Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips from the Trip

We certainly have learned a few things along the way.  Here’s what we think would be good to look into and know if you want to do this too.

Campervans/Holiday Parks:

Check on picking up the campervan in Christchurch and dropping it off in Auckland.  Most people do the opposite, so the rental companies are desperate to get the vans up to Auckland.  One kiwi told us they were able to get one for $1/day and the company paid for the ferry crossing.

Know the size of the “bed” that’s in the campervan.  We were 1 foot longer than the bed and had to come up with some kiwi ingenuity to lengthen the bed.  It took us about 5 nights to get it just right, but in the end we had a bed that did not change = sleeping better.

Consider your use of Holiday Parks when considering what amenities you “need” in the campervan.  We chose to get a toilet and shower in our van, but never used it because of the holiday parks.  The parks we went to came with complete kitchens and laundry facilities.  Nearly every park had picnic tables between the campsites, so you may want to think before you rent those table and chairs, especially if the van has an interior set of table and chairs.

With the group traveling at the same time we were – showers were easily available at 7 am.  At 8 am, we could wait in line.

Wifi is variable from site to site.  You are going to pay for it wherever you go.  If all you want to do is check e-mail that can easily be done without having a computer.  There are internet cafes in the holiday parks and in any medium sized town.

We had to clean the campervan to turn it in.  You may want to give yourself a whole day to just deal with cleaning, turning in, getting to the airport. 


Credit and debit cards are accepted nearly everywhere.  American Express was good just as often as it is at home – just make sure you do have a Mastercard or Visa.

If it is a credit card, they will want to see the signature on the back of the card and will likely watch as you sign it.  So just keep the card out after you swipe it.

Tipping is not expected in New Zealand.  If you use a credit card for purchasing a meal, there will be nothing on the slip for adding a tip – if you so desire.  You may want to have cash handy for that.

Keep coinage – particularly $2 coins – you’ll need them for laundry and the internet.  There was even one place that had “chill lockers” for $1/day instead of a big fridge.


Many, many of the places you will want to call use toll free numbers (free phone).  If you do not have a international cellphone, you can readily call free phone numbers from anywhere.  You can also get a prepaid phone card from Telecom.  There are phone booths all over the place also – especially at holiday parks.  Note – holiday parks will make your reservations for the next holiday park in the same franchise. That eliminated most of the phone  calls we would have made.


USE THEM.  They are everywhere.  They are helpful.  They are friendly.  They are patient.  They will help you navigate all the options to make your decision.  They will make the reservations for you = eliminate more phone calls.

If you book more than one tour with the same company, you may get a 10% discount.  We found this through an I-Site. 

Global Positioning System/Maps:

Highly recommend it.  Get it updated for New Zealand.  It’s particularly handy if you are looking for gas stations or grocery stores that are not on maps.  I wouldn’t recommend always following it blindly.  If it’s taking you off the main state highway, consider why and if that’s really what you want to do.  You could end up on a gravel road that will add hours to your drive. 

I would supplement with the free maps one can get – unless you just feel the need to pay money for a highly detailed map.  We recommend getting the Kiwi Holiday Park locations map.  This is a good topographical map and it gives the travel times between various places in a graphical form – which is easier to read.  All others give the travel times in tabular form – which is wonderful to have also. 


A “Dairy” is a convenience store that sells ice cream.

A “Bakery” often is also a convenience store that does sell fresh bread and sweets.  Often you can find premade sandwiches.

A “Tearoom” is a “fast food” place that sells sandwiches, quiche, pot pies, etc. and of course tea, coffee, etc.  This is a great place for a light meal.

A “Cafe” is likely casual dining.

Eggs are not refrigerated.  Just get yourself mentally prepared for this.

Capsicum is a pepper, Kumara is a sweet potato, Chips can be french fries or bagged potato chips.

There are such things as butchers in the larger towns, but we found that the grocers has a good selection of meat and produce.  We still preferred to buy from a roadside stand or a farmer, but often the quantity was larger than the campervan fridge would hold – or more than we could eat before it would spoil.


The weather can be quite variable.  We had a wonderful go with all the weather, but we did occasionally get a taste of what it could be like.  You didn’t come all this way to be stuck inside the campervan, did you?  So be prepared for anything – take what will make you comfortable to get out there!

Consider outerwear – it’s going to rain sometime in the trip and you will be so much happier if you can stay complete dry.

A good pair of walking/hiking/tramping shoes, preferable waterproof – for the rain or the occasional stream you will need to cross.

Sunscreen, sunblock and a hat!!!!!  The ozone layer is much thinner down here.  Each time I checked the UV index was 9!  I honestly believe that sunblock only lasted half the time that it would at home.

Windproof jacket or vest – it’s going to be windy somewhere also – even if it’s just on a boat.  You want to be comfortable!


In general, activities and shopping are open 9 to 5pm.  Some will open later and close earlier.  About 10% of what we wanted to do would be open after 5 pm.  So we would often rearrange to “do more”.  Nearly all shops will be closed Christmas and many will be closed Boxing Day.  Then some areas will close for a loner period.

Still, there is always a grocery store open until 7 or 8 pm.

Prices include tax or GST.


You may or may not be one that likes to journal, but let me tell you in the case of this type of trip.  It’s hard to absorb everything. We often on one day couldn’t tell someone what we did two days earlier.  I am thankful for the blog for that.  It served as a reminder and all sorts of memories would come back. 

Thanks again for your following us!  Let us know if you ever decide to do something like this.  We’d love to hear about your trip!


Life Looms Large said...

You were so good about blogging along the way!! When we took our Colorado trip I felt like I needed a blog break, but now I wish I'd done it like you did. It's really nice to have the record of such a cool trip!

Welcome home!

Jennifer said...

Thnkas Sue - I understand the needc for a blog break. And in a way I think I did. I changed what I was doing. I often am looking for subjects when I blog - so what is going on - in NZD that was not an issue - the issue there was how to limit the number of things I could talk about! It was refreshing to have it come so easily. THe other part was we were processing the photos everyday anyway - so to blog was just a way of summarizing for ourselves of what each day meant! Ia lso knew I would never do it once I got home. I still have unorganized photos from out trip to Utah in 1998!
Thanks for all your encouragement and let us know if you decide to go next year!