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Why travel NZ in a campervan
You know that saying about life being a journey and not a destination? Around these parts, we reckon that the journey should be full of adventure, unexpected delight, great views and plenty of fun. And, we know that a campervan can help with all that and more!
By taking control of the wheel, you're also taking control of your holiday destiny! Travel at your own pace, stop off along the way or wake up to a new view every morning; the choice is yours. It's a great way to spend some quality time with your loved ones, choosing your next location or route.
You'll find plenty of great spots to explore all year round, with plenty of summer and winter hot spots to visit in both the North and South Islands. Be bold and check out the back roads, or follow well-worn paths - there's still plenty to see. Whatever you pick, you'll be experiencing New Zealand at its best.
Speaking of the best, wouldn't it be great to arrive at your destination and be ready to sit back and relax in a matter of minutes? Park up, pull over the awning, prepare the BBQ and pop a cold one. You'll be living the Kiwi dream in no time!
When you're ready to move on, simply pack up, buckle up and be on the road again. There's no need to worry about hotel check-out times, hiring rental cars or coordinating domestic flights. When you're on a campervan holiday in New Zealand, you've got your transport and your accommodation rolled into one. It's cost-effective, easy, and allows you to spend more time enjoying the journey.
As the largest campervan operator in NZ, we’ve been delivering unforgettable holidays for over 30 years and are with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth trip. Our handy thl Roadtrip App has everything you need to know about your camper, plus recommended itineraries, offline maps and recommendations from fellow travellers.
Itching to get planning? Let's go! We've got 10 tips for planning your trip to explore New Zealand by campervan.
1. Choose your ideal time to visit New Zealand
Are you looking for BBQs on the beach and long summer nights? Or are you excited to be shredding it on the slopes? The best time to travel in New Zealand depends on your seasonal preference, with great options available all year round.
New Zealand has four distinct seasons, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. While January - March are typically the warmest months and benefit from long daylight hours, July & August are much colder and have much shorter days. You'll find the seasons milder the further North you travel, while the South Island packs a bit more of a punch with hot Summers and cold Winters.
Visiting New Zealand in Summer
Between December-March you'll find warmer weather, with certain regions peaking at 30 degrees C (88 F) and plenty going on. Summertime visits are ideal if you love the beach and you're keen to visit popular travel spots. Kiwis have their holidays during the summer; as locals will also be travelling it’s a good idea to book anything on your bucket list early.
Visiting New Zealand in Autumn
Fall in love with New Zealand in the fall months of March-May. With most students back to school and university, and families settling into a routine, Autumn offers more settled weather, off-peak prices and a relaxed pace of life for visitors to New Zealand. You'll find popular spots are still humming with travellers, and there is plenty to do, but you may need to layer up with some warmer clothes as the days get shorter and cooler.
Visiting New Zealand in Winter
Unlike the northern hemisphere, winter in New Zealand hits between June - August. Perfect for those who love a bit of adventure and want to see snow, New Zealand has plenty to keep visitors entertained, from festivals to hot pools, volcanic attractions and more. It's not all single-digit temperatures, with plenty of sunshine to be found in the winter-less Northern regions. We recommend the Bay of Islands for some vitamin D.
Visiting New Zealand in Spring
Spring is a shoulder season in New Zealand and happens from September - November. If you're looking for gorgeous flora and a reason to get outdoors, Spring is a great time to travel. The weather starts to improve, making time on the road a little more comfortable. While the ski season is coming to an end, you'll still get to spot a bit of snow on the mountains (for the 'gram if nothing else!), and you'll find plenty of gardens and parks to enjoy.
Avoiding holidays and peak seasons
If you're planning to travel during the school holidays, the summer & Christmas holiday period (18th Dec to 18th Jan) or over Easter, you should book your campervan and holiday parks early. We recommend locking in your booking three to six months before your trip.
Travelling outside of these major holiday periods is often easier and usually more affordable. Still, bookings can fill up around art, music or food festivals and other events. So, if you're committed to specific dates, make sure you book in to avoid disappointment.
2. Choose your trip length
Here for a long time or a just short visit? While we know there is plenty to see and do, we get it - not everyone can hang out in New Zealand for months at a time!
To make a campervan trip worth your while, we recommend the shortest trip is at least 5 days. This allows you enough time to see one or two spots on your drive and experience a few nights in your camper.
If you have a bit more time up your sleeves, then you've got the chance to enjoy the flexibility that campervans offer while you're on the road. If you end up somewhere that’s not your scene, move on. Hanging out and loving it? Stay on a little longer…
If you've got a little longer to spend or have a good idea about precisely what you want to see and do on your travels, then your trip length could grow to 14 or more days. Check out some of our itineraries for recommended short and long trips.
3. Create your itinerary (even a rough one!)
The freedom to take your travel into your own hands is the drawcard for many campervan enthusiasts. Even if it's a loose one, creating an itinerary is a great way to ensure you have thought through everything you want to do and see.
When it comes to itineraries, start by thinking about things that interest you. New Zealand offers everything from natural wonders to historical sights, animal encounters, wineries, thermal activity and plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities and more. Check out this guide to all the New Zealand regions and pique your curiosity.
Build your trip
Make a list of the places you want to visit and check out the popular routes between hot spots. You might find that you can make a loop trip to avoid back-tracking. We offer flexibility with our packages. You'll find options for one-way rentals where you pick up in one location and drop off in another, and loop trips where you return to home base.
