The windows of your car are rolled down, the tunes are pumping and you’re traveling at your own pace. There’s nothing quite like a good road trip and New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world to do it. Kiwis themselves know this. If you talk to any of them, they’ll recount childhood memories of their families packing up and hitting the road for weeks at a time.
Aside from the obvious benefits of having full control of your itinerary, New Zealand seems to have been designed for road trips with stunning landscapes at every twist and turn, well maintained and signed roadways, and a wide range of accommodation styles, from free Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites to high end hotels, to fit anyone’s budget. Through our research, Tristan and I found that it would be most cost-effective to rent a campervan and travel around the country ourselves. We prefer to do things on our own and love an epic road trip, so we were extremely excited about this adventure.
In total we spent 15 days touring the South Island starting in Christchurch and essentially traveling clockwise around the island stopping at Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Hokitika, and Hanmer Springs. I’ve already written in-depth posts about our time in New Zealand, so be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our 2-week road trip itinerary of the South Island to see where we went and what route we took.
Before I get to the numbers, I need to point out what is not included in these calculations.
- Flights to and from Christchurch (since this was part of a larger trip)
- Travel Insurance (we had it but I haven’t included it here)
I also need to point out that we traveled through New Zealand in April. Why is this important? April is considered off-peak travel through the country since the southern hemisphere is heading into late fall by this time. Campervans are simply cheaper to rent this time of year. If you’re traveling in December or January (especially around the school holidays) expect to pay a considerable amount more for the same rental.
To break down our costs, I’ve split our spending into these categories:
- Campervan: the cost of our campervan for 14 nights
- Accommodations: Department of Conservation (DOC) sites and private campsites where we parked overnight
- Gas: all our fuel purchases
- Parking: costs associated with parking during the day and not overnight at a campsite
- Food: everything we ate and drank
- Sites: entrance fees for day activities including a cruise in Milford Sound, jet boating in Queenstown, and the Hanmer Springs Pools
- Laundry: laundry was available at the private campsites
- Miscellaneous: odds and sods from toiletries to postage, warmer clothing to photocopies
Costs are based on two (2) people and are shown in Canadian Dollars, converted at the time of travel, roughly 1.00 NZD = 0.80 CDN.
- Campervan: $760.12
- Accommodations: $136.08
- Parking: $5.51
- Gas: $576.62
- Food: $307.76
- Sites: $319.95
- Laundry: $17.01 (we had it done twice)
- Misc: $103.02
- Total: $2,226.07
So in total we spent $2,226.07 for 15 days, averaging $148.40/day.
I’ve received a number of emails wondering how we got such a great deal on our campervan. Aside from traveling in the country during the low-season, there’s a long story behind this that I won’t go into too much detail. But it involved originally booking a 4-berth Britz like the one we had in Australia, arriving to pick it up only to find out with insurance charges and exchange rates it would be double what we originally thought. So we cancelled that booking, lost $107.42 of our deposit and set out to find another rental the day of. Luckily we had a friend living in Christchurch, so her and her father helped us locate another rental within hours. It was a considerable step down in comfort (essentially a wagon style van where the seats in the back converted into our bed at night) with a tiny kitchenette area to cook food, but it fit within our budget and allowed us to travel from point A to point B.
Big Ticket Item: While New Zealand is a great place to experience nature without spending much money, there were a few activities we wanted to do that required us to dip into our wallets. The most expensive activity was jet boating in Queenstown. The city is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise, with extreme sports such as bungee jumping, skydiving, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking to choose from. In all honesty, we were really let down by our experience jet boating. It wasn’t as thrilling as we thought it would be and lasted all of 20 minutes. As we walked away having spent $119NZD each, we couldn’t help but say “did we really just blow all that cash on that?”
New Zealand was nothing shy of an incredible experience and we were sad to leave after 15 days in the country. The stunning landscapes had us in awe daily, the people were very friendly, and it was a breeze driving ourselves around the South Island. Having our own campervan allowed us the freedom to transport ourselves wherever we wanted to go and provided us a place to sleep at night. We saved a considerable amount of money and would highly recommend exploring New Zealand this way. Oh, and there really are 3 to 4 times as many sheep as there are people in the country!