7 ideas and errors to know when planning a household journey to New Zealand

One look at a globe makes it abundantly clear simply how far New Zealand actually is from the U.S.

Greater than 7,000 miles away from our house in Houston, the island nation has lengthy attracted outdoorsy sorts eager on exploring its lovely mountains, fjords, volcanoes and seashores.

So, when my household of 4 determined to plan a March journey round our work and college schedules, we knew we have been in for a grand journey that we would not overlook anytime quickly. Positive, there could be lengthy flights concerned, plus a packed itinerary to maximise our restricted time on this far-flung vacation spot, however we have been up for the problem.

Recognizing we would solely have 10 days on the bottom, we determined to principally stick close to the cities and fly between the totally different areas we visited, which included Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland.

Regardless of our incapacity to enterprise to extra distant components of the nation like many guests do, we nonetheless managed to expertise among the greatest issues to do in New Zealand as a household. Nonetheless, we realized a couple of classes and made a mistake or two alongside the best way.

In case you’re planning a household journey to New Zealand — or hope to in the future — listed here are seven issues to remember, plus a couple of suggestions for 3 of New Zealand’s hottest cities to go to.


The present change price makes issues fairly reasonably priced

The change price from U.S. {dollars} to New Zealand {dollars} favors American vacationers … a minimum of, in the meanwhile. On the time of writing, $1 equals NZ$1.62, which implies that the NZ$100 exercise or meal you get pleasure from will price you about $62.

It isn’t an all-time greatest change price for People, however it’s higher than it has been for many of the final 20 years, making all the things from Uber rides to meals, lodges and actions much more reasonably priced. So, in the event you’re sticking to a decent finances, you could wish to goal to go to sooner slightly than later.

Professional tip: Be sure you pay in New Zealand {dollars} when utilizing a credit card with no foreign transaction fees to keep away from any pointless costs. Your financial institution will deal with the conversion to U.S. {dollars}.

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You do not (normally) must tip

Tipping service employees is usually not anticipated in New Zealand since staff within the nation are usually paid a residing wage. As somebody who may be very used to U.S. tipping tradition, I truthfully discovered this to be extremely refreshing.

Again house, a $15 breakfast would set me again about $20 by the point gratuities are factored in. However in New Zealand, a NZ$15 breakfast price me about $9 because of the change price and the no-tipping coverage.


We did expertise some exceptions to this rule whereas in Auckland. There, a number of eating places displayed indicators encouraging tipping.

Nonetheless, in Queenstown and Wellington, we did not must consider ideas when calculating our day by day bills for consuming out and actions. I’d add a few {dollars} to Uber rides, however we in any other case did not tip.

Bank cards are extensively accepted

In contrast to some locations the place it is nonetheless greatest to convey money, New Zealand is simple to go to with solely a bank card. That is as a result of bank cards are extensively (and virtually universally) accepted. Most U.S.-based bank cards would require a signature each time you swipe, however they work simply high quality.

That mentioned, a 2% bank card utilization payment is fairly frequent, so be ready for that trade-off in the event you determine to lean on playing cards greater than money on your purchases.

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You might not want a automotive rental to get round

We had deliberate to lease a automotive in a number of New Zealand locations we visited, however after the primary couple of days in Wellington, it grew to become clear that that would not be mandatory.

Naturally, you may want a automotive rental in the event you determine to plan a road trip or spend loads of time exploring smaller places, however since we have been there for a restricted period of time and spent most of our time in and round cities, Ubers made probably the most sense for us.

To place numbers to it, throughout our 10 days in New Zealand, we took a complete of 15 Uber rides, with the typical price per journey coming in at $14.59. That complete included a number of airport journeys and our longer rides whereas in Queenstown, as we stayed a bit exterior of city on the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa.

Know, although, that Uber autos are sometimes maxed out at 5 individuals, together with the driving force. Most of our rides have been tight squeezes for the 4 of us as a result of prevalence of compact autos. So, in the event you want more room, a automotive rental could also be one of the simplest ways to go.

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Taxis price way more than Uber

Whereas we principally relied on Uber to get from level A to level B in New Zealand, we grabbed taxis a handful of occasions. Each single time we used a taxi, our pockets instantly regretted that alternative.

Throughout our go to, cab rides have been constantly two to 3 occasions as costly as Ubers. So, until you actually need the comfort of that cab idling on the curb, fireplace up the Uber app and save your self some huge cash within the course of.

