To help Kiwis start their year thinking about overseas family holidays or journeys to special destinations, we thought we’d go straight to our YOU Travel experts to discover their favourite hot-spots and those incredible places that top their travel wishlists.
And, as you’d expect from such a well-travelled group, they have some great inspirational ideas as well as some excellent tips and tricks about making sure you get the best possible experience for your trip abroad.
From our poll, it also became clear that if there’s one part of the world which has become very popular recently then it’s North America.
Darryl from our Katikati store sung the praises of Canada, primarily for the “friendly and helpful” locals – he finds they have a similar outlook and nature as New Zealanders and, because they speak English, offer a huge advantage for getting around – as well as the scenery and “fantastic” wildlife.
And when it comes to activities, Darryl says there’s plenty to keep you occupied – and he should know, he’s back at the British Columbia ski resort of Sun Peaks in mid-February.
“It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, the scenery is fantastic,” he says. “From the mountains just out of Vancouver north to Whistler, or if travelling across to Vancouver Island on the ferries, it is stunning.
“And having done five ski trips and skied six ski-fields in Canada, I have to say the proximity to Vancouver for access to the ski-fields makes life so easy. The abundance of snow makes for awesome skiing and a number of resorts such as Sun Peaks, Whistler and Big White have really great ski-in-ski-out accommodation too.
“On the east coast, Toronto is a fantastic city and offers easy access down to one of my seven wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, as well as the chance to see the beautiful scenery each autumn when the trees’ leaves turn wonderful colours.”
Darryl’s other reason for choosing Canada was because it offers easy access to the Alaskan waterways and interior of Alaska, a destination also mentioned by Chris Harrop from our Mairangi Bay store.
“Alaska has been a growing destination for many years and continues to get more and more popular,” Chris says.
“Now that there are so many choices to combine cruising the inside passage and land tours, this once hard-to-reach part of the world is just so enticing! Cruising lets you experience the wildlife and the incredible and majestic scenery, and waking up and enjoying an early morning coffee on your cruise ship balcony while being so close to the amazing panorama doesn't get any better!”
Patti from our Bethlehem store, was also besotted with what America has to offer and chose the wide open spaces of the state of Utah in the Mid-West as her favourite destination. Whether it is winter or summer, Utah is an outdoor adventure mecca and enjoys incredible scenery, as well as fabulous food, a boutique brewery scene, and world-famous arts and culture. The wide open spaces and uncrowded roads make for stress-free travelling and Utah has the best powder snow, and an unbelievable variety of terrain and mountain resorts for the ski buffs."
Patti also singled out Sundance Mountain Resort, which was founded by actor Robert Redford and named after his 60s film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid as a place with heaps to keep you occupied. “Take an art class or hike, ski or take in a summer concert below the Timpanogos mountain range.”
Dennis in Wellington summed up the appeal of North America and Canada perfectly when he praised its “vast and stunning scenery, cosmopolitan cities, diversity of culture, and enriching touring experiences. There is so much to enjoy: from cruising in Hawaii or Alaska to paddle-boating on the Mississippi; riding the Rocky Mountaineer or the California Zephyr; travelling the colourful trails of the south-west to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Taos Pueblo, to visiting the Viking settlement at L'Anse-Aux-Meadows.”
Next on the list of most popular regions among our travel experts was Europe – but not necessarily the traditional capital city hotspots such as London, Paris and Rome.
Glennis from Manukau said people were now looking for different experiences – especially if they were seasoned travellers – and countries such as Croatia, Portugal, Spain, and – just across the Mediterranean – Morocco were on her favourites list.
Kiri in Orewa also backed Croatia saying its use for filming Game of Thrones has boosted its popularity. “People are travelling to Croatia like never before,” she says. “And why? Croatia is one of Europe’s sunniest spots and still good value even in popular tourist destinations. It is also home to spectacular beaches as well as fabulous Unesco national parks.”
Kay in Manukau also picked a silver screen influence – this time the box set favourite Vikings – for a new tour taking in the Copenhagen area of Denmark, Prague and Ireland and a “really out there” trip to Ukraine including Kiev, Chernobyl and the borders of Bessarabia in modern-day Moldova.
Mairangi Bay picked “England to see family and Italy for a food tour” as some of their dream trips, while Stephanie in Whangarei wants to cruise around Scotland. “What an amazing way to see somewhere so remote untouched and inaccessible.”
One favourite amongst our consultants isn't so much a single destination but they sing the praises of that multi-destination holiday in the form of cruising. Cruises are such great value and many companies now include extras such as beverage packages or onboard credits. It's also worth trying to upgrade to a balcony/verandah cabin if you can because you will have a much better experience and sure not to miss any sights as you sail.
Cindy in Mairangi Bay also had the Africa bug: “My top destination would be to travel to East Africa and experience the wildlife, experience the mass migration of animals, and a hot air balloon experience over the Serengeti.”
While the rest all had their sights set on Asia.
Kathy Jameson from the New Lynn store says combining Sri Lanka and the Maldives into one fabulous holiday experience is guaranteed to make your friends envious!
“Sri Lanka offers everything from temples to tea plantations, elephants, sapphires and friendly people. And then you can finish off with complete relaxation at a beach resort in the Maldives where the water is crystal clear, warm and inviting.”
Jo from Bethlehem chose Vietnam because there is still so much to see and explore. “The food is fabulous and fresh, the people are lovely, it is still a true 'adventure' and both the budget through to first-class travellers are completely catered for.”
Bali is also on the list for many agents and with Air New Zealand's seasonal direct flights it's easy to get to and experience the Indonesian hospitality, culture, cuisine with some R&R. It's a perfect winter escape destination.