Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Travelling at Christmas is half the fun

The anxiety is finally kicking in for Christmas, and I’m sure it’s the same for many across New Zealand, maybe even particularly so for those living in Wairarapa.

It’s not the festivities that are causing the stress and existential dread, but the prospect of commuting to where I need to be.

Whether it’s trains, planes, buses, or cars, there’s bound to be congestion clogging up arterial routes, airports and transit stations as families reunite for the holiday season, some of them for the first time since Christmas last year.

Wairarapa commuters looking to travel elsewhere this year were burdened with the prospect of a gruelling trek should they choose to use the state highway.

My pilgrimage begins in Masterton and will involve a late afternoon dash over the hill via motor vehicle because the inconsistency of trains has given me an advanced level of cynicism toward public transport of late.

I’ll stop in for the night at my cousin’s house, where she has graciously offered me her sofa in exchange for food. I enjoy this new bartering system we’ve developed because the cost of one night in a hotel greatly exceeds the cost of a takeout meal and bottle of wine.

A headache will likely come the following morning, not only as a result of the wine, but as I try to navigate the roads surrounding Wellington Airport to find the ‘long-term’ parking, only to discover my flight has been delayed.

The joy from flying regional comes when you play a sick and twisted version of Russian Roulette where, 99 per cent of the time, it will not be an enjoyable experience.

Alas, Air New Zealand has recently revealed nearly 200 instances of customers behaving, on average, in an unruly manner every month, so I will reserve my judgement until the 11th hour while my head is throbbing and the Christmas travel panic is heightened in Wellington airport.

The national airline also announced earlier this month that over 1.7 million passengers are booked for its domestic services over the holiday season, with December 22 expected to be the airline’s busiest day of the year.

Luckily for me, I’ll be flying on Friday – December 22.

Wellington Airport is “gearing up” for a busy holiday period and has 19,500 travellers booked for December 22, likely to add to the Christmas chaos in the most painful ways imaginable – especially for those tasked with navigating the parking areas and strange terminals that just don’t seem to make sense.

With great thanks to my colleague, I have an artfully drawn map to aid me in getting to the long-term carpark and a special thanks to Gail at Wellington Airport, who told me I could arrive at my designated carpark earlier than I’d booked for – something which I asked about as the panic truly set in.

In better news, the slump on the Featherston side of Remutaka Hill has been fixed, and the stop/go traffic lights have been removed.


NZ Transport Agency [formerly Waka Kotahi, and previously NZ Transport Agency] has been putting out media releases advising of the various roads and highways that have opened and are urging motorists to take care.

To my fellow travellers this holiday season – kia kaha, may the force be with you, and remember, it’s always five o’clock somewhere.

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