Gold Coast – September 2013

Day 8 – Heading home and final reflections

Friday 21st September

Today being the day that we finally leave the heat of the Gold Coast and head back to more familiar climes, I thought I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on the holiday as a whole. We did have a few hours to burn after checking out this morning and so we made a very last minute decision to take advantage of our 21-day theme park entry tickets and headed over to Dreamworld for one last time, where I was again ‘forced’ to participate in the park’s very most thrilling rides just to keep Jennifer happy. On reflection, I’d say that Dreamworld and [parts of] Seaworld were the best theme parks that we visited over the course of the past week. There were some theme parks that our tickets afforded us entry to but we never got around to visiting them. Wet ‘n’ Wild was one such theme park that we could have visited but didn’t. All the advice we’d been given had suggested that this was a fantastic water park but perhaps with more attractions that would appeal to older children more specifically. Perhaps we’ll come back here in a few years when the kids are older and check out that theme park.

It has to be said that we’ve had a fantastic time here on the Gold Coast. If anything, the holiday was too short and we could have done with another week. On balance, however, I’d have to conclude that the theme parks here on the Gold Coast really do have nothing on those in Orlando. They are smaller, less well ‘themed’ and not quite as well managed. Generally speaking, however, I did find the staff to be very good. Where the theme parks here do align with those in Orlando, on the other hand, is that they are geared up to be very efficient money extracting machines. Yes, the Orlando parks are bigger and better but they too use every trick in the book to ensure the smooth parting of money from wallet at just about every turn. If anything, they are even better at it, for they go out of their way to make it easier for you to buy into the whole spend, spend, spend mentality. You leave the area with a smile on your face and even with a sense of contentedness for having spent so much money. Here, however, it’s just frigging expensive and you come away with a sense that you’ve not gotten as much out of it. It does help either that everything shuts down on the Gold Coast after 5.00pm and dining out options are very much more limited here.

All of this notwithstanding, I have really enjoyed my time here and this has been mostly due to the fact that the kids have enjoyed themselves. I really feel like I’ve re-connected with the kids – especially with Jennifer. We spent a LOT of time together with just the two of us whilst waiting in various lines to go on thrilling rides and attractions. She’s such a bubbly and cheerful young child. We’ve played endless rounds of rock, paper scissors and I’ve fallen in love with her very infectious smiles, giggles and happy-go-lucky nature. She truly doesn’t have a care in the world and this is very endearing. I hope this doesn’t ever change. Joey is more of a timid child and is less secure of himself but I also feel like I’ve gotten to know him a bit better too this week. I can always tell when I have Joey’s attention and favour. He sometimes has what I refer to as that ‘rain man moment’, where he starts to tell me things like I’ll be able to go to his birthday party or can play with his favourite toy. It’s when he’s decided in his mind that I’m the best Dad in the world and he wants to show his affection in some way. In the movie Rain Man, when Raymond starts babbling to himself about his brother ‘main man, main man’, his brother sees this and realises that he’s made a real ‘connection’. This connection happens on occasion between me and Joey and it’s a sign that he’s truly happy at that moment. It’s such a joy to see this when it happens, for Joey is a young child that faces many challenges and is often very troubled or upset with the world around him. He often lives in his own, very secluded world and to be allowed in to this world is a real privilege that doesn’t come along as often as I would like.

I think the kids settled into the accommodation at Ashmore Palms very well. It took Joey perhaps a little longer than Jennifer to get comfortable there but the cabin was very nicely appointed and we wanted for nothing. What was also very helpful was the fact that they provided almost every type of consumable that you’d need on holiday. Many places that we’ve been to have not done this and we’ve had to make do somehow before being forced to spend half a day visiting a local supermarket or something to collect washing up liquid, soap, tissues, bin-liners, things to do the washing up with, etc., etc., etc. With the exception of kitchen towels & washing detergent, just about everything else was already there ready and waiting for us from the get-go. They even had some sachets of dishwasher powder laid on for us. The cabin is showing its age just a little with one or two very minor things showing age-related wear and tear, but it was very clean and well-stocked. If we return here, I’d have no compunction whatsoever re-booking a similar cabin here. The palm trees and lush foliage throughout makes for a very nice atmosphere and the couple of playgrounds, swimming pool and kids club activities meant that there was never a time that we weren’t able to keep the kids entertained. Perhaps best of all was its location, which is central to just about everything that the Gold Coast has to offer. I completed the exit questionnaire quite favourably as I went through the check-out formalities and I’m more than happy to recommend this place to any of our circle of friends and neighbours.

The holiday was not without its moments but they were few and far between and I can honestly say that I’m more relaxed for having spent the past week here. Sandy feels relaxed also. Like me, she feels relaxed when the kids are having fun. She tells me that she enjoyed this holiday more than Fiji last year, although this is mostly due to the fact that the kids had their own bedroom for this holiday. I think I slept better on this holiday than I did on Fiji, although I really enjoyed that holiday too.

Cost wise, I probably spent somewhere in the region of around AU$6,000 all-up for this holiday, which includes all the flights, rental car, accommodation, theme park tickets, Sandy’s anniversary photo shoot, food, souvenirs (including one VERY large suitcase stuffed completely full and bursting at the seems with the kids’ new soft toys) and all other expenditure whilst here. This was less than we spent overall on the Fiji holiday and I’m reasonably happy with this outcome. The next major holiday, if we manage it, will be to Orlando next year and that will be a considerably more expensive proposition if we pull it off.

I think we timed this holiday just right. We had to take the kids out of their last week of school term to do it, but we ended up on the Gold Coast outside of the school holidays and the parks were relatively empty as a result. When the kids are older and in secondary school, I think it will be more difficult to get away with taking them out of school for a major holiday. Visiting a theme park during a school holiday is never fun. Queue times can top up to a couple of hours or more for the really big attractions and it’s just no fun at all standing around in lines all day long in a hot climate. We didn’t know that we’d get so lucky with the time of year and what the park occupancy rates would be like but it looks like we chose just about the best week of the year to visit this place given the just about perfect climate and other general conditions.

So, all in all, this was a very successful holiday. We’re now in the plane and heading back to Melbourne, where we’ll collect the car and drive the hour or so back to Lynbrook. Since it’s Saturday, we still have tomorrow to complete the unpacking, do all the washing and generally just unwind from the whole experience. The Gold Coast was a big success in the end and we leave this place with fond memories and even a little hope, that we’ll again return one day.