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Fiji - New Zealand - Australia?

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Hi all - I'm trying to plan a trip for my family this coming Fall, and looking to hit all 3 countries in roughly 30 days. We'll be traveling with all range of personalities; Grandparents, small children, and thirty somethings. Looking for some suggestions about some not-to-miss activities, places to stay, and or the best method of getting between them. Going into it, I'm thinking of a itinerary that includes:

-1 week in Fiji with lots of diving (have heard the Pearl and/or Intercontinental are the places to stay)
-2 Can I get from Fiji to Auckland directly? If so, roughly a week moving from Auckland to Christchurch. Don't know anything specific about NZ, other than it looks gorgeous.
-3 Christchurch to Sydney. Once in AUS, spending 10-14 days getting from Sydney up to Cairns. Once in Cairns, would love to do a liveaboard for a few days of diving on the Barrier Reef.

Aside from diving, don't have any set plans and am looking for suggestions. We love the outdoors and history, aside from where we stay and how we get from place to place I don't think all members of our group will do all activities together (grandparents watch the kids while we dive, for instance). Ultimately, aside from activities, I'm also looking for some advice on how to easily plan this extravaganza - are there any online travel services that one could recommend? Most of the party will be originating in Guam, some from the Western US. Appreciate any help!

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    Air New Zealand offers daily direct flights from Auckland to Nadi (not necessarily on Air New Zealand, as they have a codeshare agreement with Air Pacific). Takes around 3 hours.

    Qantas, Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue (Virgin) all have direct flights from Christchurch to Sydney. This direct flight also takes around 3 hours.

    Both Qantas and Air New Zealand are offering great sale fares right now. But flights book up fast, so best to check their websites soon.

    I've never been to Fiji. I tried to visit last year, but waited too long, and found all the best affordable dive resorts already fully booked, so I just went elsewhere. Not surprising as dive resorts are usually small, but it seems you will be staying at one of the larger hotels, so this shouldn't be a problem for you.

    One reason I was considering visiting Fiji is because Air New Zealand was offering a stopover in Nadi on flights departing Los Angeles for Auckland for only $100 above the base fare. There is no guarantee that they will offer this deal again this year, but your relatives departing from the West Coast might look into this.

    I went on a liveaboard trip to the Barrier Reef many years ago, and it was brilliant. I assume you will be flying from Sydney to Cairns because this is more than 1500 miles. Lots to see both in Sydney and Tropical North Queensland. You'll find many suggestions if you search this forum. After you dive the Great Barrier Reef, you'll probably want to drive north to Cape Tribulation, Daintree (Rainforest) National Park. This area is only a few hours drive from Cairns. I would say this is a must-see. The rainforest is spectacular. You'll probably want to spend two or three days here exploring, relaxing. In fact, if you haven't yet had your fill of scuba diving on the liveaboard from Cairns, you can even do another short scuba dive from Cape Tribulation during a day trip out to the reef.

    In Sydney, both kids and adults will enjoy the Aquarium at Darling Harbor, the Taronga Zoo, maybe the Australian Museum (a natural history museum, though maybe not if the kids are too little), a ferry ride. As you said you are interested in history, you might enjoy the Museum of Sydney. Take a walk around The Rocks, an historic tourist quarter near both the Harbor Bridge and Circular Quay. Some of Sydney's oldest buildings are here.
    http://www.therocks.com/sydney-Things_To_Do-The_Rocks_Discovery_Museum.htm

    I generally use Wotif.com to book hotels In Australia and New Zealand. I think a lot of other folks on this forum do, too. But you might be able to find more economical rates by booking some sort of vacation package, maybe through the airlines.

    A week in NZ is not a lot of time, particularly since visitors to NZ tend to do a lot of driving through the countryside (to enjoy the natural landscapes). This being said, I wouldn't spend too much time in Auckland. A day at the most. I guess you will be flying from Auckland to Queenstown or Christchurch. You'll probably be heading to Te Anau/Milford Sound, which is near Queenstown. If you have time for Dunedin (a slight detour on your way from Queenstown to Christchurch), the kids (and adults) would probably enjoy seeing the yellow eyed penguin colony.
    http://www.penguinplace.co.nz/
    Dunedin has some lovely old architecture, a good museum, and an albatross colony (with a colorful history). It's a university town. It would be easy to pass a day here before you make your way up the east coast to Christchurch.

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    Awesome, thanks so much for the detailed reply! We definitely want to hit the zoo(s), are there any places where you can interact with the animals? Safaris?

    In NZ- I saw on a different thread a similar comment about a week not being enough. Maybe I'll reconsider how much time we're spending in Fiji. Are there worthwhile train trips in NZ as a good way to see the countryside or are vehicles the way to go? Obviously our own cars would give us more freedom but there will likely be 6-8 people total, which means more than one car.

    For AUS- would it be worthwhile to try and hit Perth between Sydney and Cairns or too much flying and plenty to do on the Eastern side of the country for 10+ days?

    Thanks again!

