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New Zealand--Is it worth the effort (especially from the US)?

New Zealand--Is it worth the effort (especially from the US)?

Old Jan 18th, 2024, 05:45 AM
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New Zealand--Is it worth the effort (especially from the US)?

I have been tossing the idea of a visit around. BUT, I have some concerns about whether I should spend what little travel time I have left visiting NZ or try to visit other destinations (and I have quite a few I am interested in).

Background: I have now hit the 3/4 of a century mark (OMG I am old!) and realistically know that if I am really lucky I have maybe 5 years left to engage in heavy-duty travel. I also now it could all be over tomorrow. I am very active and have always been someone who enjoys nature and the outdoors, but I also have strong interests in different cultures, the arts, architecture, history etc. In this past year I have done both cycling and walking tours and enjoyed this type of traveling where I have the chance to slow down rather than just quickly rush through an area.

I've been to about 40 countries and made multiple trips to favorites; in the US I have probably visited over half of the national parks. I also recently joined that terrible club no one ever wants to join; I am now a widow, and it stinks. In the past my husband and I traveled extensively and always independently. Now I am in the position of feeling I need to do structured small group tours, but I will add on a few days on my own on either end. We were more into off-the-beaten-path travel and were of the less is more philosophy preferring more in-depth exposures to a new country. I don't need any hand holding, and my favorite country is India (I have spent a total of 4 months there) if that tells you anything. Romania of 20 years ago, Laos, Japan, eastern Europe, Myanmar, Italy, rural Ireland and others also are at the top of my list.

So New Zealand: I really want honest reactions. I found an active--hiking, biking, kayaking--Road Scholar trip there. I am more than somewhat concerned that I would make the long and expensive journey to get there and then say to myself "this is nice scenery, and these are nice walks and bike rides, but it's not really all that different from other places where I have taken nice walks and road trips." Certainly there are other NZ tour groups and itineraries, but I suspect all of those more active trips are aimed at a crowd of 30 to 40 year olds, and my old body just can't keep up that pace any more. And, I don't want to waste time researching other NZ trips if in the end I decide it's not really for me. https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-...and/itinerary/

Obviously our perceptions of a place are based on our own other experiences, and that's why I went so in-depth about my background. So, what do you think about whether NZ is really worth it FOR ME? Or should I spend my time and money on other countries that are on my list (examples: Colombia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, parts of India I haven't seen, cycling in Puglia or Austria/Slovenia/Switzerland, Bhutan, Guatemala for Santa Semana, Israel/Jordan)?

Thanks much for the insights.



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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 04:52 PM
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I hope someone will reply who can be of more help since I haven't yet been to New Zealand (but am going at the end of this March.) To me, It sounds like a beautiful and interesting country.

I can only speak to thoroughly enjoying the two Road Scholar trips I have been on (one to Israel, Jordan and Egypt and the other to Vietnam and Cambodia.) They were well run with great tour guides and friendly co-participants. We, too, are typically independent travelers but appreciated the convenience of group travel to those destinations.

Good luck with your decision!
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 08:10 PM
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From what you’ve said of your previous travels and likes, I think New Zealand would be a very good fit for you. The scenery is beautiful and there’s a rich diversity of cultures, especially the Māori of course, plenty to see & do.

The trick is, as you will know, finding a small group tour with an Itinerary that gels with your interests if you’re not up for going solo ( which plenty of people do).

Have a look for well known and much respected Melnq8’s posts about their New Zealand trips. She and her husband are Americans who have lived in lots of interesting places, including 6 years in Australia.

You might also have a look at the New Zealand forum on Trip Advisor, which is much more active than this one.

Don’t expect any sympathy about “ the long flight” from us - when you’re an Australian or a Kiwi, everywhere is a long flight . And we are inveterate travellers!

I’m not one for group travel either but have been looking at Natural Habitat Adventures. Might be worth a look.

Good Luck and my quick answer is “ Yes. It’s very well worth it”. Whatever your particular
“ It” cost is.
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 03:34 PM
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I so appreciate the two of you taking the time to reply.

