I totally have this song stuff in my head at the moment…

So… as some of you know, I spent about three weeks travelling around New Zealand and Australia.  It was amazing!  I can’t wait until I can go back! Especially to New Zealand.  While there were places in Australia I’d love to back to or explore more or visit for the first time, it can’t compare to New Zealand. Also… NZ is definitely more my style climate-wise.

New Zealand seemed so clean, even in the cities.  The feel of it reminded me of Iceland, although the scenery was much different, of course. The people were amazing.  Of course Australia as a country, and Aussies themselves, were great too.  New Zealand is now at the top of my list of places I want to live and work.

The original plan was to wing it.  I booked my flight from Canada to Australia and that was supposed to be it.  I was going to bum around the continent for three weeks and let life take me where it chose with four milestones (cities) to hit: Sydney, the Outback, Wellington and Queenstown. This would have been a completely different experience to any other trip, but I thought it was the perfect opportunity.

Then I started researching.

That was both a good thing and a bad thing.  Bad because I started a huge list of things that looked amazing. I realized the horrible truth: in order to see even a fraction of all this, I was going to have to schedule it all.  After that decision was made, I went all in. I did a lot of research beforehand and worked with Shari Tucker over at The Adventure Travel Company in Halifax. It actually all started because she was a professional photographer before her career switch and I was asking her for photography advice for my trip and it snow balled.  I normally HATE working with travel agents (because I can often do things cheaper myself, but mostly because I’m a control freak). Working with Shari was great, and I think it was a great advantage to work with someone who is a photographer. Mostly so that when I say things like “I’ll take the crappy hotel because it looks amazing to photograph!” she didn’t think I was crazy.

Well, maybe she did.  I couldn’t read her mind of course, but she seemed to understand.

Anyway, I was quite happy with the help she gave me.  She found me an awesome tour that I never would have thought to do on my own and in the end, even with her company’s booking fee, I saved about $800.  Having said that, I’m happy that I was a bit of a control freak and also well versed in booking my own travel. I researched everything she suggested to me (tours, hotels, etc.) from reviews to price and if I could get something cheaper I booked it myself. That meant that I booked all my flights myself.  Because I had done so much research before hand, (also, control freak, as I mentioned) I was very specific about the things I wanted to do and see, even down to giving her the links to tours I planned on booking. I’m happy I did because, as she hadn’t been to New Zealand and also isn’t me, I knew there would be things that I cared or did not care about that would differ from what a travel agent would know to recommend.  There was a lot I specifically wanted to do and see when I decided to go on this trip, and the list grew as I researched.  I knew it might be the only time I would get to the area so I wanted to make sure I crammed as much into those three weeks (which wasn’t enough time to explore even one country).

However, I’m excited at the prospect of, sometime in the future, picking a country I don’t know as much about and going back to Shari and telling her to surprise me.  Given her own travel experiences, and the focus of her company, I know it would be an amazing trip!

I highly recommend Shari/The Adventure Travel Company if you’re looking for a travel agent in Nova Scotia!

My tips for working with a travel agent:

  1. Research Research Research before contacting the travel agent (optional and to the degree you want to. At least know what kinds of things you might want to do or what kind of trip you want –  active? relaxing? immersive?)
  2. Research some more – Once you get options from your TA: Can you get that or a similar tour/flight/hotel cheaper by booking on your own? (Surprisingly, that’s the case sometimes because they don’t have the same offers or companies available to them. Of course, the reverse is usually true. Trips are expensive, so don’t feel bad for saving money when it’s stupid not to – like cheaper flights, etc.) Look at the customer reviews.  TA’s don’t have that kind of time and they’re also not you.  Even if you have a great conversation of your interests and preferences beforehand, you know you the most.  Look at the itinerary and maybe even use that as a springboard to track down a tour/experience that is even more amazing!
  3. Be open – I ‘knew’ exactly how my trip was going to go and then Shari suggested a mini-trip that was amazing but I never would have imagined doing on my own.
  4. But don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something or ask for more options.  It is YOUR trip after all.
  5. Enjoy!

So that was really just about my planning process.  I’m sure you’ll hear more about Shari in the future.  Next time we’ll get into the trip for real.  I’m going to start tell you all about trip here on the blog and flicker. I’ll post day by day and sometimes there might be more than one post per vacation day – some of my days were busy!  Next up: Day 123 a.k.a. the journey to New Zealand.

The Rest of the story:

Aurora Announces her trip!
Aurora’s Australian Pre-planning
Working with a Travel Agent
My Trip Down Under:
– Day 123 – The Journey
– Day 4 – Auckland
– Day 5 – North Island Culture
– Day 6 – Rotorua
– Day 7 – Wellington
– Day 8 – Wellington
– Day 9 & 10 – South Island Scenery
Day 11 – Queenstown
Day 12 – Middle Earth
Day 13 – The Last Day
Day 14 – Great Barrier Reef
Day 15 – Alice Springs
Day 16, 17 & 18 – The Outback
Day 19, 20 and 21 – Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
Days 22 to 25 – Sydney and the End
Down Under Assignments

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