Kiwis stranded in all corners of the world are still wary about getting their hopes up and finally booking flights home despite "firm" promises from the Government that the borders would reopen.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined New Zealand's five-stage plan to reopen the border from February 28.
The first people allowed in will be vaccinated New Zealanders from Australia and, two weeks later, the border will reopen to Kiwis the rest of the world.
Working Holiday Visa schemes will reopen at the same time - technically defined as 11.59pm on March 13.
MIQ will be removed for vaccinated travellers, replaced by self-isolation and Covid-19 tests on arrival.
But for the thousands of Kiwis stuck overseas - many who only travelled because the transtasman bubble was in place or because they didn't think the Government would renege on its initial dates for reopening the border from mid-January - they still don't know whether to believe it.
Wellington woman Jade Badcock was still stunned over today's announcement and said she was much more wary this time around.
Badcock has been stuck in the UK since December 10 when she flew over to attend her father's funeral.
She had been booked to return on February 14 until the Government reneged on its first reopening plans due to the threat of Omicron.
Since then Badcock has been in limbo and preparing to be separated from her son and husband for an extended time.
Badcock planned to get on the phone to her travel agent this morning to try and beat the rush, but even if she managed to get a flight on March 13 it was still a month later than the Government's earlier promise.
Although the PM said the date was firm, Badcock wouldn't quite believe it until she was on the tarmac.
She thought the PM should have acknowledged the financial burden placed on New Zealanders who travelled overseas in early December only to be stranded when the Government pushed back the reopening dates.
New Zealand midwife Teresa Walsh has been working in Australia throughout the pandemic and has been trying to get home since June.
She said she had applied for an MIQ spot eight times, a process which she described as "absolutely soul destroying".
She was relieved a date had been set to open the borders, but still felt hurt at being locked out of her home country for so long.
"It's overdue, I am absolutely worn down by it," she said.
"I feel really let down by the Government for not allowing us to return home and self-quarantine earlier. I believe we could have been treated with more respect."
"I'm absolutely relieved and I'm not anxious any more … but I actually think we shouldn't be grateful because it's our right and it's been denied us."
Meanwhile, a Kiwi in Australia who is applying for an emergency spot in MIQ said the new border announcement has left him "at a crossroads".
Turawaho Hemopo, who lives in Brisbane, spoke to the Herald this week about his struggle to get an emergency MIQ spot in time to see his mother, who is terminally ill and has just months to live.
Upon hearing New Zealand would open quarantine-free travel to Kiwis in Australia on February 27, Hemopo said he was unsure whether to continue with the application in case the Government changed its mind again.
"It's a hard decision to make at the moment, whether or not we cancel the application and go for a flight in March," he said.
If his application was successful, he would be released from MIQ on February 28, the day quarantine-free travel was set to resume.
Hemopo said he would likely continue with his application over the rest of the week, partly as a safeguard against possible changes to the scheduled date.
"The feeling of 'is it going to happen, is it not going to happen?' is still weighing heavy on our hearts," he said.
"I believe they're in a position now where it can't change, but at the same time there is still some uncertainty over the coming weeks. Things can change in an instant."
In spite of the uncertainty, he said he was "over the moon" at the thought of returning to New Zealand.
"I can't wait to get home, but I guess when you've been in this situation and you've had border open, border closed, border open, it's hard to believe it until you're standing in the airport."
Jess Baker, a Kiwi teacher who's stuck overseas despite having a job lined up here, says she and her husband won't fully celebrate until they get their feet on New Zealand soil.
The high school biology teacher has been in Switzerland since 2019 with her husband and two kids, aged 4 and 6.
Baker's husband has been unemployed since June and while they were receiving welfare payments, their visas and rental lease were running out. She fired out nearly 100 job applications around the world, unsure whether she would make it back into New Zealand.
A Northland high school has offered her a position but had to hire a relief teacher while waiting for her to get home.
She wrote to ACT leader David Seymour this week, telling him the pair faced being homeless and jobless and were both depressed.
"We are mentally exhausted. Mentally not OK. We want to come home. We need to have work. We need support but we can't get home," she wrote.
Baker told the Herald she was feeling "relieved but also a little bit hesitant" after today's announcement.
"Things have changed rapidly in the past. My husband and I both said, once we're on New Zealand soil we know that we're alright," she said. "We still we have faith that it's going to happen [but we're] still tentative."
Ardern today was adamant the dates were "firm" and that Kiwis would be coming home from late this month.
February 27 and March 13 were fixed dates, but the ability of travellers to arrive would be under review, she said.
Kiwis overseas could plan for those dates announced today.
"We have no intention of changing these dates, We want people to be able to plan."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins agreed it was time for New Zealand to move forward.
"New Zealanders need to reconnect with one another. Families and friends need to reunite. Our businesses need skills to grow. Exporters need to travel to make new connections."
Kiwi man Kurt Lehndorf watched the border announcement from MIQ, where he is on day 0 of a 10-day stay under an emergency allocation.
With his father terminally ill, Lehndorf is counting down the hours – 240 now – until he can be released and at his Dad's side.
The timing of the border reopening is scheduled for just a few weeks after his struggle to get into MIQ.
"The timing is really frustrating – it's going to eventually be around a three-week process, which for most people is okay," he said.
"But when you've only got weeks, it's catastrophe."
"I'm delighted that in a few weeks' time Kiwis in Australia are going to be delighted with whanau."