"I cried when I found out I can actually go home," said Tracey Malee, a New Zealand mother-of-two who has been living in Bohola, Co Mayo since 2008.

Her joy follows confirmation today that vaccinated New Zealanders living in Europe can travel back to their home country from 13 February.

"Although I'm not happy that I can’t go for Christmas, I’m so relieved I will get to go home soon," she added.

Tracey’s three-month old daughter Ruby Mae has yet to meet her grandparents and she is delighted that this now could happen, as soon as February.

"I just want to go home," said the New Zealander, whose parents are now in their mid-70s.

Tracey has other family and friends back home that she can’t wait to see, too. As well as introducing her baby daughter, they will all be reunited with her eldest daughter, three-and-a-half year old Summer.

Such was her excitement that she rang the travel agent at 9am this morning as soon as she realised the announcement had been made.

"I have flights on hold basically," said Tracey, whose husband is Irish.

What if something happens to my parents and they don't get to meet my daughter? I just found it very difficult to accept.

Pre-pandemic, she travelled home every Christmas for at least two weeks and hoped to return next month before it became apparent that the New Zealand borders would remain closed.

"It’s been really difficult to deal with," she said. "Really upsetting. I just haven’t been able to accept that our country effectively is denying us a right to enter it, which is the case."

The decision by the New Zealand government to effectively shut its borders on 14 March 2020, when the pandemic hit around the world, led to what Tracey describes as a situation of "people overseas versus people in New Zealand".

Like many of her countryfolk who were anxious to travel, she tried multiple times to get into a so-called "managed isolation slot" or MIQ any time they were released.

Imagine if Irish people couldn't enter Ireland, the uproar that there would be, I mean it just wouldn't happen

Other New Zealanders based in Ireland contacted RTÉ to say they had also been unable to book a quarantine slot, even when their travel was critical such as due to the terminal illness of a relative.

"There were something like 20,000 people in the queue each time, so to me that’s not affording a citizen entry into the country and I just don’t think it's acceptable," said Tracey.

"What if something happens to my parents and they don't get to meet my daughter? I just found it very difficult to accept.

"Imagine if Irish people couldn't enter Ireland, the uproar that there would be, I mean it just wouldn't happen," she added. "So why has it happened for so long to us Kiwis overseas?"

Olivia Stewart, 26, moved from New Zealand to Ireland to be with her boyfriend Ciaran in December 2019, little knowing that she would spend much of her time here in lockdowns.

She struggled to find work and meet new friends, but was unable to return home.

"I moved here just before Christmas in 2019. My partner is Irish and we were living in New Zealand together for about five years when it kind of got to a point we were looking for a fresh start."

When Covid hit, she said it was very difficult to find work in Dublin as businesses tried to cut costs.

"I’ve kind of been in and out of a lot of jobs. It's been tough," said Olivia.

New Zealander Olivia Stewart and her Irish boyfriend Ciaran

Having previously worked at an opticians back in Auckland, she used her time out of the workplace to embark on a complete career change.

Olivia is now studying early childhood here and hopes to become a pre-school teacher when she completes her studies.

Having expected to see her parents just six months after moving here in July 2020, she also now really hopes to see them again in the New Year, but has yet to book a flight.

"I’m delighted to hear the news. I still had a bit of doubt in the back of my mind. With Covid nothing is ever solid," she said.

Her friends are getting married in New Zealand in April and she would love to travel home for that.

Although under the new lifting of restrictions, it could be 30 April next year before fully vaccinated international travellers - like her partner Ciaran - will be allowed to enter the country.

The thought of going back down there and being in a lockdown situation would not be pleasant.

"My partner and I are part of the bridal party and it would be so nice to travel back and see family and friends. My grandfather turned 96 last week, so the minute I can go back, I really will," added Olivia.

Another issue for would-be travellers is that flights look set to remain prohibitively expensive in most cases:

"I’m sure the cost will probably be extortionate," said Olivia. "The good thing, though, is not having to pay for hotel quarantine.

"It was about €5,000 per person, if I remember correctly. It is a huge reason why we haven't gone to visit."

Travellers will have to self-isolate for seven days on arrival to New Zealand.

Michael Houghton moved to Limerick from Auckland in 2011. He has three children who have only visited New Zealand a few times, with the last big family trip in 2017.

He welcomes having the option to travel home again and hopes to do so in the next 12 months but added that travelling with children whilst Covid-19 is still around would not be ideal.

Michael Houghton and his family in Limerick

"The thought of going back down there and being in a lockdown situation would not be pleasant."

He said that from talking to family and friends, New Zealand is in some ways where Ireland was 12 months ago in the pandemic and will face a lot of challenges as it finally opens up.

"Wearing masks for us was quite difficult at the start and felt weird but now if we went into a shop without a mask, most of would feel naked almost."

Olivia agreed, saying many Kiwis have experienced the pandemic differently.

"Obviously during the thick of it, when we were locked down, New Zealanders were galivanting around and going to concerts and restaurants.

"I was a little bit frustrated because my family and friends didn’t really understand the bigger picture here."

Travellers from neighbouring Australia will begin arriving in New Zealand as soon as 16 January under the phased reopening approach.

But it will be five more months before the country with some of the strictest border controls during the pandemic finally begins to reopen to the world.