When traveling in New Zealand you’ll discover long sandy beaches, snow capped mountains, volcanos, and so much more! It doesn’t matter if it’s a week holiday, a romantic honeymoon, or a long backpacking tour, when you travel in New Zealand it doesn’t have to be difficult! After spending a ton of time exploring the country, we wanted to break down exactly how to plan a trip to New Zealand. This includes sample routes, general info, and answering the most important question… How much does a New Zealand vacation actually cost?
10 Tips for Traveling in New Zealand
1. Duration of Your Travel in New Zealand
Do you have time a for two week holiday? Is it a several month backpacking trip, or somewhere in between? The duration of your trip is going to decide where you’ll be able to go and see. Honestly, we had 9 months to travel in New Zealand and we still haven’t seen it all!
The first step to planning your New Zealand vacation is figuring out roughly the amount of days you’ll have. Be sure to account for travel days as New Zealand is very far from the USA and Europe. Also, a rest day is important to acclimate back to your time zone when returning home.
New Zealand Travel Tip: Once you know the amount of days try to be flexible until you book a flight. We’ll talk more about this part of planning a trip to New Zealand soon!
2. North, South Island, or Both?
While it is the same country, traveling in New Zealand on the North and South islands is extremely different! Depending on how much time you have for your trip to New Zealand you should consider visiting both.
Before you go any further into your research, take a moment to think about why you are going in the first place. Here’s some of what to expect on each island!
North Island: Beautiful sandy beaches, long coastal walks, the famous Tongariro Crossing, Mount Taranaki, thermal parks, and more.
South Island: Southern Alps Mountain Range, Queenstown, Abel Tasman National Park, Marlborough Wine Region, Mount Cook National Park, and Milford Sound.
Both Islands in One Trip: Know that you can easily fly between the islands when you travel to New Zealand! They are well connected by flights with a range of small and larger airports. Also, you have the option to take the Interislander Ferry which is a fun adventure in itself.
3. Time of Year for Your Travel in New Zealand
This is a huge one, but something you might not consider first. Are you planning a trip from North America? What about Europe or Asia? Well if you’re thinking of traveling in New Zealand during the warm summer holiday, think again! New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so the seasons are actually reversed.
This means if you decide to go during the summer from the USA it will be winter in New Zealand. Now don’t let that stop you if you don’t mind the cold, but it’s something major to be aware of. On the upside if you’re planning a winter escape during the cold months it will actually be summer in New Zealand!
Once you have an idea of your dates it’s also wise to do a quick search to see if there are any school vacations or holidays going on. If so, you may need to book a little further in advance.
For example, we were traveling in New Zealand day by day until it happened to be the Queens birthday weekend. Coming from the United States we didn’t know how big of a holiday it was, and were forced to change our plans since everything was sold out where we were.
New Zealand Seasons Guide
4. Trip to New Zealand Cost
So how much does travel in New Zealand actually cost? New Zealand gets a bad wrap for being crazy expensive. Still, we’re writing this having lived in the United States for much of our lives where everything seems pricey in comparison.
We’re not saying New Zealand is cheap by any means. Like any country though there is always deals to be had! After figuring out how long you plan to travel to New Zealand and the time of year you’ll have a rough idea of your overall budget.
Don’t have a set budget? Hopefully our guides below can help you understand how much your vacation will run you.
New Zealand Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
New Zealand Travel Cost Breakdown
Flights: New Zealand happens to be in a very remote part of the world. This means depending on where you’re traveling from it will likely be expensive. We talk more about this below, but just make sure you know this is probably your biggest expense!
Summer vs. Winter: You’ll need to consider the seasons again when calculating your trip cost. In winter, transportation, accommodations, and activities can often be 1/4th to a half of the summer prices.
What Type of Traveler Are You?
Backpacking in New Zealand
$40-60 Per Day – If you’re backpacking around New Zealand you’ll be staying in hostels, traveling by bus, or even buying a cheap campervan. Every day will be a budget with most of your meals cooked yourself or a cheap fish n’ chips. Drinking out will be happy hour, or grabbing some beers from the store with friends.
New Zealand Budget Holiday
$60-150 Per Day – Traveling with a partner, friend, or solo, a budget holiday gives you a little more financial freedom than backpacking. There may be some nights in plush hotels mixed with saving money, but also staying in an Airbnb or homestay’s. Hitting all the best spots in New Zealand on a budget holiday will include spending money on once and a life time experiences, but cutting back elsewhere.
Upscale New Zealand Vacation
$150-Unlimited – This is the type of budget that you’ll need to have the ultimate New Zealand vacation. It gets you full length tours, helicopter flights, and more. Not the type of traveler that likes to get down and rugged? You may want to do a shorter trip to NZ and spend a little more money on luxury.
