New Zealand is a fabulous place to visit. However, to make the most of your trip there are some very important questions you should ask yourself. These are things that many visitors don't give enough consideration to, and it can affect the enjoyment of the trip greatly.
How Long Am I Planning on Staying in New Zealand?
Although New Zealand doesn't look a very large country on the map (and certainly not alongside Australia!), there is such a huge diversity of scenery and things to do in New Zealand that almost every traveler underestimates how long to spend in the country.
If your total holiday is less than two weeks, you should probably focus on only one island, either the North Island or the South Island. The one you choose will depend on the time of year and what you like to do. The two islands are quite different. If it's summer and you like beaches and watersports, choose the North Island (particularly visiting the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo and the Coromandel). If it's Spring or Autumn, the spectacular vistas of the South Island may be what you prefer.
If you are combining your trip with a visit to Australia, one piece of advice: spend at least as much time in New Zealand as in Australia. Australia, due to its size, might look like the place where there is much more to do, but this is definitely not the case!
How Much Time Will I Allow For Travel To and From New Zealand?
New Zealand is a long way away from anywhere! In fact, it has been said that New Zealand "isn't the end of the earth, but you can see it from there." The distance from Los Angeles, the closest point on the United States mainland, to Auckland is approximately 6500 miles - a flight time of more than 12 hours. From Europe it is at least double that.
As a rule of thumb, allow yourself a week of your trip for total travel time to and from New Zealand if coming from Europe, and at least four days if coming from the United States or elsewhere in North America.
Also be aware that New Zealand has a large time difference with Europe and the US. It is the furthest ahead of any country, being 12 hours ahead of GMT. As a result you will almost certainly suffer from jet lag in either or both directions of your trip. You should allow for this as well and give yourself some time to recuperate.
Will I Have A Stopover on the Way To or From New Zealand?
If you are traveling from Europe and you are not visiting any other nearby countries (such as Australia) it is a very good idea to break up your trip with a stopover of at least one night. Flights from Europe travel to New Zealand either through North America or through Asia and, depending on the airline, there will be a stopover for refueling en route.
Staying in a hotel for a night will give you a great chance to get some rest between two long flights (between ten and twelve hours each), thus helping minimize the effects of jet lag and tiredness from the travel.
You might even consider a stopover of more than a night so that you can explore the stopover destination. Through Asia, the major stopover cities are Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul (South Korea), Bangkok (Thailand) and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
What Will I Pack to Take With Me to New Zealand?
There are strict baggage limits imposed by airlines and the costs for excess baggage are high. You should try to pack so that you are underweight, in case you want to bring back any New Zealand souvenirs with you.
Note that New Zealand immigration also has very firm bio-security rules, designed to ensure pests are not introduced into New Zealand's fragile environment.
What Time of Year Do I Want to Be in New Zealand?
However, any time of the year is wonderful in New Zealand! Select a season that fits in best with the activities and places you would most like to experience.
Do I Need a Visa to Enter New Zealand?
For short term visitors and holidaymakers, visas are not normally required for citizens of most countries. However, you should check with your travel agent or embassy as it may vary, depending on where you are from and how long you wish to stay.
Will I Book Any Accommodation In Advance?
If traveling in the summer months it is a very good idea to book at least some of your accommodation before you arrive. The further ahead you can book, the lower the rates you can expect to receive.
For most of the rest of the year, advance booking of accommodation is not really necessary. However, it does make it a good deal easier to know in advance where you are staying, particularly if you are a bit fussy!
How Will I Travel Around New Zealand?
Do you wish to travel independently by car and stay in hotels or motels? Are you wanting to hire a campervan and stay in holiday parks or even "freedom camp"? Would you rather stay in backpacker hostels?
It is equally possible to travel by coach through most of the tourist centers. Obviously there is less flexibility, but the bus network is excellent - and you may make some new friends!
What Will My Travel Budget Be?
Even with the strength of the currency (the New Zealand dollar), New Zealand still represents good value as a travel destination. You can get an idea of the daily budget that is appropriate for you by researching prices online.
New Zealand has a sales tax on all items, including food. Called GST (Goods and Services Tax), the current rate is 15%. For large purchases, it is possible to claim this tax back upon your departure from the country.