because they’re all needed for Trip 3 (below).

Trip 2: Revive parts of the first trip to fall under the COVID ax: Spain/Andorra/France

Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 5/10

Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 3/10

We’ve been in touch with our Belgian friends and they’ve agreed that the summer of 2023 is a swell time to emerge from the COVID fog and reconnect under the Pyrenean sun. In an effort to avoid cramming too much in, we’re deferring the Spain portion of the trip until a later date (¡Wait for me, Costa Brava!) and instead I’m architecting an “Andorra Sandwich.”

This is not an Andorra sandwich. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

By this I mean we’re planning to fly into Toulouse where we’ll kick about in La Ville Rose for a day or two while adjusting to the time change. After that we’ll explore parts of Languedoc-Roussillion and the eastern Pyrenees (bread) before heading to country number 20—Androrra (fixins’)—where we’ll climb a Via Ferrata route if it’s the last thing we do. Then we’ll mosey on over to the central French Pyrenees (bread). Here we’ll meet up with our bike-loving friends and the husband can finally ascend the last col of his “Big 3” Tour de France routes.

La Vélo Vie en Provence

The Thrill-o-Meter sits at an unsatisfying 5 because I already architected most of this trip back before the plague hit and I’m reusing much of what I had planned. As for stress, there’s always some involved in planning an international journey, but now that I’ve begun researching Trip 3, European travel planning seems positively Preschool-y.

Trip 3: Australia!

Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 10/10

Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 17/10

Photo by vectors icon on

I’ll admit that there are at least a dozen countries ahead of Australia on my travel list, but this trip isn’t about me. The husband has long wanted to visit this far-flung, famously friendly member of the Commonwealth family, and with a milestone birthday on the horizon, it was time for him to pull rank.

Photo by Ben Mack on

Not that I’m complaining. After liberating my library’s shelves of every available Australia travel guide, exchanging a few helpful emails with Australian blog buddy Mel at Life… One Big Adventure, and spending a mere ten minutes on the computer in cursory planning, my interest level soared.

As did my stress level.

It’s a tie

Australia travel planning isn’t for beginners.

Its main population centers are widely dispersed all around the periphery, and, I’m quickly realizing, the country is huge. Combine that vastness with a low population (relative to area) and you’ll find that there aren’t flights and trains going everywhere all the time like there are in Europe. To complicate matters, the birthday boy insists on seeing Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). Depending on where you’re setting off from, getting there is neither quick nor easy nor cheap. Because of all this, in just two weeks of (obsessive) planning I’ve run into obstacle after obstacle. 

At this point, the only thing I can be certain of is that, since we’ll be traveling in Australia’s winter, we’re avoiding the southernmost parts of the country—think Tasmania, Melbourne, and the Great Ocean Road. We get enough snow and cold here in the Great White North. Instead, here’s what we are considering:

  • time in Sydney (our probable arrival/departure city)
  • the Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin (or reverse)
  • the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth (or reverse)
  • mini road trip through the Blue Mountains and up to the Mudgee wine country
  • mini road trip on the Grand Pacific Drive south of Sydney
  • fly to Uluru for several days
  • Cairns
  • the Sunshine Coast
  • and more and more and more as I work my way through the books and websites
Photo by Sabel Blanco on

Quite obviously, we can’t do it all. Even if we had the time, the cost alone could net us a shiny new Qantas airplane. So this is where you come in, dear reader. If you are Australian*, have been to Australia, or have reliable intel on Australian travel, I have a homework assignment for you: please tell me what to see, what to skip, and anything else I don’t even know I need to know.

*Mel, you are excused from this assignment. Instead, I’ve designated you my “teacher’s helper,” which means I’ll be pestering you with private emails for the next two years. 😉

If we all do our part, I just know we can come up with a bonzer birthday trip for the husband.

