Candice and I booked our tickets to Auckland together but separate. We were on the phone ensuring that we booked on the same flight numbers but because we booked separately, we got separated on our flight to Canada. Candice flew out a few hours before me and I flew out right after work to Vancouver. My flight ended up being delayed which was just a great way to start my trip, especially given that my plane was sitting at the airport but it had parked at the wrong terminal so they had to try and get it towed to my gate. Add this to holiday travel (it was December 23rd) and it was just a mess to say the least. I finally boarded my 45 minute flight to Vancouver, Canada, went through customs and found Candice.
We hung out around the airport which is actually a pretty nice airport. There are plenty of places to sit, lots of art to check out, things to see and it’s fairly comfortable. We got our barding passes from the ticket counter about two hours before our flight and then began to get the pre-flight jitters. About 45 minutes before boarding they called my name to issue me a new boarding pass because they wanted to move a family together so Candice and I got separated even more on the flight. We boarded the Air New Zealand 777 and waited. As I sat there, Candice pinged me on the in flight entertainment and we chatted from across the plane as I waited for my two seat mates to come sit with me in my row. As the doors closed, I grabbed a flight attendant and asked if we could move Candice up to my row to sit with me. We managed to get very lucky because the people who were supposed to sit next to me never showed up. Candice got moved to my row and we had three seats to ourselves for the 14 hour flight to New Zealand. The best part about this was the skycouch.
(Image by Smart Travel)
This is a new aspect to the Air New Zealand wide body planes. If you have all three seats to yourself or your family, you can pull up the foot rests and it turns into a double bed. If you are with people you don’t know, it can get weird. But if you’re lucky like Candice and I were you have the row with people you know, you can utilize the foot rests and stretch out. Candice and I spent the 14 hour flight sprawled over these seats and managed to get off the plane feeling like we had only been on a 6 or 7 hour flight instead of 14. I didn’t sleep as much as I wanted to but that was more based around the flight time and trying to get onto New Zealand time which is 21 hours ahead of Seattle.
I have to say, if you ever get a chance to fly Air New Zealand, you should definitely do it. I loved the flight attendants, the planes were well kept and had adorable interiors, and the food wasn’t too bad. We were flying during Christmas Eve and so the flight attendants wore antlers and holiday hats the entire flight. It really is the little things, especially when you’re flying for so long.
We finally landed in Auckland, went through passport control (which if you have a passport with a chip, you go through the electronic scanners so no stamps). Note that with the electronic scanners you have to try to match your passport photo as much as possible so if you do an awkward half smile in your passport photo try to replicate that when you’re going through the electronic entry. This is definitely quite a task when you haven’t had good sleep in over 24 hours but you can get through it eventually.
After we finally made it through the airport customs, we went to pick up our rental car. As part of our awesome ability to do research, we did not realize that we needed to book a ferry ticket from north island to south island. In addition, we did not realize that dropping your rental car off on a different island would result in major additional fees. So we had quite a bit of work to do before we could get our car. We got our information, then had to run across the airport to book our ferry tickets from north to south and then run back to Hertz to tell them what time we were getting the ferry so that we could get our car on the south island. After about an hour of this, we finally got everything settled and walked out to pick up our car.
If you didn’t already know, New Zealand used to be a British colony so you know what that means? They drive on the left side of the road. But it also means that the driver sits on the right side of the car and everything is opposite of what I was used to. We loaded our luggage into the car and began our driving journey through the country of New Zealand.
We ended up being really lucky because it was Christmas Day when we landed and so the roads were predominantly empty which is great when you have to go against muscle memory (note that the pedals are the same, gas on the right, break on the left). So, we started driving off to Waitomo to see the glow worms to celebrate Christmas Morning.