After our trip to Iceland this past summer, our second trip of the year brought us to the South Pacific. Iceland and New Zealand...two expensive "lands" within a year, what were we thinking?! Surprisingly, the total "all-in" cost for the both of us was less than ONE round-trip economy flight ticket from the US to New Zealand. =) Read on to find out where we went, what we did, and how much we spent.
These are the places we visited during our 2-week trip to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary:
We redeemed most of our flights with airline miles, and only paid for taxes and fees. The only flight we bought was the domestic flight from Christchurch to Wellington, only $48 for 2 pax! We took advantage of the 'sweet spot' for Alaska miles to build in a free stopover in Fiji en route to New Zealand. San Francisco was a bonus stop because our original flight was cancelled. For more details on how we earned and redeemed miles for this awesome itinerary, check out this post - Travel to New Zealand & Fiji With Points and Miles
Chase United Explorer Referral Link - Earn 40,000 United bonus miles (good for one-way economy from US to New Zealand)
No I didn't miss a zero, we really spent only $55 for 11 nights in Fiji and New Zealand! =D IHG points (credit card) is awesome for New Zealand!
IHG Premier Credit Card Referral Link - Earn 80,000 IHG bonus points (enough for 5 nights in Holiday Inn Queenstown)
We were glad to spend 2 nights in SF (1 extra night due to change in flight schedule) because it gave us more time to hangout with hubby's buddy whom he hasn't seen in 3 years. Our timing worked out perfect because they just moved into their new house the weekend before we visited and we were their first guests. Big thank you to Kedar and Trupti for hosting and bringing us around!
For our first night in Fiji, I redeemed the one free night award from the SPG 50-night benefit for Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa. My Marriott Platinum status got us a complimentary room upgrade to an Ocean View Room and complimentary breakfast.
For our 2nd night in Fiji, we stayed at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa for 37,000 points, which was within walking distance from the Westin. Thanks to my Hilton Diamond status, we received a complimentary room upgrade to a One-Bedroom Beachfront Suite and complimentary breakfast. =)
Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa
Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa
New Zealand - Hokitika
There weren't any chain hotels available on the west coast of New Zealand South Island. So we booked this place for $55 on Airbnb. We didn't spend much time here, mainly just shower and slept.
New Zealand - Queenstown
Queenstown was our 'base' in South Island. We stayed 4 nights at the Holiday Inn Queenstown Frankton Road for a total of 54,000 IHG points. It's supposed to be 20,000 points/night but I was able to stack the benefits for both my IHG credit cards to get 4th night free + 10% rebate on redemption.
The exterior looks dated but the interior is newly renovated. Best part of this hotel is the location overlooking Lake Wakitipu and it's actually much nicer to be 15 min outside of crowded Queenstown. The hotel provides free shuttle to Queenstown.
New Zealand - Christchurch
Spent 1 night at Chateau on the Park - DoubleTree Christchurch for 27,000 Hilton points, our last stop on the South Island. Received a complimentary upgrade to a Deluxe room and complimentary breakfast thanks to my Hilton Diamond status. =)
Thanks DoubleTree Christchurch for the anniversary surprise!
New Zealand - Wellington
Spent 1 night at Intercontinental Wellington for 31,500 IHG points (after 10% rebate). This is a nice hotel but we didn't spent much time there. It was conveniently located in the city and we were able to take a bus from the airport to the hotel.
Thanks Intercontinental Wellington for the anniversary surprise!
New Zealand - Lake Taupo
Stayed 1 night at Hilton Lake Taupo for 28,000 Hilton points. We received a complimentary upgrade to Junior Suite and complimentary breakfast. =)
Thanks for the upgrade and complimentary drinks!
New Zealand - Auckland
Stayed at Holiday Inn Auckland Airport on our last night in New Zealand and received an upgrade to the King Suite. The location of the hotel was perfect as our final stop before flying out of Auckland.
Transportation was one of our big expense. For Fiji, the only transportation we needed was between the airport and hotel. Notice the huge price difference between public buses ($2) and a cab ($24)!
The best way to see NZ is to drive, no doubt about it. Since we had limited time, we had to plan our route efficiently (and cost-efficiently). Fortunately, New Zealand has a lot of amazing deals for car relocation (i.e. one-way rentals for FREE). By planning ahead, being strategic with our routes, and have several backup plans, we managed to find two relocation deals that matched our route and dates, one from Transfercar (4 free days from Queenstown to Christchurch) and another from Jucy ($1/day + 1 tank of gas from Wellington to Auckland). Finding great deals on rental car saved us a boat load of money. In total, we paid only $60 for 10 days of rental car (excluding gas)!!! Gas was slightly more expensive ($264 for 1,730 miles), but it's not bad at all.
We knew that we would spend more on food this trip because we were staying in hotels (no cooking). However, both of us are not foodies and eating in fancy restaurants were not the priority of this trip. We were able to save on some lunches thanks to the complimentary breakfast in the hotels. Our food cost in Fiji was almost $0 because the hotel told us that we had a FJD250 ($120) credit at check-in. No idea how that credit came about but we triple-confirmed about it and used them at the hotel restaurant and room service. =) Even though we couldn't cook in the hotel, we found out that the big supermarkets have freshly prepared food so we had several meals from supermarkets/grocery store.
No we didn't starve ourselves. =P
Obligatory stops for Lord of the Rings fan --> Hubby
We survived driving around New Zealand without purchasing any phone or data/wifi plans. We relied solely on an offline map (MAPS.ME), which we pinned and downloaded before the trip to navigate ourselves around New Zealand. The app worked perfect without internet and we didn't get lost at all!
All in all, we spent a total of $1,266 ($633 per person) for two weeks in San Francisco, Fiji, and New Zealand!! We covered a lot of grounds (literally) and saw a lot on a relatively low budget. New Zealand is a beautiful country and we would definitely recommend it to everyone, especially for nature lovers. If you think traveling to New Zealand is expensive, hope this post provides some tips and ideas on how you can travel to New Zealand on a 'budget'!
Detailed trip reports will be completed but may take awhile, stay tuned!
Tips on rental car relocation deals: