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Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a good Christmas and New Years break, hopefully with lots of good food, fun and laughter with friends and family – I know I did.

2015 will mark the second year that the site has been running, as a hobby site and a bit of a side project for me. There are a lot of exciting things to come this year and with all things going to plan especially in 2016, and although I cannot guarantee that I will be able to post more (even though I would like to) over the year, I will certainly do my best to try – It is always hard finding the time to write posts, even though I have more than enough content and things I would like to write about.

In any case, Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter and I are starting the year off with a long weekend road trip to one of our favourite destinations, the place where I was born and hometown, New Plymouth. We spend a couple of nights there before setting off to Taupo, an idyllic town by the lake where we spend a night there before heading back to Wellington.

Introduction
The journey begins/Visit to the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Christchurch (Domestic)
Day One
Day Two – Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand


Good Morning! We woke early: At the crack of dawn, and got ready for the big trip ahead. Today was probably the single day we were both most looking forward to while visiting Queenstown – as with any big trip, it’s important to start with a good breakfast. Our stay had complimentary breakfasts included with the room, so we headed down to the hotels’ restaurant ‘Lombardi‘ for a buffet breakfast.

We were greeted at the restaurant front desk and gave the staff our room number; and were invited to take a seat and help ourselves to the freshly cooked and wide breakfast selection available.
Being so early in the morning, there was no shortage of seats – in fact, at that time there was no-one else in the restaurant!

Introduction
The Journey Begins / Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Christchurch (Domestic)
Queenstown Trip: Day One
Day Two – Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand


We arrived at Queenstown International Airport to a busy terminal, and followed the signs to the bag claim. For an international airport the terminal is quite small [map], but that said, there appeared to be some construction underway to improve some areas, and it was easy to find our way around with the facilities well signposted.

While waiting for our bag to come out onto the carousel, I made a call to the rental company to confirm our pickup by the shuttle to the depot, and was given directions to the pickup point just a short walk from the terminal exit. It was a short 2-3 min drive to the About New Zealand Rental Cars depot, where we signed off the paperwork for our rental car. I had managed to book a pretty cheap deal for our 4 day stay at $42/day, $168 in total. There are varying rental options available, but this was the cheapest for the type of car we wanted.

Now usually I have some form of credit card (usually to earn Airpoints and Status Points 😉 ) but due to recent changes with Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter and I buying a small abode just recently, I’d decided to change to using a Debit Mastercard for a while – Which, as I learned, can potentially have issues when renting a car, namely in the form of a $1,500 bond (each rental car company has their own requirements). Most people don’t have that much spare cash readily available, but luckily I did anticipate this possible predicament and brought with me a credit card used for emergencies, in case of such incidentals. Strangely, we did also experience some issues using EFTPOS when trying to pay the rental fee, but for some reason the debit function on my MasterCard (same card) worked – Anyway, eventually we had the keys to the car and were ready to go.

Here’s a photo of our beautiful vehicle for the weekend:

Our stunning car for the long weekend, a Turquoise 2006 Ford Focus!
Our stunning car for the long weekend, a Turquoise 2006 Ford Focus!

Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter summed it up quite nicely when she saw it: “Well, as least we won’t have any trouble finding it..”

Introduction
The Journey Begins / Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Christchurch (Domestic)
Queenstown Trip: Day One
Day Two – Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand


My alarm went off at 4:30am: Funnily enough, at the exact same time as Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter‘s – and we hadn’t even coordinated alarms the night before! I guess that’s pretty good proof that great minds think alike 🙂

We’d both woken up early so there was time to pack the last lot of things we wanted to bring, before driving out to the airport – I was aiming to leave by about 5:30am to have a bit of early-morning breakfast in the Koru Lounge. Even though we each had a baggage allowance, we decided to take and share just one bag, to save carting bags around – we had decided that we didn’t need that much luggage anyway for an extended weekend, seeing as we both also had our cabin bags as well.

Packing always seems to take a little bit longer than usual and I always have a bit of a worry that I’ve forgotten to bring something, so I’ll check a few times before we leave home to ensure we’ve brought everything. Regardless, as I found out, I still managed to forget my mini day bag as I discovered later on that day, but that didn’t end up being too much of a problem in the end.

