By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids correspondent
Sydney is a long way from my home in NYC. When my daughter decided to spend a post-college year Down Under, it was time to undertake the journey.
United’s New Nonstop from Houston-Sydney
I booked United’s new nonstop from Houston to Sydney. First I had to fly to Houston from NYC, but for travelers in many parts of the U.S., the flight via United’s Houston hub should save time and minimize connections.
Upgraded to Polaris Business Class
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the 16-hour plane ride but luck was on my side. I got upgraded to United Polaris business class.
Service was top-notch. Dinner mirrored a tasting menu at an expensive restaurant. The highlight was made-to-order ice cream sundaes. With well-heeled Millennials traveling business class en famille way more than their parents ever did, this frozen perk is a child’s dream.
The new Polaris service is all about on-board sleep enhancement. Though my kids always slept well in any seat on long haul flights, this is big news for parents. My flat-bed seat came with snooze-enticing amenities like custom bedding, a soothing gel pillow and cozy pajamas. Most of my fellow passengers changed into their PJs after dinner so it felt like a lofty slumber party. I slept soundly for much of the flight.
A Speedy Airport Train Link
It was a joy to see my daughter Maddy waiting at the airport. We took the efficient Airport Link train to Circular Quay, just steps from my hotel.
The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney was worth the splurge. The staff was beyond accommodating. I had asked for early check-in and the room was ready when we arrived at 10 am.
The room overlooked the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Best of all, there was a comfy chaise longue strategically placed near the window to exploit the million-dollar view. I could have stared at this UNESCO World Heritage Site for hours, but after a quick cup of Australia’s famed flat white coffee, we hit the ground running.
The Taronga Zoo is just a short ferry ride from the city center. We saw indigenous animals such as Tasmanian Devils and Goodfellow’s Tree-Kangaroos. I booked the Koala Encounter for an up-close experience with this Aussie icon. There’s an impressive zipline as well as a ropes course for children ages 3-7, but I wanted to remain on terra firma after such a long flight.
Sydney Opera House
I booked tickets to Opera Australia’s Greatest Hits. It’s a 90-minute matinee of famous arias from well-known operas such as Carmen and Tosca. The host and singers playfully engage with the audience, so it’s an easy way for kids to get acquainted with the opera house’s perfect acoustics and unforgettable aesthetics.
We dined at the Four Season’s new restaurant, Mode Kitchen & Bar. Dashing Tuscan-born Head Chef Francesco Mannelli’s menu focuses on seasonal ingredients over embellishment.
We loved the open kitchen, glam Art Deco touches and of course, the delectable cuisine.
We lived in Italy for several years and Chef’s toothsome risotto elicited food memories of the most authentic sort. When I told the waiter that my stomach was a bit off thanks to jetlag, Chef presented me with a bowl of delicate minestrone, the perfect remedy.
A drink at the hotel’s bar, Grain, was in order to ensure a good night sleep. I was impressed with the gorgeous wood bar as well as the organic and biodynamic wine list. After a quick digestive, I hit the sack to get ready for tomorrow’s adventure.