Posts Tagged With: New Zealand

Getting close!

In about ten days we start on our epic adventure. But in 72 hours I will be in Minnesota with the kids before we go on our trip. My daughter is going to a sleepaway camp there and while she is there my son and I will visit with relatives. We leave Minnesota on Friday and head to San Francisco for 36 hours of siteseeing before our flight leaves.

Tonight I took all of my travel printouts out of the binder I have been storing them in and I put them in individual folders. I am not sure what I will do with the folders on our trip. I may discard as we are done with something, I may decide to keep the folders as souvenirs…

We are getting there with packing…daughter is mostly packed while son and I have the stuff I need to pack in Tupperware containers. Each night I say I am packing it up and that never happens. Luckily our flight does not leave until 7:30 pm on Saturday so I will have all day to pack if I need to.

Thanks for following. This may be my last post until our adventure begins.

Categories: Australia, Minnesota, New Zealand, San Francisco | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Final Itinerary

Below is our final itinerary.  I may be removing this post in a few weeks when we travel to give new blog followers the element of surprise in where we head next.  Also note that we will actually arrive in San Francisco on Friday, July 21 and will sightsee with the kids for a day before we embark on our trip.

Day of trip Day Day of the week Stay in
1 7/22/2017 Saturday
2 7/23/2017 Flying
3 7/24/2017 Monday Sydney
4 7/25/2017 Tuesday Sydney
5 7/26/2017 Wednesday Sydney
6 7/27/2017 Thursday Sydney
7 7/28/2017 Friday Sydney
8 7/29/2017 Saturday Port Douglas
9 7/30/2017 Sunday Port Douglas
10 7/31/2017 Monday Port Douglas
11 8/1/2017 Tuesday Port Douglas
12 8/2/2017 Wednesday Port Douglas
13 8/3/2017 Thursday Christchurch
14 8/4/2017 Friday Christchurch
15 8/5/2017 Saturday Queenstown
16 8/6/2017 Sunday Queenstown
17 8/7/2017 Monday Queenstown
18 8/8/2017 Tuesday Queenstown
19 8/9/2017 Wednesday Franz Josef
20 8/10/2017 Thursday Greymouth
21 8/11/2017 Friday Nelson
22 8/12/2017 Saturday Nelson
23 8/13/2017 Sunday Nelson
24 8/14/2017 Monday Taupo
25 8/15/2017 Tuesday Taupo
26 8/16/2017 Wednesday Taupo
27 8/17/2017 Thursday Auckland
28 8/18/2017 Friday Auckland
29 8/19/2017 Saturday Auckland
30 8/20/2017 Sunday Auckland
31 8/21/2017 Monday Return home!!!!


  • Originally I had planned spending our time in Australia among Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne.  Later I changed this to Sydney and Port Douglas to give us more time in Sydney and to have a more lazy time before we head to New Zealand.
  • When I changed our itinerary to remove Tasmania and Melbourne, we were going to stay in Cairns.  After talking to a couple of people and a TripAdvisor forum, I moved our Great Barrier Reef Destination to Port Douglas instead.
  • Originally we were not going to be in Christchurch, and we were going to fly into Queenstown from Cairns.  When I looked into flights from Cairns to Queenstown though, the flights would have involved an overnight layover in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, or Christchurch.  Hence, I started thinking about adding in a day in Christchurch.  So now we have two nights in Christchurch, but essentially just a full day in that area.
  • From Christchurch we were originally going to fly straight into Queenstown.  Then I thought about it and looked at a map and there are some things in the Dunedin area we wanted to check out.  So, instead of flying into Queenstown, we are flying into Dunedin and will then make our way to Queenstown later that afternoon for our lodging.
  • We were originally going to stay at the Pancake Rocks on the West Coast of the South Island.  However, after reading reviews of the hotel and location, I decided to change our hotel to a hotel in Greymouth, 30 minutes south.  Bigger town, more food options, and more hotel for our dollar.
  • I contemplated taking the ferry from Picton, South Island to Wellington, North Island.  Then I realized if we did this, it would essentially eat up a full day of sightseeing.  A flight from Nelson to Wellington is only half an hour…and cheaper.  Hence I chose that option.
  • On the North Island, we were going to stay at the Tongariro National Park in a chateau.  Once again though, I read the reviews of the hotel and it seemed like they price gauged you.  I looked for another centrally located area on the North Island and ended up booking an apartment in Taupo.
  • We were also going to stay in Whakatane on the North Island for two days.  But then I felt we’d be trying to cover too much between our stays in Taupo and Whakatane – both had been scheduled for two nights a piece.  I decided to add another night to Taupo and another night to Auckland.
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Paralysis by Analysis

I am reconsidering our North Island itinerary – again 🙂

Right now we fly into Wellington, then spend two nights in Tongariro National Park. Then two nights in Whakatane and then three nights in Auckland before we return home.