5. New Zealand Travel Routes
Time to get into the good stuff! By now you know how many days you have to work with, roughly the time of year, what you want to see, and a basic budget. So where are you going to go?
Below we linked some of our favorite travel routes that you can use as inspiration for planning your travel in New Zealand. Make sure to account for the day you travel to New Zealand as well as your departure date into your plans.
- New Zealand North Island Itinerary: 4 Awesome One Week Routes
- South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 4 Amazing One Week Routes
6. Book Your Flights
Ready to commit to your New Zealand vacation? It’s time to book a flight and never look back! So many people dream about traveling in New Zealand and think “one day.” Well even if you’re booking your flight a year in advance, actually having it paid for will completely change your outlook.
Buying a flight to a new place that you’ve never been can be a nerve-racking and exciting experience. Something to always consider is your travel route, layovers, and overall cost. If you’re not a wiz at booking flights don’t worry! We wrote a whole article to help you find the best deal on your travel to New Zealand.
New Zealand Travel Tip: Once you have your international flight booked its easy to find cheap domestic flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150!
7. How to Travel in New Zealand
Public Transport: New Zealand offers a great network of buses that connect most of the major cities and small towns. Also, you can easily get a local bus pass to get around to some of the more populated areas. Buses are generally inexpensive especially if you book in advance.
Hop on Hop Off Bus: Some companies offer set routes around the country with a hop on hop off bus system. These are typically geared towards younger solo travelers who are looking to meet others.
Rental Car: Renting a car is one of the most popular ways to travel in New Zealand. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around. Staying in a mix of hotels, Airbnb’s, or even campgrounds will help cater to the type of New Zealand vacation you’re looking for. Make sure to check out these easy tips if you’re renting a car from Queenstown!
Camper/Self-Contained Van: If you want complete freedom this option is for you! Traveling in New Zealand has been set up perfectly for those looking to explore in style. You can rent from one of the many different companies, or consider buying a self-contained van for 2-3 months or longer.
Jucy Van: The best way to see New Zealand is with a Jucy campervan! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in one and loved every moment.
There are a range of accommodations for traveling in New Zealand depending on your budget. We’re happy to say we’ve stay in all of them during our time here! Below we breakdown each category to give you an idea of your options.
New Zealand Hostels
$15+ Per Bed: The backpacking scene is huge in New Zealand, and with that comes plenty of amazing hostels. This is a great place to meet people if you’re a solo traveler and plan hiking treks or more adventures from. The prices aren’t cheap compared to Asia or Europe, but most hostels were very nice from our experience.
New Zealand Airbnb’s
$50-200: Aside from our campervan, Airbnb has been our main choice of accommodation for travel in New Zealand. We’ve been able to find a great range of options, from private rooms in someones house to entire condos on the beach. This is also the best choice if you’re looking for a long term stay.
Hotels in New Zealand
$150 or more: The New Zealand hotels are found in the bigger cities, and are often the most expensive option of all. We have only stayed in hotels on quick visits to Auckland or Wellington, but have always had good experiences. They can be a nice break if you’ve been sticking to a budget on the rest of your travel to New Zealand.
Freedom Camping & More
The abundance of free camping sites is something that makes New Zealand such an awesome place to travel in. While they’re not all freedom camping spots, it’s easy to utilize the Campermate App to find the free or low cost options. Some have immaculate views of the mountains and beach, while others are simply fields to park your van in.
9. New Zealand Activities
Are there any must do adventures that you’ve always dreamed about? Sailing though the Bay of Islands, hopping on a Milford Sound Nature Cruise, or how about ziplining in Queenstown? These are things that likely drove you to plan a trip to New Zealand in the first place!
Just make sure you really plan ahead for those special activities you want to do. Specifically in the summer months, a lot of the best things can be sold out quickly. Below were some of our absolute favorite experiences we had while traveling in New Zealand.
- Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ
- Fiordland National Park Doubtful Sound Cruise
- Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise
- Bay of Islands Small Group Cruise & Island Tour
10. Pack Your Bags and Go!
With just 10 easy tips you’ve learned how to plan a trip to New Zealand. Woohoo! Now all you have left is to pack your bags and count down the days until your flight.
Just remember that what you actually pack can be just as important as planning your dates. By now you should have a good idea of your New Zealand vacation costs and what style of trip you’re in for.
A short holiday traveling by rental car may call for a full suitcase. Yet, if you’re going on a hop on hop off bus or sleeping in hostels, you may want to opt for a travel backpack.
Only you truly know what you’ll need for this adventure of a lifetime. Personally, we always say to under-pack. That way when you get to New Zealand and need an extra layer or sundress you can buy it along the way!
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for a New Zealand vacation? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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