Background information plus our experience
Comments on why we went and how we got there
ALL OUR SITES
Never having undertaken a trip of this sort before we felt we would be more comfortable using a specialist agent and ended up using 1st Class Holidays in Manchester for all the arrangements - flights, car, accommodation.
We found 1st Class helpful and well informed, although some of their administration was a bit chaotic. However the incoming agent they used in New Zealand was rather inflexible and we had to push to get one or two things done the way we wanted them doing, a reasonable expectation on a tailor-made trip we thought.
Getting there and getting back
The next decision was which route as Air NZ fly two daily flights, one via Los Angeles the other via Hong Kong. The LA timings were a bit more attractive but the strong advice from the agent was to go via HK and avoid LA at all costs, advice which we took and having heard tales about what LA is like from others (even transit passengers seem to be subject to the full, very slow immigration check) were very glad we had. Time of the connecting flight from Auckland to Christchurch was a bit tight and as we had been held up in Customs (see below) we were unable to check baggage for Christchurch at the international terminal so had to take it with us on the transfer bus. The transfer bus service is not as frequent as it might be and we were concerned we might miss the onward connection, but all was well.
Immigration at Auckland was a breeze and we were through a lot quicker than NZ citizens. However Customs did take time. As an isolated island kingdom NZ takes its biosecurity very seriously indeed and you are given a customs declaration form on the plane on which you have to declare any animal or plant products, walking and fishing equipment and so on. All forms with such declarations on are screened. We had to declare walking boots with cleated soles and had to show them to prove they were clean. If they hadn't been they would have been cleaned there for a cost and with a delay. It was all very friendly, but don't attempt to con them as all luggage from every passenger is X-rayed before being cleared and penalties are steep.
At Christchurch we had arranged a private transfer to our motel, a worthwhile investment although plenty of taxis were available. We got to the motel early afternoon and spent the rest of the time exploring Christchurch in a slightly spaced-out condition. The next day was carless and doing a more structured exploration on foot. We found no real problems with jetlag, the only thing being that for several days Michael just had to go to bed at 8pm or go to sleep sitting or even standing!
Jumping to our return we left our luggage at the motel and had another look around Christchurch, returning for it when needing to get to the airport. We asked for a taxi to be booked but were told a shuttle (minibus and luggae trailer) would be a lot cheaper so that was what they booked and it worked well as we had it to ourselves.
The return journey was via the same route with (as outward) an evening departure. There was some confusion as to which terminal we had to use at Christchurch. We had been given clear instructions to check in at the international terminal, but there we were directed to the adjacent domestic check-in. That got us into the system, but we had to go to international departures as our flight went to the international terminal at Auckland.
Lounges were good, especially at Hong Kong. Air NZ is in Star Alliance so access is granted to any Star lounge. Coming back we started off in the domestic Koru Club lounge at Christchurch which though busier had much better food than the international Business lounge we moved to when it opened.