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[Travel Advice] Trip to New Zealand

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by Duncan McDonuts, May 31, 2015.

  1. Duncan McDonuts

    Duncan McDonuts Contributing Member

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    I'm considering taking a trip to New Zealand with the lady. I've never really had to book my own international vacation before, so I thought I'd ask advice on a few things.

    First, some recommendations if anybody has been to New Zealand. We're wanting a mixture of outdoor activities, sight seeing, and relaxing on the beach. We were thinking an 8-day trip in the North Island hitting Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Hamilton, and back to Auckland similar to this: http://www.newzealand.com/us/trips-...th-island/auckland-tauranga-rotorua-auckland/. We thought those cities would be a great mix, plus there's public transportation so we wouldn't have to drive it - I'm not against driving internationally, but prefer not to.

    Second, self booking vs travel agent. We're looking into late October or early November and tickets on Priceline are approximately $1500 per person. There's lodging, activities, and transportation to take into account. Do people still use travel agents and do they typically book everything and tell you where and when to be in places? Are they worth the fees they charge in overall savings?

    Any advice on international traveling tips is appreciated. And anybody who has experience on New Zealand would be great. I think we have a few Kiwis on this board?
     
  2. diogenes

    diogenes Contributing Member

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    I went to NZ in August of 2012. If you're into action and scenery the South Island is where you want to be specifically Queenstown. They have bungee jumping, skiing, helicopter tours of glaciers and plenty of other stuff. Before I got to Queenstown I took a train up to Kaikoura for sperm whale watching tour. When I got to Queenstown I took a winery tour which consisted of 4 vineyards which I really enjoyed. You'll have the Remarkables (mountain chain) as a backdrop which is stunning. Make sure to take the gondola to the top of the mountain where you can ride a luge, have diner and see a Maori show. I also did the river boat tour which are speed boats that float on 12 inches of water and does 360s etc. I took a bus tour to Millford Sound which takes all day. Basically NZ has such natural beauty you will constantly be amazed. I would love to go back.
     
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  3. sw847

    sw847 Member

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    If u were just hitting the north island, then that would be a good trip, although I would suggest going hitting Taupo as well.

    IMO, NZ's beauty is in the South island, where you got Queenstown, Melford Sounds, Lake Tekapo , Dunidin, Fox Glacia...etc....

    For a 8 day trip (assuming 8 days in NZ), I would suggest fly into Christchurch, then fly from Chch to Queenstown (40min flight), spend a couple of nights there, rent a car to see melford sounds, queenstown, if there is time maybe Dunedin, then Fly from Dunedin/Queenstown to Auckland, spend 4 days in North Island, hitting Rotorua, Lake Taupo and Auckland. You will see all the top sights in NZ on this trip. ALthough this schedule will be a bit tight.

    Personally if you only have time for 1 island, I would suggest south island, you get the mountains, lakes, hot pools, and much better Scenery IMO.

    Although NZ Beaches are beautiful, the temperature during late Oct-early Nov is probably a bit low to do your normal beach stuff (maybe North Shore/AUCK area is ok).

    Hope this helps.
     
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  4. Jontro

    Jontro Member

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    Hit the Shire breh. Don't know what city it's in, but that's where the magic happens.
     
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  5. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    Good timing for your question, since I just got back from a 2-week trip to NZ yesterday.

    Will post more when I get to my computer.
     
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  6. Rileydog

    Rileydog Contributing Member

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    The South Island is where it's at. Look into the Milford Track hike. It is the called one of the most beautiful hikes on earth. You don't have to rough it entirely, as they have huts and hot meals at the end of each day if you sign up for the guided tour. I could not recommend it enough. Unspoiled land.
     
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  7. Duncan McDonuts

    Duncan McDonuts Contributing Member

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    It was hard to decide between the North or South Island. I did get the sense that the South Island had the more breathtaking scenery and nature and more extreme activity. The lady's endurance and thrill level isn't great, so a lot of the major hikes or action activities typical of the South Island were crossed off. We'd love to spend some time in the South Island if we could, but with an 8-day time frame, we don't want to squeeze in too many destinations to where we're too exhausted from traveling to enjoy the city.

    A few highlights we saw of the North Island were dining in the Sky Tower in Auckland, kayaking the glow worm cave in Rotorua, relaxing on the beach in Tauranga, visiting some geothermal pools, and checking out Hobbiton. Taupo is also a maybe. The more I look into it, the more I'm leaning into driving instead of relying on public transportation. I looked into the water temperature for New Zealand beaches and they seem to be 60 degrees during the winter and 70 degrees in the summer, which both seem too cold to swim in comfortably lol.

    Thanks for all the help, bros. You've all been repped, except for Jontro. Any advice on using a travel agent to book or doing it yourselves? Are there any savings with travel agents?
     
  8. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    So here's my $0.02.

    The South Island is where you want to go, especially for your first NZ trip. This comes from my own experience of traveling the South Island for the past two weeks, as well as from everyone I spoke to (locals and otherwise).

    The natural beauty on the South Island is unparalleled and you can't really go wrong with any itinerary while you're there (the same can't be said about the North Island, as you could definitely end up wasting time in places that aren't worth visiting for a first-time visitor, i.e. Auckland).

