Before we left to begin our trip, we spent lots of time packing and repacking to make sure we had what we needed and were still able to carry it all through the airports and in and out of the hotels we would be staying at.  Finally, we headed to meet up with my parents in Marshall, WI.

Packed bags
Packed for New Zealand

We were very excited to finally be on our way to New Zealand as we all stuffed ourselves and our luggage into the car.  It was an uneventful trip to O'Hare with only a stop at a tollway oasis for lunch.  We dropped off the car at an off site parking lot and were quickly shuttled to the terminal.  Our first flight took us from Chicago to San Francisco.  This was the first time that Tyler had been on a plane in a couple of years and he was very nervous for about the first hour and a half.  At that point Erin and I were wondering what we were going to do because it didn't seem like a good idea to force him to get on a 13 hour plane ride if he was going to be scared out of his mind the whole time.  Luckily, Erin was able to talk to him and get him calmed down.  From that point on the only thing he didn't like about flying was the take-offs, but we could live with that.  He ended up really enjoying the flights, probably more-so than anyone else on the trip.

After we arrived in San Francisco, we switched terminals to catch our flight to Auckland.  By the time we got to the gate, it was almost time to start boarding the flight. 
Our Air New Zealand 777 waiting at the gate
Our Air New Zealand 777 waiting at the gate

By this time it was getting pretty late and Tyler was very tired.  As soon as we got on the plane, Tyler fell asleep, even before we had a chance to take off.  He slept straight through for 10 hours and was in good spirits for the last 3 hours of the flight. 
Tyler asleep on the plane
Tyler asleep on the plane

The rest of us struggled to get much sleep; the flight had just enough turbulence to keep us mostly awake through the night.  I must say, I hate flying and was really dreading the flight, but it ended up going much faster than I thought it would.  The Air New Zealand planes had lots of good video on demand shows and movies to watch which helped pass the time.  I spent a lot of the time watching the moving map display which showed that we were pretty far from everywhere during the whole flight.  The two highlights are flying past the equator and the international date line.  Eventually, we began our descent into Auckland.  It was still dark out as it was now early Monday morning.  It was pretty strange to start our trip on a Saturday, but have our first hotel reservation on a Monday.

After we landed, we headed off to customs and biosecurity.  Immigration and customs was very smooth and easy, but we were somewhat nervous about biosecurity.  In case you didn't know, New Zealand is extremely protective of their native species and has a very strict biosecurity entry procedure.  If you're ever planning to go to New Zealand, make sure you spend time familiarizing yourself with what is legal and how to declare what you are bringing into New Zealand.  If in doubt, declare it and you will most likely avoid a fine, even if they make you throw it out.  When it was our turn to go through biosecurity, I was nervous about our hiking boots.  You must have clean boots or you get a pretty big fine.  The agent asked us if our hiking boots were clean, we thought they were, but they weren't spotless, so he said if you aren't certain you can go to a different line to have them checked.  We waited in that new line and were declared clean enough so we then quickly finished up biosecurity and went to call our car rental place to have them pick us up.  We quickly got some cash from an expensive airport ATM and met up with the person from Apex rentals.  He drove us about 5 minutes to their off site location and we were ready to get our van to begin our journey in New Zealand.

Continue to Day 1

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