I never thought about
traveling to New Zealand. I did think about going to Oceania, but
basically for Australia. Somehow, a family request made me plan a
travel to there and I felt in love of what I was finding out. As I kept
looking around internet I could find better prices for campervans than
on the first research and offers for the flight which made me think
about a budget attractive enough as per boarding to a travel to the
antipodes and organizing it, this time, for 8 people. The budget was
under 1500€ per person.
The flights were more
relevant for the route plan than ever as, going that far, we would have
to look stopover options. The first offer I chose, 10 months before
traveling, was a Barcelona-Sydney return flight with two stopovers of 8
hours in Beijing, which we could take advantage of to visit the Great
Wall when going and the Forbidden City when returning, and we could
visit Sydney as well. But flight rates between New Zealand and
Australia were the reason for leaving these kinds of options. Air China
could take us to Sydney by 990€, but any flight between Sydney and a
city in New Zealand was over 300€.
The best option, then, was finally looking for a
flight to New
Zealand from an European city and looking a low cost link from
Barcelona to that city. The most options are in London, but it has the
problem of changing airports, as low cost airlines don't use Heathrow
as airport while it is the main airport for the long distance flights
A sample of cities for stopover would be then:
Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and, mainly, Hong Kong. All Asian ones as, as far
as I could
check, the flight rates were better that way than following the
On despite of that, we finally would take both ways when
the options from Air New Zealand. Flights from London were a lot
cheaper than the same from Barcelona, where they need to use a link
from a partner airline. Also, their multidestination online tool is
fantastic and we could manage a trip around the world when finding out
the cheapest option for our desired dates was going via Los Angeles and
returning via Hong Kong.
Talking about desired dates, they were fixed
availability of the group and trying to avoid the winter itself in the
South Hemisphere, made September as the best month for us. Also,
including September 11th and 24th helped to having more days as they're
bank holydays in Barcelona.
Air New Zealand website showed a 1020€ rate for
mentioned flights, the good thing was the price kept the same if we
used the flights letting us to stay for one day in each city and we
could choice different outgoing city in New Zealand in order of being
able of doing am itinerary Northern Island-Southern Island or Southern
Island-Northern Island as our will.
We find the chance of visiting Sydney as well when
checking on that tool that changing Christchurch-Auckland and
Auckland-Hong Kong flights by Christchurch-Sydney and Sydney-Hong Kong
was just 30€ more. Unfortunately, Sydney was finally removed from the
itinerary because of the reasons explained on "Flights" section. This
forced a Northern-Southern route as well. The driving route was the
main work in the route plan.
I got a list of must-do's soon for both islands: Hobbiton,
Rotorua, Tongariro, Kaikoura
(whale watching), Glaciers, Milford Sound, penguins and swimming with
dolphins or seals. For this last one Kaikoura could do the work until
we could check that activity is not offered in September. At the
beginning, we took Oamaru for the penguins and Akaroa for dolphins. At
that moment, we were always thinking on a South-to-North itinerary as
the campervan rentals could be really cheap following this way, or even
free with the ferry trip paid on what the companies call
Bay of Islands was discarded from the very beginning because
its cost in time versus its lower attractive for winter season. Also,
places as Dunedin, The Catlins and Abel Tasman N.P. were set apart with
a lot more of pain.
route plan was concentrated in the Southern Island to finish in a quick
three days route through the Northern one in Tongariro, Rotorua and
Auckland, and we could even take the last night in Auckland if the
flight left late. The plan was taken from a line linking
Christchurch-Akaroa-Oamaru-Te Anau-Queenston (after visiting the
This marks a minimum of 11 nights, although I was aware some days meant
several kilometers to keep this route.
I still had spare days to use and I knew daily plans in New
Zealand can be broken easily because of weather matters: cut roads,
canceled activities, ... So I needed flexibility. Finally we were going
to do the route from North to South, and new must-do's appeared, like
the Cathedral Cove, in Coromandel, or swimming with dolphins in the Bay
of Plenty, hotter than anywhere in Southern Island. So, our itinerary
through New Zealand, starting early in Auckland, was the following:
1: Auckland, Coromandel and
night in Tauranga, as next day we will go for the swimming with
2: Tauranga, Matamata and ending in Rotorua
3: Visiting geothermal areas in our way to Tongario N.P.
