- part 1 – research & planning
- part 2 – trip report: getting in via Osaka, Wanaka, & Mt. Aspiring National Park
- part 3 – trip report: Whakaari, Routeburn, Milford Sound, & Te Anau
- part 4 – trip report: North Island, Turangi, & Tongariro Crossing
- part 5 – trip report: Maui with the parents & brother
- part 6 – final impressions & wrap up
The sheer amount of planning I did for this trip was a bit overwhelming (as was this trip report series). Looking back, I think it might have not been the most optimal way for this trip. The 2 reasons for my initial planning was because I wanted to tramp the great walks, which typically requires prior booking. And secondly, I was worried about booking housing during the Holiday season. Really, I just didn’t have a good idea of what it would be like on the ground. But that’s part of the novelty in traveling.
New Zealand and the attitude of the people are very open to changes and flexible. As Daniel, our new friend from the trip put it, new Zealand might not be as spectacular as Patagonia in terms of pure aesthetics, but it by far surpasses in the awesome feel and attitude of the people and the culture.
Unless you are trying to stay in a party central like Queenstown during New Years or the best hostel in town, you probably can still find housing somewhere. That is especially true if you have you own transportation as car camping opportunities are plenty in many of the national parks around. With the traditional campervan, you can even get away sleeping in the middle of nowhere. The freedom camping laws are pretty generous, except in certain areas and the Great Walks. Here are some tips about Freedom Camping from Go Nomad, but make sure you practice leave no trace.
One issue with a car and tramping would be requiring you to find a way to shuttle your car to different trailheads. However, hiking shuttles to get to those trailheads without a car is pretty expensive anyways as you can see below. The last key benefit with a car is that you can be much more flexible and pickup on last minute Great Walk cancellations like we could have with the Milford track had be had a car. Unless you planned way ahead of time (at the exact time the reservations open up – or about 30 minutes after), chances are you’ll still be able to still do the hikes if you are flexible.
Getting back to freedom camping as an alternative for the Great Walks, including the Milford Track, you can officially freedom camp 500 meters away from the trail, but not recommended by the DOC unless you have extensive backcountry experience. Again, practice leave no trace as it’s the major worry for DOC officials and can be a big argument point for future policies. The huts and campsite outside of the Great Walk season, also including the Milford Track, switch to a first come, first serve basis.
Lastly, with the weather such a factor anyways, you have the flexibility to just head to another part of the island for one of the many tramps the island has to provide. As I alluded to earlier, New Zealand isn’t the most impressive scenery we’ve seen in the world, but there are plenty of amazing hikes. So, it doesn’t hurt to just skip over to the next valley.
With 2 and a half weeks, we could have went with a much more unstructured travel and saved myself much more time in organizing all the schedules and hikes. I don’t know if I would have as prepared for unstructured travel had I not had the experiences of this trip, but campervan it is the next time we visit the islands. As a Kiwi told me during my large solo trip through Europe, “you travel with the aim to return.”
Our overall spending was a bit more than I wanted to but not too bad for 2 people ($2700 each person) for the Holiday high season. As such, we spent a lot more than I thought we would in transportation. A big part of our flight cost (~$200) was also technically transit between south and north islands. From this standpoint, $600 car rental is much more comparable than. Doubling the transport cost because of 2 people is why rentals are more worth it.
We also splurged more on housing then we wanted to, partially because of weather (on the North Island and a couple nights on the South Island) and partially because we didn’t want to be eaten alive camping in Mt. Aspiring National Park.
Of course we splurged a bit on food, but that’s expected on vacation.
Overall, our monthly food budget isn’t too far off that cost sitting between $500 to $700.
A big chunk of our activity cost was paying for snorkeling costs for my family, but they also paid for housing and food during the few days we were on Maui. With Chinese families, everyone’s money is family money anyways.
Below is the detailed spending spreadsheet with blue outlining flights, green outlining activities, and red outlining things that changed or we ended up missing.
All our reward earnings are listed below, not including credit card returns. Getting that $1000 voucher was a nice bonus at the end of our trip.
If you’ve enjoyed this trip report and found it helpful, we would always welcome any support. Thanks!