Here are a few FAQs that we get about our trip, particularly from people who may be interested in visiting New Zealand themselves. While what we did may or may not be helpful to everyone who wishes to travel to the Land of the Long White Cloud, we’re always happy to tell people about our experience and to give ideas and suggestions (that’s partly why this site exists), since we spent many months researching what was best for us.
When did you go do New Zealand?
August/September. It was their late winter/early spring, but it felt more like early spring during the day and winter at night. (Keep in mind that if you’re from the northern hemisphere, like we are, the seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere.)
We chose to go during their winter because prices for things such as campervan rentals and campsites tended to be cheaper, and we thought there would be fewer vacationers at that time. While overall we lucked out with weather, New Zealand’s climate is more mild generally, meaning the winters are not too harsh.
Which island is better, the North Island or South Island?
It really is impossible to say which one is better (not even sure that’s the right question), but we spent more of our time on the South Island (approximately two-thirds of our trip).
While we still recommend visiting both islands if you can, if you only have time to visit one, all three of us would recommend the South Island first. The South Island has a wider diversity of landscapes–mountains, lakes, glaciers, fiords, and forests–and is less populated, making it feel more remote.
But the North Island has Hobbiton.
In the end, though, It all comes down to your own priorities and what kind of activities and landscapes are attractive to you.
What are the pros and cons of a campervan?
For us, the pros outweighed the cons in driving/staying in a campervan, for this trip. In our research prior to the trip, we had heard from several family friends who had done it before about their great experiences with campervans in New Zealand, and now that we’ve done it, too, we would do it again!
- The campervan culture is strong in New Zealand, so there are a ton of options for campervans from many different companies. (We ultimately chose Britz because they had a good deal on a campervan that would fit 3 of us and all our stuff. Plus we got a winter discount for driving it from the South Island to the North Island, which is a slightly less common route.)
- You have lots of flexibility in where you can go (of course, this is also somewhat dependent on the size of our campervan, as some roads are tricky and the larger the campervan).
- Most paid campsites provide facilities, kitchens, and common rooms where you can hang out after a long day’s driving/exploring, and it’s nice to be able to always have your things, like cooking supplies, and bedding. But there are lots of “freedom camping” sites.
- It can be nerve-wracking to drive a beastly vehicle on the often-crazy and winding New Zealand roads, especially if you’re not used to roads like that, that’s why Philip did all of our driving. If it were only 2 of us, a small compact car might have been good enough and felt less crazy than the top-heavy campervan. But the more we drove it, the more we got used to it.
- If you’re going during one of the cooler seasons (like we did), we had to plug in for electricity and heat every night. We were provided with a space heater, which kept us warm, but it severely dried us out.
- If you’re not really into camping (and we aren’t really hardcore campers either)–it can be difficult to constantly have to re-arrange your stuff, but it’s a upgrade from sleeping in a tent, for sure.
Here’s a tour of our Britz Voyager campervan that we filmed, narrated by Jessica, that will give you a good idea of what the space was like.
Isn’t the jet lag insane?
Honestly, we didn’t have too much trouble with the jet lag, but this is something that is different for everyone.
We arrived early in the morning and started doing things outside immediately, so the best advice we can give is to immediately act like you normally would at the local time or do something active, at least till nightfall. Resist the temptation to nap. It might mean you’ll be extra whooped at the end of your first day, but it allows you to get on track for the extreme time zone change much faster.
In some way, the time zone change (16 hours different than home) and long flights and transit were so extreme for us (36 hours total), that it was almost better than a smaller, 3-5 hour time zone shift, and our bodies hardly had time to realize the craziness of it all.