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Entrance to Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

Haere Mai!

Welcome to my new series on the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa/ New Zealand. The JJ family was fortunate to visit this beautiful land of the Kiwis for the last two weeks and I wish to share our adventures here.

The seeds for our trip were sown with the arrival of Air New Zealand to Houston in December 2015. In February, on a whim, I started looking for availability for four passengers from DFW to Auckland. I was able to get four seats in economy roundtrip connecting through San Fransisco, with both legs on United. It wasn’t exactly the route I had hoped for and the long haul flight in economy would be a bit tiring, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to visit this beautiful nation. So I used 80,000 miles from Mr. JJ’s account and booked his ticket. Another 240,000 United miles from mine to book the other three tickets. We ended up with two reservation numbers between the four of us but all were booked on the same flight itinerary.

The months flew by with other trips, school days, work and it wasn’t until November that I started seriously planning this trip. New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere and as such, it would be early summer when we travelled, a very busy tourist season. A few things became very clear, very quickly.

  1. New Zealand is one nation made up of two major islands with a population of 4 million across both land masses. Not a lot of people for the amount of land, but also limiting the amount of available accommodation, especially on the South Island.
  2. There are so many places to visit in New Zealand but they are spread across from each other and sometimes separated by vast mountain ranges/lakes that are not easily accessed. This meant we would have to drive from place to place and wouldnt have a single base to explore from. While distances aren’t immense like in the US, driving on the left side on narrow, winding roads along the coast or the mountains would be no small task.
  3. This also meant that we had to stay in a different city/town every night to make the best of our limited time.
  4. The possibility of motion sickness concerned us.
  5. There is a vast array of activities and attractions to enjoy in every part of the country, but time and budget constraints had to be addressed.
  6. There are a variety of travel options to use like cars, campers, tour coaches, the railways.

In the end, we decided that NZ couldn’t be explored to our hearts’ content in the 12-13 days that we had. We chose the itinerary based on our favorite things to do, our level of adventure with a good measure of family fun thrown in.

I must say, planning this trip was nearly agonising at times. Just having to give up the Kaikoura area due to the recent earthquake brought with it a sense of loss. We gave up the Glaciers when we realised that Sonny JJ couldn’t join us on the explorer expeditions we liked since he was under the age of twelve. Mr. JJ and I really wanted to visit the Coromandel peninsula but again our limited time didn’t allow for it.

By the time our final itinerary was put together, it had gone through several changes. But in the end, we visited different places, enjoyed the beauty of each place, tried a different activity-sometimes unique to that place, sometimes not. We left the country with no sense of regret but rather the knowledge that we had a great sampling of all that Aotearoa has to offer, knowing that this was clearly the most beautiful country that we have ever set foot on. Knowing that this would be one place we would definitely return to explore, experience and enjoy.