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As most of you know, in a few months, my husband and I will be departing on a two-week trip to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. Our kids will be going with my in-laws, and we’ll meet them in Melbourne for few days. I’m sure I’ll be freaking out when the reality of not having our babies with us will finally sink in, but that’s a rant for another day.
Anyway, I’m a great believer in not being a scrooge when it comes to excursions and unique things that you can’t do at home. After all, the chance to visit that same location may never materialize again. I’m still kicking myself for not flying from Maui to Big Island for a day in order to attend the Merrie Monarch festival.
Our first stop will be in Tahiti, and this is one place where I’ve decided to just relax and enjoy the surroundings. I was looking into doing a few water excursions in Bora Bora, but my husband wasn’t thrilled with the idea. His reasoning was that: 1) we will only have several nights there after an exhausting flight from LAX, 2) We will be staying in an overwater bungalow that goes for $1,000 per night, located on a private island in the middle of South Pacific.
What tour will be able to top that? Why not relax and enjoy ourselves without having any commitments? We are literally spending $1,000 out-of-pocket extra on flights, plus $300 on boat transfers just to get to the darn bungalow in the first place.
As much as I hate to admit it, but the man has a point there. I’m terrible at relaxing and constantly have to be on the move, but it’s his trip, too. That said, we will only have two nights in Auckland, New Zealand as well as Sydney, and I’m planning to see as much as possible during that time.
Tours from Auckland
This one was relatively easy. After doing some research, I decided to go through Viator.com A quick tip! If you don’t have an account, look for a pop-up on the site offering a 10% discount on your first tour after signing up for a newsletter. I got the email with a discount only few minutes after submitting my email address. Note that the discount expires thirty days after you receive it.
Originally, I was planning on booking a full-day Waitomo and Rotorua Tour The cost is $257 per person, so it would be a total of $514 (before 10% off discount). Sure, it’s a lot of money, but how often will we be in New Zealand, right? However, I’ve noticed that for $312 per person we could see the mentioned two sights, plus Hobbiton. For those not familiar with “Lord of the Rings” series, Hobbiton is a movie set created specifically for the franchise.
I’ve mentioned it to my husband and he was a bit lukewarm towards the whole Hobbiton idea. He said that since the houses are not furnished inside, it just seems kind of lame. Who cares? It’s not like we will be sleeping there. He did ask me some follow-up questions about the set and I told him: that’s it, we are doing the more expensive tour.
I would rather spend $55 extra per person and be disappointed by Hobbiton experience than wonder if we made a mistake by skipping it when we are back in Florida. Besides, several of my readers visited the set and enjoyed the experience. I’m betting on the fact that my husband will be happy I insisted on adding Hobbiton, but we’ll see.
I can cancel this tour 7 days before the date and get all of my money back. So, I decided I might as well book it now. The 10% off discount was reflected in the final price:
Tours from Sydney
This is where it gets complicated and where I would like readers’ input. Originally, I was planning on doing a tour of Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves However, I’ve seen several travelers (including reader Brad who contributed this awesome trip report) mention that if you’ve seen mountains in US, you won’t be impressed by Blue Mountains in Australia.
So now I’m kind of torn on this one. Sydney is a world-class city. Sure, we will be staying at Park Hyatt, which is as central as can be. We will arrive in Sydney early enough that we could probably see a few sights that day. That said, if we go on an all-day tour, we will have to sacrifice all the amazing things the city has to offer. We will only have two nights there, and may never visit Sydney again. On the other hand, my husband enjoys nature and generally dislikes big cities.
It’s not really about saving money, but optimizing our time and focusing on the most unique experiences that we can’t get anywhere else. We’ve seen impressive mountains in Colorado, California, Alaska and Canada. Sticking to sightseeing in Sydney as well as learning about aboriginal culture seems to me like the way to go. Then again, Blue Mountains are probably unique as well.
Readers who have been to Sydney, what are your thoughts?
Using points and credit card bonuses to offset the cost of tours
Viator.com purchase should code under “travel” category. As such, it would be reimbursable if you get Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or Capital One Venture Rewards Visa. These cards give you flat rebate against travel purchases.
Most tours are listed in Ultimate Rewards travel portal, so you can use your UR points to cover the cost.
If you don’t have any UR points, you can sign up for cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred. You will be able to redeem points at 1.25 cents apiece towards travel, including tours. If you happen to have Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem your UR points at 1.5 cents apiece which, in my opinion, represents excellent value. Read more on all these offers in my Hot Deals page.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.