After a cross-country drive from Colorado to Michigan, a week in Michigan, followed by over 24 hours of air travel time, I am happy to report that we have made it to New Zealand! Woo Hoo! Overall getting here went pretty smoothly. However, there were a few bumps along the way.
Reflecting on our journey, I kept thinking back to the NBC public announcements a few years ago: The More You Know. That tagline (whoever created that jingle is an evil mastermind) stuck with us. So here are some things we learned along the way:
1. Pack, then repack, then repack again.
During the packing process, we considered how much trekking around we would be doing over the next 6 months. We originally had planned on one larger carry on and our backpacking packs. I had visions of running over people with my wheely bag (rolling bag) while bumping into them with my large backpack (flashbacks of trips to NYC came back to haunt me on this one). We managed re-packing until we only had our backpacks and laptop bags. Only having our laptop bags during the multiple airport travel was really nice and only having to manage one large bag made navigating the airport and city much easier.
2. New Zealand really does have nice customs people
People had warned us about bringing hiking gear and other items into New Zealand. Because it’s an island, they have to be really careful about dirt and foods coming in to their country. We scrubbed our hiking boots and shoes just to make sure. We were also warned that if we questioned claiming something, claim it. From my understanding it’s easier for customs to say you made a big deal out of nothing as opposed to giving you a fine or explaining you have to throw something out. We didn’t have any trouble.
3. Two hours between flights is not as long as you think
Flying from Grand Rapids, MI to Chicago, to LA, CA, to Auckland, New Zealand we thought around 2 hours would be a long time for layovers. Not true. Chicago’s airport worried me the most due to weather…or something (I haven’t had a great track record flying through there). However, we arrived early at every airport and the clear skies paved the way for our travels. And then LAX happened. This was the most stressful part of our journey and it really wasn’t bad. Neither one of us had flown into LA before. It’s a big airport. We were so excited to get off the plane after our 4 1/2 hour flight we didn’t think to ask about where to go for Air New Zealand. It turns out Air New Zealand had moved terminals only a few days before we got there. We saw the move marked on the map with a post it type note saying it had moved to the international terminal. We ventured outside (passed some paparazzi) and then back through security (I saw the most stereotypical hipster getting ready to go through security taking off her non-prescription glasses and fanny pack). We then went to the wrong gate…not our finest moment. We finally went down some stairs into a basement like area which is the new terminal.
There we waited in line while the staff members figured out their computer issues. They only had one working computer. After dealing with a small issue (see the next item on our list), we had about fifteen minutes before boarding. The new terminal for Air New Zealand doesn’t allow the planes to come to the gate, so we were loaded up into busses and taken to the airplane.
4. As a US citizen, you can travel to New Zealand without getting a visa, but you need an exit plan
We knew in order to travel to New Zealand, we needed to have an exit plan. Since we don’t know where we’re going next, we figured we’d head to Australia, spend some time there and then see if we want to stay there for another few months or head somewhere new. I had looked into Australia entry and knew as US citizens you can visit for under 3 months if you have a visa or ETA. We figured we could deal with it later, since we wouldn’t need it for another 3 months. Not true. (the more you know). We found out we needed to have Australia visas in order for our proof of exit to count. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to be admitted to New Zealand. Whoops. The agents at Air New Zealand worked on getting our visas taken care of over the computer. Normally, I don’t think it would have been an issue, but we were using up the one working computer and as luck would have it (or not have it), Australia’s immigration department computer was down, so the agent helping us had to call them directly. Luckily, the whole thing was resolved and we now have visa’s to Australia.
5. Air New Zealand made the airplane safety video cool
I’m not sure if I’ve ever paid much attention to the airplane safety information. However, Air New Zealand made an entertaining safety video (my inner nerd was doing a happy dance). Complete with a cameo from Elijah Wood, the video was pretty great. Just in case you want to watch it yourself:
6. 12 1/2 hours isn’t as bad as we thought
The last leg of our flight went really quickly. Walking by first class, we were kicking ourselves for not upgrading, but decided we like being able to eat and have shelter instead. But seriously, I think I understand why people splurge after walking by the pods where people were stretched out with their feet up. Sigh. After the previous flights, our seats were pretty nice.
Flying into LA
7. Don’t forget to pack yourself some meals
We definitely were so focused on packing and re-packing our bags that we didn’t really think to bring any food with us. At the last minute, we grabbed some granola bars (thanks Susan). It would have been nice to have something a little better than what we ate and for a fraction of the price.
So this concludes our lessons learned on getting there. The More You Know!
Next time, we’ll post on Auckland! Flat whites, movies on the dock, and getting to explore the city.
We walked down to one of the piers in Auckland.
Auckland’s Christmas decorations are up. This Santa is on Queen St.
A view of Auckland from the pier. It’s been really nice weather around 70 degrees with on again – off again light rain. But best of all…there’s water! The water color is a light greenish-blue.