Trip Planning – Ready. Packing – Not so Ready. About to Go Down Under!

So I sit here writing this entry when -perhaps- I should be starting to pack…  I am less than 48 hrs away from departure but my packing list (serving me faithfully since 1997…) serves as my security blanket.  I proceed writing here not too preoccupied with my packing slackness.  Of course, packing will also be interrupted by a Mexican dinner with friends tonight and, I am sure, by other things tomorrow!

I will leave Monday and the trip will, for sure, be long.  But not as long as my trip to Tanzania which had 2 very long layovers in London and Dubai…  I found a great fare to/from LA in the US with Air New Zealand taking me to Sydney, then including the leg from Melbourne to Christchurch, and finally bringing me back from Auckland.  To and from LA from Atlanta, I used frequent flyer miles.  (Sadly, I had enough miles with Delta for a first class seat all the way but the partner airlines serving Oz and NZ did not have availability EVEN FOR COACH!  Frequent flyer miles are becoming more and more valueless with time.)

My route

So what am I doing?  After a lot of research online (websites, Twitter, etc.) and in travel guidebooks, here is the plan I settled on:

–  Starting on June 3rd for short of a week:  Sydney and vicinity.  I have friends in Sydney so a longer stay is nice.  I hope to visit the Hunter Valley, the Blue Mountains, the Jenolan Caves as well as all the key sites in Sydney proper.

–  2nd week of June through June 18th:  Melbourne and, maybe, a short hop to Tasmania (I know, should spend more time there…).

– Then I go to New Zealand where I will spend 11 days visiting:  Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Queenstown, Auckland, Rotorua, Waitomo, and Taupo.  It was hard deciding whether to focus on one of the two main islands or how to divide my time between them.  Lots of good advice but usually with differing suggestions.  In the end, I read about what there was to see and just chose based on what drew me the most (glacier, fjords, geysers were tops).  I will be taking an independent tour for part of this itinerary.  I had not heard of independent tours before but it fits me very well as I didn’t want to drive on my own (plus it is winter and I don’t know the roads or the likely conditions) and I also didn’t want to be trapped in a guided tour.  The independent tour arranges all transportation and accommodations and some key activities but, in general, they leave you on your own so you can choose what you want to do at the various places you go.  I like that a lot.

I am very excited at seeing friends in Australia and at FINALLY getting to visit Australia and New Zealand!  I know I leave other things unexplored but I will hope I get to return someday to go more off the beaten path and explore other parts of these countries more in depth.

Any recommendations on good places to eat (“hole-in-the-wall” types) or lesser-known but outstanding sightseeing jewels in Sydney, Melbourne, Christchuch, Queenstown or Auckland??


  1. Sounds like you have most of your plans already made but would be happy to help if you want? As for restaurants etc, what kind of thing do you like to eat? Are you wanting to try the ‘local’ cuisine or do you prefer something more familiar?
    Hope you have a great trip!! 🙂
    Vanessa, Entirely Kiwi

  2. Awh….exciting times!
    Kia ora from New Zealand.
    If you want a unique tour to do while in Auckland, check-out ‘Coast to Coast Tours’ This is Auckland’s ‘true’ Eco-tour and Farm visit and is currently rated No1 on the website.
    It’s an all-inclusive, small group tour and you’ll even get the opportunity to offset the tour emissions by purchasing and planting your own Native tree on the operator’s own sheep farm. The tour is owned and operated by NZ and Maori and visitors are assured a personalised trip. (There’s even a 10% discount if you like to book direct and pay cash at the end of the day!).

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