How to plan an unforgettable trip to New Zealand

Tips By Libby Hakim January 15, 2020

With breathtaking alpine scenery, famous thrill-seeking activities and a deep sense of culture, New Zealand has everything you need for a truly memorable holiday.

New Zealand is the most popular outbound destination for Australian travellers, notes Tourism New Zealand, with more than 1.5 million Aussies making the short flight across the Tasman Sea just last year.

If you’re planning to visit Australia’s much-loved neighbour, we’re here to help you make the most of the experience.

Designing your ideal trip to New Zealand

Fortunately, New Zealand is just a three-and-a-half hour flight from Eastern Australia, so jet lag won’t be an issue. Flying direct to New Zealand from Australia is also convenient, with plenty of gateways from capital cities and also regional areas, including Newcastle and Cairns.

New Zealand shares a great deal with Australia — from language to general safety — and there’s no need for a visa if you’re an Australian citizen or resident.

One thing that does differ is the climate: New Zealand has a cooler and wetter climate than Australia. During the summer, the far north experiences subtropical weather, while inland alpine areas of the South Island can drop to -10 Celsius in winter. Make sure to factor in the weather when choosing the time of year for your ideal trip to New Zealand.

You’ll also need to decide how long you’d like to stay. Two to three weeks is generally the time recommended; however, this will depend on your budget, how much time you have available and how much you’d like to see.

Creating your must-see list

New Zealand has a never-ending list of sightseeing experiences, spread out over the North and South Island. Some visitors prefer to focus on only one of the islands while others visit both. A short flight or a scenic three-hour ferry ride are the two options for getting between the islands.

When visiting the South Island, some of the highlights include the following:

  • Queenstown: Home to jet boats, skiing, bungy-jumping and water rafting, this is a must-visit town for the thrill seeker.
  • Milford Sound: Cruise through a natural wonderland of spectacular cliffs, mountain peaks and waterfalls.
  • Christchurch: A city where urban edginess meets New Zealand’s natural beauty, this is also a great base to explore the North Canterbury wine region and Arthur’s Pass National Park.
  • Dunedin: Discover the magnificence of New Zealand’s wildlife at visitor centres, sanctuaries and in the wild.
  • Golden Bay: This area is home to the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, offering the perfect place for a digital detox.
  • Waitaki: A highlight is the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, which weaves past Maori rock art, blue penguins in their natural habitat and limestone cliffs.

Over on the North Island, you might like to add some of these popular destinations to your itinerary:

  • Rotarua: Soak up that famous Maori hospitality and experience a traditional “hangi” feast before relaxing in hot thermal pools.
  • Hobbiton: Any Lord of the Rings fan will want to experience the real Middle Earth, while others can simply enjoy the lush Waikato region.
  • Auckland: Ringed by sightseeing opportunities, this city combines world-class shopping, buzzing restaurants and beautiful beaches.
  • Taupo: Created by a volcanic eruption nearly 2,000 years ago, this area is now a modern magnet for water skiing, sailing and fishing enthusiasts, along with those who want to experience the thundering Huka Falls.
  • Wellington: New Zealand’s capital suits those who love casual dining, history and culture — all washed down with great coffee.

Covering the costs

The unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar, so remember to convert prices to Australian dollars when budgeting. Both the exchange rate along with any exchange fees will need to be considered here.

Flights are going to be the first item to add to your list of costs. Once you’re there, you might like to opt for the convenience and affordability of a self-drive holiday. The majority of Australians going on holiday in New Zealand choose this option, according to Tourism New Zealand, and the cost of an economy car hire is between NZ$20 and NZ$60 per day.

Accommodation prices can vary widely, from NZ$10 for a campsite to NZ$250 per night for a three-star hotel. Prices will also depend on the time of year, popularity of the place and more. Food prices in New Zealand are slightly cheaper when compared with Australia, but remember that basic costs like food and petrol may rise in more remote locations.

Finally, you’ll need to add sightseeing and souvenir costs — and these can be a little or a lot depending on your budget and your own idea of what makes a great holiday.

When planning your trip to New Zealand, keep in mind that you don’t have to see everything to create a brilliant holiday. Pace yourself and you’ll have the chance to truly embrace New Zealand’s natural beauty, culture and experiences. And be prepared to fall in love, as Australian visitors return to the country four times on average, according to Tourism New Zealand.

Don’t let money issues get in the way of a memorable experience. Consider mobile solutions likes the Western Union® app for easy access to your money and make the holiday of your dreams a reality.