Our Complete 2024 Guide to Vacationing in New Zealand

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Aotearoa New Zealand is a place of breathtaking beauty and endless adventure, making vacationing in New Zealand an unforgettable experience. With its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and unique wildlife, there’s no shortage of things to see and do.

But how do you navigate and plan for visiting this incredible country? What transportation options are available? What’s the best time to visit, and how can you make the most of your time in this stunning land?

In this guide, we’ll help you answer these questions and more, so you can plan the ultimate vacation in New Zealand adventure. Let’s get started!

Planning Your New Zealand Vacation

Let’s equip you with inspiration, information and tools to book the most meaningful getaway and soulful experiences you can imagine – and, it will better than that! Let’s delve into the specifics of planning your ideal vacation. In this section, we’ll cover important information such as:

  • Visa requirements
  • Budgeting tips
  • Travel insurance
  • Free resources
  • The best time to visit

This will ensure you’re well-prepared for your journey to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

light house, cape reinga, new zealand
Image – Cape Reinga

Free Resources

We also have incredible, free resources to make sure you genuinely love your trip, feel organised prior and know how to relax, unwind and feel alive.

 

  • Map – click on the map below for information in that area.
Auckland Bay ofPlenty Canterbury Gisborne Hawke’sBay Manawatu-Wanganui Marlborough Nelson Northland Otago Southland Taranaki Tasman Waikato Wellington WestCoast
  • Little Pocket Blog – endless information on Little Pockets of New Zealand that are full or awe and wonder! Especially this article, which will point you in alsorts of directions, for inspiration and information, on where to go and what to do.
  • Little Pocket Tips – Wholesome and helpful tips and advice on how to travel well in Aotearoa and leave feeling renewed and refreshed.
  • Little Pocket Soul Food – Space to find healthy, down-to-earth, advice on a holistic, wellness, travel and lifestyle ideas to become a stronger, healthier you.
  • Travel Planner – download our beautifully designed, free and comprehensive travel planner. In this travel planning guide you’ll learn exactly how to prepare for soul-restoring, stress-free, fun and tranquil travel in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    We inspire and empower you to plan for meaningful getaways and soulful experiences, to increase your overall wellbeing, for a healthier, more rejuvenataed you!

Grab yourself a FREE and comprehensive travel planner!

We have put together a comprehensive, easy-on-the-eye and free, travel planner with over 50 pages of helpful planning sheets and handy hints for you to have everything sorted!

To-list Lists
Packing Lists
Departure Plan
Flight and Accomodation Informaion
How to get the Most out of your Getaway
Things to Experience
Expenses
Daily Schedules
& More

Simply add your details in the boxes below to download the PDF
The document can be easily customised to suit your travel plans in the free version of Canva, and can be downloaded as a PDF again for your phone, tablet or computer – or it can be printed.
LP x

Read our Privacy Policy

Best Time to Visit

If you really want a month thats best – spring/summer time, daylight savings hours and before school holiday start, is your best bet for a relaxed time – November. Experience long, bright, sunny days with temperatures between 16°C / 61°F and 30°C / 86°F. Although it can definitely get hotter, this is pretty standard, during November – the perfect time to visit New Zealand’s stunning beaches and enjoy its many outdoor activities. However – New Zealand really does turn it on in so many ways in the other months, so make sure you plan around what you want to achieve.

Aotearoa New Zealands portfolio of seasonal goodness:

Summer months (December to February) offer long, day light savings and sunny, warm days. Temperatures, making it the perfect time for outdoor adventures like hiking, swimming, and exploring the coastline.

Winter months (June to August) provide the opportunity for skiing and snowboarding in the country’s mountain and alpine regions. Winter is a gorgeous time of year to visit, with incredible wintry views, waterfalls on full and crisp frosty mornings with amazing blue skies.

The shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) offer mild temperatures and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for sightseeing and exploring New Zealand’s unique culture. Spring (September-November) and Autumn (March-May).

Ultimately, the best time to visit will depend on your personal interests and the experiences you want to have during your trip.

