Surcharges and an unexpected travel booking fee

Monday 24 October is Labour Day and for some cafes and restaurants that means adding between 15-25% to a diner’s bill to cover extra wage costs incurred by opening on a public holiday. New Zealanders are used to public holiday surcharges but they will probably come as a surprise to visitors from overseas. NZ Public Holidays list all the dates that surcharges may apply so it’s a useful reference for visitors.

Fortunately, for every cafe that has a small sign inside saying a public holiday surcharge applies, there’s likely to be a cafe nearby with a big sign outside saying … Read the rest

Detour to Tonga

We recently returned from a week in Tonga and have updated our Tonga Guide. It was our third visit to the island nation and we spent our time on the main island of Tongatapu and took day trips to ‘Atata and Pangaimotu Islands.

Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa

Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa

If you’re looking for a good value destination Tonga is a good choice, although flying to the outer islands will make a stay more  expensive. We paid NZ$125 per night for accommodation and breakfast at Little Italy Hotel in Nuku’alofa and thought it was good value for money. More Tonga Accommodation.… Read the rest

Cheap P&O Cruises out of Auckland – May/June 2016

Reading the Escape section of the Sunday Star Times over the weekend I was surprised to see cheap P&O cruises out of Auckland advertised by House of Travel. When I look at cruise ads they’re usually for the following year, and prices quoted are often quad share, not this time.

One example is the 9 night Pacific Island Hopper cruise on the Pacific Pearl departing Auckland on 7 May, priced from $749 per person twin share. Ports of call are Noumea, Port Vila, Lifou and Mare. See all four cheap cruise deals via House of Travel – Update: the deals … Read the rest

Join Accor Plus for cool room upgrades, discounted stays & up to 50% off meals

Cool upgrades first because I’m sure that’s what readers want to see, then the business end where I list hotel brands part of Accor, and explain how Accor Plus works (Accor Plus is part of Le Club Accor Hotels loyalty programme). The information is based on our experience as Accor Plus members for nearly two years, it’s not written in association with the hotel chain.

Cool upgrade Number 1* – Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa
We booked a superior room for two nights at Sofitel Queenstown but were upgraded to a luxury room. The upgrade included complimentary evening drinks … Read the rest

Cheap fuel in Rotorua

A travel tip for visitors to Rotorua, especially those fuelling up cars and boats. Fuel in Rotorua is competitively priced compared to other areas of New Zealand, but even within the city you will find some petrol stations cheaper than others. We’ve found that Mobil at 238 Te Ngae Road (the road to the airport) consistently has some of the cheapest fuel in town. You will also find the other petrol stations on Te Ngae Road – Caltex and Gull competing on price. Note that Mobil display the prices for diesel, 91 octane and 95 octane roadside so you know … Read the rest

Hauraki Blue Cruises – floating accommodation in Auckland

On Auckland Anniversary Day we cruised away from the crowds in Viaduct Harbour onboard Ipipiri, a four level catamaran equipped with 30 cabins, all with king size sea views. It was to be our second overnight cruise on the catamaran, our first was in the Bay of Islands in 2011. The vessel relocated to Auckland in 2014 and still looks brand new, but a few decor changes in the cabins and dining area have smartened it up even more. Ipipiri now travels under Hauraki Blue Cruises and you can sail away for a long lunch or spend the night.

Cabin - bed can be split to make two singles


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Detour to Samoa

Lonely Planet recently named Samoa as one of the Best value destinations for 2015. We were Samoa bound a few days later so it was perfect timing for us to find out how Samoa stacked up as a value for money destination.

You'll see a lot of churches in this religious nation

You’ll see a lot of churches in this religious nation

Budget accommodation wasn’t on our itinerary but we thought we’d booked a decent deal with 5 nights accommodation and breakfast at 4.5 star Tanoa Tusitala with Air NZ flights, and transfers for $999pp. Turns out it was a good deal, it’s worth looking at packages, especially if … Read the rest

Bed & Breakfast in downtown Auckland – Mercure Hotel

We lucked in with a May stay at Mercure in downtown Auckland paying $117 per night including buffet breakfast for two. Booking a repeat stay in June we’re not quite as lucky with B&B for $156.96. Still, for B&B in a four star hotel we think $156 is a decent deal.

However, there is a sting in the tail of any stay at Mercure requiring car parking – valet parking is $40 per night. Given it would’ve added $120 to our bill and we only needed night parking, we opted to park on the street and paid around $16 a … Read the rest

A cheap sleep at Auckland Airport – ibis budget hotel

I’ve never slept in an airport, I should have in Prague when flight delays meant I arrived in an unfamiliar city late at night with no accommodation booked. Lesson learned, ever since I’ve pre-booked a bed for my first night. Curiously there’s a website devoted to Sleeping in Airports, Auckland Airport comes out on top for the South Pacific.

Personally I need a decent sleep so I’m not wrecked for my next day of travel. To bypass traffic and to make an early start not quite so early we stayed at ibis budget hotel, Auckland Airport.

ibis budget hotel, Auckland Airport

ibis budget

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Hotel Deal – Scenic Hotel, Auckland

2015 Update: The Scenic Hotel Auckland ‘Take a Break’ deal has been extended to 31 October 2015.

The deal – $199 gets you one nights accommodation for two in a standard studio, $80 inhouse food credit, bottle of wine, car parking and a 12 noon check out.

Where? 4 star Scenic Hotel, 380 Queen Street (opposite Aotea Square and Auckland Town Hall).  If a visit to Auckland isn’t on your agenda, Scenic Hotels are offering hotel deals at some of their other properties around NZ.

We upgraded to a superior room for our stay, below are photos of the … Read the rest