I have been plotting and planning but not for quite as long as most people think. Back in late September my desire to return to New Zealand became a reality when we purchased our round trip tickets to Auckland. Ten years ago I was there for a week (we spent three weeks in Australia) and that was long enough to cement in my brain that I needed to go back again but for longer.
On that first trip we had with us our then eight month old daughter and we were all able to fit in a Sprinter van.
After we purchased our plane tickets for our family of five (gulp, you read that correctly) I went about trying to find a travel agent who would help us plan our month long trip. I consulted the website 100% Pure New Zealand and filled out online questionnaires for several businesses. No one wrote back. Not one. I am pretty sure I tried some of the companies more then once. I became very frustrated.
I then reached out to people we knew who lived in New Zealand. I started asking tons of questions. I am pretty sure I was kind of annoying but I needed to make headway. Thankfully our friends were more then happy to answer my questions and send me links to websites to help me plan my trip.
That's right I had to add travel agent to my list of job duties. I needed to be able to rent a car or a camper van. I needed to find lodging that was okay with children. The crazy thing I learned as I navigated into the lodging waters is that most places in New Zealand charge you for extra adults and kids, sometimes as much as $35 NZD per kid. That will eat up your budget super fast. I found myself having to book places that were slightly above a Motel 6 because I was out of options.
I am thankful for being pointed to Top 10 Holiday Parks this will help out greatly as we drive around the south island in a camper van. Yes, the five of us are actually going to spend about two weeks living out of one of the biggest one's you can rent. On one hand it will really be exciting as I have never actually gone camping with my kids. (My oldest is handicap and it isn't that easy taking her out into the wilderness and sleeping in a tent) On the other hand I think we are going to be insane after that much time trying to shove ourselves into a sardine can night after night.
On the north island I opted for a minivan and motels. Thankfully every place I have booked at bare minimum has a refrigerator. There is another trick I have had to learn while doing all my bookings online. You have to play the numbers game. According to most hotels, or motels if you have five people in your party they think that means you need five beds or two rooms for your stay. For most everyone else I am sure that this is true, however for me, I actually don't need five beds. As I mentioned above, my oldest is special needs. For her safety while we travel it is actually better if we build her a little sleeping nest on the ground. This way we don't have to figure out how to keep her from rolling out of a bed and onto the floor. In every comment section, for every booking I had to state this fact. This is how I learned that most places don't actually read those comments and just blindly agree to book your stay. Only two establishments have written me back, telling me that is okay and they will make sure we have a ground floor room. (Would you like to carry my daughter who weighs roughly around 54 pounds up and down flights of stairs because there isn't an elevator? I thought not).
The other tricky and hard part is figuring out what to see and do. A month sounds like a very long time until you look at a map and start adding in your days. We are going to be on the move more then we ever have before. We are driving around both islands in only four weeks. There is no way we are going to see everything. If I had one month for each island then I think we could at least cover the basics. Three months would even be better but I have a month.And by George we are going to cram as many things as we can into that.
But wait New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, right? Doesn't that mean you will be there during their winter? Yes! 2015 Means two winter solstices for my family. This gives me the extra fun challenge of having to pack winter clothes for five in a manageable amount of luggage. On our little flights between islands we have had to guesstimate about how many kilograms our suitcases would weigh and then pay accordingly. I know about layers but it still is a giant hurdle for me to conquer and beat. Being cold and miserable doesn't translate well for happy travelers, let alone kids.
In just over a month we will be embarking on the longest airplane flight my kids have ever taken (have blue painters tape, can travel!) and the biggest trip we have ever dared to take.I can pretty much guarantee that I will have some fun stories to share and more pictures then I will know what to do with.