777 painted with the Hobbit's Smaug

Booking our NZ flights

Gandalf riding the Hobbit's Eagle

Eagle from the Hobbit

Wouldn’t it be great to travel around for free like Gandalf on the back of a Hobbit Great Eagle?

Unfortunately the rest of us have to suffer the delights of long haul so the first activity for our journey to New Zealand was to book our air tickets. We started early, about 10 months ahead of when we wanted to travel.

I’ve quite a lot of air-miles from KLM which is part of the SkyTeam alliance so this seemed like an obvious starting point. It quickly became obvious though that using air-miles was going to be difficult. The airlines like you to travel when they want you to travel, rather than when you want to travel. Due to our work we had fairly restrictive dates and this limited our choice dramatically. Although air-miles are free to use you still have to pay the air taxes which can often work out as much as some cheaper cash tickets. So we quickly gave up on using air-miles which was a shame.

After a short piece of research on Opodo we realised that apart from the really obvious holiday periods the prices were relatively static throughout the year. The cheapest flights were via China but after that most carriers were relatively similar in price.

View of AirNZ multi-stop screen

AirNZ Multi-stop

Of course the obvious airline to investigate was Air New Zealand – airnewzealand.co.uk. Their Opodo prices were comparable to everyone else. They have a great multi-stop booking facility on their website. You pick the start of the journey, the furthest point, and then you can add stops into the outward and inbound segments by just clicking on the line between airports. It works really well and is recommended if you fancy a multi-stop trip. Each segment gives you a choice of possible routing depending on what’s available.

Using the AirNZ multi-stop booking screen we quickly came up with a round the world itinerary that will allow us to stop over at some great places on the way to and from NZ.  Hopefully we’ll adjust more gradually to the jet-lag as well. The round the world ticket was about 30% more expensive but is allowing us to stop over in Hong Kong on the way out, and Fiji and LA on the way back to the UK. As it turned out some of the legs are with AirNZ but we’re also flying with BA and Cathay Pacific.

British Airways A380

British Airways A380

We booked Economy tickets but we decided to pay for extra leg room seats or a guaranteed pair of seats on different legs of the journey, hopefully to make it a little more comfortable.

We had one small problem booking the exact flights that we wanted, and the schedule has changed slightly since we booked and the Air New Zealand service centre has been nothing but helpful. My only comment is that they seem overly familiar for us Brits!! A sign of the NZ friendliness to come maybe?

The first leg of our journey is London to Hong Kong on the new British Airways A380 double decker which should be interesting!

Look out for later posts on how we got on.

Sunset by Robert Simpson (wiredkiwi.com)

New Zealand here we come!

Sunset over the Tasman Sea, from NewPlymouth by Robert Simpson (wiredkiwi.com)

Sunset over the Tasman Sea by Robert Simpson

So just under 8 weeks from now we’re off on the trip of a lifetime!

We’re taking over 5 weeks off work in total to travel around the world and will spend 4 weeks touring New Zealand. It’s something that we’ve been planning on and off for years and finally last July we took the plunge and booked our flights. There are several main reasons to go – to visit relatives that we haven’t seen for 50 years, to visit relatives and friends that we’ve never met except on Facebook, and to tour what looks like a great country.

This blog is here to act as a journal of our trip as we’re travelling but also to provide some useful information if you’re also thinking of travelling to New Zealand yourself. We’ve spent a lot of time researching the holiday and there are some great resources out there.

Photo of Napier, New Zealand by Robert Simpson

Napier by Robert Simpson (wiredkiwi.com)

The first thing we discovered was the huge amount of great photographs of New Zealand online. It really gives you a feel for the place before you go. There are some great photographers out there like the well known Trey Ratcliff who hails from New Zealand and has a great travel photo site called StuckInCustoms.com.

I also really like the photos of Robert Simpson who lives in Hawkes Bay. Rob has a great site called wiredkiwi.com that’s well worth a visit. He’s exceptional at getting great shots of people going about their normal lives in NZ. He also takes some great photos of the great New Zealand scenery and a few of his scenery photos illustrate this post as well as the site header. Click on any photo for a closer look. As I said it’s well worth looking out for his photos.

Mount (Doom) Erin by Robert Simpson (wiredkiwi.com)

“Mount Doom” by Robert Simpson (wiredkiwi.com)

Have a look at the site’s “Useful Links” page for sites and resources that we’ve found online that have helped us with deciding where to go and what to do in New Zealand. One useful site is Travelbug, a great site to find and book hotel and other accommodation. He appears to be the site to use in NZ for hotel booking.

So we’re well into our planning but we’ve still a lot to sort out. Look out for future posts to see how we’re getting on.