Country recap and budget tips: New Zealand

Posted by Beth | May 15, 2016

Days in the country: 18

Scott Base Winery, beautiful views and they let you taste even if you're super underdressed

Scott Base Winery, beautiful views and they let you taste even if you’re super underdressed

Cities visited: 

North Island

  • Auckland
  • Matakana
  • Rotorua
  • Waitomo
  • Tongariro
  • Taupo
  • Napier
  • Wellington

South Island

  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Te Anau
  • Milford Sound

Favorite lodging: Though we had some pretty epic campsites, we’re going to have to go with the Hilton Lake Taupo, where we were upgraded to a giant apartment. It was fun to be able to share a points high with our friends and the space was plenty big enough for the four of us.

Favorite food: Beth-fish and chips (multiple locations), Caleb-Caribe Latin Kitchen in Queenstown. Their sauce selection was on point.

Favorite drink: Wine! Wine in New Zealand is plentiful, affordable and delicious. We got to wine taste in three different distinct wine regions across the country so tried a lot of different varietals and purchased our fair share of bottles.

Favorite activities: Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, Milford Sound cruise, and Waitomo glow worm caves

What we enjoyed most: The beautiful scenery is what makes New Zealand so incredible. A lot of the country felt similar to home, but the dramatic nature backdrop makes it worth the trip!

What we enjoyed least: Getting “stuck” in Queenstown for an extra two days when our flight was cancelled due to high winds.

What surprised us: The amount of tourists was pretty overwhelming. Especially in the North Island there were tourist buses everywhere and the amount of package tours made it feel way less adventurous than we expected. New Zealand wasn’t as expensive as we thought it would be though, and prices are quite comparable to the US. Our daily average was only slightly higher than our trip average.

What we would have done differently: Had we planned farther in advance we would have liked to have done the Milford Sound Great Walk. The four-day, three-night trek is limited to a small amount of people on the trail and in the huts everyday, so you have to book months (possibly up to a year) in advance. We also left out the North part of the South Island. It would have been too rushed, but on our next trip to New Zealand we’d like to hit Abel Tasman National Park, the Marlborough Sound wine region and Kaikoura.

Favorite people we met: What made this trip so great was our friends Adam and Ellen flew from North Carolina to join us for a week or so on the North Carolina. It was great catching up with them and adventuring together.

Our best pro tips: 

  • Use the site to book discounted activities. The earlier you book, the deeper the discount.
  • If you want to camp, you’ll save more money by taking your tent and camping gear and getting a basic rental car. It will cost considerably more to rent a camper van, and you’ll end up paying the same amount, if not more, at each campground.
  • Stay at Department of Conservation campgrounds to save money, stay at holiday parks if you want nice bathrooms and kitchen facilities. The campgrounds require a little more research/planning than we anticipated.
  • Many restaurants are BYO, so go ahead and buy that bottle you like from the cellar door and take it with you. Typically a small corkage fee.
  • We found PAK N SAVE to be the cheapest grocery store.
We visited an ice bar for cheap thanks to

We visited an ice bar for cheap thanks to

Currency: New Zealand Dollar. 1 NZD = .68 USD

Hotel points redeemed:

  • 140,000 IHG points plus 1 annual free night certificate from Chase IHG credit card (2 nights Crowne Plaza Auckland, 1 night Holiday Inn Rotorua, 2 nights Intercontinental Wellington, 1 night Crowne Plaza Queenstown)
  • 114,525 Hilton points (1 night at Lake Taupo and 2 nights unplanned at Double Tree Queenstown),

Airline Miles Redeemed: 

Flexible points spent:

  • 24,390 Citi Thank You points (flight from Wellington to Queenstown)
  • 24,215 Barclaycard Arrival points (covered AA airline award taxes and fees and offset our camping expenses)

Total Out-of-pocket expense: $1,938.86

Daily Average: $56.88 per person/day

Click here to see our itemized New Zealand expenses

New Zealand Expenses

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