Trip Report: New Zealand
New Zealand has always been near the top of our list of places to visit, and we finally got our chance this past December! We have seen and heard many great things about this beautiful country and are definitely happy to confirm it ourselves. From the natural beauty to the people (also known as Kiwis), New Zealand lived up to our expectations. We only spent 8 days in New Zealand, primarily in the south island, and wished we could have stayed longer. In this Trip Report: New Zealand, we discuss a few of the highlights from our trip to the magnificent isle of New Zealand.
Flights are not cheap when it comes to traveling to Oceania. There are sometimes flight deals but the best way to get down there without breaking the bank is to use credit card reward points. We previously wrote about how we were able to snag business class seats on United Airlines to Auckland and from Melbourne Australia using our Chase Ultimate Reward points, so go check it out for more of an in-depth breakdown. Essentially, we spent 320k UR (we also got 20k United miles refunded since United got rid of first class seats) points for lie flat seats round trip. You might be thinking, “holy cow, that’s a lot of points!”. It was totally worth it though especially when your flight duration is more than 12 hours! Auckland is the largest city and will probably be the one you’ll be flying into if you’re coming from abroad. We mainly used Auckland as the entry point into the country. Our main destination in New Zealand was Queenstown which is on the south island.
Domestic flights within New Zealand are easy to book but there are not very many options to choose from with Air New Zealand and Jetstar being the primary airlines. Since there’s not very many options, you can expect the prices to be a little more expensive than what you would find in Europe or Southeast Asia. Check out our Travel Resources page to see what booking tools we used.
New Zealand has plenty of hotels but if you’re looking to use reward points, you’re going to have a hard time. There are no major hotel chains that we found in the entire country. The only brand that we saw was the Crowne Plaza and we don’t usually have reward points for that brand. So we ended up spending cash during our stays. We used TripAdvisor to find our hotels. New Zealand is also known for having great motels. When us Americans think of motels, we think of dingy gross places that are off the interstate. Well in New Zealand, just think the complete opposite. The motels are extremely nice in New Zealand and are great cost effective alternatives to the big hotels. We opted to stay at a mixture of hotels and motels during our stay in Queenstown, Wanaka, Mt. Cook Village, and Christchurch. In a later post, we will review some of the places we stayed at.
The other option that many people also choose to do is to take a campervan. These are pretty much large vans that have a bed, toilet, and even showers in. We saw campervans literally everywhere we went in the south island. The reason we didn’t choose to do the campervan was because we compared the cost of renting one versus staying at a hotel and renting a car and determined that the latter option was best. Campervans are unique and cool but was a bit too costly for us.
We visited New Zealand at the start of their summer in December. Although it was summer, the temperatures are a bit cooler since New Zealand is close to Antarctica. The temperature ranged from the 60’s and 70’s during the day and down to the 40’s and 50’s at night. We got a lot of sunshine but also had a day or two of rain. The key to dealing with the New Zealand weather is to wear clothes in layers. It can be nice and warm one minute and the next can be breezy and misty. The sun is also much stronger in New Zealand. Make sure to wear sunscreen at all times, even when it’s cloudy.
New Zealand’s main attraction is it’s natural beauty. There are the typical touristy things to do here and there but for the most part, people come to New Zealand to see the land. New Zealand has mountains, plains, lakes, and glaciers. Most of the sightseeing we did was on one of our many hikes. There are also a ton of adrenaline activities in New Zealand. We did bungy jumping, jet boating, a helicopter ride, and even mountain luging. If you plan on doing these types of activities, be sure to book in advance as the most popular ones tend to sell out.
The food in New Zealand was pretty good! There’s not much diversity in the food but everything tasted much more natural and preservative-free. The food in New Zealand is similar to what you can find in the U.S. and the U.K. It seemed like the Kiwis really liked their sandwiches and burgers. You can pretty much find a good burger in any town. If you’re in Queenstown, be sure to try the famous Fergbuger. The burger was worth the long wait in line. It was so good that we waited in line twice during our stay!
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places we have been in our travels. It is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise! There’s tons to see, do, and eat regardless of which island you’re on. One of our favorite things about New Zealand is also the people. Everyone was so friendly and helpful and we loved it! Our time in New Zealand was way too short. We will definitely be back to visit and next time we’ll make sure that we have more time to see everything!