Whenever possible, we relatively want to attend our graduation ceremony, as a gift and reminder to ourselves of all sleepless nights due to assignments and exams, of the beautiful friendship we have, and of all the reasons we have made this far. Even better if our loved ones manage to come too, handing us flowers, taking photos and giving their best smiles to show how proud they are with your achievement. This article tells 4 take-away lessons from my journey of bringing 4 family members from Medan and Jakarta to Auckland.
- Planning the trip way ahead
I had started planning my Spring Graduation in September 2017 since the beginning of January 2017. I asked my family members who could and would come to Auckland during my graduation. Planning ahead is critical because at least most of us need to take leave from office or school and must have enough saving to cover the trip cost. During the planning, I did the followings:
- I made the travel itinerary which, eventually, being revised based on various circumstances. Even though itinerary will likely be changed a lot even until the actual implementation days, it is essential to have one.
- I prepared an initial draft of trip budget based on the travel itinerary, such as – but not limited to – hiring regalia for graduation, flight ticket, accommodation, food, car rental, visa application fee, souvenirs, and entrance fee to touristy place.
- I composed a preparatory timetable to indicate when I should buy tickets, apply visa, make clothing list, how long we would stay in Auckland, etc.
- Getting a good deal for ticket price
Flying to Auckland from Medan might cost a lot without low-cost carriers like AirAsia or Jetstar. These two airlines can be extremely cheap, especially Air Asia, if you give yourself enough time to hunt low-fare tickets. I purchased tickets for myself and my family around 4 months before the graduation. I got return tickets from Medan/Jakarta to Auckland for NZ$ 500 only, although I paid extra $100 for in-flight foods and baggage throughout the journey. Speaking from experience, this price is still comparatively cheaper than other airlines unless it is peak season when they will charge almost as much as full-service carriers. But, should there be no price problem for you, you may want to consider full-service carriers like Garuda Indonesia, Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Malaysia Airlines, among other airlines which usually can cost you at least NZ$ 1,500 for return ticket.
- Processing New Zealand visa was (surprisingly) fast
I was not familiar in applying NZ visa because I used to seek assistance from an education agency in Jakarta to arrange my visa; this was a good decision I made at that time because it really saved a lot of time for a full-time worker like me. Yet, I intended to self-manage the visa application for my family to attend the graduation, especially after my friend told me the visa application process for her mother was rather easy. The information provided in VFS website are also clear enough and straight forward: http://www.vfsglobal.com/newzealand/indonesia/english/visitor_visa.html. When I came back to Indonesia for Eid-ul-Fitr celebration, I managed to visit VFS office in Kuningan City to clarify some matters related to visa application, particularly on financial proof and invitation letter. The visa fee to NZ as per June 2017 is IDR 2,048,500 (IDR 1,800,000 for immigration cost and IDR 248,500 for VAC service fee); this is considered rather expensive compare to other western countries, particularly the ones in European Continent. However, the same price will also be incurred to a family application (up to four persons, to be proven by family card). In the case of my aunt, she only paid the same above amount for her and her daughter’s visa application. The NZ Immigration website mentioned that the visa processing will take approximately 25 days, but ours were done in 3 days. Very quick and convenient!
- Flying altogether with my family
I brought 4 family members to the graduation ceremony: two of them from Jakarta and the other two from Medan, while I was from Hong Kong. Our meeting point was Kuala Lumpur and later we took the same plane from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland (via Gold Coast) together. It is worth noting that there is no direct flight from Indonesia to New Zealand at all. You must expect to transit twice: once in Asia (e.g. Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur/Singapore) and once in Australia (e.g. Gold Coast/Sydney/Melbourne), depending on your airline. When we were about to start this journey, I was so nervous. My family members spoke only very basic English, none of them had ever flew long-haul and this could be considered the furthest they ever went, my auntie broke her leg a month ago so she needed special assistance with wheelchair and assigned seat on board, and there was a 12-year-old little sister who had no clue on practically anything. But one thing for sure, traveling in group made us stronger and less worried. The family helped each other and tried their best to make this journey as rewarding as possible. We got in and off the plane together, pushed auntie’s wheelchair in turn or together, looked after our belongings while others prayed or went to toilet or bought foods.
Picture source: Author’s personal collection, hasatravel.com, and genesistravelnetwork.com