How a simple trip to Auckland can get stressful

So Kathryn and I decided to escape the Hamilton city boundary and head to Auckland for a couple of days that just so happen to be the days before New Years.

First things first, we needed to book accommodation and transport.

I’d never tried to book accommodation using the Expedia mobile app before so I decided to give it a go. Went online, found the cheapest place available for a couple of nights and pounced on it. Turns out that was the YHA in Auckland Central on Liverpool Street. Two nights in a double room with a shared bathroom was $160. Booked that, entered my credit card details and it was all done.

Next thing was the bus. Intercity regularly have buses from Hamilton to Auckland for around $20 per person each way, so we booked these.

Buses are always cheap and you may be tempted to book one. It really is always a mistake every time. On today’s delightful journey we had Mr. Recliner who felt the need to recline his seat to maximum for the long arduous journey from Hamilton to Manukau. He looked like ae was on a night flight to Japan based on the immediate reclining and relaxing pose he assumed. Like one of those stock photo models you see relaxing with one knee up using a laptop casually. This was this guy sans the laptop.

Our neighbour on the bus was a young Korean looking teenager who sadly did not have enough money to buy headphones for his iPhone 4 and instead decided to share his love of gangster music with everyone on the bus. Nothing enhances gangster music like a total lack of bass, and this iPhone 4 speaker delivered. On the totally lack of bass I mean. He kept turning it up and down as if he was both staunch and ashamed of what he was doing.

His neighbour turned out to be a 16 year old stockbroker discussing why Xero was such a good valued share. After all, all the big time stockbrokers travel between Hamilton and Auckland using a $20 Intercity bus ticket. Why bother taking the Mercedes out of the garage for that we jaunt when the bus will do.

However we finally made it to Auckland.

So it turns out that the YHA is just a wee walk from Sky City according to Google Maps so we decided to walk. Kathryn had a warning though and said it was all uphill. I was nah, how uphill can it really be?

Turns out basically K Road. For those unfamiliar with Auckland imagine a steep hill carrying a suitcase, and then at the end of that steep hill imagine another one.

Sweating profusely we made it past the homeless guy and the people drinking outside to the Auckland Central YHA. There we waited in line for about ten minutes while a French woman decided to apply the most onerous conditions to her staying the night eventually ruling out all available rooms. She must have forgot that this place wasn’t the Langham, that’s next door.

Eventually we got to the front of the line. They found our booking and then asked us to pay. This was surprising as when I booked on Expedia I had to provide my credit card and I thought I had already paid. After trying to reach Expedia by phone we just paid again by credit card and decided to contact Expedia later, since we had been waiting for more than 30 minutes now, and were very cranky.

My tips for talking to Expedia on the phone are to note your booking number since you’ll need that, and select option 2 “change your booking” since option 1 “about your booking” doesn’t actually do anything. Anyways, it turns out that there are two types of bookings with Expedia, one where they take the money, and another where the accommodation provider takes the money. The mobile app doesn’t make this clear at all. If you book with the Expedia mobile app and don’t receive an invoice or a booking email then it’s probably pay on the door.

So my useful accommodation booking tip is if you’re booking hotels use Expedia. If you’re booking hostels use Hostelworld. Now you don’t have to guess if you’ve paid or not. We were just lucky we were in a country that spoke English, imagine being in China and finding out this. You wouldn’t pay the hostel since you think you were being scammed, and the hostel would think that you are trying to scam them. Stupid Expedia mobile app.

Hamilton to Osaka – A comparison of airlines

Interested in Japan? Thinking about going on a holiday? Well let’s look at the total cost for various airlines to get from Hamilton New Zealand, to Osaka Japan.

To summarise, Jetstar is the cheapest with around @ $1080, Air Asia @ $1743 with the core flight between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur being only 31% of the total fare, and Air New Zealand at $1936.

A couple of caveats before we start, we’re assuming one 20Kg bag to be checked in. We’ll try to compare as similar as possible, but there are always differences, i.e. whether you choose to buy a meal or not on a low cost carrier. We’ll be looking at the total return fare from Hamilton New Zealand to Osaka Japan, including getting to major airports, i.e. Auckland and Tokyo. I’ll pick the lowest cost mean where available. We’re looking at a travel period of one week in May 2011.

First off is Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand has a flight between Auckland and Osaka for $1932. For your money you’re getting:

  1. 23Kg checked in luggage;
  2. 7Kg carry on luggage;
  3. Meals;
  4. Video entertainment;
  5. 11 hours, and 35 minutes flight from Auckland to Osaka;
  6. Choose your own seat;
  7. Blanket.

We’ll also have to get to Auckland from Hamilton, so add another $34 for the Intercity bus from Hamilton to Auckland International Airport.

All up you’re looking at $1936 with Air New Zealand.

Next is Jetstar.

Jetstar charge $847. For your money you’re getting:

  1. 7Kg carry on luggage;
  2. $10 credit card fee included;
  3. A 17 hour journey, including a stop in the Gold Coast.

Optional extras include:

  1. 20Kg of checked luggage (an additional $91.24);
  2. Choose your seats (an additional $8 if you didn’t purchase the luggage option above);
  3. Food for $70;
  4. Entertainment for $24;
  5. Comfort pack $14;

Which add up to roughly $199 worth of other things if you want them. Don’t forget the $34 to go from Hamilton to Auckland.

All up you’re looking at $881 (by yourself with 7kg of luggage) or $1080 (with roughly the same extras as Air New Zealand) with Jetstar.

Air Asia X

Welcome Air Asia to New Zealand! First there’s $34 to get from Hamilton to Auckland Airport, and then $158 with Jetstar to go from Auckland to Christchurch with bags (and two hours of your time).

Air Asia charge $429 to go from Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur (including credit card fee), with the following extras available:

  • 20Kg of luggage for $40;
  • Comfort kit for $20;
  • Meals for $34;
  • Pick a seat for $20;

So now you’re in Kuala Lumpur for $429 (for yourself and 7Kg) or $543. At the moment there’s no connecting transfer between Christchurch and Tokyo, so you’ll have to book another flight. Air Asia charges $780 for a flight with luggage and meals from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo Haneda Airport. And then it’s $228 (and three hours) to catch the train from Tokyo to Osaka.

All up, you’re paying $1743 with Air Asia.

So to summarise, Jetstar is the cheapest with around @ $1080, Air Asia @ $1743 with the core flight between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur being only 31% of the total fare, and Air New Zealand at $1936.

Air New Zealand was most expensive, but least amount of hassle, with a direct flight. Jetstar offers similar levels of service, but a connection at Gold Coast, for about half the price. Air Asia was super cheap from Christchuch to Kuala Lumpur, but the costs went up getting from Auckland to Christchurch, Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo, and Tokyo to Osaka by Bullet Train.