A Family Christmas in Australia – Introduction

  1. Introduction
  2. Saffire Freycinet – Tasmania – The Experience
  3. Saffire Freycinet – Tasmania – The Details
  4. Southern Ocean Lodge – Kangaroo Island – The Experience
  5. Southern Ocean Lodge – Kangaroo Island – The Details
  6. Intercontinental Sydney
  7. Family Activities in Sydney
  8. Flight Notes, Delta Delivers in a Tricky Situation and other Booking Considerations
  9. Concluding Thoughts

Following to successful family trips to the Persian Gulf for Christmas 2012 and Hualalai for Christmas 2011, we felt confident tackling the big one – Australia. With Christmas and New Year’s Eve falling on Wednesdays in 2013, the kids’ school holiday schedules provided for a two week break, the ideal amount of time for such a journey.

Australia has been a family travel objective for us for some time.  My kids, now ten and seven, were very excited with the prospect of this trip.  Australia is a place they’ve heard much about over the years, but have never been.

From 2008 to 2011, I was the US country head of a large Australian company. As part of that position, I visited Australia typically five times a year, and had been visiting for business with other companies since 2003.  While it was tough on the family to be away so long, on most of those visits, I needed to stay over for a weekend (trips were generally two week trips), which afforded me the opportunity to see many parts of the Australia.  Across those trips, I visited every state and territory within Australia (except WA!).  Sydney became a second home of sorts for me, spending perhaps 10% of the year there between 2008 and 2011.  While I’d not been back since 2011, my fondness for life in Sydney hadn’t waned in the least.

Despite twenty-plus visits, my family had never come with me. This was the year to change that.

Because of my extensive “tourist” travel during my business trips, I knew with a high degree of certainty some of the things I wanted to do. Australia is a big country, with many diverse places to see. Knowing my wife does not like to keep moving from place to place, we settled on three destinations as agreeable for the circumstances.

Since we were visiting in the southern summer, this would be a trip to the south, to avoid the their tropical north.  We wouldn’t visit the Great Barrier Reef or Ayers Rock this time.  Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island was a definite for this trip.

Southern Ocean Lodge
Southern Ocean Lodge

Similarly, seeing the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Sydney was a “must do” activity. This also dictated the part of the trip we would spend in Sydney (it would be the last stop).

Sydney Opera House - View from the InterContinental Hotel
Sydney Opera House – View from the InterContinental Hotel as crowds gather for New Years Eve

Our children absolutely love seeing animals making Tasmania the logical third destination. I recalled having my eye on a fairly new property called Saffire Freycinet, which was built in the later part of the last decade. I never made it to this part of Tasmania during my prior visit to the island, as the property was fairly cumbersome to get to (something we confirmed on this trip!).  A bit of refresher research on the property made it clear that Saffire would be the logical first of the three destinations for us.

Saffire Freycinet (Tasmania)
Saffire Freycinet (Tasmania)

While the trip would be exciting, I knew getting a family of four to and from Australia (a) at Christmas and (b) in the front of the plane would be a nontrivial exercise. I’m pleased to say that bar one slight proviso, we pulled it off very nicely.  When all was tallied, the trip cost 1,045,000 miles using a combination of Delta, American and British points and about $2,500 for certain paid flights and award co-pays.  (Just about half of the cash amount went to Rex Air for 156 miles of return air travel for the four of us!)  As the avoided cost from miles was over $60,000 for this journey, the value per redeemed mile was well in excess of $0.05.

23,274 miles of travel!
23,274 mile journey!

Most notably, we were able to get four low-miles business class award tickets on Virgin Australia going round trip across the Pacific, using Delta miles, on the dates we wanted to travel. I know most think of Delta points as being not very valuable. I understand why people feel that way – but I’ve somehow consistently ended up extremely lucky with Delta.  In hindsight, I could have made one aspect of our booking more efficient from a miles perspective (using less valuable miles, but not impacting the total number of miles spent materially).  More on this later.  Nevertheless, I’ve once again demonstrated that the phrase SkyPesos is in fact a misnomer.

Let’s begin…

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