When it comes to planning and booking a trip, I have had both good and bad experiences. My fourth overseas trip was rather well planned with nearly 80 days of travel booked before leaving home. With every flight and hotel booking matched up and no problems. In comparison, there was my second trip overseas where I had no plan for the last two weeks. In fact, it was not until three days before I needed to board a plane and travel to somewhere I booked a hotel in Dallas.
For many when it comes to planning, they are somewhat split into two different groups. The first group plan everything in meticulous detail, much like that fourth overseas trip I mentioned above. Everything just fits together, and it works because they planned it out. The other group are those who do the least possible and hope to pull things together as they go. The thing is that no matter which group you spend the most time in, there is a good chance you have drifted to the other side.
You would think that with four big overseas trips down that I could manage to book two weeks in New Zealand. The simple idea of visiting three cities over a period of 14 days should have been a walk in the park. Especially after booking nearly 80 days without a problem just a few years earlier. But alas I managed to wander into a few issues that end up getting sorted along the way.
Travelling To New Zealand
The initial reality of booking my two weeks in New Zealand looked great. I somehow managed to do all of the planning and booking in under six hours, which I talked about here New Zealand – Getting It Booked. Everything seemed great, and I was ready to go, that is until little things started to pop up a couple of days before departure. Booking Incorrect hotels, trying new things and a couple of other small problems, so let’s take a look.
Booking The Wrong Hotel
Researching hotels can be something of a challenge at times. Especially as you try and balance the best price with the best location and facilities. I suppose this was one of the downfalls in the speed with which I booked my trip. I flicked through a few too many hotels and recorded the wrong hotel as the one I would book.
The hotel I thought I was booking in Auckland was a nice hotel in a downtown location close to everything. What I accidentally booked was a run-down hotel on the fringe of the bad side of town, and in the past six months, the reviews had gone from bad to worse. I know some people would say too bad, but the reality is that sometimes things can be changed if you just ask.
Thankfully this was not the first time that I had experienced issues with hotels bookings and decided to call Hotels.com to see what could be done. A short conversation and explanation of the situation and it turned out I was able to cancel the hotel and get a full refund. That was great, but with only two days before flying to New Zealand finding alternate arrangements was a challenge in itself.
With the prices of hotels in Auckland somewhat higher now I decided to change my arrival to Christchurch. The total solution was staying a single night in Auckland, near the airport and fly on to Christchurch the next morning.
The flight I originally booked between Auckland and Christchurch was a cheap one around $59. But being just a couple of days before travelling this was not likely to be repeated. In fact, I think the change fee would have been more than the original cost of this flight, so it was just easier to book another ticket.
I looked at the options and found that I could book a very early flight the next morning for $79. It would have cost $50 + fare difference + potentially a service fee to change the original booking. So to make things easier I just booked the new flight and let the other ticket pass without doing anything. I am likely about par either way for the extra it cost here. But it was just a whole lot easier booking another ticket than trying to go through the online change process.
At this stage, I could have taken the approach to change the flight from Brisbane to Christchurch. Potentially, in the long run, this might have worked out cheaper. But in the end, it was taking me more time to try and work out these problems than I had spent planning and booking the whole trip in the beginning.
After a little more research on what to do and where to stay in Christchurch, the easiest option turned out to be a campervan. That is especially without knowing what the accommodation was like with only one reasonable price option on short notice. I figured it could not be that bad since the Campervan option was what I had booked while staying in Christchurch anyway.
Being the first time that I had ever driven or stayed in a campervan, I soon discovered some little problems. The first is just how difficult it is to drive a hi-top camper in high winds. I had planned on driving south from Christchurch initially with the extra time but turned around about 20km south of the city.
The second problem I discovered for me, the model I choose was somewhat uncomfortable. It was not a practical vehicle at all, with the bed in the middle and kitchenette towards the back. It was only after I made changes to the second campervan booking I found there were better options.
These two problems after the first day led me to cancel the booking for the original campervan I had booked. It was difficult decision as I would lose 75% of the booking fee. However, it was around $170 not a lot in the end. But also meant that I had to find some alternative quickly. I end up staying in a room onsite where I would be attending the event for which I came to Christchurch.
It All Worked Out
In the end, everything did work out fine, I had somewhere to stay every night. I was able to get around and do everything that I wanted to. There was some added cost due to the cancellations and changes. Which without having fully recorded the numbers, I estimate around $1000 extra. With the unused bookings, of $59 + $160, additional accommodation bookings of around $500 and a rental car for $200 for a few days in Christchurch.
Ultimately there are some aspects that I would have been unable to avoid. Such as I had no idea what staying in a Campervan would be like. Whereas I could have avoided the other parts mostly by doing the research a little better in the beginning. But as with many things, some lessons cost money, and this one was the same.