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Cook Islands – Check that off the list! Well maybe not so fast. I HAVE to go back! AMAZING!!!

New Zealand – Even though I was born and raised in New Zealand, lived in 13 different towns and cities from one end of the country to the other, and spent a majority of vacations exploring all the nooks and crannies of New Zealand, my one comment is – Never enough time!

I was fortunate enough to be one of eight selected Travel Professionals who were taken on a familiarization (Fam) trip to the Cook Islands and New Zealand by Air New Zealand Vacations. We were gone for a week and had an incredible time. It was so amazing I can’t wait to head back there again at a much slower pace! We spent three nights in the Cook Islands and three nights in New Zealand. Nowhere near long enough to truly appreciate the wonder of these two countries and just long enough to give you a small taste and leave you wanting to experience way more.

During our Fam we toured 21 hotels, went on six (6) tours and adventures and had a blast. It blows my mind just how much we packed into our trip that really was a whirlwind. When visiting the Cook Islands and New Zealand time seem to stand still or move very slowly. Even though we were gone for a week and packed a lot into that time, it seemed we were gone for much longer.

Kasey Kiwi | Helen Brahms | Have2Cruise | Have2Travel | Cruise Planners | Air New Zealand | Cook Islands and New Zealand
Kasey Kiwi ready for his flight to Rarotonga in Business Class on Air NZ

Our Air New Zealand flight left from LAX just before midnight on a Sunday evening and we flew directly to Rarotonga. It was about a 10-hour flight. We were fortunate to be upgraded to Business Class for the flight. One thing to note is Air NZ’s Business Class is what other airlines call First Class. Nice!! As you can see from the photo Kasey Kiwi is making himself at home in the seat. They were the older style seats with tray table in outer armrest and personal TV screen in the center armrest. The seats did recline and had footrests. The actual butt area is about the width of an economy seat. So while you had the added comfort of the nice feel of the leather seats, the footrests, extra leg room, etc there was no extra butt room. We did get a nice amenity pouch that is big enough to hold a mini iPad. It had toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, eye mask (Kasey Kiwi is modeling it in the photo), matching socks, and hand lotion.

When we arrived in Rarotonga it was raining. No problem. It is only water and this Kiwi gal LOVES the rain!! Rarotonga is a small airport so it didn’t take long to get through customs and immigration and get our bags. There was even a guy sitting above the baggage carousel playing his guitar and singing. He would stop singing to greet locals or frequent visitors as they came through to baggage claim. It made me feel welcome and set up the relaxed island community feel in a country where time seems to stand still.

Edgewater Resort |Kasey Kiwi | Helen Brahms | Have2Cruise | Have2Travel | Cruise Planners | Air New Zealand | Cook Islands and New Zealand
Even though it was raining the view from my hotel room at Edgewater Resort & Spa was amazing!

We were soon on our way to Edgewater Resort & Spa, our hotel for the night. But we were not going to get the whole day off. We had just the morning to relax, freshen up and then we hit the ground running. We had a lot to see and do and very little time to do it.

We spent one night on Rarotonga before flying to Aitutaki for a day on the lagoon, hotel tours, and a night in one of their beautiful resorts. Then it was back to Rarotonga for more hotels tours and another night there.

After three nights in the Cook Islands we headed to New Zealand on Air New Zealand. Again we were fortunate enough to be upgraded from economy to business class. This time we had the new lay flat seats. More about these in another blog on Air New Zealand.

We spent two nights in Auckland. On the full day in Auckland we did a modified bus tour, a hotel tour, and harbour dinner cruise on a yacht…so much fun!!! We then had an amazing bus ride from Auckland to Rotorua. This day included two of my most favourite things to see and experience in New Zealand: Waitomo Caves and Tamaki Maori Village Experience.

Novotel Rotorua |Kasey Kiwi | Helen Brahms | Have2Cruise | Have2Travel | Cruise Planners | Air New Zealand | Cook Islands and New Zealand
With my Mum and Dad at Novotel Rotorua

When we arrived at Novotel Rotorua, our hotel for the night, my parents were there to greet us. I hadn’t seen them in just over a year. Turned out we had just over three hours of free time so I got to spend that time with my parents. I originally thought I would get maybe an hour to see them. To have three hours was huge!  No trip home to NZ is complete unless I get to spend time with the folks. I am so thankful for the free time we had where I could spend some time with them.

Our last full day in New Zealand saw us on a tour of Hobbiton. This was a new experience for me and it was AWESOME!!! I will DEFINITELY be doing this one again! After the tour and lunch at the Green Dragon it was a quick flight to Auckland where we caught our flight home that evening.

To read about the different hotels & resorts we visited, the tours & experiences we did, just click on the name (if the link isn’t live then the blog is coming, just keep checking back). Please leave your comments below and let us know about your experiences in the Cook Islands and New Zealand. If you want to learn more about vacationing in one or both of these amazing countries please go to or to set up a FREE one-hour consultation.

Cook Islands Hotels & Resort on Rarotonga:
Sea Change Villas
Palm Grove
Lagoon Breeze Villas
Sunset Resort
Manuia Beach Resort
Pacific Beach Resort Rarotonga
Edgewater Resort & Spa
Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa
Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa (Pacific Resort)
Muri Beach Resort
Nautilus Resort
Te Vakaroa Villas
Muri Beach Club Hotel
Aro’a Beachside Inn

Cook Islands Hotel & Resorts on Aitutaki:
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa
Aitutaki Escape
Etu Moana
Tamanu Beach Resort
Pacific Resort Aitutaki

Cook Islands Tours & Experiences
Raro Tours (transfer company)
Air Rarotonga
Te Vaka Lagoon Cruise (Aitutaki)

New Zealand Hotels & Resorts
Rendezvous Hotel
Novotel Rotorua

New Zealand Tours & Experiences
Air New Zealand
Bush & Beach Wilderness Tour
Auckland Habour Dinner Cruise
Great Sights Waitomo Express (Auckland to Rotorua)
Tamaki Maori Village Experience
Hobbiton Tour

Helen Brahms

World globetrotter, Helen Brahms, is your Luxury Travel Concierge. She specializes in creating unique once-in-a-lifetime travel memories and charity fundraising trips. Whether your travel dreams include exotic locations or time with your family, you can have it all. Helen loves to help people cross destinations off their travel bucket list before they take a dirt nap!

Helen is the host of the Have2Travel Radio Show ( and is the author of the book "Congratulations, You're Going On a Cruise! Now What?" and the co-author of the book "Passionistas Talk!: The Best of the Passion Point Interviews (Vol. 1)"


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