Now I am considering revising that so we spend three nights at Taupo and four nights in Auckland. With our current three nights in Auckland it actually only leaves us two days to sight see in that area. I would love to visit some of the islands close to Auckland via ferry, and also “see” Auckland. But with our current itinerary we only have one day to do each of those things.

Second, if we cut out Whakatane, that is one less check-in and check-out that we need to do.

Third, we could stay at an apartment instead of a hotel like we are currently booked in. I was checking out the cafe prices at the hotel we are booked and and they are taking advantage of guests with their prices – $20 for a burger….so if we were in an apartment in a town we could either cook or get a reasonably priced meal.

Fourth – with an apartment it means the most nights we will be without having access to a laundry machine is two…where as right now there are potentially four nights where we have no laundry facilities in our place.

Downside is if we switch to Taupo we have more driving to do our first day on the North Island, but we are closer to other places the days after. It would be our longest driving day of the whole trip (around five hours, not including stops).

So, I will most likely change the itinerary around – I am just waiting to find out about an apartment in Taupo that I am interested in.

*** UPDATE: I did switch our itinerary around and now I feel good about it. I just wasn’t getting a warm fuzzy feeling before, but now I am. I also went to TripAdvisor to look up Taupo and there seem to be a whole lot of things to do in that area. ***

Categories: New Zealand, Taupo | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Track of it All

How have I been keeping track of everything for our trip? I created a binder.  The binder starts with our itinerary on the first page, and behind that page is our travel insurance policy.

 I debated organizing it in date order but ultimately I decided to organize by category. I have five different categories: Flights, Apartments, Hotels, Cars, and Activities. As soon as I make a reservation I print it out and stick it in the binder. This has worked great at keeping me organized. When our flights to and from the South Pacific were cancelled I could easily grab our original flight info when I was speaking with a customer service agent. If something changes I print out the new item and keep the original behind it.

As you can see, right now I am using clear plastic sheets for everything. This lets me change things if needed. Right before our trip I plan to take everything out of the sleeves, make copies, and then get everything bound at a copy store. I plan to keep a copy at home for the memories, and obviously bring one on our trip. However after we do an activity or take a flight I plan to rip that part out of the notebook. By the end of the trip I should have nothing.

I am also using the binder to put local area information. I may need to make another section for that…for example this weekend I printed out local maps of the Mossman Gorge area.

The binder also helps me with my excitement for the trip. There is just something fun about printing something and filing it in the binder.

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How I planned our NZ itinerary

Our trip to the South Pacific was originally planned as a trip to New Zealand. I am still not sure how I managed to convince my husband to let me add on Australia….

The Australia itinerary was pretty easy to plan. New Zealand though created quite a challenge to cover everything we want to see. My husband’s primary interest there is seeing suspension bridges. I actually enjoy seeing the bridges too, but I also want to see awesome things in NZ. So one thing I did was plotted out all the suspension bridges I could find (husband had this info) on a map and see if an itinerary came up that way. I knew we didn’t want to check in and out as well every night so I needed to find places we could stay for a few nights at a time.

Here is what the maps looked like (note – we are not stopping at all markers, they were just used to help me figure out routes that would line up with a majority of these markers):

North Island:

South Island:

I also knew we needed to end up in Auckland to return home. So I needed us to end up in Auckland….which meant starting our trip on the South Island.

Using the map I determined three different starting locations – Queenstown, Nelson, or Christchurch. Ultimately Christchurch won as the starting destination as it was easier to get to from Australia than the other two cities 🙂 

It honestly took me over a month to arrive at the NZ itinerary. Hopefully it all goes well.  In NZ we are seeing a lot of stuff but we don’t have a lot of days of long driving, so there will hopefully be time to go on hikes and hit other roadside attractions. 155 days until our vacation begins and I cannot wait!

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Christmas Gifts, Part One

What do your kids get for Christmas when you have a big trip planned the following summer? Lots of items that can be used for the trip.  If I am going to buy them anyways I may as well put them under the tree as Christmas gifts.

Both kids will be getting books on Australia and New Zealand. My daughter hates to read, but she is very interested in animals. I am hoping that she may actually glimpse at these items…:

My son, on the other hand, is an avid reader. I am pretty sure he will read all the items he is getting and will have memorized everything in the books as he reads them.

