Winter 2024 Adventures in New Zealand and North America


Getting There

Another year, another set of travel adventures begins. 2023 was a very busy year for me, and the first half of 2024 is shaping up to be the same.

Debbie Ireland's Digital Workplace Conference in Christchurch kicks it off this year, and it seemed a good excuse to skip a Canadian February and head to summer early. Its a long way to come, but Debbie always puts a great conference on.

If I'm travelling this far I also want to take advantage of it personally. We've booked an AirBnB for three weeks in Mangonui, in New Zealand's Northland. We left snow, ice, and rain at our house outside of Toronto early morning on Saturday, and arrived here late Monday evening. No it wasn't actually 60 hours of travelling, but 42 hours is still a long time due to the time change, crossing the date line, 10 hour layover in Vancouver (intentional so we could leave the airport), and four hour drive north from Auckland.

Travel Map

After Mangonui we fly down to Christchurch. Looking forward to catching up with Steve Knutson of Stratos Technology Partners and his team, as well as some of the Flock Consulting team. From there Liz and I head to Arthur's Pass for a few days of hiking in the Southern Alps of the South Island of New Zealand. Debbie and her husband Stephen and our Canadian friends John and Olivera meet us there and we all head to the West Coast for a few days before the conference. Back to Christchurch to deliver a talk and a workshop, and then Liz and I head back to Canada. Part of the deal for Liz is she gets to run the booth at the conference for me.

We don't actually go home, but rather arrive in Kelowna from Christchurch with connections in Auckland and Vancouver for a week of skiing / snowboarding in Revelstoke and a few more days in Red Mountain in southern BC. We both fly back to Vancouver and part ways, with Liz heading home and me off to Redmond, WA to the Microsoft campus for the once again annual Microsoft MVP Summit.

Planning and the Benefits of Super Elite

Right at the end of 2023 after a bonus Vancouver trip to see good partners Orchestry and Tuor Networks I managed for the first time to achieve Air Canada Super Elite status. Yes, last year was a busy one for travel. Along the way of achieving that I accrued quite a few benefits which I wanted to start using. 

If you're a Canadian that does a lot of travelling and want to maximize your benefits, I strongly encourage you to check out the Prince of Travel blog site. They have tons of information on the Byzantine structure of Air Canada's Aeroplan program.I booked some time with Kirin Tsang from there, and he was very helpful, as well as being amused by many of my travel stories. In the end I ended up using two worldwide economy priority rewards to cut our points cost in half, one for Liz and one with me. I used the Latitude with Attitude strategy to book the highest economy class fares, and then registered for e-upgrades for our flights there. We didn't make the upgrade for the Toronto Vancouver leg, but scored lie flat business class for the Auckland leg, which was awesome. Depending on the seat loads coming home I may re-price the return flight to Latitude as well to see if we can do the same on the way back.

Next challenge was baggage. I should write another post on our trials and tribulations with flights and baggage in the fall going to Europe, but suffice to say I was aiming to do better. I had originally considered bringing bikes (including Liz's e-bike, yet another story), but realized that would push it to 8 checked bags, which is well beyond reasonable. Here's what we ended up with. Remember we're planning for summer, beach, kiteboarding, a trade show, winter, skiing, and snowboarding.

  • One checked bag each for our multi-season clothing
  • Oversize kIteboard bag for kite, board, and gear, plus snorkel gear
  • Collapsible trade show booth and miscellaneous bits
  • Ski and snowboard bag (one)
  • Boot and gear bag

Now I know what you're thinking. We're dragging ski and snowboard gear all the way to New Zealand and back. No we enlisted our good friends Kim and Dave (both Canadian but Dave is originally a Kiwi and still sounds like one) to haul our gear from Toronto out to Kelowna BC for us, where we will be meeting them. Likewise in Christchurch I'm planning on leaving the booth and kiteboard gear there while we drive to the West coast of the South Island.

So far the logistics have worked out. Ski gear was handed off to Kim and Dave well in advance, and the other four bags made it to New Zealand without incident. Naturally, the same wasn't true for me. I didn't realize that my NZ visa from last year that was valid for two years was tied to my passport that I had renewed last fall. Thank goodness for the Air Canada Concierge service. I had already tried the NZ immigration line myself but got an automated message as it was 3 AM Sunday morning there. Air Canada concierge on site at Toronto priority check in were able to raise someone in NZ and get the issue resolved so I could board my flight. Liz was fine as she hadn't renewed her passport. We were off!


We've just arrive and getting settled in Mangonui. I've continued my rental EV experiment from the past two years with a Kia Niro full EV. Stopped for one charge on the way. Like Scotland in December with the rental Tesla, charging at AirBnBs generally works well, especially most places outside of North America where 240V outlets are the norm. On our stopover in Vancouver we also did a short Polestar rental to get out of the airport (and into the January Vancouver rain).

The AirBnB is great, with lots of space for the two of us, and a beautiful view over the olive groves to the sea. I've setup in the dining room with my two monitors (a second portable travel monitor is a must for me). Wi-Fi wasn't great, but I switched both of us to e-sims at home in our iPhones, which made adding a NZ SIM that much easier (we still have our home numbers for incoming text and calls). My plan is to do calls and meetings from 7-10 AM NZ, which is 1-4 PM EST. Worked well our first day today, and then we got a chance to explore the area in the afternoon.

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