57 thoughts

  1. Wow, how exciting! I can’t help but envision endless sunshine, beautiful beaches, dramatic deserts and ancient cultures. But given that the country is divided into six states and two territories, not to mention that Australia is the world’s largest island, I can only imagine how challenging it must be to choose what to see and where to go. But no matter where you go in Australia, you’re sure to have an amazing time. Can’t wait to read all about your trip 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I approve of this news! Travelling to Australia is a huge undertaking for us North Americans. I’ll be interested to read more about your trip planning. Where would your layover be? Maybe you can add a fun stop to break up that brutally long flight. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve talked the talk (about a few days in Hawaii on the way there and/or back) but we can’t walk the walk. We’re already looking at 3 weeks just to get in all the Aus stuff and cost-wise and pet-wise I’m not sure I want to be away any longer than that. At this point Delta is kicking Qantas’s ass cost-wise, but it’s still super expensive to fly Premium Economy. It’s looking like MSP to LAX, then a fun 15 hours to Sydney.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. AWESOME!!!! I am so very excited for you both!!! We loved our time in Australia! I would definitely recommend at least a few days in Sydney, a visit to Kuranda while you are in Cairns (there is a cable car and train you can take), and a visit to the Great Ocean Road and the Philip Island penguins in the Melbourne area. Have so much fun planning!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re like my mom with the travel planning. I have good news for you if you don’t like my itinerary or don’t want to wait two years to get it: my sister has used a travel tour company called Jacada Travel. They have several trips to Australia that look fantastic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! Exciting that international travel is coming up sooner than imagined! I’m all for the second idea: Spain/Andorra/France, but I’m biased, as I love that part of Europe. I’d love to return to Toulouse and stay there as a base for multiple day trips to multiple plus beaux villages in the area! Wherever you choose to go, I hope you have a wonderful time!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is SO exciting. Jamaica sounds relaxing, France & Andorra sound great – I adore Toulouse and you will love it. If you are interested in some South-France near Toulouse options, my next series of posts from Carcassonne are very close by 🙂 And then Australia, wow. My husband is there now with work and we’ve been there a few times. Looking at your ideas – 2 weeks is a lot of time but it doesn’t go far in Aus. In 2 weeks, we did Sydney (incl. blue mountains trip), then got a flight to Uluru and spent time there (the dinner under the stars, and morning hike are a must), and then flew to Cairns to dive/snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and flew home again. On another 2 week trip we did a road trip up from Sydney to the Whitsundays but that felt super rushed and needed 3 weeks really. On our third trip we did 2 weeks from Perth to Sydney and that was amazing (can’t recommend Rottnest Island enough). Anyway, whatever you choose, it will be amazing. Have the best time planning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carcassonne has been on my list for a long time, so that one’s likely. Foix, Mirepoix, and Ax-les-Thermes also look interesting. Your trips to Australia sound amazing. We will actually have 3 weeks – maybe I miswrote that in my post. When you went to Uluru you must have stayed at the Ayers Rock Resort. Yes, the dinner under the stars, the morning hike, all that stuff they offer will be heartily scooped up by us! Thanks so much for this detailed and useful information! P.S. Looking forward to your Carcassonne posts. I hear it can be overrun with tourists in summer a la Annecy, but I really want to see it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh Carcassonne wasn’t -that- busy, especially not pre 10am if you get there early, or post 6pm if you stay after the day trippers for dinner. We stayed over to make the most of it. Ahhh I’m sorry, I must have mis-read that. 3 weeks is a great amount of time – so so excited to follow along with whatever you chose in the end 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Well it’s been a couple ofnyears since I was is Oz, I was 20 so I’m not sure my priorities would match your’d, or mine, now. Sounds like a great year of travel. But when did you move to Canada? GWN 🤣 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So, my friends who lived in Adelaide for 6 months have these suggestions: Do the Gold Coast on the east side; make sure that climbing Uluru is still allowed. To get there from Adelaide, my friends drove straight north to Alice Springs, staying in a cave hotel in Coober Peddy along the way (memorable!)—and seeing a whole lot of nothing as they drove through the Outback, which was itself rather amazing, they said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for gathering this info for me! Climbing Uluru is now totally prohibited. I’ve seen video of people climbing it before it was banned. There were handrails ala Angels’ Landing in Zion. Looks like it would have been fun, but we’ll have to be content with gazing at it from below.


  8. Yay! It must feel good to be able to travel once more. I myself have been less worried about the virus too, especially after getting infected twice. Brave of you to visit Australia, where everything’s out to kill you. I wish I could visit too. Am waiting for your travel stories!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Exciting times! I went to Sydney many years ago, back when the £ was somewhat reliable 😦
    I didn’t venture out of Sydney other than a day trip to the blue mountains though so not sure how much advice I can offer. Sydney’s worth a few days – I stretched it out to two weeks but had quite a relaxed time over there.

    Anyway, very excited for you both. Hopefully these trips are much less stressful than your last international adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two weeks in Sydney – wow! Sounds fun and relaxing. Our trip will be more go – go – go, but at least we’re not trying to squeeze New Zealand in on the same trip. And yes, I too hope it’s less stressful than our last trip abroad! 😉

      Incidentally, my brother is in London as I write this. He’s a HUGE Green Bay Packer fan and they’re playing over there. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, the go-go-go style is probably more my approach now anyway.

        Oh, I really wanted to go and watch the Vikings in London the week before. Couldn’t get tickets. Hope your brother enjoyed his trip to North London’s best stadium though 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The Europe trip sounds fabulous! I’ve already commented on some of my stops in Australia (all along the eastern and southern coasts), so I’m interested to see how you resolve the Uluru piece. I’ll stay tuned…

    Liked by 1 person

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