Just as it's getting colder here, it's getting warmer in the southern hemisphere. Like many small island nations, New Zealand is a great place to see by car because much of the population is concentrated in cities, so a drive in between destinations can often be unspoiled by human, car, or other large motor vehicle. Whether it's fishing, hiking, swimming, cave exploration, volcanoes or a wine tasting, there are plenty of things that will pull you off the road. Even though you lose a day going there coming from the U.S., it seems to have little bearing on tourism: in recent years travelers have discovered (and rediscovered) this country thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the growing awareness of New Zealand wines and cuisine.
Air Tahiti Nui (tel. 877/824-4846; www.airtahitinui-usa.com) is offering a handful of specials in conjunction with some of its travel partners to New Zealand, in various permutations of airfare, hotel and car rental inclusiveness. The least expensive is offered by Travel Portfolio and starts at $949 for a three-day car rental (rated "intermediate automatic") and air from Los Angeles, unlimited mileage, a free stopover in Tahiti, New Zealand tax (valid for Monday and Wednesday departures). Or go all out and opt for the airfare and campervan package, from $1,115, which includes eight-days rental of this RV-like vehicle that comes complete with a shower and toilet, unlimited mileage, and NZ tax. Travel Portfolio's similar deal for New York departures is priced from $1,115.
Or if you're not into driving a large vehicle around a foreign country on unknown roads, Air Tahiti's partner Swain Tahiti Tours also has a 7-Night New Zealand Self Drive package, one that includes accommodations and is priced from $1,599. You'll get a hotel pass good for seven nights and a compact rental car with unlimited mileage. Call tel. 800/227-9246 and be sure to ask for package code #442460. Swain Tahiti's New York departure for this same trip is priced from $1,799 and carries the same code.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) offers a few fly-drive tours to this part of the world, including the New Zealand Island Hopper Fly and Drive Super Sale, priced from $1,419 for nine days rental of a manual car, or if you want, a motor home (from $1,709), to be picked up at Christchurch airport with a drop off in Auckland. The prices reflect travel through December 5 with L.A. as your departure city, with a booking deadline of November 29; local taxes, unlimited mileage and airline fuel surcharges are included. Departures December 6-31 are priced from $1,919. Go-Today offers a handful of add-ons, such as transfers, extending return flights, rental cars, an Auckland discovery tour, and a sightseeing tour of Bay of Islands.
Gate1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a 10-day Auckland fly-drive package starting from $1,169 which includes roundtrip flights from L.A. to Auckland, airline fuel surcharges, seven-days compact rental car, unlimited mileage, local government taxes and vehicle theft protection. Airport taxes, security fees and rental fees are not included. The price reflects November 6, 13, 20, 27 and December 4 departures. After that, the price jumps up $1,629 for December 11 and $1,659 for December 18, 25. You can also opt to upgrade your car rental.
Newmans Vacations (tel. 800/342-1956; www.newmansvacations.com) has an offer that starts at $,1559 per person called "Discover the Culture and Warmth of the North Island" based on departures from Los Angeles to Auckland, valid for travel through December 9, and then again, February 1, 2007-March 31, 2007 -- the price jumps up to $2,189 for travel December 10, 2006-January 31, 2007, as you might expect. Seven days of a compact, automatic car rental, a six-night Go Kiwi Silver Hotel Pass and fuel surcharges are included.
There's also a six-night, nine-day "Classic Wine Trail" trip available starting from $2,099 per person, touring the Hawke's Bay, Martinborough, and Marlborough wine producing regions that account for nearly 70 per cent of New Zealand's wine (such as some wonderfully crisp Sauvingon Blancs) You'll receive a car rental for seven days, two nights' accommodations in Napier, two in Martinborough, and two nights in Blenheim, as well as inter-island ferry from Wellington to Picton.
If you want to make your own fly-drive package, Qantas, vis-à-vis Orbitz (tel. 888/656-4546; www.orbitz.com) can help you on the fly part, with a sale from departures in L.A., San Francisco or New York-JFK to select destinations in Australia and New Zealand. You must book by November 10 and there is a five-day minimum stay. Sample fares include Los Angeles or San Francisco to Auckland from $989 and New York-Auckland from $1,289. Fares shown reflect travel through November 30 and there are no blackout dates.
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