Forget the long TSA security lines of American airports. Flying in New Zealand is a refreshingly different experience than flying in the U.S. I actually look forward watching the Air New Zealand’s fun safety video and snapping photos out the airplane window. My trips aren’t always turbulence-free (more on that later), but I’ve learned a few tricks for enjoying the ride.

Nelson Airport - Christina Pecoulas
Photo by TEAN Alum Christina Pecoulas, University of Southern California

Take advantage of sales

It’s a little easier to stomach the idea of flying when you don’t have to spend most of your study abroad budget on tickets. Some people like to find deals through flight aggregation sites like or, but I found most of my cheap flights by liking the airlines’ Facebook pages. Air New Zealand and Jetstar sales show up in my Facebook News Feed, so I’ve gotten round-trip tickets to the South Island for as little as $60 NZD.

Bring a “personal item”

Flying on a budget means forgoing a checked bag. I usually carry on my multi-day hiking backpack, but if it gets a little too full, it sometimes doesn’t weigh in under the 7 kg weight limit. Now, I’ve started bringing along a small backpack to use as my personal item. In case my hiking backpack is too heavy, I just move a few things to the small backpack and shove it under the seat in front of me.

Keep your shoes on

Sometimes, you won’t have to go through any security at all when you fly domestic in New Zealand. The first time this happened to me, I thought I had accidentally missed the line and I anxiously waited at the gate for some security guard to chase me down. So, to fly like a local, keep your shoes on and your liquids in your luggage, and keep your cool when you get to skip the X-ray machine.

Flying in New Zealand - Meghan Coyle

Don’t get there too early

Unlike the U.S., there’s no need to be at the airport two hours before your flight. I did this once, and I was the only one there for about an hour and a half. If you’re going to grab a coffee, though, get it as soon as you get to the airport. You can’t take hot drinks on board and in my experience, chugging a latte is not a fun experience.

Grab some extra lollies

If you’re flying Air New Zealand, you may be surprised to find that you’ll get fed, even on short one-hour flights. Sodas are an extra charge, but coffee, tea, water, cookies, pretzels, and lollies (hard candy) are free. This one lady sitting next to me told me to grab extra lollies for later, and I was so grateful I took her advice. On that flight, it ended up being too windy to land, which happens sometimes in New Zealand. My plane was rerouted to a different city and I had to take a five and half hour bus ride to my destination, but it wasn’t so bad because I had a few extra snacks to hold me over.

Bring a portable charger

There aren’t big charging stations in New Zealand airports, so bring your own power supply. Just in case you accidentally spend the better part of a day camping out in an airport, you’ll want a little juice for some tunes and Wi-Fi to save the day. And then keep telling yourself it’s all about the journey.