Making the Most of a Layover

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“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
Bruce Lee

I have a habit of booking the cheapest flights. I actually have this habit on most online purchases. My best friend is “sort by price – lowest to highest”. This habit has failed me multiple times, but in domestic flights, I am usually mostly okay with saving some money and going with the cheapest one available.

I always arrive at my destination, even if it may be a little later than expected, and I can usually survive about 3 hours with my “just five more minutes” mantra. I also have a strange coincidence where I am almost always put in the Emergency Exit row (7 times and counting). The extra leg room is beneficial, but the added responsibility is always a bit off-putting.


Flying between Auckland, New Zealand and Gold Coast, Australia

My habit of booking cheap flights usually means that I have a layover for a few hours. Although I didn’t have a layover in Christchurch, and promptly headed to my airbnb after a long 30 hours of travel, I found myself with 6 hours of spare time in Auckland after an overnight bus ride and decided to make the most of it.

Most airports don’t have a whole lot near them, and when you have all of your baggage, can’t check in yet or have already cleared security at another point, leaving the airport is usually the last thing on your mind. I recommend that if you do not have longer than 3-4 hours in your layover, do not leave the secured area of the airport if you have already cleared. In this case, many airports have hidden gems that you can find online from other bloggers.

Denver International has a beautiful look out to view the sunrise, and another on the opposite side where you can see the mountains on a clear day, they also just opened a yoga studio, although it is mighty expensive. Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport has a secret “quiet area” that is quite hidden, but worth the adventure to find, click here for details on how to find it. Sometimes airports also have some history behind them, and a simple google search will have you wondering things like “are there really secret underground tunnels for world leaders beneath this building?”

As for the other excuses, you can’t check in anyways, so why wait around? And many airports have baggage lockers or a storage company and they are reasonably priced. At Auckland, for my large and medium rucksacks, I paid $26 NZD for 8 hours of storage. Small price to pay to not lug your junk around.

Many airports offer a limited amount of free wifi, so if you don’t have cell service in the country you are in, you can connect to the wifi and see what is nearby. Airport taxis get expensive, but an Uber or Lyft can get you quite far on a few dollars. I decided since I was splurging on baggage storage, I would choose something within walking distance.

Within walking distance to the Christchurch Airport you have the following options:

International Antarctic Centre
Russley Golf Club
Burnside Park
The Millers Building

A short drive away you have

Orana Wildlife Park
Yaldhurst Museum
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Christchurch City Centre
Airforce Museum of New Zealand
Quake City

I would personally recommend the following 3 attractions:

International Antarctic Centre
This is probably the closest attraction to the airport, and it is definitely worth the short walk over. After you grab a ticket, go back outside to pet the huskies and learn a bit about how they keep warm in Winter and cool in Summer. Then head out on a Hagglund to learn about the transportation necessary to get through the Antarctic tundra. This fun little ride through their obstacle course is great for all ages, but not suited for the elderly or easily broken. Hang on tight and listen to learn all about what the Hagglund is capable of and why it needs to be able to maneuver in such conditions. Once you return inside, you can view some different 4D movies, get a look at what supplies are needed to survive the harsh conditions, and experience a real Antarctic storm. Along with the history of the continent, viewing the beautiful scenery and learning about the climate, you will be able to see penguins, and if you time it right, you can catch them during feeding time or learn about penguins in one of their “penguin talks”. You can also cuddle the huskies during an Antarctic storm and witness them playing in their favorite weather. A must see for anyone headed to Christchurch, layover or not. You can easily spend 3-4 hours at the Antarctic Centre, but can enjoy most of it in 2 or less if you have a shorter time frame. The tickets are a bit pricey, but your proceeds go towards helping save penguins, providing education about the environment and aids in the critical research on climate change and global warming conducted in the Antarctic region.

