Planning a Trip to Australia & New Zealand

I find myself with the benefit of extra time where I can make a trip somewhere for 3 or 4 weeks and I have set my sights on Australia and New Zealand.  I have friends in a couple of towns in Australia so it seemed maybe a good time to head down.  Also I have always cringed at trying to visit on 2 week vacation as it is far for me and costly!

The first question is what of all that there is to see should I plan to see and will the amount of time I have be sufficient.

The second question is how that potential list of destinations matches with my friends’ schedules.

Finally, the logistical matters for the solo part of the my trip take center stage for my last question.  For example, I hear NZ is best handled driving but, as I would be there on my own, I don’t feel I want to handle driving.  So I have to figure out what options do I have to get to explore NZ in a different manner.  I am searching through various blogs and websites as well as posting questions on twitter (@ilivetotravel) to see what may be possible.  I am a fan of wines so I have been wondering if tying seeing the country while visiting its wine regions may be a good way to marry both interests.  Are there operators that provide those types of tours and on a short enough itinerary to fit my overall itinerary?

I found a great link that breaks up the two main NZ islands into regions and then provides descriptions of each region with their “must see” attractions.  I am finding it a great way to study where I may want to focus my limited time in NZ.  A week is not enough, I am told, for NZ but my time constraints do not allow much room for more.

In terms of Australia, my visits to Sydney and Melbourne will be the anchor of the trip as I want to see my friends.  However, places like Tasmania and Uluru are high on my list.  I would also love to explore wine country and the Kimberlies and see places like Perth and Darwin.  But there may not be enough time for it all so, in the end, I suspect my final itinerary will depend on what works out best from a scheduling and cost standpoint.

One snag on my plans was that it seems I will not be able to use my Delta/SkyTeam frequent flyer miles to get there.  I had enough accumulated over time for even a first class ticket and I had been saving the miles for this trip.  However, Skyteam does not have many ways to get me down under and the only ways they have (Singapore Airlines and Korean Airlines) do not work for my schedule.  However, I have to say that I found very cheap fares from LA for about $1100 including my travel between NZ and Australia.  By the way, Qantas and Air New Zealand have fantastic features on their websites for planning multi-city itineraries.  Kudos!

I hope my next entry contains more solid details as I am 3 weeks away from my potential departure!

Open to suggestions about what are “must see” destinations or ways to see NZ without driving?

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