There’s a good reason why our Experts are so well informed when it comes to giving you trusted advice on your holidays – it’s because they have hands-on experience of worldwide travel themselves. Flight Centre consultant Joey Dyer went on a road trip across New Zealand’s South Island. And just to prove that one destination really does fit all, he took his mum, Maria, along for the ride. Here, they each share the best bits of their incredible Journey…
Maria Dyer, first-time New Zealand visitor
New Zealand nerves
I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive at first. New Zealand was a total unknown to me. I’ve travelled to America in the past, but I’ve never done a big long-haul flight before. When I saw the itinerary I was also a little anxious about all the driving we’d do, mainly because I’m a nervous passenger and I knew Joey would want to do it all!
Once we got there though, it was just incredible. And it was such a fantastic opportunity to spend time with Joey. He travels a lot and I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like, so it was lovely to be able to do this trip together. The roads were very quiet too, so it wasn’t stressful at all.
We flew into Christchurch first, where we stayed the night before heading on to Lake Tekapo, Dunedin, Queenstown, Milford Sound and the Franz Josef Glacier to name just a few. The person who created the itinerary did an amazing job of ensuring we saw as much as possible without it being too tiring. Our accommodation was fantastic and we were often upgraded because it was the quiet season.
My favourite part of the trip was seeing my son jump out of an aeroplane! Joey had done skydiving before, but he was keen to try it again, so before we went he asked Flight Centre’s exclusive travel concierge service, Travel Butler, to arrange it. They’re there to help with any changes or extras while you’re away, and arranged it seamlessly. I was really nervous for him on the day, but when he landed on the ground he was so hyped up and excited. It was really lovely to see.
Another highlight was whale watching in Kaikoura – we saw four whales, which was incredible. I also loved Queenstown and the Skyline Gondola ride. The views from there were spectacular.
I would recommend New Zealand to anyone, particularly if you take a Journey like we did. It’s a great way to see a country; had I arranged the trip myself, we wouldn’t have seen as much. It was all planned out for us, so there was no stress about having to find hotel reservations or anything. All we had to do was get up and go. These types of Journeys are ideal for any age group.
Joey has been to New Zealand before but said he enjoyed it more this time because the focus was about making the most of the experience. I’d love to go back with my husband, only next time I’d stay for longer and combine it with Australia as well.
Joey Dyer, Flight Centre Expert:
Back after backpacking
I visited as a backpacker a few years ago and completely fell in love. New Zealand is one of those places where a photo or a video never does it justice. My mum had seen photos from my trip, but I really wanted to take her there so she could experience it for herself and see just how stunning it really is.
This time I visited a few new places, but it was also good to see some of the same spots like Lake Tekapo and experience them beyond just a lunch-break stop. My last trip was very much about partying; this time I got to slow down, take it all in and also see some of my favourite places through my mum’s eyes. It’s always better when you can take someone with you. It was nice to have that appreciation from a third-party perspective.
When I was in New Zealand last time I travelled by bus, so I relished the chance to drive on this Journey. The roads were really clear and easy to navigate, so it was a fantastic way to see the country.
Our itinerary was perfect. We had the right amount of time and the right number of stops. When we went up the west coast everything was cleverly spaced out so we drove for four hours each day. The longest drive was six hours, but you could always tailor your Journey if you didn’t want to spend that long on the road. You can even change your itinerary while you’re away through Travel Butler, which was a fantastic option to have.
I was impressed by the accommodation as well. Even in Franz Josef where it can be quite limited, we had a great self-contained room where we could cook. My favourite, though, was our place in Lake Tekapo, where we had beautiful lake views.
Sun at the Sound
Milford Sound – part of the Journey itinerary – was stunning. It has the highest rainfall in New Zealand, but we had clear blue skies. Normally it’s better to visit when it’s raining because there are temporary waterfalls, but it had been raining recently, so we had the best of both worlds.
The thing that shocked us most about New Zealand was how quickly the landscape varies. You’ll be on a snow-capped mountain, then drive for two hours and be at a sunny beach. For such a small island, the diversity of the topography is incredible.
Joey’s favourite food stops
Where? The Black Dog Café & Bar, Dunedin
What? Seafood chowder
Why? Mum has eaten seafood chowder all over the USA, but said this was the best she’s tried.
Where? Fergburger, Queenstown
What? The Fergburger
Why? It’s open 21 hours a day – they close at 5:30am to restock. By the time they open at 8:30am, there’s already a queue out the door. The huge burgers make it worth the wait, though.
Where? Fergbaker, Queenstown
What? Boston cream doughnuts
Why? If you still have room after a Fergburger, the pastries at Fergbaker, the bakery next door, are incredible. Mum had a Boston cream doughnut, which she said was the nicest dessert ever.
Experience New Zealand for yourself with our tailor-made New Zealand Holidays