Having just returned from a family trip to the land of Hobbits I thought I would write down my thoughts on what I found fabulous and not so fabulous about New Zealand with my Brit hat firmly on.
As a disclaimer, Mister Crayons is a Kiwi so in some ways we are already biased.
We had an amazing time. The children were old enough to enjoy and appreciate the experience and make some of their own memories from the people we met to the places we visited.
Some of our highlights in picture form.
Things that made me love NZ:
- Family and friends. Being able to spend time with the antipodean side of the family was wonderful for the mini Crayons. They got to hang out with their cool cousins and new connections have been formed and old friendships have been renewed. It was wonderful to catch up with good friends, the type of friends who you may not have seen for ten years, yet it did not matter one jot. We are grateful to them for their generosity and putting up with us as we travelled the length of the north island – literally.
- Reunited with the BFFs. Seeing how well our BFFs have settled into their new life and visiting their new posh house made us all very happy.
- The beaches. Beautiful blue/green sea and golden sands, not over-populated and not a windbreaker in sight and not taking ages to get to! Bliss. The children would have been happy to stay on the beach digging trenches and playing chicken with the surf all day long.
- Driving. We hired a great touring car, with all the bells and whistles, including beeping bumpers and cameras. I loved it (I miss the reverse parking sensor!). Mister really enjoyed driving around NZ at a slower pace than in the UK (100kms is the limit on open road, which is 60 miles in real money).
- Landscape. Breathtaking scenery and twisty winding roads pretty much everywhere you look. Every scene outside of our car window was like a captured photograph. Just wow.
- Laid-back lifestyle. Maybe we were in our ‘holiday bubble’ but things just seemed more casual and relaxed and everyone we met was super friendly. Apart from the dude who stole my parking space behind Briscolls on boxing day.
Things that sucked in NZ:
- The cost of food and groceries. Everything was generally 20-30% more expensive. I’m pretty sure raspberries were more expensive than gold per gram.
- The lack of variety and choice of food. There has been a huge change since I was last back in NZ nine years ago. You can definitely get everything you want, however compared to the UK you just don’t have the wide choice. Go and hug your local Lidl and Aldi and show some appreciation immediately!
- The extortionate costs of printed books. Wow, this was a really eye-opener. Hardbacks ranged from NZ$30-40 (£17-22). The same applied to children’s books as well. It made be sad as it was obvious that the high price would mean that only families who have the resources and funds could treat their children, something we totally take for granted. I have since been told that the libraries are amazing, so that is a saving grace.
- Insects/mozzie bites. We were all bitten to death by the critters. My ankles and legs took the brunt. I’m surprised we had any blood left to function by the end of our trip.
- Hayfever in December. Seriously, WTF. Okay, this is not New Zealand’s fault, but it still sucked as I felt I was suffering two summers’ worth of sneezing and itchy eyes – at Christmas time.
- Technically this isn’t ‘in’ NZ, but the flight time to get from UK to NZ is a tough one. We spent well over 30 hours travelling and not being able to get any decent amount of sleep during that whole time, was really tough on the body.
- Washi tapes cost $7.95 each *insert weeping emoticon here*.
- White goods and electricals very expensive! You’re been warned.
- Sucky mobile phone data packages. 700MB per month was the best I was offered. What a load of codswallop.
Tips for next time:
- Bose noise cancelling headphones. A MUST on the flights. Money well spent for the sake of your sanity.
- A sleep stopover halfway will make a huge difference. We managed to squeeze in a cheeky city visit to HK on the way back, but the children were so exhausted that they couldn’t really appreciate how magical HK is at night.
- Don’t book a flight leaving Auckland at 9am. Rookie mistake.
- Bring a stash of builder’s tea, percy pigs, Heinz tomato ketchup, and A5 perfect bound notebooks!
I think you can tell that we had a wonderful time in NZ and it was really difficult to leave for many reasons. It’s a magical country and we have made some wonderful warm memories that will sustain us while we have to endure the cold British winter.