I absolutely pride myself on getting great deals on fabulous trips, it's kind of my thing. But I'm not perfect and I was recently so kindly reminded of that both by Air New Zealand and my husband. So here's what happened...
In August my husband and I will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand for almost 4 weeks. Exciting, I know. But what's not exciting is the cost of flights; they can be upwards of $2,000 each from Los Angeles. So I set my focus on finding a deal - diligently tracking flight costs on a weekly basis and constantly checking sites for any changes. In December I found an amazing deal that allowed for a stopover in either Fiji or Cook Islands for practically nothing.
For $1,200 per ticket on Air New Zealand we were traveling from:
Los Angeles to Sydney / Cairns to Auckland / Auckland to Rarotonga, Cook Islands / Rarotonga to Los Angeles
Woo hoo! Not only did I get a deal, but I've got us going to Rarotonga for 4 nights for some island relaxation. Here was my thought process: Rarotonga is a fairly unknown island compared to places like Fiji and Bora Bora and everything I was reading said that it was just as beautiful, less expensive and way less crowded. Score!
Now here's where the problem occurred. I started to really plan the trip a few weeks ago - creating a detailed budget, researching places to stay and what to do, etc. When it came to Rarotonga... my island dreams of laying on white sand beaches in front of my five star hotel for next to nothing was very quickly fading into the sunset. I discovered that while it's off season in New Zealand, it's high season for the Cook Islands because all of the cold Kiwis travel to the island to escape winter! On top of that, it is the island's centennial making it extra busy and there are only a handful of high-end, luxury accommodations available making them even more expensive. What did this mean? Let me break it down for you...
5 Star Hotel Average Cost Per Night: $600
Cost of Food for 2 Per Day: $100
Excursions Per Day: $75
Rental Car cost: $200
Total Cost for 4 Days = $3,300!!!!
Well, spending over three grand on four days was not what I was thinking when I booked a stopover in Rarotonga and I was devastated. After all of my planning and research and convincing my husband that this was a good idea, I had screwed up. Feeling like an idiot and in a panic of losing a small fortune I needed to figure out a plan B. Here were my options...
A) Of course, I could always go with a cheaper, boring option for a hotel... but that wasn't so appealing (and to be honest, the accommodation options were pretty mediocre in general).
B) We could just swallow the money and go (and risk for the next five years hearing from my husband that I spent more in a couple days than he paid for his last car).
C) We could pay the cost to change our plane tickets and stay a couple more days in New Zealand instead (literally take a handful of hundreds and throw them into oblivion).
Being a numbers gal, I busted open a new Excel sheet and a white board and started crunching numbers. I won't bore you with all of the dirty details (unless you like that sort of thing), but long story short I figured out that changing our tickets and painfully paying the penalty of $250 per ticket to stay extra days in New Zealand (taking into account the cost of food, activities and a super nice hotel) would still ultimately save us nearly $1,000 instead of going to Rarotonga. We both agreed that this was the best option for us and the opportunity of spending more time in Hobbitville sounded pretty awesome.
So in the end, I lost us more money than I saved, but sometimes that's the price you pay for traveling. Type A or not, planning trips is hard and at times frustrating, but worth it in the end.