New Zealand: planning and flights

by | Apr 17, 2015 | International Travel, Travel

New Zealand has been a travel goal for years with good reason – wine, mountains, waterfalls, craft beer… it definitely seemed like our kind of destination. In 2014 we finally managed to book a trip for March 2015, giving us almost two weeks in NZ, plus two nights in Sydney and one in Hong Kong. Our general itinerary:

  • start in Christchurch, driving from there to Central Otago to enjoy the mountains.
  • a week later drive back to Christchurch and fly to Auckland
  • explore around Auckland for 4 days
  • fly to Sydney and explore the city for the first time
  • 20 hour layover in Hong Kong, one of our favorite cities!


By the numbers:

  • 29172 miles on 9 flights with 5 airlines
  • ~3400 km driven
  • 7 places to stay – 2 lodges, 1 B&B, 1 apartment, 3 hotels
  • 3 boats!
  • 3 wine regions sampled
  • 20+ beers, and met two brewers too!

We had a great time on this trip and are already thinking about a return trip.


Cathay Pacific – Cathay made up the bulk of our itinerary, with a routing from Chicago to Hong Kong and on to Sydney. Thankfully all in business class on one of our favorite airlines!

transit4  transit1

On the way we flew without stopovers, though we did have several hours in lounges before each leg. In Chicago we had access to the British Air lounge, which strangely didn’t open until 12p (though the website claimed 10:30, and the lounge sign said 2p). Not much to remember in this windowless lounge, but at least they had power outlets and free drinks while we waited for our 3p flight.

In Hong Kong we visited two lounges. First, we visited the new (to us) Qantas lounge which had nice views, an airy feeling, and quite comfortable shower rooms. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t that great, possibly since the Qantas flight had already left. With that in mind we headed closer to our departure gate to visit the Cathay Pacific Pier lounge for dan dan noodles and pork buns! Filling up in the lounge let us skip the late dinner on the plane and get more sleep on our second night.

transit3  transit2
dan dan noodles and champagne in the Cathay lounge; appetizer on one of our flights

Qantas – In Sydney the Qantas lounge was large, though seemed smaller than the lounge in Melbourne. There were lots of different seating areas so we camped out in an area with a table, power outlets and a view of the tarmac. We were there for the end of lunch and through to early dinner (it was a long layover) and the selection of food was decent, including a gelato station, pork buns, hot buffet, and some excellent brownies. Drinks were pretty good too, with several beers (including draft) and a variety of wine and cider. Overall I think we liked the Melbourne lounge better for views and style, but the Sydney lounge was quite comfortable for the time we had.

Much like our intra-Australian flights in 2013, our business class experience from Sydney to Christchurch was quite comfortable. Each seatback screen had a wide range of movie and TV shows available so we kept entertained on the 3.5h final flight to NZ.  Leandra was a bit disappointed that the waygu beef was gone by the time they got to us but it was pretty late so she made do with the lamb stew.

Air New Zealand – Basic economy seats on a 1 hour plane ride. Our exit row had a little more room, but nothing really memorable except for the Lord of the Rings-inspired safety video.

Emirates – Auckland to Sydney is a competitive market, so rather than burn miles we decided to try an airline that was new to us, Emirates, since they fly their massive A380 on the route. It is a big plane, with two full decks, the bottom all economy. Our experience was pretty good overall, with a good movie selection on the seatback screens and seats that felt wider than average too. Food was ok, but they had run out of the lamb curry by the time they got to our row (with 10+ rows behind us), and the beverage service oddly lagged behind the food by about 20 minutes.

Our Itinerary

2023 Trips

San Diego (Jan)
Orlando (Feb)
Richmond, VA (Apr)
Northern Italy (Apr)
NC Mountains (May)
Long Island (Jul)
Wisconsin (Aug)
Chicago (Aug)
Bordeaux (Sep)
Rugby World Cup (Sep)

Castile and León (Sep)
Seychelles (Nov)

Willamette Valley (Dec)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)