Fly To New Zealand On A Budget

Our trip to New Zealand in late May was somewhat surprisingly the first time that we had traveled to the Southern hemisphere! Obviously, New Zealand is a long way away from Chicago and most people certainly thought we were crazy travelling that far for just four full days on the ground (they are not wrong!). Once again, how we booked this trip has a bit of a story, not unlike how we booked our Easter trip earlier in the year (read about our Easter trip here).


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


How We Booked Our Flights to New Zealand


Back in late November we were enjoying a relaxing morning in our hotel room in Kuala Lumpur (read about our Malaysia experience here), and as I was scrolling my news feed on my phone, I came across a great flight deal from @TheFlightDeal that had just been posted for Air New Zealand economy class from San Francisco to Auckland for just under $400USD per person round trip. Economy class flights from North America to Australia or New Zealand are generally well over $1,000USD. So this deal was more than 50% off and too good to pass up!


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


I jumped for my laptop and began searching for fares and dates that we could work into our schedule. We already had our week-long trip for Easter planned in late March and weren’t able to easily take another week or two off a few months later to travel to New Zealand, so we settled for a four day trip over Memorial Day in late May. We decided to book the flight from San Francisco to Auckland before the fare disappeared shortly after. Fun fact, we already had Southwest flights booked for the May long Weekend but cancelled them in order to take this opportunity.


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


Now obviously, we don’t live in San Francisco, so we needed a way to get there. That is where our Southwest Companion Pass once again came in handy (you can read about the Companion Pass here) and we booked an early morning flight from Chicago to San Francisco to catch our 9:45PM flight from San Francisco. We booked our return flight to give us a few hours buffer between arriving in San Francisco, clearing customs and immigration, switching terminals, going back through a security checkpoint, and catching our final flight home.


This is what we ended up flying:


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


The Flight Experience with Air New Zealand


Our grand plan of spending the Friday working from the lounge in San Francisco was slightly foiled by poor weather conditions that day, which caused our Chicago to San Francisco flight to be delayed by over two and half hours. We were really glad that we had booked a very long connection, given that it would be unprotected and we didn’t have any wiggle room in our New Zealand itinerary if we missed our flight. Once we did arrive in San Francisco, our lounge plan was further put to waste as we were too early for Air New Zealand to check us into our flight. We needed to check our bags and get our boarding passes, so we had to sit and work land-side for a few hours.


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


The prospect of flying 12 hours in economy class is generally not appealing to anyone, and we were a bit apprehensive of how we’d feel when arriving in Auckland at 5:30AM, two days later. Our worries were unnecessary though, as Air New Zealand long-haul economy is actually a fairly pleasant place to spend some serious time. First of all, the onboard IFE (Inflight Entertainment system) was one of the best we have ever seen. The selection of movies, TV shows, documentaries, and music was extremely comprehensive. While we didn’t partake in a movie marathon, Air New Zealand conveniently had the full series of movies for Harry Potter, Star Wars, and of course, Lord of the Rings. Just as good as the movie selection was the bottomless New Zealand wines available!


Introduction: New Zealand 2018


(Full disclosure: Because Bettina was feeling under the weather, we didn't end up taking any pictures of our flight experience. You will just need to trust us when we say it was pretty great!)


We were very pleasantly surprised by our flight there, and we arrived fairly well-rested as we were both able to get about 6-8 hours of sleep (Advil PM always does the trick!). Even though we each watched over 3 movies, there were so many more that we wanted to watch, we were already looking forward to the flight home!

Have you flown Air New Zealand before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!




  1. Yes!! Air New Zealand is by far the best airline I’ve ever flown! We flew it from Auckland to Queenstown and had the best experience! Couldn’t agree more on the in-flight entertainment and bottomless wine πŸ™‚

    • We loved it as well! The entertainment system was the best I have ever seen. You could even check out what movies other people were watching. Perfect for people like me with a case of FOMO! πŸ™‚
      X, Bettina

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