See our 'About Us' page to learn more about us. We are a small, lesbian owned company. We are not affiliated with any other company, so we're 100% independent.
Where are you located?
For half the year we are located in Hoe-O-Tainui in the Waikato. We are based on the farm Debbie grew up on in the rural dairy heartland of the North Island of New Zealand. For the other half of the year, we are based in Boston, Massachusetts. That’s what happens when you fall in love with someone from the other side of the world, you get to live in both places!
Who are your guides?
Our guides are New Zealand Awaits employees who fully escort you throughout the country. In keeping with our commitment to give you the most authentic local experience possible, we also connect you with local guides within each community we visit. You’ll hear many companies talk about having a ‘country expert’ who is your guide for everything. Even as born and bred New Zealanders, it would be presumptuous to pretend we are true experts of the local communities that we take you to. Only by spending time with local community members can you gain true insight into those communities and into the lives of New Zealanders.
Why should we travel with you?
We are the only New Zealand owned and operated tour operator dedicated to serving LGBTQ travellers who wish to join a small group tour. We offer you a true Kiwi experience since our guides are locals. We grew up here, and have spent a lot of time developing relationships with all our local experience suppliers – typically people who have lived here for decades and are descendants of multiple generations in the same area. We know it’s the most authentic way to experience our country. Building these relationships means we know our suppliers, we’ve tried out their activities, or checked out their lodging, and know they value taking care of our guests. It’s pretty tough to develop the same depth of understanding about New Zealand that we have if you’re not from here and don’t live here.
About our Group Trips
How many people do you take on your trips?
For New Zealand Awaits tours we limit our group size to 11. We do this for several reasons: to ensure a highly personalized level of service from our guide, to limit our impact on the environment, to allow us to stay in smaller locally owned lodges, have more meaningful interactions with locals, to customize for individual activity preferences within the tour, and to foster deeper relationships between trip companions. In some instances when we partner with another organization, we may exceed this number, but then those trips are co-led with that organisation’s leader and are clearly identified as co-led trips.
Who are your typical travellers?
We get a variety of LGBTQ travellers on our trips, and a few straight friends and allies too. Generally travellers are in their 50s and 60s, but of course we also get younger travellers, and older travellers as well. Our travellers typically want the shared experience of a trip focused on fun, meaningful experiences, opportunities to get to know locals and develop friendships with other travellers, and enjoy the great outdoors.
What if I’m travelling alone?
We get a mix of couples and solo travellers, so whatever your situation, you’ll be in good company. We’re happy to connect you with another solo traveller for you to get in touch with to determine if you want to share a room. We don’t make that decision for you. Otherwise we offer a single supplement if you prefer your own room and availability allows.
Are there age restrictions?
Yes, all travellers on our tours must be at least 18 years of age. If you have children you’d like to bring, talk with us about a family adventure.
How fit do I need to be to join one of your trips?
It depends on each trip. We add a comment to each trip regarding activity level, so check that out. Also, we typically offer a less active alternative on our more active trips so we can accommodate everyone. It’s an advantage of our small group sizes.
What about people with physical mobility restrictions? Can they still join a trip?
Of course. Talk with us about your physical mobility and we’ll go through the activities in detail with you to discuss how we can make the trip activities more accessible for you. It’s our goal to work with you to determine what works best for you. That goes for any kind of different ability or different need; let’s talk about what we need to do to make it work for you and us.
What is the pacing of your trips? Are we on the road early every morning?
Again, it depends on the trip. We include a comment on the pacing in all our trip descriptions so you can see whether the trip is about getting up and into each day’s activity, or whether our focus is on slow starts with relaxed meandering. Even on active trips, we plan in slower days with down time for chilling. We’re certainly not about 5am wake up calls to get you on the road – unless of course you’re on a photography trip and want that dawn photo shoot!
What type of accommodations do you stay in?
