One of our most loyal commenters on the blog is Iolaire McFadden. In late May, he and his wife Susan flew to Auckland, nabbing a $399 round trip flight to Auckland out of LAX. Iolaire has kindly shared some tips with us about planning the trip:
Normally our lead time on good deals is about six months, so this was extremely last minute for us, booking only a couple of weeks in advance.We found that hotels in NZ are relatively expensive versus our recent trips to Portugal and Argentina. These days we usually find smaller, business-type hotels or limited service hotels on Booking.com. For that reason I started looking for a Priceline equivalent in NZ. On some random FlyerTalk post I found mention of Wotif and one other site.
We started looking at Wotif and generally were happy with their selection and quoted rates versus say Kayak or Booking.com. It seemed to be NZ oriented, because it differentiated between Auckland CBD along with about 10 other Auckland suburbs, and it offers many types of accommodations, camper parks, hostels, hotels, apartments. The choice in accommodations was very helpful as we tried to decide between a camper van or a car. We choose the car due to the challenges driving over there….
One attractive thing with Wotif is they have all sorts of promotions tied with low prices. For example free internet, meals, wine etc. Most of those promotions require a two night stay. They also allow you to filter a lot of hotels easily, I.e. 3 star and up Hotels, whose max rate is under $100 USD, then just hover over the price matrix to see the special deals.
For Auckland we choose a Black Label (opaque: you don't know the name until your credit card is accepted) hotel for $1 NZ more than a comparable hotel with the same rating and relatively same features. We were attracted to the black label hotel because it had a Sauna and it hyped up the soft pillows and bed which made it sound like a decent hotel. As soon as we paid we found it was the Rendezvous Hotel Auckland. Looking at the map it seemed like that was near the edge of the CBD, and few blocks out from the other choices we looked at. However in the end this was our best hotel on the trip for $139.93 USD for both nights—and that included checking in at around 8 a.m. no questions asked, what seemed like decent room on the 9th floor, etc.
Our second hotel was the Ibis Rotorua, we booked it on NeedItNow since that had a prepay option that was much cheaper than Wotif, also looking at my notes Booking.com had had the same prepaid price. That hotel was not quite as nice, and we got a lower quality room that reflected the price we paid for $82 for two nights.
Our third hotel was at the Bella Vista Napier, a smaller motel booked via Wotif. At that locations the hotels seemed fairly high priced, with lots of motels. The deciding factor here was the promotions offered via Wotif, free continental breakfast. This ended up being toast, butter, and jelly that you cook yourself in your room. But again it was appreciated given other hotels did not seem to offer that option.
Our final night we did a walk up purchase at the historic 1890's Rob Roy Hotel in Waihi. The odd thing there is that it is in above a pub and casino that is basically closed down as of 4 PM and the doors are locked at 7 PM, negating my concerns about being housed above a pub.
NZ hotels ended up being very accommodating, the staff are friendly, all hotels have LOTS of tea bags and instant coffee along with a electric kettle, even the higher end Rendezvous Hotel Auckland.
This was quite different from our stay last year in the Vancouver Hyatt which now features a single serve coffee maker with ONE complementary cup of coffee, and "self check-in kiosks." Talk about unfriendly stays. (Do a search for "Hyatt single serve coffee" and you will see how this is now one of their key "Features & Services" across the country.)
Just Back From… a Solo Trip to New Zealand