We would have a total of 18 days and 17 nights for our New Zealand Itinerary. This is not a long time to explore the country. Let me repeat: this is not a long time! Right away, we knew we would not see everything on our wish-list. However, the more we planned, the more we realized we had to make some serious cuts and prioritize even more than expected. The biggest change to our original itinerary? Cutting out ALL of the north island (aside from one night in Auckland before flying to Christchurch).
- TIP: If you are on a tight schedule I highly recommend flying New Zealand Airlines vs. Jet Star for domestic flights. Jet Star is notorious for delays and canceled flights.
Why did we pick the south island over the north? For us this was a total no-brainer- 80% of the places we wanted to visit were on the south island. It was not realistic to see both. Of course, there are spots on the north island I was bummed to miss, but I am SO HAPPY we made this decision. Ultimately, my advice is to make a list and decide what works best for you.
The next decision we had to make was whether we were going to stay in hotels/Airbnb’s and rent a car or rent a campervan/RV. In the end, we decided on hotels and rental car. I will write more about this later but in a nutshell, it was more affordable to rent a car and crash in hotels compared to the campervan we needed to fit our family (unfortunately, the three of us do not all fit in a full-size bed).
- TIP: If you are traveling in high season (December through February) book in advance! It’s not like traveling through the US where there will always be someplace to stay. New Zealand legitimately books up.
As I mentioned above, book in advance if you plan to travel during high season. We booked accommodation via various booking websites, but also stayed in several Airbnb’s and bookabach.co.nz (similar to Airbnb). Most accommodation, even some hotels, come with small kitchenettes and laundry. Price range varies, as expected, however, even in peak season we were able to find comfortable, clean, and conveniently located accommodation between $100-150 NZD/night.
Ok, so food. I’ll admit, food pricing and restaurants was interesting. That said, look to spend approximately
- $6-10 NZD for an inexpensive meal such as a sandwich, meaty pie, or McDonald’s.
- $5-6 NZD for a flat white coffee (they have coffee EVERYWHERE! I’m talking lattes and cappuccinos at the gas station).
- $25-35 NZD for a mid-range meal.
Interestingly, there was no real in-between price range for food. Or, if there was one, we never found it. This was a little frustrating as I didn’t want to eat any more meaty pies 3 days into the trip, but didn’t want to spend $25 NZD on lunch for a small green salad. Speaking of greens, they were hard to come by. I am used to eating a lot of vegetables every day so unless I was willing to fork over some serious cash, I was going to have to wait for my greens. Our solution? The Grocery store! Yes, you guys, I definitely recommend making your own food. It’s cheaper and you can eat leftovers for lunch the next day (which we often did, in the car).
- TIP: Buy a Tupperware container when you arrive (they’re in every grocery store). They’re a great place to store leftover food you may have prepared or any food you may have picked up in the morning to last you through the day.
- Also, FYI, tipping and tax are included.
Mentally prepare yourself for pretty crappy internet. We purchased a poc-wifi (it’s like a hotspot) to have in the car, but it only worked about 1/3 of the time. Many hotels have wifi, but I found that we had the fastest, most reliable internet at the Airbnb and Bookabach rentals we stayed in. Many restaurants and cafes will advertise that they have free wifi, but it often comes with a catch- it’s either really really slow or you only get the first 15 minutes free, after which you need to purchase more time.
- TIP: McDonald’s is a great place for internet when you’re in a jam.
- DO THIS > download Google maps to your phone before you arrive.
OUR NEW ZEALAND ITINERARY
day 1- AUCKLAND
day 2– CHRISTCHURCH TO GERALDINE
day 3 + 4– LAKE TEKAPO/TWIZEL/HOOKER VALLEY TREK/LAKE PUKAKI
day 5 + 6– CLAY CLIFFS/TE ANAU/MILFORD SOUND
day 7 + 8– TE ANAU GLOW CAVES/CROMWELL/GLENORCHY/PARADISE
day 9 – WANAKA TREE/HAAST/CRAY POT/WAIOTOTO RIVER SAFARI/BEACH/SANDFLIES
day 10– FOX GLACIER/FRANZ JOSEPH GLACIER/LAKE MATHESON
day 11 + 12– KAYAKING/FRANZ JOSEPH GLACIER/HOKITIKA GORGE/WOODS CREEK TRACK/PANCAKE ROCKS AND BLOWHOLES
day 13 + 14– JACKETT ISLAND/ABEL TASMAN/CYCLONE GITA
day 15 + 16– ST. ARNAUD/NELSON LAKES NATIONAL PARK
day 17 + 18– ARTHUR’S PASS NATIONAL PARK/ CASTLE HILL/CHRISTCHURCH/FLIGHT TO AUCKLAND