Most of our trips use 4 star accommodation, unless otherwise noted on the specific trip descriptions. Sometimes, in order to give you a more authentic Kiwi experience with local hosts, we’ll use 3+ star lodging (for example on remote high country stations). These properties are still clean and comfortable. On some trips we also include 5 star lodging. Where we can we stay in LGBTQ owned accommodation, and in all cases our hosts are LGBTQ-friendly. At times we also use 2 Bedroom apartments, where each bedroom has its own ensuite or private bathroom. There is typically a shared living area that allows for more social connections also. We note this on the full itinerary we send you when you request more information on a trip.
Are airport transfers included?
No. We will help arrange transfers to and from the start and end of each trip.
What type of transportation do you use?
We use luxury mini-buses that comfortably hold 11 passengers.
Are meals included?
All trips include all breakfasts, some lunches, and usually about half of the dinners. Each trip lists the number of meals included. New Zealand has fantastic dining options, from quick bites to formal high class dining so we want you to have the freedom to explore those options on your own some nights. You can choose to dine with other travellers, or wander off for time away if you prefer. Don’t worry if you’re travelling solo, there is always someone to explore a restaurant with.
Can you cater for special dietary requirements?
Yes, almost always. Let us know when you book so we can work with our local suppliers to make sure we’re taking care of you.
What type and size luggage should I bring?
We strongly recommend a medium sized suitcase. Hauling a large suitcase through airports and lodging gets tiring. Bring only what you need, and limit yourself to one medium sized suitcase (with wheels) and one small day-pack/back-pack as your carry on bag. You can use the day-pack/back-pack for daytime activities if you are out and active during the day. Domestic luggage restrictions are 23kg for your checked bag, and 7kg for your carry on. Our clients are always telling us they should have stuck to only what is recommended in the packing list we send, and not brought so much luggage with them!
What clothing should I bring and how much?
We recommend that you pack light! There are laundry facilities at most places in New Zealand, so washing your clothes half way through is another way to help pack light. If you’re traveling in our warmest months, January to March, bring loose fitting clothing made of cotton or quick dry to stay cool. Having said that however, we can experience 4 seasons in 1 day, so think about layering clothes. Also, if you’re coming in the summer months, New Zealand has searing sun, so sun protection is a must – both sunscreen and cover-ups. If you’re traveling October to December or April to May, anticipate cooler temperatures, especially at night, and bring warmer layers. Layers of clothing trap air between the layers that acts as insulation, so it’s a great way to stay warm. Clothing should be lightweight, hard-wearing and easily washed and dried. Overall New Zealand is a pretty informal place, so comfortable casual clothes work well. We don't spend much time in cities on these trips; however, even in cities, smart casual is fine. Once you’ve signed up for a trip with us we’ll provide you with a more specific packing list for your particular trip, based upon our experience for that trip.
Do you offer optional activities?
Each trip lists the different optional activities available. Because our groups are small, if there is something you know you’ve always wanted to do in New Zealand, and it’s not listed as an optional activity, talk with us and we’ll do everything in our power to make it happen for you.
Can I arrive earlier or stay longer that the trip dates?
Absolutely! In fact we highly recommend arriving a day or two earlier so you can adjust to the time difference. Unless you’re popping over from Australia, you’ll have had a long haul flight to get to New Zealand. It makes the trip more enjoyable if you’re rested up and ready to go. And there is always so much more to do in New Zealand, so talk with us and we can help you plan extra days at either end of the trip.
Are international airfares included in tour costs?
No. Travellers come from all over the world to join our trips, so including international airfares is not feasible. We do have partner agents we work with in various countries who will be happy to arrange your flights. Just let us know and we’ll connect you.
Do you cancel trips if you don’t have enough travellers?
We will contact you 90 days in advance of the trip to let you know the status of the trip. If it looks like the trip will not meet minimum numbers, we will offer you some options. One option will be to create a private itinerary of the same or slightly changed trip with self-drive or private guide options. Another option is for you to transfer your deposit to another trip. If these won’t work, then we’ll fully refund your deposit. We do everything in our power to avoid cancelling trips.
Is tipping included, and if not, how much should I budget?
Tipping is not included and is not obligatory or expected in New Zealand. However if you feel you have experienced exceptional service, then tipping is always appreciated.
About New Zealand
How long is the flight?