Skiiing snowboarding Queenstown Winter Views over Lake Wakatipu

Visa Requirements

Check the visa requirements for your country of origin before embarking on your New Zealand adventure. Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a visa or an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) prior to your arrival. Be sure to consult your local embassy or consulate for specific information on visa requirements and application procedures, ensuring a smooth entry process when you arrive in this beautiful country.

Also check out New Zealand Immigration for information on Visas and eTAs for gaining entry into New Zealand.

 

passport, visa, rubber stamp

Budgeting for Your Trip

Creating a realistic budget that considers your travel preferences and desired experiences is a crucial step in planning your New Zealand vacation. Consider the cost of:

  • Accommodations
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Activities
  • Any other expenses you may incur during your trip

Keep in mind that prices can vary greatly depending on the season, location, and your personal travel style. For example, staying in a budget hostel and cooking your own meals will be significantly cheaper than booking a luxury hotel and dining out every night.

To save money on transportation, consider taking advantage of advance booking discounts on domestic flights, car rentals, and bus tickets. You can also reduce your accommodation costs by staying in budget-friendly options like hostels, motels, or holiday homes. When it comes to food, cooking your own meals or opting for street food and casual eateries can help keep your daily expenses in check. By carefully planning and sticking to your budget, you can enjoy an unforgettable New Zealand vacation without breaking the bank.

Download our travel planner for working space to budget for your trip.

piggy bank, savings, coins

Travel Insurance

Amidst the excitement of planning your New Zealand adventure, remember to consider the importance of travel insurance. Investing in a comprehensive travel insurance policy can provide you with peace of mind and financial protection in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as medical emergencies, lost luggage, or trip cancellations.

We recommend using New Zealands own CoverMore Travel Insurance. Here are the benefits:

 

  • Cover international trips, domestic trips and cruises.
  • Cover some pre-existing medical conditions
  • Cover lots of adventure sports which many insurance companies do not (including skiing!)
  • Affordable plans
  • Access to virtual medical care if you become unwell
  • Covid-19 cover
  • Emergency cover
insurance, family, protection

Where to stay

Transportation Options in Aotearoa New Zealand

Whether you’re looking to explore the North Island and its geothermal wonders, the South Island and its majestic fiords, or anything in between, Aotearoa New Zealand’s collective network of roads, railways, and airports makes it easy to get where you’re going, and you’ll generally get service with a smile.

The main form of transport is by road – car, campervan, motorbike, whichever your preference. Embracing the freedom of the open road is a fantastic way to explore New Zealand.

  • Travel at your own pace
  • Venture off the beaten path, to discover little pockets of Aotearoa New Zealands brilliance
  • Tailor your trip to your unique interests and preferences

Get ready to plan your trip to unforgettable Aotearoa New Zealand.

airport, woman, flight

Domestic Flights

Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the two main airlines offering domestic flights in New Zealand. Between these carriers, they connect all major cities and towns, making it easy to hop from one stunning destination to another.

Booking in advance is always a smart move, as early bird fares can save you a bundle, and last minute ‘good deals’ aren’t really a thing with New Zealands airlines.

Grab A Seat

Savvy, budget minded travellers can find great deals on grabaseat.co.nz, a website dedicated to showcasing the best flight deals with Air New Zealand within the country.

From Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch to Queenstown, and even remote destinations like Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island, domestic flights are the quickest and most convenient way to explore all that New Zealand has to offer.

Flight

Road Tripping New Zealand in a Car Rental and Campervans

Renting a car or campervan is an excellent choice if you want to explore New Zealand at your own pace.

Road tripping is a highlight and ‘bucket list’ item for many when planning a trip here. Having your own transport give you ultimate freedom, independent travel and convenience. Rental cars or campervan rentals also give you the ability the tailor everything to suit you, your wishes and plan everything perfectly!

The time of year you plan to travel is an important factor to consider when arranging your car or campervan rental. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Peak season (December to February) typically sees higher demand and prices, so booking in advance is recommended.
  • During quieter times (especially in winter, except for ski areas), you may be able to score a great deal on a last-minute rental.
  • The speed limit is generally 50kph in towns and 100kph on open roads

Car rentals

Campervan Rentals

What if I break down on the road?

The New Zealand Automobile Association, also knows as the NZAA can help you. If you are not an AA member, this will incur a fee, however it is great to know help is only a phone call away for those who need it when away from home! P.S Also let your rental companies know!