I have more thinking and research to do. I just got the Fodor's New Zealand book from the library and am going to spend some time with that. And, I just quickly looked up the Natural Habitat Adventures website; there's lots to investigate there. I will also dig in and find some posts from
Melnq8.


It's going to have to be a tour (and I will only do small group) because there is no way a big tour bus with 40 people on it is for me. Logistics for solo travel seem very difficult for one who wants to do more than just visit the cities, and while I don't need people all of the time a bit of companionship is nice. I did one Road Scholar cycling trip last spring, and while it wasn't 100% what I would have wanted, but I think no tour ever is. In the right situation I would travel with them again.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 08:52 AM
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You're very kind Bohkara!

I hesitate to weigh in as our many trips to NZ have all been independent and self-drive, we've never taken a tour. Most of our trips were for a least a month, as there's just so much to see and do for those of us who love the great outdoors.

julies - for anyone who enjoys nature and the outdoors (and in our case also wildlife and wine), NZ seems a no brainer; we're very much nature lovers; we love hiking/walking, peace and quiet (none of which I associate with India!); NZ (the South Island in particular) and Switzerland are our favorite two countries on the planet.

Personally, NZ is not a place I'd want to take an organized tour, as for me at least, getting off the beaten path trumps anything a tour can provide, but I certainly understand why you're leaning that way, especially as a solo traveler.

It's impossible to know if NZ will be worth it to you, but I've yet to hear any visitor to NZ say they didn't love it; instead the common response seems to be 'if only we'd had more time'.

Good luck to you whatever you decide.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 07:10 PM
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Excellent responses from Bokhara and Mel. New Zealand is a fascinating place.

Is it worth it to you? Who can say? NZ is different to anywhere else in the world. But then, so is Australia. Like the others, I'm also not a tour person, but I have made an exception for some areas. I've only toured independently in NZ, but then, I do speak the language (more or less) and I'm used to driving on the left side of the road. And I'm in your age group.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 10:41 AM
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>> concerned that I would make the long and expensive journey to get there and then say to myself "this is nice scenery, and these are nice walks and bike rides, but it's not really all that different from other places where I have taken nice walks and road trips."

I experienced that during my two visits to NZ and would tell you that I am glad that I went to NZ before going to Yellowstone National Park. That definitely applies to geothermal attractions in particular. It is not a fair comparison, in general, because of all of the places I have visited the list of places that I would recommend everyone visit is very short: Yellowstone and Jerusalem. Even Japan which I love and have visited over a dozen times doesn't make that list.

You mentioned scenery, walks, bike rides, road trips. Am not sure how much of a difference you are looking for. A nice walk in a forest or bayou or badlands are not much different (to me) but there are differences. The viewpoint in Hakodate is nice but doesn't compare to Victoria Peak. NZ has a ton of beautiful scenery and as far as road trips goes it says something that the national route 1, between the capitol and largest city, is two lane road for the most part. Driving about the countryside reminded me of rural Western Pennsylvania in the 1960s (not a knock, could call it charming).

But, it is all that is around and between the scenery and walks, etc, that really make a place worth the trip.
(the tour bus trip to the Maori village attraction near Rotorua was just something to do and turned out I loved it)

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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 12:39 PM
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I have made two trips to NZ, once in my 20s once in my 60s. These were very nice trips. I have two thoughts:

1. It isn't really that far, nonstops from not just the West Coast but Houston, Chicago, NY, about 15 hours or a bit more. Is that so long?

2. For someone who has seen an awful lot, yes, it may not be that special to you. There is a lot of variety in a smaller area though.
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Old Jan 24th, 2024, 10:21 AM
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Great thoughtful replies from all of you on my own unique siltation. Thanks!

Right now my gut is that I will probably pass on NZ and instead try to visit countries and/or locales that would have something completely different to offer for me. This had been on our bucket list 10 to 15 years ago, and unfortunately we never made it. I think it probably would have made much more sense then for us traveling independently as a couple than it would now for me as a single taking a tour.
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Old Jan 24th, 2024, 10:53 AM
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Hi Julies,

I have spent around six months travelling round NZ by campervan (split over three trips) and have absolutely loved it! However, our visits have always been in a campervan traveling around independently rather than as an organised tour. It is a wonderful country with amazing scenery. Ho w it stacks up against other places is very much a subjective opinion. Having visited some 70 plus countries ver the years, it would certainly rank in my top 10.

