Having to travel by air is a nightmare in financial logistics. Parking at an airport is not something mere mortals like me can afford. Just getting to the airport deals my dollars a deathly blow and, once at the airport, any small refreshment will cost me more than a week's groceries. One has to be travel smart. One has to check all the options. One has to 'suss the system and subvert it from there'.
I have had a few trips to Canterbury recently and I think I've got the cheapest way to get there sorted. The obvious way for me to get to Christchurch would be to drive thirty-five minutes to Palmerston North and take a direct flight south but that would cost me nearly $350 in fares and airport parking. I could catch a bus to the Picton Ferry and bus to Christchurch from Picton but that would mean leaving the wagon at the bus station and taking almost two days to get there and back (and the return Ferry ticket for one foot passenger alone is $110!). But, with a little help from my friends, I have got it sussed.
One friend introduced me to a cheap airfare search site on the internet where I can usually get a 'no frills' flight from Wellington to Christchurch for about $75 return. I drive to Lower Hutt for less than half a tank of diesel where I park the vehicle at another friend's place and I catch a Wellington commuter bus (called the Airport Flyer) at the bus station around the corner from her place. I get dropped right at the airport door for the princely sum of $12. So ... for less than $100, and a short tank of diesel, I can get to Christchurch and back with no fuss, no bother and within half a day's worth of travel.
Another friend of mine is always trawling a cheap bus fare internet search site where she picks up incredible $1 bus fares from one end of the country to the other. They don't come up often but when they do she grabs them. Her theory is that if she doesn't want to do a trip when the time comes, she has only lost a dollar but, if she decides a wee break would be nice, the money she has saved on the fare is usually enough to provide her with the accommodation she needs when she gets to her destination. In the last few months, she has been to Rotorua for a hot swim, over to New Plymouth where she went for long walks in the Rhododendron Gardens and up to Auckland where she caught the Ferry to Waihiki Island (free on her Gold Card) to stay with friends at a bach by the beach for a few days. She has a small overnight trolley bag and a carry-on back pack which is rather like a two-person picnic hamper and she sets this up with all of her culinary needs. She's got it sussed too.