Practical tips for planning your New Zealand vacation

When’s the best time to go and have your New Zealand vacation?

Don’t be tempted to think that you should only enjoy New Zealand vacation in summer.  Sure, it’s a great time to go: the sunshine tempts everyone to its fabulous beaches and the higher trails open up for trampers without the risk of inclement weather ruining the view.  But New Zealand vacation in winter can be just as rewarding.  The country’s popular visitor attractions have fewer crowds – you’ll get a seat to watch Pohutu geyser blow for instance – and with snow on the ground the Southern Alps become a ski and snowboarding playground.  New Zealand’s not as cold as you’d expect in the winter months, so pack accordingly and you’ll still have an enjoyable holiday.

View from the TranzAlpine train in winter. New Zealand vacation
View from the TranzAlpine train in winter

How long should you stay?

Many people write off New Zealand as they believe that they’ve got to have the luxury of months of gap year travel to do it justice.  While it’s true that there’s enough packed in to this diminutive island nation to keep your itinerary full for months, it is also possible to see most of New Zealand’s highlights in just a couple of weeks.  For example, you could spend a few days in Auckland and Wellington, stopping off on the way to see the geothermal scenery around Rotorua and Taupo.  Then, hop over to Christchurch and connect to the west coast glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef via the spectacular TranzAlpine train before heading south to Queenstown and Milford Sound.  Add a few more days and take in some of New Zealand’s other fantastic sights, such as the Coromandel, the Moeraki boulders or charming towns like Art Deco Napier or southerly Dunedin.

Rotorua: a treat at any time of year but especially when there are fewer crowds. New Zealand vacation
Rotorua: a treat at any time of year but especially when there are fewer crowds

What’s the best way to get around?

Car hire is relatively cheap and very easy to arrange.  Europeans will find the empty roads a treat and driving a pleasure.  If you’re not so keen, particularly if you plan to visit South Island in winter and don’t like the idea of driving on icy roads, then take advantage of New Zealand’s many comfortable long-distance buses.  The network is extensive and the drivers love to provide a bit of commentary about the views along the way; they’ll even stop for photos if you ask.  Bus passes can be purchased for multiple trips offering savings compared to the cost of routes purchased individually.  Best of all, there are special offers to be had for those who plan in advance.  Sign up for email alerts from companies such as Naked Bus, Awesome NZ and InterCity to get wind of their best deals so you can grab them before they sell out.

New Zealand's buses are cheap and convenient. New Zealand vacation
New Zealand’s buses are cheap and convenient

What about accommodation?

There’s no shortage of accommodation at all price points, but if you’re travelling on a budget then using hostels will make your money go a long way.  Many are centrally located; the YHA in Franz Josef is just a short walk from the town’s hot springs and eateries.  Some offer a service that goes above and beyond what you’d expect: free international phone calls and the loan of hair straighteners plus a $9 Sunday roast at the Adventure Queenstown Hostel.  Hiring a camper van is the quintessential Kiwi experience and it’s easy to arrange.  Some areas of the country permit wild camping, so it’s easy to park up at a secluded spot and have some of the world’s most incredible scenery to yourself – just be sure to take all your waste away with you afterwards.

The view from the AQ Hostel terrace over Queenstown. New Zealand vacation
The view from the AQ Hostel terrace over Queenstown

So what are you waiting for?  Start planning your New Zealand vacation right now – you won’t regret it.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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