Having said that, it IS a long way from anywhere. For us it is 24 hours plus form London, probably about the same from where you are? Of the places you mention in your OP, Colombia is the one that immediately springs to mind as being closer to you and and amazing country. Some details of our travels there are in our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/colombia/

When considering whether to travel there or not, do consider the jet lag which can be horrendous over those distances!
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Old Jan 24th, 2024, 12:21 PM
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>> Israel/Jordan
Just noticed this. I mentioned Jerusalem above and forgot to add that I think of it as the center of the world. So much history.

Have you given up on your Japan plan? That is different. I don't think I succeeded on that thread in convincing you that language was not an issue, esp. in Kyoto. The lodging that your group tour used looked ideal for your add-on days in Kyoto. I described how to get there and around via public tranit and maybe that sounded more complicated than it is. Using taxis to get around Kyoto has long been a good idea and even better with the weak yen (really, a taxi was a reasonabley affordable way to get around when the exchange rate was 109 to a USD just 4 years ago and now it is 148)
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Old Jan 25th, 2024, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by julies
IOr should I spend my time and money on other countries that are on my list (examples: Colombia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, parts of India I haven't seen, cycling in Puglia or Austria/Slovenia/Switzerland, Bhutan, Guatemala for Santa Semana, Israel/Jordan)?
I'm a broken record on this (a metaphor lost on anyone under the age of 50) but what if you combined NZ with some other of your bucket list destinations/activities? Just a thought experiment, of course, but how much time could you free up for a trip that included NZ along with one or more of the above destinations?

I've been to NZ a couple of times, and it's everything described - lush, beautiful, full of variety, friendly people, and lots of sheep. But exotic? Well, to me, not especially, but neither is Paris, and you won't find me dissing the City of Light. Take it for what it is - a unique combination of history, landscape, Māori culture...

But what if you bought an around-the-world air ticket that included NZ with some other places on your wish list? For example, say you flew to Auckland for a week or two - enough time to explore the North Island with destinations like the Northland (semitropical) or the geothermal areas around Rotorua, or the ought-to-be World Heritage Site city of Napier, with its amazing collection of art deco architecture.

Then it's back to the airport and you're off to... Sri Lanka? Another couple of weeks or whatever works for you there. Then, I don't know - mainland India again? Or the Maldives? Then on to Jordan or Israel (politics and safety willing) thence to someplace in Europe to decompress, ride a bike, whatever. Then home.

Say you're gone for six weeks. Is that doable or would you be exhausted? In terms of the cost of travel, it can be quite reasonable compared to several trips to individual destinations, but many people would find the pace unacceptable. Others, however, might find it stimulating to experience such amazing variety in a short period of time - global village stuff.

Anyway, just a thought maybe worthy of some percolation.
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Old Jan 26th, 2024, 05:22 AM
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Sorry I was unaware that more responses had come in; my notifications weren't being properly delivered.

My husband and I used to take those six week trips, and for that time period in our lives it worked well because we did it all independently. And, our NZ thoughts had included the idea of a campervan. Now I am fine for a couple days here or there on my own in a city at the end or beginning of a tour, but for the most part I feel I need to stick to tours. And, as a dog owner getting away for six weeks is difficult.

Colombia is definitely appealing to me, and I had even found a tour that interested me. Unfortunately, they didn't get enough people to run it for the dates that I was interested in.

mrwunfrl--I did visit Japan a couple months ago, taking a tour that was a mix of the cities and rural areas. I definitely liked the country a lot and would return to see other places there. And, I managed to impress the others on my tour group when they learned that I booked a hotel and flew into Tokyo a couple days early on my own and managed to navigate the subway system from the airport to the hotel and then for trips around the city. I guess I hadn't really realized that people who have always only taken tours are much more nervous about figuring out things on their own.

