It’s been another huge year for travel news.
From the knock-on effects of the devastating storms to hit parts of the country in 2023, to NZ sporting royalty encountering one of the banes of modern travel, to simply seeking out where to get a good pie in the country, Stuff Travel has covered it all.
Here’s our rundown of the top 10 most read travel stories of the year.
10. Chateau Tongariro Hotel to close permanently
Starting off with the sad demise of the iconic Chateau Tongariro. The hotel closed its doors in February due to seismic safety risks. There were plans to extensively renovate the building and surrounding infrastructure, however, a seismic assessment found underground shifts over time meant some of the hotel infrastructure no longer meets safety standards.
The chateau, which was built in 1929 and is listed by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place, remains derelict.
9. ‘Put your foot down’: Richie and Gemma McCaw shame passenger for bare foot on flight
Not even sporting royalty can escape their personal space being invaded on a flight.
Back in September, All Blacks legend Richie McCaw and former Black Sticks star Gemma McCaw showed off a stray bare hoof of a fellow passenger on a plane to France.
“Lovely pedi colour but I think I’ll have to put my foot down for this one,” Gemma captioned the story on Instagram, showing a less-than-amused Richie across the aisle.
8. Family holiday ruined by ‘common’ passport rule
Stories about passports, and more precisely, passport misery, continue to fascinate our readers.
The top ranked one this year was the tale of a US family hoping for a Greek holiday getaway only to have it fall apart for one simple reason – the mother’s passport was due to expire soon.
Even if your passport is technically valid, most airlines won’t let you travel if it is set to expire within six months.
7. I travelled all of New Zealand: These are my favourite tiny towns
New Zealand is gifted with so many great little towns and hamlets. We can’t get enough of the genuine Kiwi hospitality in some of the smaller corners of Aotearoa.
Stuff Travel reporter Brook Sabin has travelled the length and breadth of the country and he listed the best tiny towns, including where to find some delicious pies, empty golden beaches, and a wildly beautiful and charming rustic landscape steeped in fascinating history.
6. Couple camping at the same spot since 1985 – 11 minutes from home
2023 had barely started and readers were enchanted by the tale of Gail and Russell Bell, who have been travelling to Waikuku Beach Holiday Park north of Christchurch for the last 38 years. And all from just down the road in their home in Kaiapoi.
Over the years, they have holidayed through the aftermath of an earthquake, the 2021 floods that saw them move their campsite and the Covid-19 pandemic.
But through it all, their family and the lifelong friends they have made at the park have remained constant. “It’s just a really good family-oriented camp,” said Gail.
5. ’20 minutes of terrible turbulence’ in ‘white-knuckled’ Air NZ flight to Australia
We have had plenty of stories about turbulence from around the world, but this one was a bit closer to home.
The flight from Christchurch to Sydney in September was hit by “terrible” turbulence and some passengers were flung from their seats.
“It was literally throwing your body from side-to-side,” said one flyer while people were “white-knuckled, holding onto the chairs in front of them”. Thankfully, no-one was injured.
4. Former hotel manager names the two items she would never use during a stay
Readers were intrigued by a former hotel manager who revealed on TikTok the two items she will never use during stays, saying she has insider knowledge of just how disgusting they can become.
Keurig coffee machines and the refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles were the items listed by TikToker Melly (@melly_creations).
One traveller simply said: “New fears unlocked.”
“Got it, so bring coffee pot, coffee grounds, shampoo, conditioner, towels, sheets, a mattress … am I forgetting something?,” another joked.
3. ‘I actually cried’: Air NZ customer unable to pay bills after $2.4k deducted from account for failed bookings
In March, one Air New Zealand customer detailed her experiences with the national carrier after she said eight lots of $300 – a total of $2400 – were deducted from her bank account for ‘Skycouches’ on Air New flights she is not booked on.
Changes in flight bookings, long waits on the phone and miscommunications led Emily Cordwell to crying at one point “because I’d had all that money taken out, I had no flights, and I’d been on the phone for 12 hours at that point. I just couldn’t believe it”.
2. Honeymooning couple ‘find hidden camera’ in their Airbnb
Our top overseas story is quite a creepy one from Malaysia, when a Chinese couple on their honeymoon made a discovery in their Airbnb, a hidden camera pointing directly at their bed.
Photos show a tiny camera installed between two USB ports. It was discovered after the couple did a sweep of the bedroom using the flashlight on a mobile phone.
The couple were left “too scared to undress or take a shower”. They were reportedly refunded and an investigation was launched.
1. Auckland Airport domestic terminal reopens, no international departures until 5pm
And so to our top story, and perhaps it’s one that won’t be a surprise: the rolling coverage of the flooding of Auckland Airport during the January storms.
The international terminal had significant flooding after the heavy rain, which grounded all planes and travellers, who had to spend the night at the airport.
The closure had come hours after a landing plane hit and damaged several runway lights, causing major delays to flights.