We're planning a trip next Feb. to NZ and would like to have folks' input as to whether it's better to just grin and bear it and fly the whole route at once, from Los Angeles to Auckland. OR...should we consider doing a stopover in Tahiti? other?
I'd say go all the way - LAX to AKL non-stop is a 12 hour flight; should not be that bad. Reaching sooner rather than after a stop-over - you give yourself more time to enjoy the scenic NZ.
I've flown 14 hour flights - and its not as bad as it sounds, as long as you get up and moving every couple of hours in the plane to avoid cramps etc.
One of the amazing things about flying from the west coast of the states to NZ is that, given it's an overnight flight and you lose a day in transit, you effectively get on the plane around 9 or 10 pm, and arrive in NZ around 5:30 or 6 am. So if you can manage to get a few hours of sleep, you have virtually NO jetlag...I was stunned by this myself both times I've been to OZ and NZ...so I'd say just take the flight and if you can bear it...stay up as much of the day as you can and then get a good night's sleep and you'll be rarin' to go!
Enjoy...it's an awesome place. Get plenty of sunshine the first day if it's a nice day, helps to regulate your body clock too, fyi....