I will figure out tonight if these will be stocking stuffers or if they will be wrapped and go under the tree. I think if I can fit them in the stockings they will go in there, otherwise under the tree they go. 

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Trip planning update

Well, it’s now November 20th…the trip is coming together.  I *almost* have the itinerary completed.  Just when I think it is final I think of something else.  I only have two areas to work out – the North Island stint between Wellington and Auckland (4 nights – I am looking for only two locations there) and if we fly into Invercargill or Dunedin before heading into Queenstown.

I may have reserved all of our apartment rentals at this point.  Right now for the North Island I have us booked in a hotel for three nights, but I may change that.  I’ve reserved our rental cars as well, and only have one more flight to book.  So I’m feeling like we are getting there.  I’m the type that likes to go on vacation with everything fully paid for except for meals, so for me I like having everything booked way in advanced and paid off before we go.

Places we have apartment rentals for are: Sydney, Port Douglas, Queenstown, Nelson and Auckland.  We are in hotels for Christchurch, Franz Josef, Punakaiki, and the North Island (possibly).  I have to admit that apartment rentals keep us sane when traveling as a family.  By the end of the day we all need our own space.  An apartment gives us the capability to spread out and relax on our own.  It also allows us to prepare our own meals in case we aren’t in the mood to eat out.  It also helps us pack light as we can use a washing machine in the apartment to wash our clothes every few days.

The kids are starting to become more interested in the trip as well.  The boy would like to go to Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand.  The kids also want to go skiing when we are in Queenstown.  The boy has also requested a helicopter tour…we will possibly do that at the Franz Josef glacier but with it being winter there is a high probability that the ride might now happen.  And the girl may participate in the Sydney zoo’s Zookeeper for a Day program.  It looks pretty neat.  I have been telling the kids to expect clothes this Christmas since we’ll be doing some expensive outings on our big trip.  They were not too thrilled 🙂

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Next Adventure in the Works

Our next family adventure is in the works.  This week I finalized our tickets to Australia and New Zealand.  This started out as a two week trip to New Zealand…and then I thought about it and realized how much I would regret not seeing some of Australia while we are in that part of the world.  It is so far for us to fly too, so I figured we might as well make the most of it and try to see both places.

The plan is to fly into Sydney.  My husband will have to work when we are in Australia as he can’t take off the extent of time that I plan to take off. Right now, I tentatively want to see Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne.  Other places I thought about but ruled out are the Whitsundays and Cairns.  They could make it back into the itinerary, but it is doubtful.  Those places are farther to fly to in Australia.  Sydney, Tasmania, and Melbourne are relatively close to each other and easy to get to.  I will limit the Australia portion of our trip to no more than three destinations.

For the New Zealand portion of the trip, I’ll primarily let my husband design that itinerary.  I know I would like to see Queensland, the Franz Josef glacier, perhaps the Abel Tasman National Park, Rotorua, and Auckland.  But I’m pretty flexible on everything we do in New Zealand.

In regards to our tickets – we used frequent flier miles to fly all four of us to Australia and home.  I’m somewhat relieved to finally have the tickets purchased.  The four tickets ended up costing us only around $300.  I expect that we may have to pay up to $800 additional in change fees before we finally go….for instance – I was not able to book our segment from our hometown to SFO.  As of right now we are flying United to Auckland and then connecting to Sydney.  I’m hoping eventually a flight opens up for award tickets from our hometown to SFO, and when that happens I’ll have to pay a $100 per person change fee to add it on.  Still – it would be cheaper than booking a one way flight there.  If I also see award availability open up on the direct flight from LAX or SFO to Sydney I may switch to that as well so we don’t have to connect in AKL.

I had to lengthen our trip slightly due to award availability…originally I wanted to plan a Saturday to Saturday trip.  This is because when we fly out there it essentially takes two days and I didn’t want my husband to be missing any work on the flights.  This past weekend though United changed the award availability…they had been showing Wednesday and Saturday availability for the flight I wanted and now the availability is for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  So we come back on a Monday now.  Ideally if we came back on a Saturday we would have time to adjust before heading back to work.

I also bought segments as two one way tickets.  This is because when you are trying to fly four people on award tickets to that part of the world, you book the tickets when they are available and don’t take a chance that they won’t be there when the return portion is available.  With both of the “big” flights, right after I booked our tickets the award seats were no longer available on each of those flights…so I guess United may only allocate four seats at first.  Eventually I’ll write a post at how we were able to accumulate so many miles when we only fly about once a year.

So – now the fun begins – the planning and the dreaming 🙂

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