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    Suggest you give Perth a pass if you only have 10 days. WA can easily fill several weeks alone and the best of the state is quite a drive from the city. I think two OZ locations with 10 days is plenty, especially considering you've got such a large group of travelers.

    We're kind of out here in the sticks in WA, about a five hour flight from Sydney and Cairns. There are direct flights from Auckland to Perth on Air NZ, about seven hours.

    A week in NZ isn't nearly enough. It's barely enough time to scratch the surface of one island, let alone both. It takes longer to get from point A to point B than you might expect and the best of NZ is well outside the cities.

    If you'll peruse this forum, you'll discover that planning NZ driving itineraries and lack of time is a common dilemma. I'm in the midst of planning an itinerary for a 9th (?) trip to the SI and I'm having trouble myself....and we have 22 days to work with!

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    Hi Husky,
    We did a similar mixed ages trip to yours a few years ago and it worked well. Ours was to NZ for a wedding with 10 people (4 - 92) and we hired a "people mover" (took 8-10 pax) and a small car.

    Gave us the flexibility to travel en caravan while having the independence to cater for different activities along the way and at various destinations.

    And plenty of room for the luggage. Most of us are fairly light packers, but a week's wedding festivities and another 10 days walking, boating & sightseeing certainly added some.

    Wow! Just realized it's that cousin's anniversary today ... must give him a call.

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    My husband and I immensely enjoy viewing wildlife running, crawling, flying, or swimming freely in nature--and also enjoy visiting aquariums and zoos, yet we don't have children so we are not as knowledgeable as others on this forum might be with respect to your question about up-close wildlife encounters for children in Sydney and Cairns.
    This being said, I have read a lot of good reviews of these two wildlife parks in the suburbs of Sydney:

    Featherdale Wildlife Park
    217 Kildare Road, Doonside 2767, Australia
    +61 2 9622 1644 ‎
    featherdale.com.au

    Koala Park Sanctuary
    84 Castle Hill Rd,
    West Pennant Hills NSW
    Australia 2125
    http://www.koalaparksanctuary.com.au/

    Also within Sydney, you might try:
    Sydney Wildlife World
    http://sydneywildlifeworld.myfun.com.au/

    In Cairns, you can seek out:
    Cairns Tropical Zoo
    http://www.cairnstropicalzoo.com.au/

    I've noticed the Internet is full of suggestions on what to do with kids in Sydney. Makes me wish I were a kid again:
    http://www.travelforkids.com/Funtodo/Australia/sydney.htm
    http://www.sydney-australia.biz/kids/

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    I was just thinking it might be more economical and convenient to book a vacation package to Fiji (Nadi) with a travel agency in NZ or Australia. It is a popular vacation destination for folks in NZ and Oz, so there are a lot of good deals there. This came to me just a while ago when I was reading the Otago Daily Times online and two ads for Fiji holidays from NZ popped up on its home page. I thought, "That's pretty cheap."

    Only you can determine if a week in Fiji is too long.
    If you live in Guam, then a week in tropical Fiji won't be the same for you as it would be for your US-based relatives. On the other hand, if you enjoy scuba diving and could see spending many days doing this, then maybe a week would be perfect. It also might be nice just hanging out with your extended family, catching up, not have to drive anywhere for a while. Because it sounds like you are going to be moving around a lot in NZ and OZ.

    I think 10 to 14 days in Sydney and Cairns/Tropical North Queensland sounds good, leisurely. I think it's a good idea to have some unscheduled days, as it allows for flexibility, spontaneity.

    I agree with others that Perth would be out of the way and expensive. It would be like plannihg a trip to Los Angeles and Seattle and then tacking on a side trip to New York City or Anchorage, Alaska. It takes around five hours to fly to Perth from Sydney. It takes also takes around five hours to fly to Perth from Singapore. In other words, it is far from the east coast of Australia, as if it were in another country!

    Please save beautiful Western Australia for another trip or several other trips, as it is also Australia's largest state. Lots to see and do. My husband and I have vacationed in WA four times and have seen precious little of it.

    With respect to getting around, I would suggest flying the long distances, say from Sydney to Cairns, or from Auckland to Queenstown (that is, if you decide to go there), but then I would rent a van to drive around Tropical North Queensland/environs of Sydney/or from Queenstown to Christchurch. You won't need need a car for the city of Sydney. Walking or public transit is preferable.

    In the past, my husband and I have rented from APEX when in NZ. You might want to go with another company that gives you frequent flier miles, like Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget. I just looked up APEX and they offer this 8-seater van for NZ$119.
    http://www.apexrentals.co.nz/RentalCars/new-zealand-rental-car-mpv-8-seater.aspx

    A better idea for the Queenstown to Christchurch drive would be to rent two or three campervans, which also serve as your accommodations/kitchen facilities as you drive around:
    http://www.maui.co.nz/

    It would be far more convenient to drive independently around the South Island, rather than take public transit or tours. In the long run, it would probably be more economical, too.

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