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Top Tips for Travelling New Zealand on a Budget

As well as having a reputation for breathtaking scenery, fun activities and delicious food and wine, New Zealand has a bit of a reputation for being an expensive country to spend time in. Have you heard about that? If so, don't worry! While a trip around New Zealand can be costly, travelling across New Zealand doesn't have to break the bank.

Read on for our ten top tips for travelling around New Zealand on a budget. You might be surprised at how you can make your money stretch and still have a fantastic time.

1. Travel in a campervan

Hiring a campervan for your trip is a cost-effective way to travel, especially if you're visiting multiple places. Essentially, you're bundling up your accommodation and mode of transport all in one and saving on hotel nights in the process. Depending on the campervan you choose, you'll have access to an onboard kitchen, and in some cases, a toilet and shower too. With all of this on board, you can be flexible in other parts of your budget-but more on that below!

Travelling via camper means you'll enjoy the freedom and flexibility it offers, including being in charge of where you stay, how long you spend, and how you get between places. At Mighty we offer competitively priced campers for every budget. Packed with everything you need, you can rent your travel van from your nearest branch and hit the road.


2. Do your research

The best way to travel on a budget is to plan out a detailed travel itinerary. Pick the places and activities you're most interested in and start from there! You'll be able to avoid too much back-peddling and cut out destinations that aren't of interest so that you're spending your time and money doing the things that you enjoy.

By researching what you want to see, do, and experience, you can prioritise the activities and adventures that come with a cost and decide what you'll do and what you'll avoid. This will help you with your budget and ultimately save you some dollars along the way.

Research doesn't just have to be about where you'll go or how you'll get there. It also allows you to gather other tips and tricks, like the best place for 2-for-1 pizza or the best value-for-money activities to try out. It's also a great way of getting excited about your travels.

3. Take advantage of responsible freedom camping

New Zealand is well-known for its excellent freedom camping spots, and it's easy to see why, with over 500 sites across the country available for freedom camping.

At Mighty, we encourage responsible freedom camping. This is when you can park up on designated public land that allows you to camp for free or for a small fee in exchange for being a responsible visitor. Often there will be few, or no, shared facilities like showers or toilets. It's just you and nature! Most sites limit the number of nights you can stay or the number of visitors staying at once. It's a great idea to plan ahead for your responsible freedom camping experience.

Not all public land allows you to freedom camp, so it's essential to check out where you can and can't set up camp for the night. Remember to check where you can do this before you set off. To ensure this is a good experience, you'll also need to have a self-contained campervan and follow the local guidelines. This includes leaving no trace in the outdoors and taking note of the Tiaki Promise.

4. Stay in holiday parks

Holiday parks are a terrific budget-friendly alternative if freedom camping isn't your cup of tea.

You can park up your camper and use communal on-site facilities at holiday parks across the country, often situated close to key attractions or in central locations. You'll often find shared kitchens, activity rooms, toilets, and laundries. There are even extra facilities in some holiday parks like swimming pools, spas, and bike hire.

Unlike expensive hotels, holiday parks often 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. You may decide to stay at a mix of holiday parks and freedom camping spots, so you can charge up at a powered site before heading back out on the road.

You'll find plenty of great information about the best holiday parks and campsites in New Zealand by using the thl roadtrip app before your trip or on the road.

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5. Try travelling during shoulder seasons

Kiwis tend to take full advantage of the festive period shut-down over Christmas and New Year, which falls over the summer months (December to February). That means lots of people on the roads, at the best camping spots and doing the activities that you're most interested in! Plus, with a limited ski season, wintertime travel can be challenging.

With more people on holiday at the height of Summer and Winter, prices also seem to be more expensive. To stretch your budget further, explore New Zealand during the shoulder seasons; Spring and Autumn. New Zealand tends to get pleasant weather throughout both. The prices and availability of campervans, holiday parks, and popular activities are generally more budget-friendly.

6. Stock up on food at local farmers markets

New Zealanders love a good farmers market, and there is one in just about every town. You'll find fresh, locally grown produce and other artisan goods like bread, honey and more, making great additions to your mealtimes. No bland beans on toast or pot noodles for you! You can sample in-season goodies (at in-season prices!), expand your palette and get a bargain along the way. You can also manage your meal budget and maybe treat yourself to a restaurant or pub meal every few days while keeping it simple for the rest of your trip.

Don't forget your reusable drink bottle either - you'll find plenty of free drinking water all across the country. Just fill up and stay hydrated without paying for expensive bottled water or other drinks.

If you've missed the local farmers market, don't despair. You can pick up lots of produce and other essentials like tea bags, milk, and more at supermarkets. If you're planning on freedom camping, it's important to stock up before stopping for the day.

7. Utilise your campervan kitchen

One of the most significant expenses when travelling is eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, don't forget your camper is a home on wheels, and it comes with its own kitchen.

You can cook up a storm in your kitchen with all of your farmer's market finds or keep it light and easy with simple low-fuss meals like cereal and toast - the options are all yours. Your onboard kitchen even allows you to manage left-overs from meals out on those days when cooking feels like too much hard work. Bring along some tupperware for eco friendly food storage, as well as a handful of your favourite spices and seasonings and you’ll be cookin’ up a storm in no time.

Need some travel-recipe inspo? Check out our recipes for on the road.

Don't forget that holiday parks also often have a shared kitchen facility with everything you need to whip up a hearty meal. Some offer BBQs on-site or have deals with local restaurants and bars to ensure you don't go hungry.

8. Take advantage of free activities

Millions of people flock to New Zealand every year for the spectacular views, many of which come without the need for an entry ticket (and a ticket price!). Whether you're looking for sandy beaches, snowy mountains, lush forests or busy cities, you can immerse yourself outdoors and enjoy yourself without spending a cent.

If you want to get out and about, why not embark on one of the many free walks available? Otherwise, go chase some waterfalls, hit the beach, climb a mountain... there are plenty of great outdoor options!

If you find yourself in a town or city for the day, wander the shops, explore the galleries, check out the museums and have a great time.

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9. Go on day trips

Save yourself some stress and plan your adventures to maximise the good bits of campervanning. For example, stay somewhere in the middle of a few other places you want to visit. If you stay in Queenstown, Arrowtown, Wanaka, and Glenorchy are short drives away and perfect for a day trip. You can keep your costs to a minimum and take day trips instead of heading to a new place every day. This is especially good if you buddy up with other travellers and share the load. Otherwise, make use of travel options provided by attractions like free pick up and drop off services.

10. Keep your eye out for the best deals

You can save some dollars by looking out for the best deals on what you want to enjoy. Consider signing up for a fuel rewards card for cheaper gas, looking at deals websites for popular activities, finding 2-for-1 deals on meals and even getting your campervan at a discounted rate! Check out our page for all the latest deals on campervan rentals.

Hit the road with Mighty

There are hundreds of reasons to visit New Zealand, and while an all-out trip could cost you hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, it doesn't have to break the bank! There are a handful of ways to make your budget work for you. Choose to travel with a campervan, shop for locally produced food, spend a few nights in nature and be strategic about where you go and when. Once you start researching your trip to New Zealand you'll find heaps to get excited about, book your Mighty camper today.