Tup Travel Teps
Finally we are underway. We had a major hic-cup in New Zealand (or was that hoc-kip - we've enjoyed the nuances different pronunciations of our English language!). Getting directions wasn't always easy. I needed...well you can guess what I needed...and I asked where it was. I was told, "go in the door, to the lift". Except it was a one level building and the instruction was actually 'go to the left'... on the aircraft today the amenities were also on the 'lift'.
Don't leave home without it!
They wouldn't allow us to leave New Zealand because we didn't have the USA non-visa! That's an ESTA Visa Waiver. No one told us we needed one but even so it still shouldn't have been a problem, because it is available almost instantly on-line. The customer service rep at NZ airlines got our applications processed and was commencing payment when the ESTA web-site went down for routine maintenance. We were two hours early for our flight so again - no worries - we were in plenty of time....but the site only came on line two minutes before or flight left (or is that lift!) and they wouldn't hold the flight for the dozen or so people like us with the same problem.
Check your facts
So over to Flight Centre, our travel agent, to get it sorted out and booked on the next available flight. This was with a different airline at midnight the same day but Flight Centre Auckland couldn't book it for us because it had to be booked through our Adelaide Flight Centre. Being Saturday, they were only open for a short time and then not open until Monday. Of course if we took the other airline it would be an additional $2,500. We were prepared to pay it but then found out that if we went on this different airline, which wasn't part of our round-the-world Alliance ticket, it would void the ticket for the rest of our travels over the next two months. So we opted to stay in NZ until the next flight on the same ticket which meant a three day lay over.
Check the facts
Flight Centre Auckland was prepared to charge us $2,500 for the ticket that same night. However, later I checked what I would have paid for it for over the internet and it was around $575 per person! In this stressful situation we would have been overcharged by about $1500!
Take your phone
Being deaf I allowed my husband to be the keeper of the phone. We planned on getting a USA chip when we arrived in Hawaii, but now we needed one for NZ. It took about 60 seconds to buy and swap the chip and we were able to start communicating with family and friends at both ends of our travels - especially important for my daughter and husband who were meeting us in Honolulu. They, of course, were disappointed we were arriving so much later. They had flown to Hawaii just so we could holiday together and we only had one and a half days with them. (Luckily we are meeting up with them later in our travels for 10 days or so!)
Choose the best accommodation
Initially Auckland was only a few hours lay over so we decided to stay close to the airport - some place with a bed, pick-up and breakfast. But we both ended up with bad backs from the dreadful bed. So when we had to stay longer, we moved to a central hotel, paying considerably more, but the bed was worth it.
Have your medical history
After the stress of missing our flight and the bad night's sleep my husband started to get shooting pains in his kidney - his transplanted one. He was worried and so we spent the first part of that first day at the hospital getting him checked out. He had never had anything like it before and we felt it was better to be safe than sorry. It turned out to be nothing and was probably due to cramped flying, bad bed and stress. All tests showed he was fine.
Powering the gizmos
We never expected to need to power all our laptops, tablets, cameras, phones and cochlear implant gear in NZ, but we were prepared anyway. We didnít take all the country adapters which come with these items. Instead we packed an Australian six point powerboard. We have one country adapter which the powerboard plugs into and all our items are able to be recharged. But make sure you have the right country power plug. We arrived in Hawaii to find we had brought only European and Asian adaptors.
Someone said "with so many lemons, at least make lemonade" and that's what we did. Once we got over the initial shock, medical issue and stress and had accommodation sorted we said "well we don't have a choice, let's enjoy it!" So despite Auckland's four season in one day weather (overcast skies, regular rain, sunny periods and high wind) we took a Hop on Hop off (Hup on Hup off!) tour just have a look around the city. The next day we took a trip to Hobbiton, the set of the Lord of the Rings and more recently the Hobbit movies. How wonderful is that location. I was able to hear the driver's commentary once I worked out the best spot in the mini bus.
Have the money
We'd have really been stuck if we had not planned a little extra cash for just such an experience. We had enough NZ dollars for a snack and drink, but we were able to get more from an ATM. The cost of a taxi - airport to hospital was NZ$105 - a shuttle from our hotel to airport was just NZ$35 - which is why we use shuttles! And some places would not accept MasterCard - so luckily we had an alternative Visa card.
These experiences would have all been horrendous for me had I not had my wonderful husband to make all the phone calls and to get it set up so I could plug in or interpret when I didn't hear properly. He took the wake up calls, the alarms and the queries. However, even he would have been struggling without some of our gadgets - his smart phone for email, confirmations, contact and our laptops - again for email and easier searches than the small mobile device gives.
All I can say is, if you're going to travel, plan for the best and expect the worst. We only 'lift' home five days ago! The rest should be piece of cake (drunk with the best lemonade we can make of course!)