Introduction
The Journey Begins / Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Christchurch (Domestic)
Queenstown Trip: Day One
Day Two – Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand


So I’ll be waking up very early tomorrow to catch a flight to a very special destination. In all the 27 years (gosh, am I that **old** now? time travels fast) I’ve been around, I’ve never traveled there, despite it being probably the no. 1 part of New Zealand that is most known, and various photos of it and the surrounding area are everywhere: Just type in “New Zealand” into Google Image search and you’ll see what I mean – about half the search results are from there or the surrounding area.

The place I’m talking about is Queenstown.

Known by some as the ‘Adventure Capital of New Zealand’, it features gorgeous scenery, day trips to majestic fjords, more adrenaline that you can shake a fist at, and if you like extreme sports.. well, say no more. Queenstown has it all.

It’s a bit hard to explain in just words, so let me show you a picture:

Picture credit: QueenstownNZ.com
Picture credit: QueenstownNZ.com

So it’s been almost a year since I first started this blog, mainly as a bit of an experiment but also as an informative place for people to find travel tips, ideas and ideas, particularly from this little part of the World. Hopefully you’ve found some things interesting, and enjoyed what I’ve had to say – Today I’m excited to be sharing my very first collaborative post, which I hope you all enjoy.

About a month or two ago, I received an E-Mail from fellow blogger Kendra, and we have been collaborating on a little project over the last little while to share some of our favourite places to travel and interesting things to do there.

Kendra is no stranger to travel, being the former Director of Communications at Orbitz before deciding to focus on family full time, and she has written a great article on one of her and her family’s favourite destinations – Las Vegas. I found it really very interesting, and something a bit more than what most people commonly associate with Vega: The bright lights, big shows and glitzy casinos. It certainly has me interested in adding it to my travel list – Hopefully it inspires some of you too!


Las Vegas: As Desert Oasis of Fun

Photo: Las Vegas official website
Photo: Las Vegas official website

If a fun and unique family vacation is what you’re looking for, then Las Vegas is the place for you. This historic city is rich with activities to delight the whole family. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at some of the things my family and I love doing here.

Introduction
Air New Zealand Economy Class, Wellington to Auckland
Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge, Auckland
Thai Airways Business Class, Auckland to Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge (Domestic), Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class, Bangkok to Phuket
Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, Phuket


After our very late arrival into Phuket, we exited the airport with our trolleys full of bags to the shuttle provided by the resort, who was parked prominently near the front entrance, amongst the many taxis obviously looking to earn a fare from one of the many travellers arriving off our flight.

When we first confirmed our booking by phone with the resort, we advised them of our flight details and of the need for the shuttle to pick us up from the airport, but as my parents and brother had already been at the resort for the past few days, they also reminded the staff at reception of our arrival earlier that day.

Our shuttle driver assisted us with loading our baggage into the rear of the shuttle van, and after this, I returned our trolleys back to the airport before setting off. Somewhere along the way I must have misplaced my phone without noticing, but just as I was climbing into the shuttle to leave one of the taxi drivers waved me down to hand me my phone, which I thought was very nice and honest of him – It was a positive start to our stay here in Phuket, and the beginning of the long, approx. 1 hour drive to the resort.

As fascinating as it is being in a new country, and as much as I would have liked to look out the window and take in some of Phuket along the drive, I was just exhausted after all the flying and spent most of the journey taking a nap, waking up just before we arrived.

Security at the entrance to the hotel resort
Security at the entrance to the hotel resort
Shrine just inside the security gates to the resort
Shrine just inside the security gates to the resort

Upon arrival at the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, we were greeted at the stairs by two of the staff who assisted us with getting our bags from the shuttle and presented us with some handmade flower bracelets, which, considering it was almost 2:30 in the morning, was a nice touch, as I would have expected the hotel to pass with such formalities.

Stairs leading to the hotel foyer
Stairs leading to the hotel foyer

At the top of the stairs was a large lobby area with lighted columns, a feature area with surrounding seating and orchids growing above.

Lobby
Lobby

37 The Landing Motel is probably one of the nicest accommodations in Whakatane. I base this judgement upon the appearance and newly renovated feel of the rooms, as well as its top rating on Tripadvisor (no. 1) – This was the second time I had stayed at The Landing (both times were for work, so it appears it must be a preferred place to stay for staff visiting the city), the first time was very comfortable and I had a good sleep, so I was very happy to be staying here again.

