This photo has been my desktop background for a while. It was taken at the top of Broken River Ski Area, a club ski field in Canterbury, New Zealand. Skiing club fields in New Zealand is a completely unique experience to anywhere in the world. They typically don’t have any lifts – only rope tows, and on the busiest of days host about 50 skiers and snowboarders. Look forward to a post describing them in more detail in the future.
The final cove before we reached our campsite at Totaranui along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, Goat Bay was a welcome sight for our second and most challenging day along the track. Plagued by rain, wind, and numerous tidal crossings, clear skies finally prevailed for the last few miles of the day’s walk.
Since coming back from New Zealand in November, I haven’t really had a single trip. I had a quick road trip from where my family live in Texas back to my home in Utah, but was in a hurry and didn’t make it much of a road trip. Also, since I started back at my job, I haven’t accumulated much in the way of vacation days yet, so when I saw that President’s Day was coming up, I knew I had to book a trip somewhere to satisfy my serious case of wanderlust. Plus, after having three consecutive winters in a row, I was more than ready to go somewhere warm.
Being a holiday weekend, flights everywhere in the US were much more expensive than usual. I eventually came across a deal to Cancun on Frontier Airlines with a non-stop flight from SLC to Cancun that was only $50 more than most of the domestic tickets I had been seeing. I gave it a day to think about it and decided to book it. It’s my reward for paying off the little bit of debt I accumulated from my seven months not working while traveling in New Zealand.
I’ve been to Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen already and found Cancun and Cozumel to be a little too touristy and expensive for my taste. I pulled up a map and found the island of Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun. Since I could only stay for 3-4 days, this met my need of being fairly close to the airport so I wouldn’t waste my entire trip getting there. After some research, it looked like the perfect destination – just a 15-30 minute $3 ferry from the mainland, a laid-back, small-town place with far fewer high-rise hotels, resorts, shopping malls, and American restaurants than Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa.
Where I’m staying
I found the Poc Na Hostel after a quick search of hostels on the island. It is on its own private beach, a few hundred meters from the most popular beach on the island, right in town, and has a bar and restaurant on-site. Most of the reviews seem to say it’s quite the party atmosphere, which is what I’m looking for on this short trip. I did splurge for a private room, however, so I’m not completely drained when I get back to work. Instead of $8/nt, I’ll be paying $20/nt. I’ve got a job again, so I think the extra $36 should be well worth it.
Scuba diving has been something I’ve been really excited about learning how to do, so I’m planning to take a Discover Scuba class along with a few open water dives. The reef on the Yucutan coast is the second largest in the world (second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) and stretches all the way to Belize. I’m also considering a boat trip to Isla Contoy or snorkeling at Garrafon Park, but that all depends on whether I can tear myself away from the beach or not.
If you’re visiting New Zealand for any substantial amount of time, you’ll want to pick up a pre-paid SIM card for your phone to stay in touch with your family and friends at home, all the amazing people you’ll meet on the road, and to make onward travel arrangements. Coverage in New Zealand is extremely variable and you can’t count on any coverage outside of towns or cities. The mobile system works like most European countries: the caller is the one who pays for the mobile call. For example, if someone in NZ calls your mobile from their landline, the caller pays a surcharge and you get incoming calls and texts for free.
The Choices: Telecom, Vodafone, and 2degrees
There are three major mobile operators in New Zealand: Telecom, Vodafone, and a new upstart called 2 degrees. Though coverage does vary between the companies, with Telecom having the most extensive coverage, it’s not a major difference unless you plan on staying somewhere (like Glenorchy for example) for a long period of time.
44c/min or 22c/min4
9c or Free4
Select Int’l Calls
$2 for 1hr
44c/min3 or 22c/min4
9c3 or 20c
Rest of the World Calls
1 Telecom’s Selected Countries: Australia, UK, US, Canada, and Ireland. 2 Vodafone’s Selected Countries: Australia, UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, China, India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 3 2degrees’s Selected Countries: Australia, UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, China, India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, France, Germany, South Africa, Fiji 4 2degrees offers a special rate of 22c/min to 2degrees mobiles and landlines in their 22 selected countries when topping up with $20 or more. They also give 100 free texts with a $20 top-up. All these specials must be used within 30 days of topping up.
As shown in the chart, Vodafone offers a special for $2 per call for up to an hour of talk time when calling their 15 selected countries. Telecom gives bonus credit when topping up e.g. a $20 top-up gives you $25 in credit. 2degrees currently gives 100 texts and changes the rate to 22c/min for calls to 2degrees mobiles and landlines in their 22 selected countries.
