I enjoyed the planning process very much; the agent at our travel company was always very quick to respond with ideas, suggestions, and answers. She was very easy to work with!
The trip was wonderful for the most part- my biggest complaint is that it did feel like the "standard tour" or a template tour; activities and accommodations were specific to our interests and based completely on the info I provided the agent, which I appreciated, but the areas/towns/places and the amount of time spent in them was definitely "the usual trip" for the number of days. While we did see many of the things you're "supposed to see", we personally would have preferred just a little more personalization in the actual places we ended up visiting. However, I'm certain that if I had known more about the country and what places more specifically interested me, that input would have been taken into consideration as our agent was so helpful...trouble is, I didn't know the country!
Logistically all things went smoothly, with a clear itinerary/information and good communication. We had one accommodation that was just absolutely terrible, but after addressing this with the company upon return, they fairly looked into it and handled the matter in a way that reaffirms they are a solid group of people who care about doing a great job, even after the trip is over.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing with a private guide was hands down the most incredible experience. The town of Franz Josef and the west coast of the Southern Island was stunning! Incredible massages in Auckland were the best in the world, and St. Leonards Vineyard Cottages in Blenheim were adorable and lovely!
I would wish to spend less time in the crowded areas or cities-- Whangamata, while beautiful, felt so much like being at a California beach and was very crowded in December. Auckland and Queenstown, while beautiful and interesting, are cities... I personally prefer to see the country and the land. If I go back, I want to do some hiking around Taranaki, and also to spend more time in the South, but not in Queenstown- also to do Doubtful Sound.
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