The motel gets its name as it is aptly located on Landing Road, which is one of the main roads leading into the city from the State Highway if you are driving in from the West, and is located on the right just after crossing the bridge over the Whakatane river.

Entrance to 37 The Landing Motel - Just off Landing Road, Whakatane
Entrance to 37 The Landing Motel – Just off Landing Road, Whakatane
Front view of The Landing Motel, a modern and one of Whakatane's newest accommodation providers.
Front view of The Landing Motel, a modern and one of Whakatane’s newest accommodation providers.
Reception and covered entrance
Reception and covered entrance

Checking in was a quick and easy process, the staff were very welcoming and also gave me a small carton of fresh milk to make tea/coffee. Funnily enough, when I checked into the motel, I was given room no. 11, an Executive Studio. I thought this number sounded familiar – when I drove the car to the parking space in front of the room I realised it was the exact same room I had last time I was here! Needless to say, I knew exactly what I was in for, which I was happy about. Some of the other rooms, for example, do not feature the king spa in the bathroom but instead have a larger living area and/or couch – As my colleague disappointingly discovered in her room last time we were staying at the Landing Motel.

Something that I was very surprised to find last time I was here was the availability of free wifi to guests – In this day and age, you would think that this would be a standard inclusion; although more and more accommodation providers are starting to offer at least some degree of free internet (even if it is limited) but I still find the majority do charge for the service, so when I do come across such a place on my travels, I typically end up tethering my phone to my laptop for access when required.
It is refreshing to see someone bucking the trend and makes this an even better place to stay, particularly for business travellers when internet access is more important to catch up on work and emails at the end of the day.
FYI – The wifi access code is printed on the welcome ‘stand’ on the table in the room, take note of the code, as it looks straightforward but is craftily not *quite* in a sequence.. 😉

Exterior view of my room with ranch sliding door access. A small table and two chairs are available for guests to enjoy just outside the room.
Exterior view of my room with ranch sliding door access. A small table and two chairs are available for guests to enjoy just outside the room.
Overview of the room from the entrance
Overview of the room from the entrance
King-size bed
King-size bed

The direct flight from Wellington to Gisborne on NZ 2232 is serviced by a tiny Hawker Beechcraft 1900D, which seats a grand total of 19 passengers. As this trip was only an overnighter, I was only taking cabin luggage and using the Air NZ Fast Bag service, (which is available to Gold Elite, Gold and Koru members) instead of checking my bags in. Boarding only took about a minute, and I dropped my bag off next to the plane (usually there is a fast bag trolley, but it seemed not to be used that day) after being greeted by the first officer before climbing onboard. Looking around, it was surprising to find that most of the seats on the flight were full, as I took my seat in 3A for the 1:05 hour flight.

Typical for these smaller aircraft, there are no refreshments provided (there is no flight attendant crew), and no door separating the pilots from the main cabin area. It was quite interesting to watch what the pilots were doing from the close proximity of my seat and see the small view they have from the cockpit.

View of the cockpit - NZ 2232 (WLG - GIS)
View of the cockpit – NZ 2232 (WLG – GIS)

It wasn’t long before we arrived into Gisborne Airport on a warm and slightly-cloudy day with an uneventful landing. As with a lot of the regional airports, it is very small, but still bigger than Whakatane, which is the smallest airport I have visited so far.

Finally arrived in Gisborne!
Finally arrived in Gisborne!

Shortly after disembarking from the plane, one of the ground crew unloaded my fast bag and brought it over to me. Nice, quick and easy!

Gisborne Airport
Gisborne Airport
It may be small, but it does have a cafe.. (No Koru lounge though)
It may be small, but it does have a cafe.. (No Koru lounge though!)

I proceeded to Hertz to pick up my rental car (a Mazda 3, which I was very happy about) and was on my way, stopping briefly in Gisborne for some supplies for the journey.

Gisborne City - You know it's a reasonably small place if it has a clock tower sitting in the middle of it.. :)
Gisborne City – You know it’s a reasonably small place if it has a clock tower sitting in the middle of it.. 🙂

Just outside Gisborne, I came across a very picturesque beach nestled along some hills next to the highway. Of course I just had to stop and take some photos at the conveniently placed picnic/rest area at the side of the road.

View from Makorori Beach rest area (Gisborne side)
View from Makorori Beach rest area (Gisborne side)