In my baby boomer travel dreams, I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, especially the South Island. When Alan and I finally decided to make it happen, we began with our handy friend Google. But, before we pressed the “go” button, Alan and I listed our criteria:
- No driving for Alan. Although he’s perfectly capable of driving on the “other” side of the road, Alan wanted a relaxing trip where he could enjoy the scenery rather than concentrating on the pavement ahead.
- Spending two nights in each location. I did not want the type of trip where we rushed from place to place, staying in a different location every night.
- Experiencing as much of New Zealand’s natural beauty as we could through walking, hiking and photography. We didn’t want to rush from place to place, spending most of our time in the car, opting, to get out and explore, instead.
- Stays in high quality lodging in a small setting. We hoped to find boutique inns or bed and breakfasts where we could visit with the owners, learning more about their life in New Zealand, plus meet other guests, to compare travel notes.
Cruising through pages of Internet information about New Zealand, Alan and I discovered Robert Panzer’s company, Tailored Travel. We read reviews from his clients listed on his website. We researched the Qualmark logo displayed on the site, learning that it indicated that Robert had met high standards in New Zeland’s travel industry.
We filled out the questionnaire on the Tailored Travel site, which began an email correspondence with Robert. Then, we talked over the phone. Robert listened to our travel wishes, gently guiding us away from poor choices, then designed a plan to meet our guidelines. After discussing lodging options, Robert submitted a travel package for our approval. We tweaked the plan to our satisfaction, then paid our deposit by credit card.
So, what did we get for our money? Robert’s fee included all meals (except wine), lodging, ground transportation and his guiding services.
Alan and I chose an 8-day tour (which was mainly a tour of the South Island’s West Coast) that began in Nelson and ended in Queenstown. Along the way, we hiked a short section of the Abel Tasman National Park, photographed Pancake Rocks at Punakaikai, visited the craftsmen in Hokitika, walked to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, zoomed down the Matukituki River in a jet boat plus explored the vibrant area around Queenstown. Lodging more than met our expectations. The same can be said for our dining experiences. The best part, the only time we needed to pull out the credit card was for souvenir purchases or an excursion that wasn’t included in our itinerary.
We traveled in Robert’s Toyota van. He accompanied us to our excursions, stayed in the same lodging and dined with us. Driving from one location to the next, we learned about life in New Zeland through Robert’s eyes. We even visited his home and met his American wife, Joan.
If you’re looking for a no-hassle way to tour New Zealand according to your baby boomer travel dreams, this is the answer. When you call Robert, tell him Alan and Donna are coming back again soon.
Have you toured New Zealand? Post a comment, tell me your favorite experience. I’ll add it to the list for my next trip.