    Skip the beach in NZ. The water is cold year round. A $100 flight to Sydney would be a much better bet for that.

    I also strongly encourage you to rent a car, as I did. It offers so much more freedom, as half the fun of visiting NZ is making a pitstop whenever you see something awesome outside your car window (which will happen A LOT). The roads are really good, signage is all in English (obviously), and rental cars can be CHEAP. They do drive on the other side of the road, which only takes about 5 minutes to get fully used to. Automatic rental cars are also really easy to come by. The two rental car companies I recommend you look into are Apex and Jucy. You won't find either on Priceline or Orbitz, but they're both reliable and highly regarded locally. To give you an idea of how economical it is to rent a car, I picked up an automatic Toyota Yaris using Apex in Queenstown and dropped it off in Wellington 12 days later (on the North Island) and it only cost me $375 USD including tax -- this also included 3-hour ferry transport for me -AND- for the car, from the South Island to the North Island (Wellington), which was a great experience in itself.

    Since I had about 12 full days, my itinerary, in order, looked like this (I can't get Google Maps to embed properly, so click here).

    You're in luck, because my parents are headed to the South Island in a few months and they only have 8 days like you, so this is the itinerary I suggested for them (click here).

    **Note-- the item on the map labelled "Raspberry Creek Car Park" is the start of an easy 10km hike called the Rob Roy Glacier Track, which was my absolute favorite hike on the South Island.

    There's a ton more I can help you sort out, but I'll just let all that sink in for now.
     
    #8 s land balla, May 31, 2015
    Last edited: May 31, 2015
  9. A_3PO

    A_3PO Member

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    FWIW, Air New Zealand will begin non-stop IAH-AKL service in December.
     
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  10. bigtexxx

    bigtexxx Contributing Member

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    South Island is where it's at.

    Queenstown is one of my favorite cities on Earth, although I wouldn't recommend if it's too cold unless you ski.

    Auckland is nice -- specifically Waiheke (sp?) Island. That place is great. Wine, beach, scenery, etc.
     
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  11. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I've been to New Zealand but it's been many years. I would try and at least mix some of the South Island in as well. You may have to have an additional flight from the North Island to the South Island. That will be spring time there, so check on the temperatures to make sure the beaches will be warm enough for what you are looking to do.

    I had some crazy adventures in New Zealand and everyone there was extremely friendly. Dunedin is where I ended up spending almost 3 weeks of time. It's a great little town with a huge population of folks from Scottish decent. Pretty interesting, but no need to spend 3 weeks there unless you have to.
     
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  12. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    OP - what did you decide?
     
  13. Duncan McDonuts

    Duncan McDonuts Contributing Member

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    We're researching the South Island a bit more. We've done an Alaska trip where we hiked mountains and glaciers. Even though Alaska is not as breathtaking as New Zealand, she's leaning more towards a warmer tropical trip.

    I really appreciate all the advice and tips on New Zealand. Still not sure if a travel agent is helpful or not. I'll come back to this thread with updates once we get a better idea of our plans.
     
  14. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    Travel agent is definitely not needed. Tripadvisor.com is your friend.

    Also - download an app called HotelQuickly. It's similar to HotelTonight (which doesn't have a presence in NZ), where you can book a same-day hotel for a deep discount. You can even get $30 off your first booking using a promo code.

    Another place I really recommend you looking into for late October/early November is the southern coast of Australia (think Melbourne and to the west). The Great Ocean Road is stunning.
     
  15. Duncan McDonuts

    Duncan McDonuts Contributing Member

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    So we finally booked our tickets for the North Island in mid February. We're going for 14 days, so minus travel would be 12 days worth in New Zealand. Arriving in Auckland and departing Auckland at the end.

    Highlights:
    Auckland for 3 days. Maybe a sailing tour, considering Waiheke Island, touring the city neighborhoods
    Hamilton for 1 day. Hot air balloon ride and Hobbiton tour.
    Waitomo for 1 day. Glow worm caves and hiking around.
    National Park for 1 day. Alpine Crossing Tour if the wife feels comfortable with the 6 hour hike.
    Taupo for 1 day. Jet boat to Huka Falls and check out a geothermal park.
    Rotorua for 2 days. Wanna go zorbing, see some Maori culture, wife wants to do a geothermal spa.
    Tauranga for 1 day. Checking out White Island, New Zealand's active volcano.
    Coromandel for 1 day. Cathedral Cove kayak tour.

    Leaves us with one extra day. Any recommendations for that extra day or other activities in these cities?

    I've been researching TripAdvisor to find good hotels to stay at, along with some Air BNB gems in the smaller cities. What would you guys suggest? Wanting to keep it at $100-$200/night.

    Also, the exchange rate is trending high right now, $1 USD = $1.52 NZD. Is it recommended to exchange some cash now and have it on hand for the trip, or is paying everything by card better even if the exchange rate goes down?
     
  16. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    Use your credit card whenever possible; be sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Hit the ATM at Auckland airport for cash for smaller purchases where credit card isn't accepted. Be sure to call your bank beforehand letting them know to place a travel alert on your ATM card (this ensures your card isn't declined at the ATM machine).
     

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