I was so lucky on my journey from Raleigh to New Zealand. A delay in my original itinerary made it necessary to change flights completely. I ended up taking two flights to Hawaii instead of three, and avoided the dreaded LAX airport.
I had a whole row to myself on the flight to Auckland and slept most of the 9-hour flight.
Those nine hours of sleep were crucial to prepare me for the jam-packed day that awaited me after my 7am arrival. Because I stayed awake until that leg of the journey and got such good sleep on that flight, I didn't experience much jet lag at all. We had a long scenic drive along the Northern Coast, a short hike to see Cathedral Cove, and then more driving through mountains to our ending point in Raglan.
American citizens are very lucky travelers, especially in New Zealand. There is an expedited customs lane for US, Canadian, Aussie and UK citizens. Americans get a free 3-month tourist visa on arrival.
Tony picked me up in our bright blue Subie hatchback rental and we hit the road. I've always wanted a bright blue Subaru hatchback, and at last, I have one, even if it's just for a little while.