This is the question we get asked most frequently! Yes, it does take time to reach paradise! If you’re coming from the west coast of the U.S., it’s 12 hours direct from LA. If you’re coming from the East Coast of the U.S., then add another 6 hour flight across the country to that. From Europe, it takes anywhere from 24 to 30 hours depending which direction around earth you fly. If you’re travelling economy, we highly recommend splitting your journey with an overnight stay mid-way so you can get horizontal for a night’s sleep. We speak from experience! So yep, it’s a ways, but it’s SO worth it! Which is why we suggest spending a reasonable amount of time once you’re here.
Remember that because we’re the first country to see the sun every day, you’ll be travelling forward in time when you come to New Zealand, no matter where you come from! Flights from the U.S. cross the international dateline, so if you leave L.A on Saturday night, you will arrive in New Zealand Monday morning. You basically lose a day. However, you gain it back again when you return, so you can leave New Zealand on a Sunday night, and arrive back in L.A Sunday morning, ready for work Monday. Easy!
Isn’t New Zealand small, so we can 'do' Australia too since we’re coming so far?
Technically, New Zealand is small. About the size of Oregon! What most people don’t realize is that our roads are not straight, like U.S. highways. We have narrow, winding roads that make travel quite slow, and amazing vistas that have you stopping a lot for photo opportunities. So trying to see the whole country in a few days, so you can squeeze Australia in too is definitely not recommended. Most people complain that they didn’t spend enough time here, so take as much time as you can, and spend it all in New Zealand. Next time, do the same for Aussie, as that country is almost as big as the U.S.
What is the weather like?
Our seasons are opposite to North America and Europe. Summer is December – February. We live outdoors in the summer, for the sun, surf, and sand! Temperatures range from 20 – 30C (68 – 86F). Summer is our busiest tourist season, so we recommend travelling off peak season if you don’t want crowds.
Autumn is March – May. It’s still a great time to get outside and enjoy hiking, biking, and kayaking. The autumn colours are gorgeous and a lot of the crowds have subsided. We love travelling in Autumn. Temps range from 7 – 20C (45 – 70F). Winter is June – August. Snow covers the mountains in the South Island and in the central North Island. If you’re into winter sports, come on down. In parts of the North Island it’s warm enough to travel in jeans and a t-shirt, just make sure you have warmer layers. Temps range from 0 – 15C (34 – 60F). Spring: September – November. New life is bursting everywhere. Snows are melting so waterfalls are everywhere. It’s an inspiring and beautiful time to visit. Temps range from 4 – 18C (40 – 65F).
What’s the best time of the year to visit New Zealand?
New Zealand is a fantastic travel destination all year round, depending on what you want to do. Talk with us and we’ll help you figure the best time for you to visit.
What is the currency?
Our currency is the New Zealand dollar. Use the widget on any of our tour pages to see today’s exchange rate for your currency. All major credit cards can be used in New Zealand, with Visa and Mastercard most widely accepted. Don’t forget to tell your credit card company you’ll be travelling. If you want cash, ATMs are plentiful, and easy to use with both a debit card or credit card.
What are your coins?
We use 10c, 20c 50c, $1, and $2 coins. We no longer use 1c, 2c, and 5c pieces, which means that sellers will round a price up or down. Typically prices ending in 1 to 4 cents will be rounded down, and prices ending in 6 to 9 cents will be rounded up. Prices ending in 5 cents can go either way! Just so you know.
How much does food cost?
Just like at home, it depends on the place and choice, but here are some examples of typical costs for food.
Cafe lunch: NZ$10-$25
Takeaway snack: NZ$3-$5
Big Mac Hamburger: NZ$5.20
What about tipping?
Tipping is not common or obligatory in New Zealand, even in restaurants and bars. Tipping for good service or kindness is at the discretion of the visitor, but it is not expected. Hotels and restaurants in New Zealand do not add service charges to their bills.
What is the 15% included in every bill?
This is New Zealand’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) and while you’ll often see it itemised in a bill, it will always be included in the displayed price. This is the only sales tax you will pay on goods. There are no additional taxes on goods you buy, like in the US. Visitors cannot claim back this tax, however if you buy a major purchase and have it shipped to your home by the supplier, you will not be charged GST.
