When I decided to go to Australia with points and miles, I knew I would also add on a trip to New Zealand. I always hesitated to go to both places due to the distance involved. Fast forward to many LONG trips taken, like to the Maldives, Thailand, Vietnam, Dubai, etc., and Australia and New Zealand seemed close – especially in business class! Here’s how I used points and miles for New Zealand. And if you’d like to learn more about this trip, listen to this episode of our PODCAST!
The bulk of our travel was on ANA (All-Nippons Airway). We took a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney with a stopover in Tokyo and also stayed six nights in Sydney. We booked 120K roundtrip business class seats for myself and my husband using American Express Membership Rewards after transferring to ANA, a travel partner. From Sydney, we booked cheap flights on Jetstar. I had considered booking Qantas flights with miles, but they were way more expensive than I wanted to pay. We were fine with cheap economy seats for that under 3-hour flight! We paid $332 roundtrip for these seats and earned more American Express Membership Rewards because you get 5x on flights. You could also charge them to a Capital One card and erase the purchase If you wanted to.
Our transfer through customs was not bad. You do need to have a New Zealand visa to enter. They also are particular about the foods you bring in. I had to throw out open containers, but my sealed trail mix was okay.
Because we wanted to drive around a little, I booked a car we picked up at the Hertz counter in the terminal. That is always nice. Now to the hard part – driving on the left side of the road! Luckily, I turned this over to my husband, but I was a Nervous Nelly (showing my age there!) reminding him of where he needed to be as he drove. No relaxed passenger here!
We were staying one night in Queenstown (my first impressions were that it was stunning), so I booked the Holiday Express Inn and Suites with a free IHG annual certificate. What a great use of this certificate! The card only costs $99/year, and you get Platinum status with it. We were upgraded to a $300+ suite and loved the hotel. It is a great family stay with free breakfast included.
It was two hours later than it had been in Australia, and most of the restaurants had closed when we got to our hotel. We walked to the cute downtown area, but the restaurants were closing or filled to the brim. We had McDonald’s! Seriously.
We headed to Te Anau, which was about 2 hours away. The ride to Te Anau was gorgeous. It is the cutest lakeside town – bigger than I expected. There are no chain hotels that you can book with, but again, the Capital One Venture cards could be used to erase the purchase for a stay at the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments. I had researched several options, and this was a great one. It also had a washer and dryer, and we were thrilled to wash clothes after being gone for 2 weeks!
We grabbed lunch and took a walk up to the river area near the lake. My husband rented fly fishing equipment and took off to see what he could catch while I tackled the washing, read, and relaxed.
We headed to Milford Sound the next day for an overnight cruise with Fiordland Discovery. Unfortunately, it poured almost the entire time. And this girl is not a fan of rain. It was gorgeous, though, and there were way more waterfalls due to the rain. We got a short afternoon break for some kayaking and swimming. The food was delicious on this cruise. In fact, dinner was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. Delicious blue cod, mashed potatoes, and panna cotta for dessert – yum!
However, I found it overpriced for what we got. There are a lot of 3-hour tours of the Fjiord that one can take and I suggest that.
The next day, we returned to Queenstown and began a couple of night stays at Mr. and Mrs. Smith hotels using IHG points. How did I like this brand? Read more tomorrow.
In using points and miles for New Zealand, we ended up staying at four hotels in Queenstown. Not only am I the queen of airport lounges, but I am also the queen of hotel hopping! I love checking them out and comparing them. Luckily my husband was a good sport with my madness. You can read about all of our different stays on the blog this week.
I love Queenstown and its hippy, relaxed vibe. There are numerous restaurants and countless activities to book, and it is set around Lake Wakatipu, which has many water activities. It also has beautiful parks. We particularly enjoyed Queenstown Park one afternoon, watching frisbee golf and lawn bowling. They had Waitangi Day (their 4th of July) while we were there, and there was plenty to watch and listen to – we especially enjoyed a pair of older musicians in the park.
One day, we had a great time taking this trip to Skippers Canyon for jet boating. We figured the jet boating would be the thrill. Not so. The bus ride was pretty scary – two cars could NOT pass, and there were steep drops. I had to close my eyes a few times. We were given some interesting gold mining history and enjoyed the activity.
Another day it poured. We found a cinema and watched Avatar. The sun came out later that day, and we walked around the lake. Honestly, it is just fun to walk around this cute town, enjoy the street performers, and eat. My husband did book paragliding, but it was canceled due to potential rainfall (I think he was relieved).
We stayed at two Mr. and Mrs. Smith hotels and the Carlin Hotel, which is part of the Small Luxury Hotel brand. We enjoyed each stay, and you can read the reviews to learn about costs and what appealed to us. We only used points for all of our stays in Queenstown. Each came with complimentary breakfasts, and I highly recommend each hotel we stayed at. Check out my reviews later this week.
Although we could not get to the North Island of New Zealand, we enjoyed the South Island. Using points and miles for New Zealand was a great choice, and we plan to return. Next time, we will book fishing trips for my husband (they were impossible last minute) and probably concentrate on the North Island. Have you been to New Zealand, and what do you recommend?
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