Time and Distance Calculator

Check out this time and distance calculator, to know how long it takes between destinations in New Zealand. Our roads here are not often straight and quick to drive, so drive times can be slower than expected. Check this out before you leave, and make sure to plan ahead for unexpected delays.

woman, car wallpapers, model

Bus or Coach Services Between Cities

While there are bus and coach tours, if you are wanting to jump on a solely transportation bus, there is one main provider for this and it is Intercity. The Intercity buses service all across New Zealand and provide a comfortable and cost effective transportation, and they sometimes provide a commentary of the area. There is generally onboard WiFi, and you can purchase flexible passes that include ferry passage. Bus travel allows you to sit back, relax, and take in the beauty of New Zealand without the stress of driving.

Plus, you can save on your transportation costs by taking advantage of advance purchase discounts.

Public Transport in the Cities

In Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin, you can use local buses with bus cards to easily access city transport and, in some cases, light rail systems.

Auckland – Auckland Transport

Wellington – MetLink

Christchurch – Metro

Queenstown – Public Transport

Dunedin – Public Transport

These cards, such as Auckland Transport HOP, Snapper and Bee cards, can be topped up with credit and used to pay for your journeys, making it simple and convenient to explore urban areas.

bus

Airport Transfers

You have several options for airport transfers. Some options include:

  • Shuttle services – go to cars and then airport transfers, to book a transfer from any airport in New Zealand.
  • Taxis, which are readily available at the airport and can take you directly to your destination and visa versa.
  • Public transport options, such as buses, which can be a more affordable option for airport transfers.

Advance booking is recommended for the best availability and price.

Taxi and Uber

In most major cities and towns throughout New Zealand, taxis and Uber provide a convenient, flexible option for getting around. Whether you need a quick ride to a local attraction or a late-night lift back to your hotel, taxis and Uber offer a reliable and easy-to-use solution.

Simply hail a taxi on the street or use the Uber app to request a ride, and you’ll be on your way in no time.

Ferry Services (and flights for those who do not sail well!)

Being the island nation that we are, ferries are relatively common in New Zealands transport system. Ferry services connect New Zealand’s picturesque islands and coastal regions, enabling easy exploration of the country’s diverse marine landscapes.

North and South Island connections – Cook Strait

There are two companies which connect the North and South islands:

Seasick prone? Try flying.

  • Sounds Air – Flies Wellington to Nelson/Picton/Blenheim and return
  • Originair – Flies Wellington to Nelson and return
  • Air New Zealand – Flies Wellington to Nelson/Blenheim and return

Check out options for flights here.

Auckland to Waiheke + other Auckland Islands – Hauraki Gulf

Seasick prone? Fly with Waiheke Wings or Heletranz Helicopters

South Island to Stewart Island / Rakiura – Foveaux Strait

Seasick prone? Fly with Stewart Island Flights or Stewart Island Helicopters

ferry, passengers, nature

New Zealand Motorcycle rentals and tours

Motorcycling is definitely some peoples idea of transportation heaven. Luckily, New Zealand has heaps of options, for self guided travelling, through to New Zealand motorcycle tours so you can tailor your adventure to your preferences and skill level.

Check out these options for those seeking more adventurous exploration of New Zealand’s breathtaking landscapes:

Trains

Aotearoa New Zealand, does not have consistent passenger rail throughout the country, however there are some options that are handy to know about:

Auckland Train, Bus and Ferry Services

Aucklands public transport includes train, bus and ferry services. There is a handy tool on their website, where you add where you are going and it tells you what services are available to get you there.

Wellington Train Services

Wellington, too, has a public transport service including trains called Metlink. This is mostly from greater Wellington into the centre city, near Parliament, and back again.

There is also a ‘Capital Connection’ train which goes once a day on weekdays, from Palmerston North to Wellington.

