How to get to (and stay in) a reopened New Zealand on points and miles
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
After more than two years, New Zealand has finally reopened to vaccinated tourists from visa waiver countries, including the United States. And it will open to the rest of the world beginning July 31. This is terrific news for travelers eager to either return to one of the world’s most beautiful countries or finally visit for the first time.
Much like Australia, New Zealand is a trek to get to. Nonstop flight options are limited, but there are many one-stop options from most major U.S. cities. Getting there will be easier come September when Air New Zealand launches its highly anticipated nonstop service to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). And, of course, you have plenty of hotels to choose from, ranging from budget to ultra-luxe, once you arrive in New Zealand.
Today, we’re going to look at how you can book some of these flights and hotels using your points and miles. No matter what airline, hotel or transferable rewards you have at your disposal, you should be able to find at least one or two good ways to book an award trip to New Zealand.
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Flying to New Zealand with points and miles
Naturally, Air New Zealand offers the most flights to the island nation. This year, the airline will operate flights to Auckland Airport (AKL) from Chicago‘s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and Houston‘s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Starting Sept. 17, 2022, it will also offer thrice-weekly service to JFK.
Air New Zealand is a Star Alliance member, so you can easily connect from a partner flight (like those offered by United Airlines) and book awards through Star Alliance partner programs. Alternatively, United offers its own nonstop flights between Auckland and San Francisco.
Oneworld flyers can normally fly to Auckland nonstop from Los Angeles on American Airlines, though American suspended that route through fall 2022. Alternatively, there are many one-stop options with Qantas Airways and Oneworld Connect member Fiji Airways. Although Fiji Airways isn’t a full-fledged member of the alliance, you can still book awards using American, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways and Qantas miles and enjoy some Oneworld elite benefits.
Unfortunately, the SkyTeam alliance doesn’t offer nonstop service between the U.S. and New Zealand. There are some one-stop options with airlines like China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Korean Air, but they are limited compared to the other alliances.
Booking Star Alliance flights to New Zealand
Finding award availability on Air New Zealand’s U.S. routes is notoriously difficult, especially in business class. However, if you are lucky enough to come across these unicorns, you’ll have some terrific redemption possibilities.
The cheapest way to book these awards is through Avianca LifeMiles. The program charges 40,000 miles each way in economy or 80,000 miles each way in business class from anywhere in the U.S. You can transfer points or miles to Avianca LifeMiles from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Travel and Citi ThankYou Rewards.
Alternatively, Air Canada Aeroplan charges around 50,000 to 60,000 miles each way in economy or 75,000 to 85,000 miles in business class, depending on the distance. That’s a bit more expensive, but this option is useful for those looking to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
If you have a stockpile of United MileagePlus miles, you could book United-operated flights from 40,000 miles each way in economy or 90,000 miles in business class. Of course, these rates could be much higher if there’s no saver space availability or you’re booking close in. Meanwhile, partner awards start at 44,000 miles for economy and 99,000 miles for business class. If you’re short on United miles, you can boost your balance with a cobranded United card or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Another option to consider is Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The program partners with Air New Zealand and charges 40,000 miles each way for economy awards or just 62,500 miles for business class, which is a steal. For flights from Hawaii, expect to redeem just 30,000 miles or 45,000 miles, respectively. However, Virgin only allows you to book nonstop flights, and you must call to book.
Booking Oneworld flights to New Zealand
Asia Miles is ideal for those looking to spend transferable credit card points, as its a partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Travel and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Awards start at 40,000 miles each way for economy, 50,000 miles for premium economy and 75,000 miles for business class.
When there’s saver space, American charges 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in economy, 65,000 in premium economy and 80,000 in business class.
But here’s where things get interesting: The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan charges the same rates as AAdvantage for American-operated flights, while Fiji Airways and Qantas awards cost just 55,000 miles each way in business class. Economy Fiji Airways awards will set you back 40,000 miles, economy Qantas awards come in at 42,500 miles and premium economy Qantas awards cost 47,500 miles. Alaska will let you add a free stopover in Fiji or Australia, so you can essentially take two trips for the price of one.
