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How Much Should you Budget for a Campervan Road Trip With Kids


A New Zealand family campervan holiday is a fantastic way to enjoy time with loved ones, create amazing memories, and exploring some of Aotearoa’s dream destinations. You can stop where you want to, take your time, and you’ve got room to pack all those extras needed for a great holiday. And best of all – a campervan hire won’t break the budget!

It can be tricky to know exactly how much you should budget for a campervan holiday with kids, so we’re here to help. Our handy guide offers some great ideas on how to keep costs down while enjoying maximum fun!

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What are the main expenses when going on a campervan road trip?

Campervan hire

Hiring a campervan to travel New Zealand makes for a fantastic family holiday. Forget about costly motels and hotels, airfares, and car rentals – not to mention the added pressure of checking in and out on time. A campervan is your accommodation and transport all in one, which means you’ve got that all-important flexibility and affordability needed when travelling with kids. There’s no better way to travel New Zealand on a budget.

It pays to do a bit of research on which type of campervan will be the best fit for you and your family. Here at Mighty, we love helping families have great adventures, whatever their budget. That’s why we have a range of great value Mighty campers to fit every family and budget – from 2-berth vans to 6-berth family motorhomes that sleep mum, dad, the kids, and maybe even a friend! Check in regularly to see our latest deals.

Campsites/holiday parks

Once you’ve sorted your campervan hire, the next item on your holiday checklist is to book in a campsite or two. New Zealand has loads of great, affordable campsites.

Holiday parks are another great option, especially when you’re travelling with kids. You'll often find shared kitchens, activity rooms, toilets, and laundries available for use. Most holiday parks are well set up to cater for children with extras such as swimming pools, spas, playgrounds, and bike hire.

Holiday parks also offer the chance to meet other people on the road, share tips and advice, and even make a new friend or two for a much more affordable rate than hotels and motels. Holiday park sites start at around NZ$30 per night and vary depending on the season and whether you want a powered or unpowered site.

It’s worth taking some time to research budget-friendly campsites and holiday parks on your travel path ahead of time. Many will offer discounts or reduced rates during off-peak times, and some have ‘club’ memberships that offer great savings and benefits.

You'll find plenty of great information about the best holiday parks and campsites in New Zealand by using the thl Roadtrip app.

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Fuel

Another consideration for your budget is the cost of fuelling your campervan. Petrol and diesel prices will vary between stations and regions, but generally, it’s cheaper to fuel up in larger cities and townships rather than wait until you’re in rural areas with less choice. Here are a few tips to minimise your fuel costs as you travel:

  • Use online tools such as Gaspy and PriceWatch to shop around for the best fuel prices.
  • Plan your journey so you’re not doubling back or going the long way round. Download the thl Roadtrip app to help you plan your campervan trip.
  • Bring along your bikes for getting around the shops or walk where you can.

Eating and drinking

As any parent can attest, eating out as a family can soon add up. And while it’s nice to enjoy a lunch or dinner out occasionally, having a well-stocked campervan fridge and pantry can really help to keep your budget in check.

Remember, shops in smaller far-flung areas of New Zealand can be pricey, so it’s worth preparing in advance so you don’t get caught short and end up paying a small fortune for a packet of rice!

A good option for stocking up on fresh fruit, veges, cheeses, and artisan treats and goodies is to stop in at local farmers markets along the way. They’re a great way to try out local produce and support a local community too.

Attractions

Tourists flock to New Zealand not only for our free and low-cost natural wonders, but also for our award-winning and unique big-ticket attractions. Plan a treat for the kids (and adults!) by setting aside some of your budget to check out a few of the best places to visit in New Zealand. Here are a few family-friendly New Zealand tourist attractions we recommend checking out:

What’s the best way to keep costs down?

If you’re looking to stick to a strict budget while travelling, we’ve got a few tips on how you can do this.

Freedom camping

Freedom camping is a great way to help reduce the costs of a New Zealand road trip – and the kids will love it too! New Zealand has over 500 freedom camping sites across the country – from lakeside retreats to inner city escapes. Most are free or have a small fee. Remember though, often there will be few, or no, shared facilities such as toilets or showers. Most sites also limit vehicle numbers and are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. To find your nearest freedom camping spot, download the thl Roadtrip app. Freedom camping is best enjoyed for a night or two in between stays at powered sites, so you can keep your camper charged up and comfortable for the trip.

DOC campsites are another low-cost camping option and range from very basic sites with no power, to serviced sites that provide hot showers, cooking facilities etc. DOC has over 200 campsites around New Zealand, each within a unique setting – from forests and national parks to lakesides and beaches. Some DOC campsites are free to use, and others charge just a small fee (approx. $15 NZD per person).

Utilise your campervan’s kitchen

With your own fully equipped kitchen on board your Mighty campervan, you’re all set for those “Dad, I’m hungry!” and “Mum, I need a drink!” moments. Save big dollars on takeaways, store-bought drinks, and expensive café meals and instead enjoy big breakfasts, homecooked dinners, barbecues, picnics, leftovers, and snacks along the way.

It helps to plan out a rough menu for your campervan holiday in advance. This way you can stock up on everything you need – including all those cooking must-haves like oil, salt and pepper, butter, sauces etc. You might even like to precook a few meals and vacuum seal or freeze these to take on your holiday.

If you’re in need of a little campervan cooking inspiration, check out our great selection of recipes to make on the road.

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Take advantage of the free things to do

From beautiful beaches to lush forest walks, New Zealand is bursting at the seams with free and low-cost natural attractions. Here are a few pointers to help get you started:

  • Bask on a beach: New Zealand has some of the world’s best beaches, including New Chum beach in the Coromandel – voted among the world's top 20 deserted beaches by Lonely Planet.
  • Stop and smell the roses: You don’t have to be a gardening guru to enjoy some of the country’s fantastic botanic gardens. If you’re in the South Island, head along to Christchurch’s Botanic Garden which has 21 hectares of parklands including a playground and paddle pool, observatory, visitor centre, and café.
  • Go back in time: From the Foxton Flax Stripper Museum to Steampunk HQ in Oamaru, just about every township in New Zealand has its own unique – and sometimes quirky – museum. Costs are often very minimal, free, or by donation only – including The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa in Wellington.
  • Say hello to a seal: From whales and dolphins to seals and albatrosses, the South Island township of Kaikōura is a must-do for wildlife lovers. Although you can book a tour to see whales out on the water, you won’t have to pay a cent to visit the fur seal colonies – and might just be lucky enough to spot a little blue penguin or a dusky dolphin nearby!
  • Meet a giant: Check out New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree, Tāne Mahuta in Northland’s Waipoua Forest. The tree is thought to be 1250 – 2500 years old and is a sight to behold!

Don’t forget to ask the kids what activities they’d like to try on their campervan holiday. You might be surprised to find that many of their requests are not only free, but super easy and loads of fun! You may not even have to leave the campground for some of them, such as:

  • Roasting marshmallows or making campfire pizza
  • Stargazing with a hot chocolate and biscuits
  • Playing spotlight or hide and seek
  • Having a campground treasure hunt or scavenger hunt
  • Fishing
  • Making blanket forts or stick huts
  • Birdwatching and bug hunting/photographing

Ready to book your next adventure?

There are lots of easy ways to save money and stretch your family budget further as you travel New Zealand. So what are you waiting for? Tell the kids to start packing! Take the first step to planning a fantastic family campervan holiday and book your Mighty camper today.

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