My husband and I recently spent an amazing 17 days traveling in New Zealand. It was truly a trip I have been dreaming about for literally the last 30 years after my best friend went and just raved. It is a long flight – 6 hours to LA and then over 12 hours to Aukland – so thought needs to go into the planning. Then, there is just being so many miles from home…
Having done this adventure, I realize there are some aspects of the trip I could have done better. Even some that common sense should have told me, but obviously didn’t…
So, here are some ageless living travel tips to remember on your next long distance adventure.
Make Sure You Build In Time Between Flights
I originally had only allowed us 2 hours between our NY flight to LA and our LA to Aukland flight. Since we were flying in January, this was really bad planning on my part. More so because there is only one flight per day to Aukland on American. Naturally, they were predicting a snow storm several days before we were set to leave. Well, great angst set in…
I decided to try and switch flights to allow more time in between so if there was a delay in NY, then I had some wiggle room. After much frustration on the phone, we were able to switch to an earlier flight that gave us a 5 hour layover. Well, of course, there was no major storm and we would have been fine. But I will never again allow a short window between flights. I would much rather sit in a lounge for hours then stress about if I’m going to make my flight or if there’s time to transfer my luggage between planes.
Speak to the Airlines for Changes
As it relates to above, I spent 1 1/2 hours on the phone trying to switch one of our flights that had been booked through American Express using miles. I got NOWHERE! What was so frustrating was that they had seats on the NY to LA flight and that’s the only leg I needed to change. But they wouldn’t let me do it. I had to change the whole trip and no seats were available on the LA to Aukland flight, besides the 2 I already had! I even spoke with a supervisor to no avail.
Finally, I told my husband I couldn’t deal with this anymore and to call American directly. He did, they helped, and we go booked on a flight that left us plenty of room. There were no questions or fuss. This is where I am going to start in the future.
Know Details for Excursions
Our travel agent signed us up for a Queen Charlotte Trail hike on South Island. In my mind, I pictured a nice hike in the woods. Well, this turned out to be an 11 mile, mostly uphill trek on a narrow trail in a subtropical rainforest. I seriously was not sure I was going to make it up the next hill. Had I asked or known, I really would have done more training at home to be prepared or decided to do a less strenuous hike. Luckily, I persevered and a cold beer awaited me at the end!
Also, since suitcase room generally is a premium, know what gear companies provide. Again, I should have read the fine print better as on a Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike. The company provided coats, boots, gloves, and socks. We had lugged all of this bulky gear with us in an extra suitcase and never used any of it.
Bottom line…Review all of the excursions you sign up for ahead of time whether through a travel agency or on your own, so expectations are very clear.
Build Some Tours Into Your Itinerary
It’s nice not to have to do all the work on vacation or to be active all the time. Plus, it is good to give the driver a break if only one person is behind the wheel. This is especially pertinent when you’re gone for an extended period.
We took several wine tours – we were in New Zealand after all – where we were driven around from vineyard to vineyard and had an amazing time with our drivers. We also took a helicopter tour of Milford Sound and Fjordland National Park where the most we did was hop in and out of the helicopter. But the piece de resistance was a picnic lunch on Lake Erskine in the mountains. See what I mean…
Carry a Backpack
We’ve found there are certain items that you should have with you at all times, because you don’t know what will be available where you’re traveling. We put everything in a small backpack.
- Refillable water bottle
- Phone charger and adapter
- First aid kit – You can get a travel size or make your own with items you think you’ll need.
- Packable raincoat
- Bug repellent
- Camera and charger adapter
- Snacks – We’d grab some fruit at the hotel everyday before we set out and had brought bars and nuts with us.
- Extra pair of sunglasses
Bring Clothes That Multi-Task
You want to save on packing and travel light, so it’s important to bring clothes that multi-task. This was a very casual trip and outdoors-oriented, so it required active wear and little dress up. Many outdoor activities include water of some sort so waterproof or water resistant is always a safe bet. Now, while this might not be the most attractive wear, I’m all in for practicality on these types of vacations. You can buy most of these at stores like REI and LL Bean. Here are some favorite items:
- Pants that unzip at the knee and turn into shorts – This is the same principle as layering.
- Lightweight hiking boots…I am in love with my Merrill Vibram mid waterproof boots. These work equally well just walking around, but the same can’t be said of sneakers on a hike.
- Water resistant hiking pants
- Lightweight jacket with hood
- Waterproof pants that can go over your jeans
- Scarf…This can be used for warmth on the plane or around your neck, head, or as a shawl.
Plan Down Time in Your Itinerary
Even though you want to see everything during your vacation, time is limited, and you worry you will never get back, you really need to pace yourself. I have literally done vacations where we threw suitcases in the hotel room when we arrived and barely saw it again until we left!
Smartly, Swain Destinations, the travel agency that put together our trip, had the foresight to do this for us. They did not jam pack every day with activities and left us time to make our own plans or just sit on the beach if we chose. They did give us additional ideas, however, and I researched the areas myself for activities of interest.
As such, we got to know more locals, took a relaxing and informative kayak ride on a lake, found two lovely towns to explore off the beaten path, and went on hikes we never would have found on our own. We have found local people are really happy to share their favorites with the tourists as they do want you happy!
Share Duties With Your Traveling Partners
My husband and I divvy up responsibilities on our trips, especially when it comes to long distance adventures. If you’re traveling with others, it’s important to do this so no one bears all the burden and god forbid, the blame. For this trip, I handled the planning and reservations and he did all the driving. If you’ve traveled together a lot, you know what each other likes to do and is good at and what you really dislike. So, you can act accordingly.