The Real Deal: Eleven nights' accommodations, bus transportation, a glacier hike up the Franz Josef, a visit to the International Antarctic Centre, and a scenic gondola ride in Queenstown from $1,589 per person — plus taxes.
When: Feb. 17, Mar. 16, Apr. 6, Oct. 12, Oct. 16, Nov. 23, 2008.
The fine print: The package price of $1,589 is divided between $1,375 paid in advance and about $214 (NZ$300) paid on arrival. This is a typical policy of Intrepid Travel, and the idea is to get funds flowing locally through the host country. Airfare, meals, and taxes are not included. Read these before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: Based on availability; no deadline.
Contact: Intrepid Travel, 866/847-8192, ext. 3, .
Why it's a deal: Intrepid offers a hassle-free way to explore New Zealand's South Island, stopping in all the major cities and at key lookout points — not to mention navigating the narrow, winding mountain passes — that you might otherwise miss. The tour price (including the local payment) breaks down to $132 per day, which covers nightly accommodation, bus transportation to each place, the services of a local guide, and some sightseeing activities.
Trip details: The aptly named is intended exclusively for parents and guardians who have children ages 6 to 17. Tours typically have about 14 travelers as well as an experienced leader. Regional transportation is by public and private bus.
The tour group travels throughout the and the rugged terrain of New Zealand's South Island, beginning in Christchurch, the quaint English-influenced town known to locals as the Garden City. Included in the package price is a gondola ride down Christchurch's beautiful Avon River. You can also stroll around the plentiful cafés and shops of Cathedral Square or visit the International Antarctic Centre (included in the tour price).
From Christchurch, you will ride by bus to a high-country sheep station, where you will have the opportunity to take a farm tour or to go adventure walking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Well-known for its sheep farming industry, New Zealand boasts a sheep population that outnumbers people 10 to 1.
On day four, you'll take a scenic bus ride over Arthur's Pass and continue on to the town of Franz Josef. Your package includes a hike on the majestic Franz Josef Glacier, available for those aged 8 and above.
Your next stop is , a picturesque glacial lake nestled in the Southern Alps that's perfect for water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking, and canyoning.
Traveling south, you'll spend days 8 to 10 in Queenstown, the skiing and adventure-sports capital of the South Island. A ride on the magnificent skyline gondola, offering a stunning view of Lake Wakatipu, is included in the tour price. Adrenaline junkies can, at an extra cost, skydive ($175 – 245, depending on the height from which you dive), bungee jump ($100), raft ($105), or jet boat ($67).
The tour concludes in Christchurch, where it began.
Temperatures in the South Island can get pretty chilly in the evenings and weather can change unexpectedly, so always pack layers and bring a light jacket. The warmest months are January and February, with average temperatures varying between a high of 72 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During the spring season, which lasts from September to December, temperatures average highs of 61 and lows of 41.
For more information visit the official New Zealand Tourism website, .
Before you go check the , the , and the for New Zealand on .
Getting there: Round-trip airfare from the U.S. to Christchurch, New Zealand, varies based on season, but the lowest fares we recently found on for travel in March were $1,296 from Los Angeles (United), $1,618 from Chicago (United), and $1,658 from New York City (United).