Three Weeks in New Zealand – Without A Car!

Buenos dias everyone! Back in November, I was able to snag two economy tickets from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand for a jaw-dropping $395 per person roundtrip, nonstop on Air New Zealand. (My understanding is tickets twice that price would still be a good deal – right now, the lowest price I see for these flights through the end of 2018 is $1,150). I used Citi Thank You Points from my Citi Prestige Credit Card to book these tickets at a value of 1.25 cents per point (so a little over 63,000 points total).

At first, I avoided making any further plans because I thought the tickets might get canceled – but after a couple of months, I was pretty confident that they would stick. I eventually booked tickets from Mexico City to San Francisco (using American Express Membership Rewards points with the 35% AMEX Platinum Card rebate), and a few days before our trip, I finally started sketching out our plan.

A map of Tonei's route in New Zealand, as described in the article

Map created on

Although some of the details didn’t fall into place until after we were already in New Zealand, here’s what I ended up with:

  • Four nights in Auckland
  • Four nights in Rotorua
  • Four nights in Wellington
  • One night in Nelson
  • Three nights in Hokitika
  • One night in Auckland

I know there’s a lot more to see, especially on the South Island, but based on our travel style I think we covered about as much ground as we could handle for a three week trip. Most of the articles I read about activities in New Zealand were geared towards travelers with rental cars or motorhomes, and that’s how all of my friends who have traveled to the country got around – unfortunately, neither I nor my partner know how to drive.

Luckily, getting around New Zealand without a car isn’t as difficult as it seems – we were able to piece together this itinerary using a combination of InterCity buses, Air New Zealand domestic flights, and a ferry and train operated by KiwiRail. Ultimately the transportation ended up being relatively inexpensive, and the domestic flights would have been even more affordable if I hadn’t waited until the last minute.

As we wrapped up the trip, I’m planning to write about the InterCity bus passes we used, the hotels we stayed at, and share some pictures from some of the places we visited – but please let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’re particularly interested in hearing about!

8 thoughts on “Three Weeks in New Zealand – Without A Car!

  1. RS_WI

    Very interested in your lodging choices, and highlights of activities in the major cities.

    Planning a NZ trip for two weeks in May 2019 and I’m surprised at the slim pickings for points hotels (=/= Choice or BW).

    Hoping to score one of the nonstop ORD-AKL, but also looking at more realistic options from west coast, etc.


    1. D3dish

      Got it in the same error fare except for $410 from SNA connecting to SFO to AKL. Arrived Auckland Easter Sunday. 2 nights there, 3 nights Rotorua, 2 nights Wellington. Was a lot of fun! Interested to hear your trip report!

  2. AC

    Would be awesome if you can go into specifics how you got from one place to the next in case someone wants to replicate your trip. Also, if you can discuss a little about the ferry/train service, activities and food. Maybe some suggestions on what you would do the same, wouldn’t do again and would suggest. Thank you!!!

  3. Pingback: Use InterCity Buses to Explore New Zealand Without a Car

  4. Rick

    I think ANY more articles about your trip would be welcome.

    I see only the bus article and this, which doesn’t present any good info….

  5. Pingback: Trip Report: Holiday Inn Rotorua, New Zealand

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