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Useful advice for campervan holiday in New Zealand

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Useful advice for campervan holiday in New Zealand

1. Posted by idruth (First Time Poster 1 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Just back from three marvellous weeks travelling NZ in a campervan with my wife, son 18 and daughter 21. When I was planning the trip I would have welcomed some of the tips that I can now provide! Here they are!

  • Campervanning is a great way to see NZ (I have travelled there all sorts of ways - and it provides great freedom)
  • Many companies say rent the biggest van you can afford. Maybe if it is really wet it is nice to have some space, but otherwise I would say the opposite! Rent the smallest you can get away with. This is because small vans are less awkward in little NZ towns, when doing multiple U-turns everywhere, and they use less of the super expensive NZ petrol!
  • We hired a 4 berth Jucy Condo. Loved it. My son slept in a swag on the ground, and my daughter was in the top bunk.
  • Rent a van with a toilet. This is so that you can 'Freedom Camp'. Which means stay in spectacular free sites all over NZ. The government is really cracking down on people camping anywhere (it is a major issue for the country now, and people often get fined). The Jucy COndo has a toilet (but we never used it) - it is a ticket to many better and cheaper spots.
  • We relied heavily on our Ipad for navigation and local info. You must get a car charger for your stuff because many cheaper vans only have more than 12V power when they are plugged in (i.e. no inverter on the battery). This means that when you freedom camp you are constantly worrying about running out of power.
  • The most important thing to load onto your ipad is the App Camping NZ' from This is invaluable! It tells you where almost all of the camping areas are (free up to deluxe), their prices, and abundant reviews! Also, the maps all fully load onto the ipad so this also gives you navigation when you (frequently) have no signal. Costs about A$16 but worth it many times over! Camping at campgrounds in NZ can be really expensive with 4 people (usually around $40 for van and 2 people, then $20 for each extra adult! Try to stay at DOC (Dept of Conservation) campgrounds - cheap and great - usually $6 per person.
  • On the topic of ipads .... I bought international roaming time in Australia, arrived in NZ and burnt over $100 worth in about an hour! Criminals! Here is what to do! Buy a mini sim card for NZ Telecom (about $2), then load $20 or so dollars on it, then go into the Telecom site and buy a plan (we got 500MB for $20). This last bit is the trick that they don't tell you! If you don't get the plan they charge you at the top rate of up to $2 per minute!!! You can also get free Wi-Fi at any Telecom phone box!
  • Check that there are at least 2 batteries - one for car and one to keep the fridge going in your freedom camps! Some vans run out of juice very fast. The Jucy would give us more than a day of charge without driving again.
  • Take a thermos for hot water so that you can have a cuppa without the rigmarole of turning on the gas!
  • Space is extremely tight in small vans. Make sure that you take soft bags that you can stuff into spots - otherwise you will always be moving hard bags around. Also take a back pack or two for the longer walks.
  • Take extra blankets or sleeping bags (small ones). Even in summer the doona provided was not warm enough in the mountains.
  • Miraculously it did not rain in our three weeks (or climate change???) but it usually does in NZ. So have plenty of games to play! Books, wet weather gear. For listening to music there was no docking station to our ipods, so make sure that you take a cable with a headphone jack at each end!
  • Take a clothes line! This is essential! Washing detergent is also good to take. We were always washing stuff as we went.
  • In terms of where to go, that is the subject for another missive, but the main advice always in NZ is to spend a minimum amount of time in towns or cities!
  • Take your time - the vans are slow (so always pull over to let faster cars past). Coming from Australia, we found that NZ kilometres are twice as long as our ones! They are slow and winding.
  • get to your camp spots a bit early (say 4 to 5) to make sure that you get a prime spot.
  • Do a big food shop at the start and try to be as self-sufficient as you can! We stuffed the van with cans and pasta, which we supplemented with mussels and cockles collected from the beaches.
  • Don't hire camp chairs from the van company - we brought 2 with us, and bought 2 more from Bunnings for $7 each.
  • Take some mosquito netting! I have experienced the NZ sand flies before, so I was ready! The van gets stuffy, but if you leave it open in many places you will be eaten alive (sand flies can literally wreck your holiday). So we covered the windows with netting and were fine!
  • Finally, make sure that you van with people you get along with! We suffered some family van fever a few times, but we all got along.