Need some New Zealand inspo? Check out our itinerary and NZ destinations lists. During peak seasons and for top-rated attractions, you may need to pre-book, so it's essential to work out driving times and leave plenty of time for unexpected stops along the way.
4. Consider Camping
Camping is a timeless tradition, and something plenty of Kiwi's get a kick out of in the warmer months. Whether you're with family or friends, spending time beneath the stars away from the hustle and bustle, enjoying a barbecue and a beer is an impeccable way to spend your drive holiday.
There are lots of types of campsites in NZ which cater to all sorts of needs, but if you think you might like to spend a couple of nights freedom camping, you'll need to be in a self-contained camper. Luckily Britz ones are. Also, make sure you have enough food and gear to ensure a comfortable camping experience.
There are plenty of responsible freedom camping locations in New Zealand, so do some research to find a choice camping spot along your journey. Then stop off and reacquaint yourself with the stars.
5. Choose a campervan
Campers are for everyone – whether you're travelling alone, with your partner, young kids, pets, older kids or making the most of retirement, we have a camper to suit!
For the EV fans out there, check out the 2 Berth eVolve and save money on the road, with no fuel or electricity costs!
For groups of four, check out the 4 Berth Discovery, with space for two bikes on the back and a custom-designed pull-down double bed feature!
Bring along the whole family with the 6 Berth Frontier, with plenty of space to set yourselves up in a way that suits you!
Unsure where to start? Check out our guide on choosing the right campervan.
6. Consider your costs
A campervan trip is often a cost-effective way to explore New Zealand compared to hiring a car, booking hotels or flying domestically. Still, some costs can add up or come as a surprise if you're unprepared. Consider these in your budget as you plan your campervan trip, and keep your wallet happy.
Extra Hire Items - Your vehicle is fully equipped with the essentials, but you may want to add on extras like bike racks, bikes, car seats, outdoor chairs and a table to your booking for an ultra-comfortable experience.
Liability options - for a stress-free trip and peace of mind while you travel, select a liability coverage that suits you.
Camping site costs - even if you plan on freedom camping, there are some times when you'll need to power up your vehicle and pay for a powered campsite. Check out our guide to campsites for some inspo.
7. Download the thl Roadtrip App (and a few others!)
Your first drive, first night and the first morning in a campervan are all exciting milestones but can sometimes leave you with a few questions. Getting your head around a campervan can be a little tricky at first, but they're easy once you have the hang of it. Our friendly team will take you through everything you need to know before you head out on your drive.
Once on the road, our thl Roadtrip App is a trusty companion for your journey. Learn all about your vehicle and more on the road from our crowd-sourced travel app.
It displays your current GPS location, the nearest campsites and holiday parks, petrol stations, free Wi-Fi, real-time road alerts, supermarkets, toilets and maps that you can use offline if downloaded first. It's everything you need to know when you're on the road in New Zealand, so don't leave home without it. Download it here!
While plenty of New Zealand has great cellphone reception, we recommend downloading offline maps just in case!
8. Read up on your road rules
If you've never driven in NZ before, there are a few things to know before you plan a self-drive holiday.
To make sure you can drive in New Zealand, check that you have a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit.
Kiwis drive on the left side of the road, and our roads are narrower, more winding and sometimes steeper than you might expect. Most roads are just two lanes, with one in each direction, even many of our state highways! There aren't too many motorways outside of the larger cities, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get between spots.
Before you arrive, take some time to read up on your road rules, so you're feeling confident behind the wheel.
9. Pack your bags
Your campervan comes equipped ready for your trip, so there's no need to bring the kitchen sink! Space is tight, so less is more when it comes to packing.
Leave this stuff at home - we have you covered:
- Cutlery and kitchen equipment
- Linen and towels
- Cleaning supplies
- Pegs and clothes hangers
You'll want to bring some of these along:
- Layers of clothing for changing weather - New Zealand has plenty of spots where you can fill your suitcase with merino, a popular layering tool in Kiwis wardrobes.
- Packing cubes to keep your campervan tidy - everything needs its place, and packing cubes help you keep your gear organised in a tight space.
- Toiletries - you can pick these up at supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores, but if you love your brand of toothpaste or deodorant, then bring it along!
- Drivers licence - you'll need this to pick up your campervan
10. Pick up your campervan and hit the road!
What to expect and pick up
Getting excited?? We hope so! Take a bit of time to read, understand, and be familiar with, the contents of the Rental Agreement. You can view the document in the thl Roadtrip App.
Don't forget to plan how you'll reach our branch to collect your campervan. If driving to our branch, you’ll need to think about where you’ll park your vehicle as there is no onsite parking. Check out Parkopedia for recommended spots.
Speed up the check-out process when you arrive to collect your camper and provide us with your up-to-date contact and booking details. It also ensures you'll get our handy pre-travel emails with camper holiday hints and tips and the all-important campervan show-through video.
At our branch
When you arrive, make your way to the check-in counter. Show us your driver's license and credit card, and we'll process anything else we need to, depending on your booking. You'll also be asked to sign the Rental Agreement. If you can’t wait to get started, you can opt to self check-in online by following the link in your booking email.
Now you can add any extra hire items you need to your booking.
We will then take you to your camper, where you'll watch an introductory show-through video of your home on the road. This will give you the chance to get to know the camper and ask your Branch Host any questions you have before hitting the road.