Our upcoming family vacation to New Zealand is exactly one week away, and the planning is in full force. My work and job related travel schedule has made early planning a little tough, but this weekend is dedicated to making sure the family is ready, our pre-vacation shopping is done, and everything is set to go for us to be gone for 3 whole weekends and two whole work weeks. A huge grin spread across my face as I wrote that!
There are no snakes in New Zealand. That’s the best thing I’ve learned about New Zealand so far – as someone who is intensely afraid of creepy crawlies (and snakes definitely qualify as a creepy) this makes me happy. One of the scariest incidences I had trekking was when I was alone, wandering around the greenery surrounding a temple in southern India, walking in nothing but open flip flops down a slightly worn dirt path when a thick, bright green snake dropped down on the path in front of me. It must have decided to take a fall from some of the branches above. It zig zagged right up to my feet and then lifted up it’s head, looked at me eye to eye, and hissed. I tried to open my mouth to scream but I was completely paralyzed: my mouth wouldn’t open and no sound could come out. Something distracted it and it slide away into the brush and I hightailed it out of there back to the main road. At least I know this won’t happen in New Zealand – not unless someone’s released a pet snake into the wilderness.
Needless to say, I’m excited. I’ve identified and booked our flights (long haul and internal), vehicle (we decided to skip the highly recommended train rides as two kids under five will likely not appreciate them, and destroy our chance at enjoying them), and accommodations.
Why did we pick to New Zealand for our family vacation? We haven’t taken a major vacation in two years, and we wanted to do something that felt special since the timing of this vacation also coincides with my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. We wanted a place that was child friendly; not too difficult to adjust from the Pacific time zone; where none of us had ever been; and had good international connections on American Airlines (as I’m Executive Platinum with them). New Zealand fit the bill perfectly – and had great connections from Sydney with AA’s newly launched flight 72 and 73.
We’re still hoping for the upgrade – currently all waitlisted (and yes, I’m even trying to upgrade the 2 year old – the journey of a two year old in reverse herring bone business class could make a great blog entry in itself), but hope to clear any day now. Otherwise, we make the journey in economy and that’s just how it goes. I joined Expert Flyer this week and am now addicted to it.
Here are our plans. It was hard to make them. Even two full weeks isn’t enough time to see everything in New Zealand, and I didn’t want to over pack things as we’ll be traveling with two small kids.
Day 1: Depart San Francisco
Day 2: In Flight
Day 3: Arrive in Auckland. Pick up rental car from Hertz. Drive down to our accommodations in Cambridge – the Earthstead Villas. Grocery shop, spend the night.
Day 4: Explore Waitomo Caves and go black water rafting (just me and my husband). Kids take boat tour of the caves with grandma and grandpa.
Day 5: Rotorua
Day 6: Hobbiton & Rotorua (finish up anything we didn’t capture on Day 5)
Day 8: Doubtful Sound
Day 9: Milford Sound
Day 10: Depart for Queenstown early morning. Take the TSS Earnslaw Steamship for the Walter Peak BBQ Lunch and Lake Cruise – a farm tour is included. We’ll check into our Queenstown apartment at Villa Del Lago, and then spend the afternoon walking around Queenstown, possibly taking the gondola for a bird’s eye view and definitely hitting up Fergbuger.
Day 12: Drive from Queenstown to Dunedin. Check into our hotel, Aria on Bank, and then explore Dunedin for the afternoon (check out the Railway Station) and do a little bit of grocery shopping.
Day 13: Busy morning between the Albatross Center, and Lanarch Castle. Afternoon tour at Penguin Place, a farm and wildlife reserve where we can view yellow eyed penguins.
Day 14: Check out the Botanical Gardens and Dunedin Farmer’s Market for lunch. Return our rental car, and hop on our Jetsar flight back to Auckland. Evening in Auckland.
Day 15: Fly home.
I think it’s going to be an amazing few weeks in the South Pacific. I’d love any tips or tricks – especially if any of you have explored New Zealand with kids!
Have Kids, Will Work