Well, planning the trip to New Zealand was definitely challenging and overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ll give you some tips that will make your research a lot easier.
Because we were going so far away and (only) had 3 weeks of vacation available, we didn’t want to miss something amazing. And spoiler alert 🙂 This was the best trip we took so far! These are definitely the main things you should take into consideration when planning your trip to New Zealand.
New Zealand is stretched out to 2 main islands, the North and the South Island. Depending on your interest and length, choose where to spend your time.
Based on our experience, 3 weeks is too little time to completely do both Islands, especially if you don’t want to spend all of your time driving, the distances can be quite big. If we had 2 weeks of travel time available, we would concentrate on just one of the Islands.
As we wanted to see more of the breathtaking nature views we spend 2 weeks on the South Island, from Christchurch to Queenstown and back (round trip) and a week on the North Island from Auckland to Tongariro National Park, Rotorua and back to Auckland. We flew from Auckland to Christchurch to save time that would otherwise be spent driving. Check out our full itinerary here!
2. When is the best time to go?
You’ll experience a variety of weather no matter in which season you go, I’ll guarantee it. Nevertheless, here’s what you can expect depending on which season you choose:
Summer is from December to February – the temperature is around 20 – 25˚C (68 – 77˚F), but be sure you have your tickets booked long ahead because it’s the busiest time of the year and some attractions get booked out way in advance.
Autumn is from March to May – less touristy, the average temperature is still pretty warm around 17 – 21˚C (62 – 70˚F).
Winter is from June to August – the temperature is around 7 – 12˚C (44 – 53˚F) which is not that cold, but take into consideration that the days are short and there is not that much sunlight.
Spring is from September to November – fewer tourists, you might get some fantastic weather, the average temperature is around 16 – 19˚C (61 – 66˚F).
We went in late October, beginning of November. We had some rainy days and a lot of sunshine with an average temperature from 16 – 19˚C (61 – 66˚F), the last couple of days it was 25˚C (77˚F). The days are long, the sun sets around 8:30 pm, which gives you a lot of daylight to do your exploring. But don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, umbrella and winter coat, because you can get all four seasons in an hour.
3. How to pick your points of interest
Planning the trip to New Zealand can really be overwhelming, so that’s why we prepared a list of 20 things you don’t want to miss.
There are so many things, activities, hikes, cities you would want to do, see, visit. So we suggest you divide activities into 2 groups, the ones that you “must do” and “would like to do”. Put everything on a map and the estimated time to do the activity. Connect your pins and take into consideration the driving time. It will give you an idea of how much time you need to do it all, some things you’ll add and some will get cut when finalizing your itinerary.
4. How to stay within your budget
Depending on your budget, there are always things you can do to save money. New Zealand can be quite expensive, but don’t worry, we have some tips on where you can make some budget cuts.
Accommodations can be cheaper if you stay in AirBNBs, hostels or even have your own tent. If you stay in AirBNBs, hostels or camp, you usually cook your own food. Dining out can get quite expensive, you’ll easily save some bucks here.
Buy your groceries in a store like PAK’NSAVE or Countdown, where you can get great deals and discounts.
If you’ll rent a car, the smaller the car the lower the fee and (usually) usage of gas. If you’ll spend more time in New Zealand you’ll maybe have more flexible time use national coaches to get from point a to b, as this is the cheapest way to get around.
Here are our expenses to get you an idea:
- Car rental – 23€/$26 this includes full insurance
- Gas – around 40€/$46 for a small Mazda Demio full tank of gas
- Accommodation (mostly Airbnb)– around 60€/$68 for 2 people (most of our accommodations had breakfast included)
- Food – 300€/$340 (for the whole trip) for 2 people, shopped in PAK’NSAVE˘(we ate out a couple of times, 30€/$34 per person)
- Activities – mostly we hiked which is free, but we splurged on some attractions like: Hobbiton 51€/$58, Waitomo Caves 32€/$36, Tamaki Maori Village 79€/$90, Wai-O-Tapu 20€/$23, Helicopter Tour 450€/$512, Milford Sound Tour 120€/$137, per person, …
- Other – sim cards and other travel things 15€/$17
We hope this gives you an idea what to expect in terms of expenses.
First things first, regardless of the season, bring layers of clothes, mostly for unexpected cold or rainy days.
Travel insurance as well car insurance, should anything go wrong on their trip.
If you plan on renting a car you need an International driving license.
They accept credit cards in most places, but still, we recommend to have some cash.
We hope we gave you some useful information. Now just book that flight, because New Zealand needs to be your next destination!
Though we spent only 3 weeks in New Zealand we managed to pick up some tips on how to save precious time and a few bucks here and there.
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