4: Driving to Wellington, where we will spend the night to take the
ferry early next day.
5: Ferry, Marlborough and night in Kaikoura, as next day we will go
early for the whale watching.
6: Whales and driving across the island to the West Coast through Lewis
Pass, night in Greymouth after visiting the Pancake Rocks.
7: Driving south to the
glaciers and make a tour over one of them, then driving to as far as
possible, Haast or Wanaka.
8: Go on our way to Queenston and night in Te Anau,
where we can visit the glow worm caves.
9: Milford Sound cruise and driving to Invercangill.
10: Driving through The Catlins ending in Dunedin
11: Driving to Tekapo Lake, in Mount Cook N.P.
12: Reaching Christchurch
And we still had two spare days to having that
flexibility. The final itinerary appears from using these two days
within the itinerary: one for the first day, splitting the ship in
Tauranga and Hobbiton in two days and being able of making things
easier for the first day with jet lag and first driving of a motorhome.
So day 1 was split in two days (A, B and C in the map) with night in
Coromandel. The other day would be used splitting Queenstown and
Milford Sound visits (J and K in the map).
a clear idea about our itinerary is quite liable until reaching the
Southern Island, but we can use the days in Mount Cook or The Catlins
to save the problems of time.
And that was like
this until a few weeks before leaving, where we were effusively
recommended for Abel Tasman N.P. instead of Kaikoura from someone was
The budget kept around 1400€ per person, out of
So, finally, the definitive route plan (number of day and
sleep) is the following, starting by September 8th of 2012:
2: Los Angeles
4, 5, 6, 7 y 8: Northern Island
9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 y 16: Southern Island
18: Hong Kong
At the map above, there is the whole itinerary through both
islands by road in motorhome.
The first thing is always purchasing the flight tickets as
arrival and leaving date and time is the range for the route plan.
On my first searches, I was attracted by an Air China
Barcelona-Sydney flight by 995€. Then I only should look a good flight
between Sydney and any city in New Zealand between the different
companies with these routes. The advantage of this plan is we could
manage the New Zealand's starting and ending cities for our driving
itinerary. Also, the flights, when going and returning, allowed an 8
hours stop in Beijing, letting us enough time to visit the Great Wall
and the Forbidden City. Somehow, the cheapest flights between Australia
and New Zealand were over 300€, which killed the budget
The lack of low cost options in Oceania made me look to
side: flights to New Zealand from an European city, to which we indeed
have low cost flights. During some weeks the best option seemed to be a
Korean Air London-Auckland flight by 1090€, with the great advantage of
haviong flights leaving from Gatwick airport in London. Those are not
daily flights, though, and forced us to change our dates. The stopover
is in Seoul for these flights. Somehow, they soon raised rates to be
over 1200€ and putting it out of the table.
Finally, the chosen one was Air New Zealand because by the
cheapest rate in the market at that moment, it allowed us to travel
around the world, going by one side of the planet and returning by the
other. Also, rates don't change if we do a one day stopover in each
link city: Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The rate here was 1020€.
Playing with the multidestination tool of Air New Zealand
I found out we could get a 8 hours visit to Sydney by just 30€ more and
that was the chosen option. But, Sydney-Hong Kong flight was not an Air
New Zealand one, but "hired" to a partner company: Virgin Pacific and
it worked different than the rest of flights. For example, I discovered
the rates per person raised when trying to purchase tickets for more
than 4 people and, also, the total rate for the whole itinerary raised
200€ one week later because of this flight. The solution was removing
the Sydney option from it. I can add here, those 200€ more was the cost
of stopping some days in Cook Islands in our way to Auckland from L.A.
An attractive option for someone with more days to spend than us.
Once purchased flights in February I kept looking
offers of Singapore Airlines and Emirates, which at the moment of the
search had very interesting rates for flights in our spring until June:
Barcelona-Auckland by 1180€. Cathay Pacific also showed very good
offers if flying on the first two quarters from 900€ between London and
Auckland. But none of them had offers for September better than the one
we already got.
