Our International Travel during a Pandemic

Date of Adventure: 16 Feb 2021


Cameron and I have both lived in Colorado for the majority of our lives. Though we have each  moved several times, we’ve always ended up somewhere in the state.  Since we’ve been together we have moved a few times up and down the Front Range. Packing for this new journey was a whole different experience though; I saw it as a challenge! I have always been a packing procrastinator. I wait until the night before a flight or a couple days before moving to really start. This time, procrastinating wasn’t an option, because we were moving out of our apartment and packing for New Zealand all at once!

We had decided to store some of our favorite things that we would not need in NZ into a trailer. Some stuff we lent to friends and family to use while we are away, like our sewing machine. And because I am my mother’s daughter, I of course had a spreadsheet to keep track of where everything was to go on moving day. To make it more fun, I found colorful sticky dots to label items, boxes and piles: Yellow = trailer, Green = NZ, Blue = parent’s house, etc.

Colorful sticky dots!

We had to make sure we didn’t pack anything we wanted in NZ into the trailer. Several months before our move-out date, I started putting all of the must-go items in one pile, which kept growing. All of the ‘maybes’ got put into another pile, which eventually got eliminated. We had all of the outdoor adventure gear in another, very large pile. Each month I would take a look at the piles and move some items from the ‘must-go’ pile into the ‘maybe’ pile, and eliminate some ‘maybe’ items all together.

Initial suitcase packing and our little helper

Moving out of the apartment was much different than moving in. Due to COVID, we were keeping strictly to our immediate family circles. A HUGE thanks to the Feddes for helping us that day, we could not have done it without you! After we moved out, we parked the trailer for safe keeping and moved in with Cameron’s parents with just our NZ suitcases.

All moved out!

After spending some time with Cameron’s family, we moved up to Breckenridge with my family for the holidays, where we then stayed for about five weeks. While in the mountains we did a lot of snow walks, and some backcountry skiing!

Sadly, because of COVID, we were unable to have a going away party to see you all one last time. I suppose, without knowing it, our wedding was just that: a big hoorah, a grand send off! We were able to spend a lot of quality time with our immediate families throughout our last several months. It helped spread out the goodbyes. One good thing about COVID, it helped prepare us to stay in touch long distance with video calls! Thanks, Zoom!

At the beginning of February, we moved back to Colorado Springs for our last two weeks, the final countdown. Crunchtime!

Vegetarian plant based ‘sausage’ Biscuits & Gravy

Our last night in the states, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law asked us what we would want as our “last meal” in America. We chose breakfast for dinner, always one of my favorites! The two of them then proceeded to make a breakfast feast! Each of us had our own Belgian Waffle, complete with syrup, berries and whipped cream! There were delicious biscuits and vegetarian plant based ‘sausage’ gravy! They made scrambled eggs with peppers and onions. There were plates (plural!) of hash browns, and a pile of bacon. It was incredible! A very bittersweet way to leave.

Delicious Belgian Waffle, scrambled eggs, and hash browns

Remember what I said earlier about me being a packing procrastinator? Apparently I hadn’t learned my lesson, because we found ourselves T-minus 15 hours from NZ-day needing to unpack and repack all the suitcases again! After we were all fueled up from the amazing Brekkie, it was time to start re-packing!


Step one: Empty all the previously packed suitcases.

Step two: Add all the additional things we thought of.

Step three: Make a giant mess all over the floor!

Step four: Sort everything into organized piles.

Organized Pile 1
Organized Pile 2

Step five: Figure out the heaviest items and make sure they will get dispersed evenly throughout the suitcases.

Step six: Set up the tripod and camera to make a packing time-lapse

Step seven: Lay out all suitcases in the middle of the floor, amongst the piles.

Step eight: Start the time-lapse.

Step nine: Start packing; finish packing!

Step ten: Stop the time-lapse

Step eleven: High five! Cheers & take a sip of whiskey.

Finishing off the last of our Stranahan’s

Then do the hard work.

Step twelve: Ensure they are each less than 50 lbs. Suitcase 1: 46 lbs, 2: 47 lbs, 3: 45 lbs…4: 65 lbs.

Step thirteen: Unpack suitcase 4, unzip 3 and 2, redistribute and repack everything.

All done!

After a few hours of shuffling things around, each of our suitcases ended up being between 47 and 48 pounds! At DIA, they weighed in at 49; WHEW! Cameron and I each had two carry-ons. Mine weighed 20 and 25lbs, Cameron’s weighed 35 and 15lbs. We joked that we would need to pretend like they weren’t heavy as we walked through the airport.

