Planning a trip to New Zealand for the first time proved rather challenging for us. Not because there was something wrong with the destination we picked, but because this was our first long haul trip together. We weren't experienced travellers back then and only flew across Europe. When planning a trip to New Zealand, you have to prepare for the inevitable 25+ hour flight. I'm not going to lie, it's not going to be easy, especially if you haven't travelled long distances by plane. However, once you do it once, it will get easy.
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Planning a trip to New Zealand
For a long time, we wanted to visit the other side of the world and embark on a long haul holiday. Although there are so many options out there, we wanted the perfect destination which will be diverse enough to offer us postcard-like views, tropical trails, mountains and lakes as well as unspoilt beaches and shy, unconventional creatures.
Naturally, we picked New Zealand and created an epic itinerary around the South Island.
Positioned on the other side of the world, potentially one of the scenically most diverse places in the world, New Zealand was about to become our land of epic hikes and ultimate adventures. We decided to rent a car and drive around the South Island for over two weeks, during which we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to be mesmerised, explore and discover the unexpected.
Our adventure started after a ridiculously long flight (28+ hours) with Etihad (which we had a bad experience with). We left London very early in the morning, flew to Abu Dhabi, then Perth, Australia, and finally landed in New Zealand at 7 am local time. By then, we were incredibly tired but really excited to finally be on the other side of the world!
We rented a Toyota, and for the next two weeks, we explored the beautiful New Zealand South Island. If you intend to add the North Island to your list, make sure to check all the Lord of the Rings locations as well.
Over Two weeks in New Zealand
Day 1 - Christchurch, New Zealand
Day 2 - Picton, New Zealand
Day 3 - Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand
Day 4 - Takaka, New Zealand
Day 5 & Day 6 - Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand
Day 7 - Nelson, New Zealand
Day 8 - Hokitika, New Zealand
Day 9 - The Crown Range, New Zealand
Day 10 & Day 11 - Queenstown, New Zealand
Day 12 - Milford Sound, New Zealand
Day 13 - Te Anau, New Zealand
Day 14, Day 15 & Day 16 - Aoraki, New Zealand
Day 17 - Christchurch, New Zealand
Day 18 - Departure back to London
Planning a trip to New Zealand - The absolute essentials
I compiled a useful list of things I consider necessary when going to New Zealand. I wish I would have one of these handy when I was planning my trip. I'm sure my list is not exhaustive, but it most certainly contains the stuff which should not be left out. Reading travel guides on New Zealand helped us a lot.
A rental to explore New Zealand
If you make it to the other side of the world, get a rental. You will regret not being able to see so many beautiful places which are only accessible by car. As mentioned previously, we got a nice little Toyota Yaris from GoRentals. We took the comprehensive insurance just in case and had two drivers, G and I.
A sat-nav so you can ditch New Zealand road maps
It is very easy to navigate using New Zealand’s road signs, but to be on the safe side, we would recommend you getting a sat nav. If you don't already have one, you can pay a bit extra when renting a car to have one included in your fees. Although we had plenty of road maps with us, we found it much easier to buy the New Zealand map for our Tom Tom and drive away.
Silly Tip: if you are feeling adventurous, why not set your sat-nav’s voice to a New Zealander? This way you will feel like you have your personal kiwi guiding you around.
No matter where you are, these little obnoxious creatures will annoy you to hell. Buy some sandfly spray/lotion, we promise you won’t regret it! I recommend you buying this from New Zealand as I found that to be most efficient lotion. I guess these people had to deal with sandflies for so long, they found the best ways to keep these creatures at bay.
A hat or a cap
If you are visiting during the summer months, the sun can get so strong you may become sun stroke vulnerable. A hat is imperative if you plan hiking.
The weather in New Zealand is very unpredictable and sometimes what starts as a beautiful day, ends up in a miserable English like evening with cold and torrential showers. Waterproof jacket, shoes and socks are a must.
Seriously, there’s no holiday without your best shades.
If you want to properly explore New Zealand, then forget about uncomfortable sandals and fashionable shoes. Bring the best walking shoes you can afford which are good enough for all weather conditions (waterproof and allow your feet to breathe).
Buy these before you get to the airport as you will find them so much cheaper on amazon.
Travel Money Card
Make sure you get a card from a good bank which doesn't charge you for payments in different currencies. Ideally your card will also allow you to take money out free of charge. For those who live in Europe, you might want to check out N26 (Europe) or Monzo (UK only). For US folk, I know there are some great American Express and Mastercard credit cards which come with travelling perks. You can read more about the cost of travelling to New Zealand.
We discovered a week in advance that we actually need a Transit Visa for Australia. What a bummer that was…in order to avoid any sort of stressful situations, check NOW if you need any sort of visa for your transit countries or New Zealand for that matter. Click here for more info.
You surely don’t want to miss on the opportunity to snap all those amazing places you are about to see. Make new memories and take beautiful photos, you will have plenty of opportunities. I recommend you get a good 64GB memory card. Also, invest either in a waterproof rucksack or camera pouch. We got caught in a really nasty rain which almost ruined our camera.
Once we got off the plane and recovered our luggage, we made our a way to a Vodafone shop, located right in the Christchurch airport. We got a couple of pre-paid sim cards with international minutes and lots of internet. We found this incredibly useful, especially when we needed to check out a near by restaurant, some tripadvisor reviews or points of attractions.
There are plenty of options to suit every budget.
Planning a trip to New Zealand summary
These are the absolute essentials you need when planning a trip to New Zealand. In my opinion, I couldn't have done it without a rental and my camera. Apart from that, you will still find everything you need in local shops and supermarkets. Are you ready for a trip of a lifetime? Here are 10 reasons to visit New Zealand. Tell me about your New Zealand travel plans in the comment section below.