Yaldhurst Museum
I found myself trying to chase away a rainy day and wondering which museum I should try to go to. It was a Saturday, so I knew the museums nearer the City Centre would be packed with local families, tourists driven inside by the weather and generally more people than I prefer to be around. I headed out a bit further towards the airport to find this hidden gem. For $20 NZD, you can meander through this lovely little village of cars, motorcycles and printing presses, among other artifacts from the area. When I was younger, I despised going to old car museums with my Dad. He would drag me out on a Sunday morning to Ellingson Car Museum in Rogers, MN, or to a swap meet and car show at a nearby racetrack or fairgrounds. Although I always liked looking at the paint jobs on the cars, and rightfully claiming which car was “mine”, I never truly appreciated the history behind cars and motorcycles. Growing up around classic cars made me take for granted what having one of these automobiles meant. Being able to keep a car in mint condition for decades is hard work! I’ve only owned my Subaru for 4 years and it has already been through the ringer with dents, scratches and body rebuilds. Not to mention to actually keep it running for that long takes a lot of skill, education and effort. I was quickly able to change my perspective, these cars were fascinating! Not only were there many different types of vehicles from the very first horse carts to ancient limos, but they were different from the ones I have previously looked through in my youth. The automobiles are anything from Australian Imports, European Luxury cars, and even some American Made Classics with a twist; all of the steering is on the right! Even if you think you have seen it all, you will be sure to find something new and exciting at Yaldhurst Museum. Don’t miss the last few buildings where you can see the evolution of the Apple computer and printing press, as well as some interesting first-takes on the wheelchair, motorized scooter and washing machine.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
I unfortunately did not get the chance to make it to Orana Wildlife Park, but from the declarations of others, they seem to be fairly comparable in what they offer. Willowbank is a beautiful walk-through park with different areas including heritage, wild and natural New Zealand. Heritage includes a small Clydsedale, goats, llamas and the local pig; while wild and natural New Zealand have many different birds and local mammals including the cheeky kea bird that will steal your windshield wipers, many local fishes and the tuatara, the only living relative of the dinosaur. This educational adventure is best enjoyed in the early morning, before it gets too hot, and is improved significantly if you buy food for the animals. Please be sure not to feed animals human food, or feed the wrong food to the wrong animal as this can be deadly and unhealthy for the animals. My favorite parts were the otters, looking for the evasive kiwi, and the friendly eels. I watched the otters for a good hour and then went back to watch them more because I just couldn’t get enough of them!

In Auckland, there are many more options, especially for those with children, that are within walking distance to the airport. I was only in Auckland for a few hours, so I didn’t get to see much of it, but here is what I found.

Within walking distance to the Auckland Airport you have the following options:

JK’s World of Golf and Driving Range
Butterfly Creek
The Esplanade and Sculpture Park
Treasure Island Adventure Mini Golf

A short drive away you have:
Stardome Observatory and Planetarium
Howick Historical Village
Auckland Botanic Gardens
Rainbow’s End
Manukau Memorial Gardens

I spent my short layover taking some travel frustrations out at JK’s Driving Range, and then a nice calming walk through The Esplanade and Sculpture Park.

JK’s World of Golf and Driving Range
The driving range is open 24/7 with a convenient overnight access. They rent drivers for a small fee, and if you get there before 11 am, they have an early bird special. Whether you are a decent golfer or know nothing about the sport, I would recommend giving it a try. Watch a few short videos on Youtube before you head out, and don’t mind what others may think of you; that was what made the driving range so much fun for me.

The Esplanade and Sculpture Park
These hidden gems are on your way back from the driving range, and you can see Butterfly Creek and Treasure Island in between. The Sculpture Park showcased local artists with interesting pieces all around. It is a shorter walk, but includes a loop with some nice views from the benches. A great place to take a nap on a sunny day, or enjoy the last of the snacks you don’t wish to declare on your way out of the country.

Whether you are staying in Auckland or Christchurch for holiday or just in for a short layover, make the most of it. Try something new, something you might not have expected yourself to do, you will be surprised how much you might like it!

Go everywhere. See everything. Love everyday.




Christchurch City Centre


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