Our family of 5 including 2 college seniors and a 17 yr old. loved New Zealand. Working with our travel agent from the New Zealand tour company was such a pleasure. She always answered all our questions no matter how trivial and she responded quickly to all emails. Our trip was well planned out and all the accommodations she booked for us were clean, comfortable and above our expectations. Our travel agent was flexible with us and didn't hesitate to customize the itinerary to our liking. Once we got to New Zealand, everything went so smoothly and there were no glitches. (unfortunately our tour company couldn't do anything about the unusual amount of rain we encountered but we still had an amazing time) Best part was the entire trip was planned and organized and mostly paid for before we ever got there. The excursions that our agent suggested were all amazing and it was obvious once we got to New Zealand that she chose the most highly reccomended trips. No cutting corners! Every excursion was very unique and consisted of activities that we had never done on other vacations. (hiking on a glacier, floating through a cave of glow worms, kayaking and over night camping in Able Tasman Park, and going on a jet boat ride down a shallow river with incredible mountain scenery all around) We had just the right amount of free time verses booked activities. Everyone in New Zealand is incredibly friendly, helpful and so patient. They truly enjoy sharing their country with you.
Hands down everyone's favorite activity was the helicopter ride to Franz Joseph Glacier followed by the several hour hike on the glacier. Despite constant rain, we loved every minute. We also really loved the Black Labrynith glow worm cave tour in Rotorua. They provided wet suits and helmets with lights and we inner tubed through the cave to view the glow worms. On the drive from Auckland to Rotorua we made time for a visit to Hamilton Gardens. Its a beautiful garden run by the city of Hamilton, free admission and a great park like setting. It's not mentioned in any guide bookes but it's well worth a stop. Abel Tasman National park is a must see. But be sure to book your excursions and water taxis in advance as the only way to see a lot of the park is by water taxi and seats fill up quickly during Xmas holiday. Scenery all over New Zealand is simply spectacular. Everywhere you go you are amazed at the beauty. Despite many days of rain on our trip, we still found the scenery amazing. (rain made for beautiful waterfalls and rainbows) Even our 13 hour day trip to Milford Sound was beautiful despite the pounding rain and cold. You just can't see scenery like that anywhere else in the world. Luckily most all our accommodations had washer and dryer. Bungee jumping off a bridge in Queenstown was really fun and very safe.
We would have invested in better rain gear and we would have packed warmer clothing. Despite it being summer in late December/early January, it was still very chilly and WET. (although they say it's not always like that) If it had been possible to scedule our trip for a time that wasn't Xmas break, we would have probably liked that better. Many things were closed Xmas and the day after (Boxing Day) and all restaurants added an additional 15-20% surcharge to every bill on Xmas, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Jan. 2 (even though nobody even knew what holiday Jan. 2 even was!) we also would have allowed more time for stopping and hiking along the way during our drives from one city to the next. Allow for way more time than just the drive time. It's well worth all the stops along the way.
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