It’s worth the trip, we promise…

Best foodie city on earth? Probably Melbourne. Best sight seeing in Australia? Probably Sydney. Most beautiful city on earth? Maybe, Queenstown. Best places for delicious wine? Everywhere! We get it – before even leaving home, you’re already spread thin and running out of time – but there are some clever ways to plan, save and maximize your trips down under to perfection.

Spoiler Alert: It’s Really Big

Europe looks huge on a map, but most places are just a mere hour or two away. That’s not the case in Australia and New Zealand. Flights across Australia can take over 5 hours, and flights from Australia to New Zealand can be even longer, depending where you’re flying from. Get real, and picture these two countries as an area far larger than the United States, not two cuddly Koala bears next to each other. To maximize your time, you want to avoid backtracking. Long story short: start planning now.

Getting There

Flights to Australia or New Zealand can be raucously expensive. We’ve got a bunch of tips to circumnavigate the awful expenses of getting down to Australia and New Zealand, because once you’re there, you’ll never want to leave. But side note, you must prove you have a ticket out of New Zealand before they’ll let you board a plane into the country – so avoid last minute ticket buying funny business. You also need an e-visa to enter Australia for citizens of most countries. These are easy, take roughly 24 hours to process and can be done online. And FYI: Australia and New Zealand are like Fort Knox when it comes to crop safety. Forgetting to chuck a banana can cost $500 in instant fines.

Open Jaw: East-West, West-East

For most of the world, Australia and New Zealand aren’t exactly next door, so if you’re making the trip – it’s great to see as much as you can. Look into “open jaw” flights, where you fly into one city and out of another. For example, consider flying into Auckland and out of Perth. Move West to East or East to West, stopping off with separately booked one way tickets to connect the dots in between. Direct pptions from the US are limited, but with connections in places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok, Doha or Dubai – many airlines now offer long haul international flights to Perth, Canberra, Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne.

Perfect Trip

Finding direct flights is key to saving time and maximizing your trip. If you want to go the East-West route, consider starting in Auckland. From there you could book a 2 hour flight down to Queenstown and explore the rugged, active lifestyle South Island. From there, perhaps head to Melbourne for amazing food and shopping. Then Melbourne to Sydney, which is just an hour. If you then want to explore Gold Coast or wine country, head out to Adelaide, Brisbane or Perth and jet off home from there. The same idea works well in reverse, too. And remember, seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are the opposite in Australia and New Zealand. And it gets HOT.

Wine

What you drink can really determine where to go. Perth in Western Australia is renowned for incredible Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River. Adelaide offers some of the worlds juiciest and most succulent Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, from the highly lauded McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley regions. New Zealand offers luscious, tropical Sauvignon Blanc, ripe Pinot Noir and excellent Syrah from both islands. Factoring in accessibility to other regions, it’s tough to beat Otago in New Zealand or Adelaide in Australia.

Best Beaches

Trying to plot which locations will offer the best beaches? You’re honestly spoiled for choice. Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne offer very popular beach options, but it’s Queensland which just might stun you with beauty. Just Google “Whitsunday”, you’ll soon understand. Similarly, the North Island of New Zealand is jam packed with postcard worthy beaches and all the laid back vibes that come along wit them! If you’re in Sydney, the Bondi- Coogee beach walk along the cliffs is a must.

Using Points

Flights within Australia and New Zealand can be extremely pricey. Fortunately many frequent flyer programs and hotel points programs work just fine in both areas. Travelers with Star Alliance airline miles can use them on Air New Zealand, OneWorld fliers can use them on Qantas and LATAM and SkyTeam members with Delta can use Virgin Australia flights. Hyatt, Intercontinental, Hilton, Starwood and Marriott are replete with hotels in both exceptional countries. LATAM, the South American Airline offers an amazing 787 Dreamliner flight between Sydney and Auckland and is always less expensive than the competition, just FYI!

Timings

This is the part where we insult every Australian and New Zealand city, unintentionally. The truth is, some cities don’t require much time. Auckland is a two day maximum city. It’s beautiful, and the areas nearby may be worth another day or two – but it’s pretty quiet. Queenstown is magic. You’ll want at least four nights there, because there’s so much to see nearby which will require full day trips. The more active you are (hiking, biking, climbing, sky diving) – the more days you’ll need. Melbourne, you’ll never have enough time and the food alone is worth an extra night. Same for Sydney – and here are some hot tips for visiting. Wine country – it all depends on how much you drink and how much you want to escape.

Money

Here’s everything you need to know about tipping.ย Australia and New Zealand both feature high minimum wage standards and excellent overall quality of life. So before you get too excited about your currency being worth more than either the New Zealand or Australian dollar, it’s important to note that prices are no bargain here. You may come out a couple bucks ahead of standard tipple prices in your usual digs, but for those from the US, UK or Euro Zone, expect costs to be pretty similar to those back home. If it makes you feel any better, the food and wine are amongst the best found in any region of the world.

Practical Stuff

Australian plugs are unique, none of your sockets will work without an adaptor. Drinking at lunch is totally ok here – and everyone does it. If you don’t like Rugby, Aussie Rules Football or Cricket, don’t turn on the television. Everyone calls everyone mate, it’s not always a sign of endearment. Whatever the usual SPF of sunscreen you use – double it. Mass transit, especially in Sydney and Melbourne is top notch. Don’t be afraid. But with that said, Uber works in most places too. Oh – and there are almost no predatory animals in New Zealand, whereas in Australia – virtually every predatory animal exists.

What’s your favorite place to visit in Australia or New Zealand?