Expert Advice

How I Used My Hilton Honors Points On A Bucket List Trip To New Zealand

A “Culture Junkie’s” Journey to the South Pacific using Hilton Honors™ Points

LeeAnn M
Beautiful aerial view, Auckland, New Zealand.

It may surprise you that Auckland, New Zealand, rang in the new year with fireworks from their 1076´ iconic Sky Tower, two hours before Sydney, Australia’s, fireworks. While we expected the usual TV footage of Australia’s celebration ringing in the new year, it was a pleasant surprise to see New Zealand (briefly) on our TV screen! 

After all, we were in New Zealand less than two months earlier, enjoying an unstructured, month-long exploration — and our second spring of the year.

HGV Explorer snapping New Zealand vacation selfie.    

We were thrilled as borders began opening for the first time since the pandemic. Travelers intent on thrill-seeking discover many ways to get their adrenalin rush, mostly from high-octane activities. These days, you can bungee jump from countless tourist locations around the world. 

For us, thrill-seeking includes an active curiosity about local cultures and a thirst for great views from iconic places (without the "jump").

The South Pacific is a prominent region on our bucket list. Once we had a pandemic-induced accumulation of Hilton Honors Points — and already having ample Hawaiian Airlines rewards points — a New Zealand trip rose to the top of the 2022 list. Moreover, as an Elite Premier Hilton Grand Vacations Owner with lifetime Hilton Honors Diamond status, visiting New Zealand and learning more about Māori in style became our goal. 

My husband and I grew up in Hawaii, immersed in Polynesian culture, but we had yet to travel to the South Pacific. It was time!

We borrowed the latest Lonely Planet e-book about New Zealand from the library for our travel research. Not knowing what challenges we would face, I made Hilton Honors rewards reservations with overlapping dates at Hilton hotels in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown. 

After being delighted to learn that each fifth night was free, I grouped our visits into five and 10 days, ensuring the last five days (of 30 total days) were in Auckland, the international airline hub. I’m glad I started with this broad Hilton-lodging approach. Upon beginning our exploration in Auckland, we learned our post-pandemic reality posed logistical challenges impossible to identify from afar, no matter how much planning we did.      

Hilton Team Members, Auckland, New Zealand.   

Thus, the vacation theme became “figuring it out as you go.” Our trip goals were to immerse ourselves in the culture easily and enjoy the freedom of movement in an open-border country relatively untouched by COVID-19. 

What itch did this trip scratch? What were our major accomplishments and discoveries?

First, there were no surprises with our lodging. Hilton is Hilton. No quality worries there! Our upgraded Suite had outdoor space facing the harbor. We were fascinated watching commuter ferries, cargo ships and cruises come and go. We greatly enjoyed the maritime traffic and ocean air.     

Second, we easily learned to use the greater-Auckland transit system of ferries, buses and trains. By purchasing reloadable AT HOP cards and learning to use the journey planner, we discovered how to navigate the many things we wanted to see, do and experience; we made a list.

A day in our “Explorer life” started with a hearty complimentary breakfast as we assessed the variable spring weather and selected a daily activity from our list. On days with beautiful spring weather, we took ferries to Waiheke Island and the Hibiscus coastal towns to walk beaches and taste wine. On rainy days, we visited the Auckland and Maritime Museums and learned a lot about the Māori culture and (unsurprisingly) similarities in language and cultural customs to Hawaiians.

Beautifully plated desert, Hilton Auckland Hotel, New Zealand.   

During our adventures, we met many Kiwis (New Zealand slang for local) and learned what life is like for them. We had great chats with fellow travelers and exchanged tips about destinations explored. We also bonded with the many international, young millennials with hospitality degrees working throughout the Hilton portfolio of brands. 

We may be three times their age, but we delighted in everyday conversations as they put their New Zealand-earned hospitality educations to practice. From the many Pan-Asian countries represented, we learned about life in Nepal, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and other islands in Polynesia. 

As we had hoped, we felt free and smiled a lot on our vacation — our first exploration of the South Pacific. We, as “culture junkies,” highly recommend it!

Read “Visit Beautiful Melbourne (And Use Hilton Honors Points To Get There)” for another Owner’s story.


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A vacation selfie of Hilton Grand Vacations Owner LeeAnn

LeeAnn M

LeeAnn M. is an Elite Premier Owner. She and her husband love sharing their experiences and expertise from over 20 years of ownership. Their favorite way to spend vacations is through cultural immersion, whether attending a luau in Hawaii or watching a Māori culture performance in New Zealand. Follow along to see why LeeAnn loves her Hilton Grand Vacations ownership.

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