Advice for winning the [New Zealand] Great Walks reservation game?

Old May 22, 19, 11:37 am
  #1  
nsx
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Advice for winning the [New Zealand] Great Walks reservation game?

Great Walks reservations are reportedly harder to get than hot concert tickets or Hyatt points on the Daily Getaways. The once a year event is coming soon and I want to be prepared.

Does anyone here have experience winning a reservation? How fast do you need to be once you start the process?

Screen shots of the reservation web pages would be a big help. I'm looking for any advice to land a reservation. I have some date flexibility, and I only need one slot.
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Old May 26, 19, 6:46 am
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What and where are the Great Walks? This forum covers all of Oceania.
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Old May 26, 19, 9:03 pm
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Do you mean the New Zealand Great Walks bookable via the Department of Conservation (DOC) website?
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Old May 26, 19, 9:20 pm
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Originally Posted by SilverTP View Post
Do you mean the New Zealand Great Walks bookable via the Department of Conservation (DOC) website?
Exactly.
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Old May 26, 19, 10:10 pm
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My family and I have done some of the South Island tracks both in season and out of season. Have a look at the New Zealand holidays for 2019 and 2020 (https://www.education.govt.nz/school...-and-holidays/). You are less likely to find availability in December/January (NZ summer holidays), Waitangi weekend (around 6 February) and Easter (11-26 April 2020). If you can schedule your trip outside of these dates, you are more likely to find a spot in the huts. You may need to be flexible with direction of travel (this doesn't apply to the Milford Track which can only be done in one direction). In my experience huts don't fill on the first day. Work out in advance how far you'd like to walk each day (e.g. for Routeburn, Kepler) and then plan which huts to stay in accordingly. I see that the Heaphy and Milford Track bookings open first on the 11th of June at 9:30 am NZ time. If you are not planning on going on these tracks, you could review the booking system to get a sense of the system. The DOC website has information on how to book for each track with information to keep in mind before/during the booking process. Good luck in getting your first choice(s) - the tracks are really spectacular!
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Old May 26, 19, 10:13 pm
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Also if money is not an issue, there are private walking companies doing many of the routes outside of the DOC reservations system
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Old Jun 10, 19, 4:48 pm
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Originally Posted by SilverTP View Post
You are less likely to find availability in December/January (NZ summer holidays), Waitangi weekend (around 6 February) and Easter (11-26 April 2020).
I got in within the first 2 seconds, using F5 and Enter to refresh. I booked the 6th. The website holds your request and gives you 25 minutes to complete the booking. At no point did the website crash. This, my friends, is amazingly great IT.

15 minutes after the start there are still some February dates open. I didn't expect that either. (The 6th sold out in seconds.) You need to be on the ball but this is much easier that getting a Daily Getaway package or a Burning Man ticket.

This is going to be epic.

Edited to add: Just like the Daily Getaways, some people did not complete their purchases and their requests timed out. Almost all dates are open 37 minutes into the sale. So for future information, don't give up until you wait at least the 25-mnute timeout period.
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Last edited by nsx; Jun 10, 19 at 5:08 pm
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Old Jun 11, 19, 7:23 pm
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Article in Stuff mentions how quickly peak season fills up
https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/desti...han-60-seconds
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Old Jun 11, 19, 9:57 pm
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Originally Posted by SilverTP View Post
Article in Stuff mentions how quickly peak season fills up
https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/desti...han-60-seconds
Like most news it's partly true, partly not. I was watching only February, including the holiday period starting February 6. That start date was snapped up immediately but at least one slot re-opened when a purchase was not completer. Several other start dates stayed open for at least 45 minutes. By day's end it was all gone. That was Milford. I understand it would have looked like a faster sellout at a group size greater than 1.

Routeburn (on sale today) has plenty of slots still open. It seems to be only Milford that sells out immediately. But, as I wrote, this is not nearly as quick a sellout as other hot tickets like Burning Man. Those are essentially a lottery for everyone who clicks at the right time, and a loss if you are even slightly late. (Digression: this year's Burning Man was poorly implemented such that only the latecomers won, and nobody has stepped up to claim the blame.)

In short, I think if you are right on time and your group is small you WILL get your Milford dates.
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Old Jun 18, 19, 10:14 pm
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Originally Posted by nancypants View Post
Also if money is not an issue, there are private walking companies doing many of the routes outside of the DOC reservations system
I did Routeburn with a private company several years ago. I was solo and wanted a group. There were 24 of us, we carried some bedding and slept in rooms of 4-8 persons. Did not need to carry water, as we could refill from streams along the way. The (young and fit) guides stayed in the front back and middle, and made dinner for us each evening, and had an evening lecture on flora fauna or geology each night. It was one of the highlight travel experiences .. I have traveled a lot and I can say it was a life changing experience. Abel Tasman is also really nice with great weather and a combination of water and forest. Done a lot of day walks there.
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Old Jul 4, 19, 11:52 pm
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There's also Ultimate Hikes which operates private lodges along the Milford and Routeburn tracks. Pricey but a step up comfort-wise. I did the Routeburn with them in 2017 and loved it.

The summit was closed due to a late snow so Ultimate Hikes ferried us over it in their helicopter. Regular walkers had to turn back.
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Old Jul 5, 19, 10:51 pm
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Milford and Tongariro are the most popular and the only ones that require playing the "log in at T-0:00" game. If you're flexible and a skilled hiker, you can book many of the tracks on minimal notice -- which is nice because you can look at the weather report and plan accordingly. Of course, if your itinerary is not flexible, best book far in advance as possible (but again, probably no need to log in at T-0:00).

I would avoid the private tour companies.

If this is your first trip to NZ, I highly suggest looking at tracks *other* than the Great Walks. There are many gems that are cheaper, less crowded, and (IMO) equal or better in terms of scenery.
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