Scenic Train Routes

Scenic trains and tours provide an informative and leisurely means of travelling around and exploring New Zealand. The three main train routes – the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, and TranzAlpine – all showcase the stunning beauty of New Zealand’s countryside, from the wild coastline to the snowy, unreal mountains. Here are some tours to join for a well rounded trip:

Arthur’s Pass National Park with TranzAlpine Train Tour from Christchurch with tour operator Canterbury Trails

Arthur’s Pass Full-Day Tour with TranzAlpine Train with Canterbury Leisure Tours

3-Day Great Southern Circle Tour from Christchurch with Canterbury Leisure Tours

train, locomotive, new zealand

Helpful Hints for your trip to NZ (What the Locals Use)

Utilise the local resources and insider knowledge to help you feel like a kiwi and keep yourself safe. In this section, we’ll introduce you to some helpful websites that locals use on the daily.

From free medical coverage to weather forecasts and fuel prices, these resources can help you plan a smoother, more enjoyable trip to New Zealand.

ACC (yes, its for tourists too and yes, its free if you qualify)

For those who qualify, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides free medical coverage in case of accidents during your visit to New Zealand. This valuable resource is available to tourists who are legally present in the country and have a valid visa. Yup, we got you!

Need longer term accomodation, or want to buy a car? Trademe.co.nz

Trademe.co.nz is an online trading site and marketplace. Whether you’re looking to rent a longer term cosy apartment in the heart of the city or purchase a reliable car for your road trip, Trademe.co.nz is what the locals go to regularly, so the options good.

Just be sure to read the seller’s description carefully and ask any questions you have before committing to a purchase.

Weather – metservice.com

When it comes to planning your activities and itinerary in New Zealand, staying informed about the local weather is essential for safety and comfort. By checking the website regularly, you can plan your activities around the best weather conditions, make any necessary adjustments to your schedule and make the most of your New Zealand vacation, rain or shine.

Local news media – stuff.co.nz

For the latest news and updates on events happening in New Zealand, Stuff.co.nz is your go-to source. The website is easy to read with the latest local and international news as well as lifestyle and travel reads.

Cheapest Fuel / Gas Stations – pricewatch.co.nz

Pricewatch.co.nz is a helpful tool that provides up-to-date and local information fuel transaction prices throughout the country, allowing you to compare prices and locate the best deals.

Good-To-Know Tips

General Etiquette in New Zealand

Being mindful of general etiquette is always appreciated by locals – there aren’t many rules or expectations here as long as you’re trying to be kind and considerate. New Zealanders are known for their friendly and laid-back nature, so being polite and respectful goes a long way. You’ll notice how accomodating people can be when you show respect and care to the people, culture and environment.

The Māori people are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, and their culture plays a significant part in our country’s identity. As you explore New Zealand, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Maori history, customs, and language through various cultural experiences and attractions. Check out our blog on the proud Māori Culture of New Zealand.

Marae

Local Food and Drink

Traditional New Zealand’s cuisine is range of Maori dishes and European-influenced meals, however in recent years Aotearoa has been heavily influenced by cuisines from all over the world. Today, the foodie scene is a beautiful multi-cultural collection of amazing flavours -lucky us!

Some of the kiwi must-try foods and dishes are:

  • Seafood – West Coast Whitebait sandwiches, Fiorldland crayfish, Bluff oysters and Marlborough mussels + fish and chips – anywhere!
  • Tender New Zealand lamb for meat enthusiasts + a meat pie (any kind – you’ll never go back!)
  • Pavlova, a meringue-based treat that’s a local favourite, for dessert
  • Māori Hangi – traditionally laid in the earth to cook

Pair this up with delicious, locally grown and produce wines and beer.

fish and chip, fried, fish

Common Sayings in New Zealand

While traveling in New Zealand, you’ll probably come across common sayings and slang that locals use. Familiarising yourself with some Te Reo Maori / The Maori language, will be helpful, it’s commonly spoken in a casual way in NZ.

Some popular sayings in New Zealand include:

  • “Kia Ora” pronounced – “Key-or-da” (hello)
  • “Haere Mai” pronounced – “Hi-deh-my” (welcome)
  • “Kia Kaha” pronounced – “Kee-ah kaha”(be strong)
  • “Tena Koe” pronounced – “Te-na-queh” (thank you)

Impress the locals, and give your new found language skills a go! The worst that will happen is they’ll think it’s funny haha!!

te reo maori, kia kaha

Frequently Asked Questions

What Part of New Zealand Should I Visit?