All packed!


We left the house in Colorado Springs at 11:15am on Tuesday Feb 16. We were required to wear our masks from the moment we were dropped us off at DIA.

Dropped off and ready to go!
Got our boarding passes, checked our bags, so far so good!
Made it through DIA security!
Leaving Colorado!

The flight from Denver to LA was short but scenic, with views of the Colorado mountains, Utah, and the southwest desert. In LA we had a long layover, so Cameron and I decided to take the “scenic” route from the domestic to international parts of the airport, which took us into the long tunnels underneath the LAX terminals. We were basically the only ones in there, which was a bit eerie. The International terminal was very desolate, all shops and almost all restaurants were closed.

Our final views of Colorado, the Rocky Mountains from above
LAX tunnel
Taking a quick break in one of the empty LAX hallways
Quiet LAX
Boarding LAX to Auckland flight

Once aboard our Los Angeles to Auckland flight, we were quickly relieved to find out that we wouldn’t have a third seat mate, giving us the whole row to ourselves! It was the airline’s way of distancing us. Each bubble (the people you are traveling with) would be the only ones in that row when possible.

I found this to be a bit silly because we would all be very contained in one relatively small space for 13.5 hours. Nonetheless, Cameron and I were incredibly grateful to have the row! Since we were up late the night before doing last minute packing, we were tired, and both slept for most of this flight!

Tired but excited and ready to go!

After touching down in Auckland, a man in a military uniform came aboard the plane and announced where we would be quarantining: “and the lottery winner is…Christchurch!” The way the declaration was said sounded almost like a joke, so Cameron and I looked at each other uncertainly, both confused. Sure enough, we would be sent off to Christchurch, almost 500 miles away. We deplaned and the government took us through COVID checks, confirmed our COVID-19 negative test results, and made sure we weren’t currently exhibiting any symptoms. At this point we went through customs, where we claimed all our outdoor equipment. I also claimed the 6 Lily’s chocolate bars that I brought (which would be eaten in the following 2 weeks during quarantine).

Landing in Christchurch

The only thing they were concerned about was the one thing we forgot to clean thoroughly: our tent. The customs clerk asked us 3 different times if it was a new tent, if we just bought it. We said no each time and looked at each other smiling. It was our giant homemade pyramid tent! Cameron and I keep wondering what they must have been thinking as they pulled it out to wash it and inspect it, wondering, “what the heck is this?” And unsurprisingly they were not able to get it packed down as it was, so it was just a big pile of shiny, loud DCF. (Which then continued to sit unpacked in a pile on the counter of our hotel room, so again we wondered what the nurses who came by each day for our wellness checks must have thought of this large trash bag looking pile behind us).

Once through customs, we all waited for our next plane, a quick 1-hour flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Grateful to be on it during daylight so we could see the islands below!

Upon landing, the military let 10 people off at a time. Once deplaned, we were led to a large hallway lined with suitcases on each side. This was to avoid people touching items that were not theirs. We were to find each of our suitcases in the rows and roll them outside. This is where we waited in yet another line to be assigned a bus. They had 3 large busses queued up, and they would direct you to a bus based on the number in your travel party. Each bus went to a different MIQ (Managed Isolation Quarantine) hotel. We were shuttled off to ours, The Commodore Hotel.

The Suitcase Hallway

Arriving at the hotel, I was immediately impressed with the process. The Commodore staff really have a good system figured out. Disclaimer: Every MIQ hotel is different. This is our experience at the hotel we were assigned to. Once we got to the Commodore hotel, we stayed on the bus while the hotel staff unloaded all our suitcases and rolled them across the car park (parking lot) where they spaced each suitcase out, sanitizing their hands between handling each one. It was fun to watch! Social distanced luggage. Again, it was to prevent people getting too close to others.

Waiting to get checked in to the MIQ hotel

The military guard let each travel party off the bus one at a time. We were given labels with our surname and how many suitcases we had. One person per party would be allowed to go find and label each suitcase, which would then be whisked away by hotel staff and later delivered to our room. While waiting to be checked in, we queued (lined up) outside 2 meters apart in the glorious warm sun. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we were so grateful to have made it into the country and to be outside! Once checked in, we were ushered to our room, where we would live for the next 2 weeks. After 32 hours of traveling, we were finally in New Zealand!

We (and all our luggage) finally made it to our room!

Cameron and I kept saying to each other, “We did it! We are here! We’re actually doing it!!”

I’m sure you want to hear all about our MIQ hotel experience, so we will be working on that for our next post! Thanks for reading, and we’re excited to share all our New Zealand experiences!

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