Katy and I are going to New Zealand this February (it is summertime there), all because of this travel hobby. I have discussed several of the techniques that made this possible in earlier posts. You can check back in the archives to refresh your memory.
The cheap flights to New Zealand were a FARE MISTAKE I found last May 7th on the Mileage Run Forum of http://flyertalk.com/, which is my favorite online web site.
Somebody priced a one way BUSINESS CLASS ticket from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand for $550. Round trip was then $1100 plus taxes or about $1350 all in.
It was supposed to be $5500 for a one way BUSINESS CLASS ticket or about $11,000 plus taxes or $13,000+- all in. This is the most expensive airline ticket I have ever bought, but it was easy to swallow considering the destination and knowing I’d saved over $20,000 on two tickets. All because somebody missed one little zero (0) $550 vs $5500 when loading the fare.
The fare was available for about 18 hours before the airline caught the mistake and pulled the fare on their site and all the third party sites like Orbitz, Travelocity etc. At times I’ve had success booking with travel sites in parts of the world that are still sleeping when they disappear from the local sites. Seems the airline can’t get it off the worldwide web at the same time.
I booked this international ticket in May of 2007 for a trip this coming February 2008. By the way, it was a REFUNDABLE ticket. A fare mistake does not have to be flown right away, just purchased RIGHT NOW when available.
Now for hotels. In October I wrote about a multi program transfer that got Choice Privileges points for Choice brand hotels. I used excess American Express Membership Rewards Points and Continental Airline miles to obtain Amtrak Guest Reward Points which I then transferred into Choice Privileges Points that have now covered the cost of eleven (11) of the 16 total hotel nights. Surprisingly, Choice has more hotel choices in New Zealand than Starwood, Hilton, Marriott or any of the other major chains. That worked out just fine for me.
I always use http://tripadvisor.com/ to check previous guests comments on the hotels in question, and particularly Choice brand hotels as they seem to have the widest variation of quality amongst their properties. I’ll pick up the other hotels based on the city location and http://tripadvisor.com/ recommendations.
In New Zealand they drive on the wrong side of the road for Americans and it bothers me. We have picked the sites we want to see from http://www.aatravel.co.nz/101-must-dos-for-kiwis/index.php and the corresponding driving directions from the National Car Rental Website
To minimize driving (and we could not see it all in the time allotted anyway) we will take New Zealand rail service from Auckland to Wellington and across the straits by ferry and back on the train to Christchurch.
With a full day in each of the above cities, we will on the road by car, but out of the metropolitan areas and in the countryside of the South Island.
Our supplemental costs were $520 for two train tickets, $336 for the car rental (instead of $1100 if we’d picked it up in Auckland and driven the extra 800 miles plus), and $118 for two one way tickets from Christchurch back to Auckland for our return flight home.
Sometimes things just work out:
On the way home, we have a six hour layover in Sydney, where my oldest son will just have settled in for graduate school studying International Public Health.
As a bonus from the Choice Points deal, I have made reservations for him using Choice Points for his first three nights in Sydney. The rooms at the Clarion Inn in Darling Harbour would have been $350 per night.
Katy just happened to have a few extra airline miles, so we upgraded the return flights from Business Class to FIRST CLASS SUITES for a unforgettable pampering experience to finish our trip to Kiwi land. We can’t wait, and will blog in while there.