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The Complete Wimp’s Guide to Queenstown

I realize this is a rather grand statement but…Queenstown, New Zealand, just might be the world’s most perfect vacation destination. Though it hangs its tourism hat on its reputation as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown has a surplus of diverse attractions for every type of traveler—including those of us who would sooner give up an entire year’s worth of vacation days than jump off a bridge with only rubber bands to break our free fall.

Sure, bungy jumping is a huge draw for some. Skiing, too, and paragliding, skydiving, and white water rafting. But for everyone else—foodies and shoppers, wine connoisseurs and birders, historians and culture hounds—Queenstown boasts an equal embarrassment of riches.

New Zealand’s South Island: 9 Days, 6 National Parks

After two visits to New Zealand, I am very familiar with travelers’ number-one question: just how long does it take to get there? The answer: about 18 hours’ flight time from the U.S. East Coast, or three in-air viewings of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But here’s why Down Under is worth the long haul: once you land in New Zealand—no matter where you touch down—some of the world’s most varied and striking landscapes are a stone’s throw away. In fact, you can visit half a dozen pristine national parks in the time it took you to fly from New York to New Zealand; big on beauty and small on space, New Zealand’s geography favors travelers tight on time. Plus, all Kiwi national parks welcome visitors with free entry and hospitable overnight huts.

Would You Pay Extra to Lie Flat in Economy?

It’s the long-distance traveler’s dream: you have a row of four seats to yourself and you can stretch out across them for the entire 14-hour journey. “Why do people bother paying the extra for business class?” you think. “This is wonderful!”

Ah, but not so fast: when was the last time you saw one empty seat on the plane, let alone a whole row? Recent capacity cuts have meant frequently crowded planes, and if you want to stretch out and lie flat in coach these days, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Enter Air New Zealand, and its pioneering Skycouch. A row of three seats in economy that folds back into an almost-flat bed, it sounds almost too good to be true, right?

Air New Zealand Takes (It All) Off

Forget stripped-down service from the airlines; how about a stripped-down staff instead?

Air New Zealand recruited actual employees to bare all for a new ad campaign promoting the airline as the carrier “whose fares have nothing to hide.” Wearing only body paint, the staff filmed both a TV commercial and an in-flight safety video (and you thought Delta’s safety video was hot!). Take a look.

Air New Zealand’s Matchmaking Flight: Hook up with the Cutie in 14B

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…at 40,000 feet?! If your mom has set you up with every available soul within a 50-mile radius, you’ve tried more times than you care to admit, and you’re still looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, you might try heading down under.

Air New Zealand is introducing the world’s first Matchmaking Flight. Adventurers looking for amour can book this flight from Los Angeles to Auckland on October 13, 2009 and see if sparks fly in the air. And you’re going to love the price. Round-trip flights are starting at just $780*. The airline will also treat you to a pre-flight gate party, themed food, drink, and games to encourage mingling on the flight, and a singles-only bash at the SKYCITY Convention Centre in Auckland.