I had a pile of books from the library on Israel and Jordan right when the war broke out. I hope someday in the future to be able to explore that area. Russia was always a place I wanted to visit, and now that will never occur; I'm hoping the same won't be the case for the Israel area.

Now that I have pretty much decided against NZ, I am actively investigating Cuba, Guatemala (I've only been to Antigua), parts of India I haven't seen, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Georgia/Armenia, Colombia, the Balkans (I visited Dubrovnik 50 years ago but that's it for the region), and cycling trips in Europe (these give me the chance to slow down and really learn about a small area in-depth even if they aren't in big bang, exotic places).

You all have great ideas.



Last edited by julies; Jan 26th, 2024 at 05:25 AM.
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Old Jan 26th, 2024, 07:21 AM
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Good to hear that you visited Japan and would return. Navigating Tokyo on your own was no small feat. A tour person once asked me in amazement how I knew where to go (on my own in Vietnam, I think) and I replied "I read".
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Old Jan 26th, 2024, 07:39 AM
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Sorry I didn't see this thread the first time. I endorse your decision. I love NZ and have been probably more times than most here but what impresses most people is the Alpine scenery and you probably have seen a lot of that already. I also don't think that the RS itinerary is the greatest.

Colombia is wonderful, keep looking! I've navigated it twice on my own (Medellin to Coffee Country and Bogota to Villa de Lleyva), once country-wide with Road Scholar. And several day trips off of cruise ships (Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca).

Do you know about Holbrook Travel? They open some of their small group trips to the public. They do a lot of nature/birding often partnering with Audubon groups and museums. E.g. They have one to Belize and Guatemala next year for Buena Vista Audubon that combines birds and ruins.

https://www.holbrooktravel.com/where...cal-birds-bvas

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 26th, 2024 at 08:02 AM.
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Old Jan 26th, 2024, 10:48 PM
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Here is a link to our blog covering our travels in Colombia https://accidentalnomads.com/category/colombia/ we were there for around 10 weeks and managed to cover a lot travelling independently and though it was a little "challenging " at times it was so worth it. Another, much easier country in which to travel in South America is Peru. If you haven't already been , it would be well worth considering. It has a terrific tourist infrastructure and whilst you would be able to find lots of organised tours there, it is very easy to organise transport and accommodation DIY and book local tours when there . There is a Peru section in our blog liked above

Of the other places you mention, Sri Lanka is another place we loved. We did that half DIY and half with a driver/guide. A beautiful, diverse and relatively compact country, it would be high on my list. An added bonus, according to a Sri Lankan friend is that given political and finanical instability a couple of years back, the currency has plummeted and it is now a very cheap place to travel
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Old Jan 27th, 2024, 09:12 AM
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FWIW, there have been very good round-trip business class fares (under $900) from US to Colombia. Typical fare would be $1200 to $1400. Some flights use 777 with lie-flat seats.
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Old Jan 27th, 2024, 10:02 AM
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Because Spirit flies to Colombia (nonstop) from Miami, airfares are competitive including on legacy airlines (or JetBlue from FLL). It is a short flight across the Caribbean (3 1/2 hours to Medellin).

I see Road Scholar has a trip to Colombia now. The itinerary is okay. Although probably similar to my experience with RS small group in Colombia there was too much butt in seat time (including flights) and too little sightseeing. That is going to happen when they insist on throwing in the Caribbean coast, and probably most group tours are going to be the same. One thing to be aware of with the Colombian Andes is the "bimodal" rainy season. So I would avoid the October trip. Also, Cartagena is disgustingly hot and humid all year.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 27th, 2024 at 10:20 AM.
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Old Jan 29th, 2024, 06:23 AM
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I have given up on NZ and am continuing to look for interesting trips/tours to other countries on my list. A problem I am finding is that for people who have traveled extensively on their own, and often to less visited destinations, there aren't a ton of great itineraries. And, when I do find an interesting one, it's not guaranteed and usually ends up canceling because they can't generate enough interest.

And, I am kind of writing off Road Scholar as an option for most countries.
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 03:16 PM
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One of the best, if not best, places I have been. The scenery is remarkable and it's not all that crowded. A complete paradise in my opinion.
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