The Verdict: It Depends
2degrees is the overall winner. They have the best rates for calling within New Zealand and have the largest number of countries with discounts. They also have the cheapest SIM at $20 including $20 credit (basically free). If you don’t plan to make long calls to Vodafone’s 15 countries on your mobile, this is your clear winner.
Vodafone is the winner for longer term visitors who plan to call any of Vodafone’s 15 special countries a substantial amount. You can’t beat $2 for up to an hour phone call. It makes it much cheaper to call internationally than domestically. If you don’t plan on making these select international calls, however, Telecom is a bit cheaper and 2degrees is much cheaper.
Telecom doesn’t have a whole lot going for them. 2degrees is cheaper domestically and internationally and Vodafone is cheaper to their select international countries. Telecom does have the best coverage, however, so if you plan on spending a large amount of time in the bush without heading to a town every once in a while, they are your best bet.
I was initially disappointed that the weather was so foggy and rainy when I got to Milford Sound, despite the mostly clear weather on the way. Eventually, however, I began to appreciate how the rain causes hundreds of waterfalls on the sheer cliffs of the fjord, and the flumes of water cascading thousands of feet from the peaks give the place a magnificently surreal beauty.
Whether you’re saving for your next trip, for a new house, or trying to pay off debt, everyone could always use a little extra money in the bank. Though there are hundreds of tips on saving money, here are four that require very little effort and sacrifice.
1. Order Water: Total Savings $446/yr
The average American spends $2,974 per year on fast food and restaurants. With soda costing upwards of $2 and beer or wine costing at least $5 per drink, these little expenses can add up quickly. Ordering free table water with your meal will not only save you hundreds of dollars a year, but will also save you hundreds of calories per meal. You’ll also save by reducing the amount you’re paying tax and tip on top of. At a conservative assumption that 15% of total dining bills are comprised of drinks, the annual savings for this simple tip is $446 annually.
2. Use Your Library: Total Savings $1,377/yr
When was the last time you stepped foot into your local library? For most people, it has been far too long, even though they pay dearly for it through local taxes. Most libraries are very conveniently located and have a huge selection of books and DVDs. Next time you’re considering buying a book or renting a DVD, browse over to your local library’s website and see if they have it. Books can usually be checked out for a month at a time, and renewed for even longer. DVDs usually have a one week checkout, but that’s considerably longer than your local video store. Cancel your Netflix account and use the hold function on your library’s website as your queue instead. You will also find every major newspaper and magazine at your local library, so ditch those pricey subscriptions. Simply using your local library can eliminate the average $599 spent on books, $404 spent on Movies and DVDs, and $374 spent on newspaper and magazine subscriptions, bringing you a total savings of $1,377 a year.
3. Cancel Cable: Total Savings $1,395/yr
Have you checked out your cable bill lately? Even if you’re just subscribing to basic digital cable, your bill probably exceeds $70/mo after taxes and fees. Do you really watch all those channels? All of your basic national broadcast stations – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, etc, are available free, over the air. Yes, they’re in High Definition too – FREE! But you need a DVR to record them so you can watch them when you get time, right? Nearly every TV series, on major networks and even most paid subscription networks (HBO, Showtime, etc) are available for free to watch online. You can watch it whenever you want, pause it if something comes up, and it’s entirely free. You’ll have more fun watching the big game at your buddy’s house or at the sports bar anyway, and you’ll save an average of $1,395/yr.
4. Buy Second-Hand: Total Savings $3,097/yr
Shopping seems to be as much an American past-time as baseball. Americans love to buy stuff. Stuff we don’t even need or use, sometimes. The fact is, most of the stuff we buy we only use for a little while and then let it collect dust in storage or the closet. Take advantage of this and reduce your annual shopping bill by at least 50% by buying second-hand. Check out your local thrift store, log on to ebay, check craigslist, your local classifieds section, go to a garage sale, or even check freecycle before you buy something. You will be surprised how many things people wear or use once and then decide to sell. From electronics to sporting goods to clothes, you wouldn’t even be able to tell between new and used, except that you paid a fraction of the retail price for it. Do us all a favor and sell all that stuff you don’t use, too. You’ll be making money all the while reducing the amount of trash in our landfills and the amount of energy and materials used in producing the product. You’ll be saving yourself over $3,000/yr by doing it too.