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Australia and New Zealand Planning

Hi there,
Thinking about someplace nice to travel with college kids (over the Christmas holiday) and heard South Australia and New Zealand would be ideal for 10-12 days. Any good recommendations for an itinerary (must sees) or travel firms you had good experiences with? We love the Rick Steves trips we have taken and prefer a little arranged and open times.

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
9110 posts

You don't have time for both and barely enough time for either.

For Australia, I'd be looking at the Sydney - Melbourne arc -- coastal one way and inland the other.

For New Zealand, South Island (concentrating on the Pacific side except for a bit of the Tasman side way down south) and maybe a couple of days on Stewart Island.

If I had time for both, I don't know what my first choice would be.

I don't know squat about travel firms anywhere.

Posted by
16726 posts

As Ed stated, you do not have time for both countries, even with 12 days. The flight down is a minimum of 20 hours from Seattle, with most flights going through LAX, although there are other options as well. Travel between Australia and NZ would take most of a day. Travel between the North and South Islands of NZ is also time-consuming, especially if you take the scenic route (by ferry to Picton). So you really need to pick either Oz, or the North Island, or the South Island. (The direct flights from LAX take you to Auckland on the North Island so most people start there.)

You should read up on the differences between the two NZ islands and between those and Australia to make an informed choice. Your kids would probably really enjoy Sydney and the local beaches (Bondi), and you could easily spend the entire time around there plus a few days somewhere else, Melbourne, Cairns or Brisbane (fly open jaw). They would also love the South Island around Queenstown ("adventure central"), and the wild west coast. The north part of the South Island offers beautiful beaches for walking and kayaking at Abel Tasman NP, and the Queen Charlotte Track near Picton offers more kayaking as well as mountain biking and hiking. The North Island offers more volcanic and thermal spots, Maori culture, the vibrant city of Auckland, and the beautiful Bay of Islands. Take your pick.

But have you looked at airfare? I checked random dates for a 12-day trip, Dec. 18 to 30. Seattle to Sydney on Qantas is $2900 pp in economy. It is a few hundred $$ less if you go earlier, around Dec. 14. Air Canada (through Vancouver) seems to be about the same.

Seattle to Auckland on Air New Zealand is also high, like $2600-$2800. They did not have seats available on any internal flights for the dates I checked, but that could change.

You might be able to find package tours (air and hotel) at a good price, but Christmas vacation is über high season so they do not need to make the pricing attractive.

Posted by
1806 posts

I spent 3 months each in Australia and in New Zealand. In 3 months of traveling around Australia and Tasmania, I still missed a substantial portion of the Northern Territory and the majority of Western Australia. The 3 months in New Zealand was great as I was able to cover a substantial amount of the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island. For 10-12 days, you will need to pick one or the other. Frankly, with college kids (particularly if they are active and outdoorsy), I'd pick New Zealand and focus solely on the South Island as the scenery is much more dramatic with the glaciers and fiord lands and mountains. Great hiking, fun stuff like bungy jumping, jet boating, sky diving, Fly By Wire, Zorbing. Lots of wineries for the grown-ups. New Zealand is roughly the size of Colorado, whereas Australia is enormous - just like the United States - and even if you had 10-12 days in one region of the U.S., you'd have a whirlwind trip trying to squeeze in multiple places.

If your heart is set on Australia, find yourself some cheap internal flights or stick to one small area of the country. I traveled solo for the majority of my 3 months in Australia, but I did meet up with friends and traveled around Australia with them briefly for about 10 days. We met in Sydney where we spent a couple nights (including a day trip to the Blue Mountains), then flew to the Northern Territory and stayed at a resort in the Outback near Uluru/Kata Tjuta for a couple nights, finally we flew in to Cairns and headed straight up to Port Douglas so we could spend a few nights and snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and checkout Daintree Rainforest. It was strictly a "highlights" tour for my travel companions, and a very quick one at that. After my 10 days with them, I headed over to Fraser Island and they took off for the Whitsundays and did an overnight dive trip and then flew home a few days later. They definitely did not see it all, but they saw a little bit of what they came for - the Opera House and Sydney Harbor, some kangaroos hopping around in the wild over near the Blue Mountains, riding motorcycles around Uluru just before sunset, and the snorkeling and diving. If you don't care much about the Great Barrier Reef or the Outback, and you enjoy a mix of city life, beaches and mountains, you could squeeze Sydney, Blue Mountains, Melbourne, Phillip Island, and a few nights traveling along the Great Ocean Road into a trip of that length.

Posted by
1 posts

I am also planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand the end of November through early December (2.5 weeks). My wife and I are in our 50's traveling with our 25 yo daughter studying abroad ( she has already done a lot in the 5 months there). I would like some help on the specifics of what to do in each stop. We are going to be in Sydney (3days), Melbourne (3 days), Whitsundays (5 days), Queenstown NZ and Te Anau/ Doubtful Sound (5-6 days). We are planning a day cruise in Doubtful Sound. I wonder while in NZ with a car should we try to head up to Wanaka or drive over to the Pacific side to Dunedin or fly up to Christchurch to take the train through Arthurs pass. Recently spent a few weeks in Yellowstone/ Jackson Hole so we don't have to catch every vista though we do like scenic areas.

Posted by
3 posts

I'm going to repeat some of what has been said, but 10 days is much too short for both NZ and Oz... I'd recommend either just NZ (I'm partial to the North Island, but there's plenty to do on the South Island as well), or ONE Australian city. With college kids I'd recommend Melbourne, it has a much less touristy vibe than Sydney (Think Seattle/Portland over Orlando/New York). There's and endless selection of fantastic day trips around Melbourne if you don't want to spend your whole trip in the city proper. (See Great Ocean Road, Wilson's Promantory, Philip Island, Mt. Bullar.)

Have Fun!

Posted by
15649 posts

Kerri hasn't returned. Since she wrote 3 months ago about a trip that would presumably start next week, I'm sure she's figured it out.

Posted by
2122 posts

You've probably figured out what you will do THIS holiday season, but if Australia and NZ are still on your radar for a future Christmas trip, you might want to consider a cruise. We can highly recommend Seabourn (smaller ship). Granted you will not see ALL of Aust/NZ, but it will give you a nice flavor of the two countries, and then you can return when you have a month or two totour more indepth.

If you'd really like a trip of a lifetime, that I promise none of your family will ever forget, consider a National Geographic expedition to Antarctica over the holidays (but book ahead for next year....the trips fill up quickly). The journey remains our FAVORITE trip of all (just search Antarctica on this forum to see my more detailed review I previously did in the Trip Report section).

What lucky college kids you have with a parent that is allowing them to experience the of the greatest educations (and gifts) of all!!