In Christchurch we must first return the rental car then take the provided shuttle to the terminal. Since we haven't previously been to the Christchurch airport we allot one hour for that process plus two hours for airport check-in, etc. prior to our 8 am flight. Everything goes very smoothly and we have more than enough time at the airport to have a cup of coffee and cup of tea.
It's only a 1 hour 20 minute flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland. It's fun to watch the travelers, most are relaxed Kiwi's. There are few suitcases being brought as carry-on, perhaps partially because you may need to schlep a suitcase up and down external staircases - not all planes get airport jetways. The only people jumping up and getting into lines early for boarding appear to be tourists. And when lines are naturally formed, people are polite. We have an empty seat between us - sweet!
We have a 6 hour layover in Auckland. Ugh. But, with the Chase Sapphire Card we have access to the Priority Pass Airline Lounge, so that's the plan! We are hoping that our luggage will be checked through to Vancouver, but we learn that since we are moving from a domestic flight on Air New Zealand to an international flight on United we will need to claim our luggage in Auckland then walk or take the shuttle bus to the International Terminal. When we arrive in Auckland we walk the 10-15 minutes between terminals since it is a nice day.
But, there's a glitch in the plan. United will not open the check-in gate until 12:10 pm. We have 2 1/2 to three hours before we can check our bags, go through passport control and settle into the Lounge. Luckily there are a couple of restaurants in the terminal for us to choose from. We have breakfast and use our electronics until check-in is available.
At check-in we find out that we are going to have to go through immigration, collect our bags then recheck them before boarding our flight to Vancouver. Ugh. After check-in we make our way to the departures area . We find the Priority Pass Lounge and it is is fine as we wait for our 3:10 pm flight to San Francisco, an 11 hour flight today, faster than normal due to the tailwinds. In fact, we hold on the ground because we would arrive too early - US Immigration doesn't open until 6 am. On the flight we have an empty seat between us - double sweet! Unfortunately we just cat-nap on the plane. Fortunately I saw three movies I have been wanting to watch.
We are though all the US immigration/customs/bag recheck and sitting in the United Club Lounge in San Francisco before 7 am. Our flight to Vancouver doesn't leave until 12:20 pm, so we have around five hours to kill, there are no Priority Pass Lounges in this terminal, and we figured this is a perfect time to use the two United Club passes we get with the credit card each year. After a couple of hours we go have a meal at one of the airport restaurants then go back into the United Club.
Our flight to Vancouver is only 2 hours 20 minutes. We settle into our seats, they close the cabin door and the seat between us is empty. Triple sweet! After customs and baggage claim in Vancouver we easily find the representative for Whistler Shuttle. 30 minutes later we are in the van and one of the slowest shuttle drivers we have ever encountered is making his way to two Vancouver hotels for more passengers. It takes us almost an hour to leave the city. A picturesque 90 minute ride takes us up to Whistler, but both of us doze on-and-off. 32 hours after leaving our Christchurch hotel we arrive at Nita Lake Lodge.
After a quick shower, Paul and Kara's friends John and Tiffany pick us up for lasagna dinner at the condo where they all are staying. We enjoy a nice meal and great conversation, but we begin to fade and John drives us back to the Lodge where we snuggle in for a good night's sleep.