Booking SkyTeam flights to New Zealand
Given the limited flight options, finding SkyTeam award availability to New Zealand is very difficult.
If you’re able to find availability, Delta SkyMiles offers awards from 55,000 each way in economy and 120,000 miles in business class. But again, these awards are rare, so you are usually better off sticking to Star Alliance or Oneworld programs.
Where to stay in New Zealand with points and miles
Redeeming World of Hyatt points in New Zealand
One of the most luxurious options is the Park Hyatt Auckland, which opened in September 2020. It has a terrific waterfront location and an array of amenities, including a sumptuous spa and an infinity pool. Plus, local culture is incorporated throughout. As a Category 5 property in the World of Hyatt program, award nights will set you back 17,000 to 23,000 points per night.
For a luxurious escape in nature, redeem your World of Hyatt points at Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown. It’s located right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and offers breathtaking views. Rooms here don’t come cheap, ranging from 35,000 to 45,000 points per night. However, as a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property, all World of Hyatt members get extra perks like free breakfast, early check-in, late checkout and a room upgrade.
If you’re short on World of Hyatt points, you can quickly boost your balance by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or picking up the World of Hyatt Credit Card or World of Hyatt Business Credit Card.
Redeeming Hilton Honors points in New Zealand
Hilton Honors loyalists have seven hotels to choose from across the island nation. If you’re looking to stay in the heart of the action, check in to the Hilton Auckland. Located right along the water on Princes Wharf, the hotel is nautically decorated and features an outdoor lap pool with a unique underwater viewing window. Award nights typically range between 40,000 and 60,000 points per night.
Alternatively, you can stay about 30 minutes south of the city at the beautiful, new DoubleTree by Hilton in Karaka, an idyllic town known for its horse stud and sheep farms. Award nights here max out at 50,000 points per night.
Other great options include the Hilton Lake Taupo, the DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington, the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Queenstown and Chateau on the Park – Christchurch, a DoubleTree by Hilton.
Redeeming IHG points in New Zealand
IHG offers a whopping 25 options in New Zealand, including chic new constructions like Voco Auckland City Centre, several Holiday Inns for those on a budget and several ultra-luxurious Mr & Mrs Smith properties.
Rooms at the new Voco typically hover around 36,000 points per night but can climb to 60,000 points during high season. Meanwhile, the new Holiday Inn Express Auckland City Centre (located in the same building as the Voco) and the Crowne Plaza Auckland tend to stay below 30,000 points per night. Farther south, the InterContinental Wellington usually costs around 30,000 points per night.
In Queenstown, options include several Holiday Inns and a Crowne Plaza. Rooms at these properties usually range from 20,000 to 35,000 points per night.
If you’re looking to stay in the more unique, remote lodges that New Zealand is known for, the Mr & Mrs Smith collection is for you. These properties can retail for more than $1,000 per night, so award nights are priced accordingly. You could easily spend 150,000-plus points per night if you find availability.
Related: How to earn IHG Rewards points
Redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points in New Zealand
Marriott Bonvoy‘s only option in New Zealand is the Four Points by Sheraton Auckland. Award nights here range between 20,000 and 30,000 points per night for stays through the end of 2022.
Getting around New Zealand
Auckland has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trains and ferries (though taking the ferry is more of an experience than a quick way to get around). Depending on how long you’ll be in town, it could be worth purchasing and loading money onto an AT HOP card to save on your public transport rides. Ride-hailing services like Uber, Ola Cabs and Zoomy are also available.
If you plan to venture outside the city, you’ll be best off renting a car for maximum flexibility. Just note that some credit cards that typically offer rental car coverage exclude protection in New Zealand. Also, remember that Kiwis drive on the left side of the road.
Whichever way you get around, make sure to pay for your travel expenses with a card that earns bonus points on travel. Two of our favorites include the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which earn 3 and 2 points per dollar spent on all travel purchases, respectively. These small purchases can add up during a long trip, so you may as well earn points on them.
No matter where you go in New Zealand, you’ll be spoiled by breathtaking scenery and plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Although it may seem like you’re a world away from home, it’s getting easier to visit the country using your hard-earned points and miles.
Featured photo by huafires/Getty Images.
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