What’s driving like in New Zealand?
If you wish to self-drive, then you’ll need to know about driving in New Zealand. Like Britain, we drive on the left. This can be challenging if you’re not used to driving on the left. Try out this driver training programme with online videos to help you prepare for driving on the left. A major mistake many travellers to New Zealand make is trying to cover too much distance each day. Our roads are often narrow (single lane each direction), hilly, and winding, with lots of sharp corners. It takes longer than you think when only looking at distance on a map. And it’s much more tiring to drive for 4 hours on one of our winding roads while focusing on being on the opposite site of the road compared to driving on a straight U.S. highway for 4 hours. We often hear horror stories of people who have had their holiday planned by travel agents who have never driven our roads, and they’ve ended up completely exhausted from too much driving - this can easily ruin your NZ holiday. We know our roads well; let us help you plan so you can make the most of your self-driving freedom.
Will my cellphone work in New Zealand?
Yes, as long as your phone is 'unlocked' and has an external SIM card, then you can buy a local SIM card to put into your phone. This gives you a local phone number and is usually the cheapest solution. If you want to use your phone without buying a local SIM card, then realize you may have heavy roaming charges from you carrier back home. Check with your carrier for information, as many have international plans you can purchase for a short time period. Also know that there are parts of New Zealand, for example the South Island’s West Coast, that have vast areas without coverage. We can provide information on local SIM card costs to help you make a decision that’s best for you.
Is free Wi-Fi widely available in New Zealand?
Wi-Fi it not typically free in New Zealand. That is because we have data caps on our plans, so giving away free Wi-Fi quickly becomes costly for lodging, cafes, etc. At most accommodations, you will get free Wi-Fi up to a certain limit. So you can usually check email, connect with family etc. Streaming videos or uploading huge files will quickly gobble up your data, however. Then you’ll need to buy more data. This is something that we do hear travellers comment on, especially those from countries with unlimited Wi-Fi, where free Wi-Fi is available everywhere. Also, the connections can sometimes be poor, depending on where you are. Remember, New Zealand has lots of areas that are truly remote. Take the opportunity to disconnect and enjoy your connection with the wilderness around you and your travel mates.
What about smoking?
New Zealand law prohibits smoking in workplaces. This includes lodging, bars, and restaurants. Typically there are designated smoking areas well away from entrances. In keeping with making New Zealand a healthier place for everyone, the New Zealand government has an aspirational goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025. Wouldn’t that be great!
Do I need a travel visa and do you help me to get one?
Travellers from the U.S. or Canada who plan to visit for three months or less will be granted a Visitor’s Visa upon arrival. British citizens may be granted a Visitor’s Visa for up to six months on arrival. Other nationals, please refer to this link to determine if you are from a visa-waiver country or if you are required to apply for a visitor permit in advance of your arrival. If you do require a visa you can arrange for one yourself, or use the services of a travel agent or visa processing company.
Do I need a passport to travel to New Zealand?
Yes. All international visitors to New Zealand need a valid passport (valid for six months beyond your New Zealand departure date), evidence of onward travel arrangements (eg. a departing air ticket), and sufficient funds for the duration of your travel in New Zealand.
What else should I know about entering New Zealand?
New Zealand has very strict biosecurity procedures at airports and ports to prevent unwanted diseases and pests. This protects our natural environment and our agriculture. We ask that you participate in helping protect our environment by following the guidelines on this government website. If you do not declare any biosecurity items, you may be instantly fined. Not a fun way to start your New Zealand holiday!
Booking with Us
What are your terms and conditions?
We’re pleased you asked. And we’ll be even more delighted if you read them here. When you sign your reservation form you’ll be required to confirm that you’ve read the terms and conditions on our website.
What about Travel Insurance?
Yes, everyone on our group trips is required to have travel insurance. And independent and privately guided travellers should have it too. It offers the peace of mind that allows you to have a true holiday. There are circumstances such as illness, family emergencies, lost luggage, or other situations beyond your control that may affect your travel plans – don’t take the gamble!