Eli Orzessek answers your travel questions.
Could you suggest some low-stress travel destinations for when you don't have much time to plan? I'm a kind of "leave things to the last minute" person, so I often don't have much time to do too much in-depth research and I like to be spontaneous.
I've asked my contact at Flight Centre for some help on this one and she suggests a couple of Pacific destinations — which, I'd agree, are some of the easiest holidays to organise from New Zealand. It's also worth asking a travel agent if they know of any last-minute package deals — you can sometimes pick up a great bargain and, with everything arranged, you won't have to plan much yourself.
As far as destinations, here's what Flight Centre NZ general manager Victoria Courtney had to suggest:
"With a direct flight time of only four hours from Auckland, the same currency as New Zealand, and a laid-back island vibe, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is the epitome of an easy holiday escape.
"There are no traffic lights, no McDonald's and no buildings taller than a coconut tree and, with just one circle road around the island, it's easy to explore. Most hotels offer transfers from the airport, which makes getting poolside ASAP after you land a breeze.
"Sun lovers and honeymooners flock to the island for a reason: relaxation, romance and spectacular white-sand beaches."
She also suggested Tonga, only three hours from Auckland. This Pacific destination is particularly good for adventure-lovers and takes you a little further off the tourist trail — plus it's on the same time zone as New Zealand so you won't be dealing with jet lag.
"Rich in history, Tonga is the only remaining constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific. Still ruled by a king and royal family, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the royals at the Free Wesleyan Church in Nuku'alofa on a Sunday morning.
"With plenty of accommodation options for all budgets on the main land, it's an easy holiday that takes little planning. If you fancy a bit of adventure, consider a trip out to 'Eua.
"Perfect for birdwatching and hikes in the wilderness, this is the place to go for true wild adventure.
The facilities are basic, but you'll have the place almost to yourself. And, fun fact: the seven-minute flight from Tongatapu is one of the world's shortest commercial flights."
Last year, Natalie Taplin wrote in asking for winter clothing tips for her granddaughter's European Trail adventure with Contiki over December. She had nothing but praise for the 23-day trip of a lifetime, as well as the excellent service booking the trip with Flight Centre Ponsonby. Here's some of her feedback that might help other readers contemplating a trip in the European winter or a Contiki tour:
● November/December proved the best time for her to travel, with some grey but lots of blue skies. The weather was cold, but not freezing. There was some snow (ankle-deep) in Vienna and lots in Switzerland, of course.
● Contiki was non-stop, but she made the most of every moment. She made lots of new friends of all ages and from different backgrounds. There was lots of walking with Contiki team. No queuing for entrance on free time, and they used given free time to explore.
● The tour guide was able to answer questions on each city - history, go-to spots, trains/bus timetable for places to visit.
● Some days were quite tiring; the most tiring being Vienna to Salt Mines, Krakow, Poland. After a very long day of travel, three hours were then spent underground in 22C heat.
● Hostel accommodation was okay. Great accommodation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
● She got "the Contiki Cough" but had her own medicines from home. Chemists were easy to find when needed.
● Food was generally enjoyable but not many greens served with meals.
● Lasting impressions: No disappointments — but she found visit to Auschwitz Concentration Camp sobering and moving.