Unfortunately this is such a subjective question because your preferences for activities, scenery, and climate should guide your choice of where to visit in New Zealand. Take a look at our blogs for an idea of where you’d like to go our check out our map for guidance.

To start with however, here is an idea –

The North Island is known for its geothermal wonders, beautiful beaches, and rich Maori culture.

The South Island has epic mountains, stunning glaciers, and towering fiords/fjords.

See the above map of New Zealand, you can click on the regions of for information.

What is the best time of year to visit New Zealand?

If you really want a month thats best – spring/summer time, daylight savings hours and before school holiday start, is your best bet for a relaxed time – November. Experience long, bright, sunny days with temperatures between 16°C / 61°F and 30°C / 86°F. Although it can definitely get hotter, this is pretty standard, during November – the perfect time to visit New Zealand’s stunning beaches and enjoy its many outdoor activities. However – New Zealand really does turn it on in so many ways in the other months, so make sure you plan around what you want to achieve.

Is vacationing in New Zealand expensive?

New Zealand is known to be a moderately expensive travel destination and visitors should plan to spend around NZ$229 (US$137) per day. However, there are ways to save money and still enjoy the beauty of the country, so it doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out our Free and Low Cost pages for wonderful experiences without breaking the bank. Some other ideas are:

  • Consider staying in hostels, or motels instead of expensive hotels.
  • Cook your own meals instead of eating out all the time.
  • Take advantage of advance booking discounts on transportation.
  • Look at our free or low-cost activities and attractions.
  • Take advantage of discounts and deals for tourists and travellers, alike.

How many days in New Zealand is enough?

For a ‘best of the best’ or ‘bucket list’ tour, three weeks is ideal for getting the most out of your New Zealand adventure, you could also easily do longer. However, if that’s not feasible, two weeks is an excellent alternative, but be sure to research and plan well to make sure you do everything you want but aren’t left feeling knackered and unable to enjoy! Check out the below for a beautifully designed, free and comprehensive travel planner, to edit on the free version of Canva and make sure you don’t forget anything!

Can US citizens travel to New Zealand right now?

Yes – everyone can. Since May 1, 2022, Covid-19 restrictions have eased and you do not need proof of vacation to enter the country, nor do you need to self-isolate or quarantine on arrival. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 it is recommended you RAT test and stay home if you’re unwell.

Apply for an NZ electronic travel authority (eTA) here. Or, unsure which visa you need? Check here.

Here is information about why someone may be refused entry, have a read before you book if you think there could be an issue.

What is the best way to travel between cities in New Zealand?

Bus – InterCity is the main bus service between towns and cities in New Zealand. There is generally onboard WiFi, and you can purchase flexible passes that include ferry passage.

Rental Car – Snap rentals offer a range of vehicles to suit your needs including excellent eco friendly options.

Fly – Air New Zealand and Jet Star are the two main airlines which fly between cities in New Zealand.

Time To Book

A vacation to New Zealand is an incredible journey through diverse landscapes, rich culture, and unforgettable experiences. Planning your vacation or holiday or getaway, whichever your prefer to name it, with our advise here at Little Pocket, this is difference between, “having a vacation” and coming home, with a changed mindset, energy, new memories and experiences, connected to your family, friends or partner and generally feeling so much better. With careful planning and an understanding of local expectations, and cultural nuances here in NZ, you can create a dream trip that meets your unique interests and preferences. Whether you’re seeking adventure, or a nature lover in search of serenity, New Zealand has something for everyone. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of exploration, and get ready to discover the wonders of Aotearoa.

Grab yourself a FREE and comprehensive travel planner!

We have put together a comprehensive, easy-on-the-eye and free, travel planner with over 50 pages of helpful planning sheets and handy hints for you to have everything sorted!

To-list Lists
Packing Lists
Departure Plan
Flight and Accomodation Informaion
How to get the Most out of your Getaway
Things to Experience
Expenses
Daily Schedules
& More

Simply add your details in the boxes below to download the PDF
The document can be easily customised to suit your travel plans in the free version of Canva, and can be downloaded as a PDF again for your phone, tablet or computer – or it can be printed.
LP x

Read our Privacy Policy

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