Finally, then, Air New Zealand flights are like
this, by 1026€:
09/08/2012 LHR 16:15 LAX
09/09/2012 LAX 22:30 AKL
09/24/2012 CHC 20:20 HKG
09/26/2012 HKG 10:00
We must add
here the low cost flights between Barcelona and London. Ryanair had
same rates than Easyjet, both from Barcelona airport and we choose
Easyjet, which it was already my favorite option before checking
prices. The flight for September 8th has better rate flying to
Stansted, while the best option for the one on September 26th flies
from Gatwick. As I've already looked rates for private transfers
between London airports, the specific airport to use is not a problem
here. I kept 4 hours between the landing time in one airport and the
taking off time in the other, which should be enough for transfers
taking between 80 and 60 minutes. Rates are 47€ for the going flight
and 43€ for the returning one, which we must add 30€ for the baggage
to. It gives a total of 120€ per person. Somehow, at the moment of
purchasing them, the first flight rate has been raised by 10€, so 57€
finally due it was still the best option. So, these Easyjet flights
were finally purchased by 130€ per person:
8/09/2012 BCN 11:10
26/09/2012 LGW 20:00
The total price in flights for this travel: 1156 € per person.
This section is small
for this travel as we're going to spend the most of the nights in our
own vehicle: a motorhome. Somehow, there are two nights for solving
yet: L.A. and Hong Kong ones.
As always I start searching on Booking.com.
In L.A. I had a clear
idea from the beginning: a hotel close to the airport is cheaper and
gives us a logistic advantage for our plans. We will rest after landing
from a very long day spent in cars and planes. Next morning we want to
take two rented cars and go first to Santa Monica, which had good
communication by highways to the airport. Between the lot of hotels
close to LAX international airport we've chosen the Travelodge Hotel at LAX, two
blocks from the airport, with swimming pool, breakfast, parking and
internet included on their 75$ double room rate (85$ for a triple
room). We've booked two triple and one double room with a total price
of 245$ + 15% of taxes.
In Hong Kong, the allocation options are huge
the city and the different islands. The best value for money we think
is the Nina et convention Centre.
It is a 5 stars hotel in a skyscraper with an elevated pass way (on
or 40th floor) communicating it with the shopping mall besides.
Here we paid 4 double rooms as they show a better rate than
two triples and one double. It's 78€ per room. It has a metro station
just in front of it which links with airport and downtown.
With the route plan
closed, we cannot go for reallocations as they are used for
reallocating vehicles from South to North and we're going to do the
opposite route. As we are a big group with fixed dates, it was more
difficult for us waiting for them.
Once the flights
were purchased we looked often at Juicy Rental website, which were the
chosen ones, waiting for September offers. Somehow, about 4 months and
a half before departure date, we found an offer for Cheapa Campa
motorhomes through the British website Motorhomebookers.com,
which we could get a luxury motorhomes, with toilet and shower and all
the extras by less than the total price from Juicy. So we go fast and
paid deposit inmediately.
They're real apartments
with everything we could need included: cooking utensils, crockery,
cutlery, linen, towels, doonas, pillows,...
I must say here it was no rush for this offer as it was kept
until the end.
There is another car rental: in L.A. and for a
day we will get two cars to move fast between the spots we want to
visit. Our experience with Dollar in 2008 makes us repeat with them and
go directly to their European website were we could choose cars like
these by around 30€ (7.5€ per person):
We've paid two of the one in the
middle, all inclusive. Dollar office at LAX airport is one block from
the Travelodge where we're going to be accommodated.
The price for the
activities is going to be showed on daily pages, but there are some
other fixed expenses for transportation, as the transfers between
airports in London.
We've booked - and paid to avoid exchanging pounds
- with the company BA transfer (http://www.batransfer.com),
because we've found the best rates with them: transfer from Stansted to
Heathrow Terminal 1 is 100£
and from Heathrow to Gatwick North is 80£
for all eight persons. We've been lucky with the number of people in
our group here, as 8 seems to be the best number for minivans. A total
for these needed shuttles is like 30€ per person.
Although it is not an expense by itself, I'm going to mention
we've opened an account on New Zealand's bank BNZ through their own
This is going to make a lot easier the payments for the group as we're
going to be delivered a debit card on arrival. BNZ has an office just
in front of Auckland's international airport. We've send 800€ each to
this account which we expect to be enough for paying all the
activities, fuel, ferry and holiday park nights.
plan, then, is like this:
to L.A 19:45h