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The climate is in cost

Whereas I counsel reserving a few of your must-do actions earlier than the journey to make sure availability and probably profit from an advance-booking low cost, preserve some flexibility in your schedule because the climate in New Zealand — irrespective of the place you might be — can change all of a sudden and dramatically.

In Queenstown, for instance, you may wish to guide your outside adventures on the primary day or two of your keep so you’ve buffer days to change them to within the occasion of rain getting in the best way. Even have some wet day actions in thoughts so you do not waste valuable time in New Zealand simply sitting round ready for sunny skies.

For our journey, we saved museum visits and indoor mountain climbing for these days when the skies appeared ominous. In fact, when the solar does return, you may wish to ensure you are able to take advantage of it.

For example, whereas we had deliberate to save lots of the Wellington Cable Automotive and botanical gardens for one specific day, we improvised and added that tour to our schedule one sunny afternoon as the following day’s forecast appeared prefer it’d be a washout. Positive, we have been slightly drained since that ended up being a very full day, however we knew that that tour would not have been almost as pleasurable within the rain.

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Most actions have a household low cost

Earlier than buying particular person tickets to any exercise in New Zealand, analysis whether or not a household package deal contains grownup and little one tickets at a bundled low cost. Nearly each exercise we did was cheaper if we booked by way of the household plan slightly than pricing out the tickets individually.

For instance, the Shotover Jet we did in Queenstown costs NZ$139 ($86) for adults and NZ$77 ($48) for youngsters, however as an alternative of a household of 4 costing NZ$432 ($267), you may pay simply NZ$355 ($220) when choosing the household package deal.

One other instance of that is the Skyline Queenstown gondola, which costs NZ$46 ($28) for adults and NZ$33 ($20) for youngsters. As an alternative of paying NZ$158 ($98) for a household of 4, select the household plan low cost for NZ$133 ($82).

Planning slightly prematurely additionally has its monetary benefits. For instance, the zip line tour we did in Queenstown has a 15% low cost in the event you guide on-line a minimum of three days prematurely. Most actions mean you can change your plans up till 24 hours earlier than your tour, so it may possibly make sense to guide forward however preserve some flexibility because of these frequent insurance policies.

Issues to do in Auckland with a household

Whereas the percentages are excessive that your journey plans will take you thru Auckland whilst you’re in New Zealand, I would advise in opposition to spending too many nights there. I’ve nothing in opposition to Auckland, however spending time in a big metropolis is difficult to justify when there are such a lot of awe-inspiring landscapes and locations to discover.


Waiheke Island

Must you spend slightly time within the Auckland space, I extremely advocate taking a 30-minute ferry journey to Waiheke Island, which is full of wineries and seashores and has a laid-back island vibe. An added bonus: It is cheap and straightforward to discover by bus.

To buy bus tickets for getting across the island, merely cease by the bus kiosk on the Waiheke Island ferry terminal. Playing cards are loaded with an quantity of your selecting based mostly on the variety of occasions you count on to get on and off the bus.

Every bus journey will price round $1, so a full day on the island would probably require $5 to $6 per card, per particular person.

Hobbiton Film Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves

For us, no go to to Auckland could be full with out an tour to the Hobbiton Movie Set to view the place the hobbits “lived” in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, plus a trek by the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Whereas these locations are a number of hours exterior the town, each are phenomenal if you wish to expertise a mixture of pure and human-made wonders.

We booked a 12-hour guided tour to see each and journey by bus. It was a protracted day, however it was finally definitely worth the payoff as a “Lord of the Rings”-loving household. In case you could not care much less concerning the film, the journey will not be value it, although it was unquestionably a fantastic a part of the nation.

Photographs weren’t allowed on the glowworm caves, however belief me: They have been not like something I would ever seen. The fluorescent blue ceiling of worms you float beneath throughout your guided boat journey by the caves created a peaceable ambiance that jogged my memory of a Disney journey.

The place to remain in Auckland

Though there are a number of factors lodges in Auckland, among the finest is the luxurious Park Hyatt Auckland, which is walkable to the ferry terminal and comparatively reasonably priced by Park Hyatt requirements. A Class 5 Hyatt property, room charges vary between 17,000 and 23,000 World of Hyatt factors per night time. I wholeheartedly advocate it for each its fabulous infinity pool and its spacious and classy rooms.

In case you occur to make use of a Hyatt Globalist suite improve or factors to safe a set (as we did), know that the 764-square-foot Harbour Suite is a improbable deal with. Providing the identical structure because the Park Suite (simply with out the harbor view), the Harbour Suite was beautiful and purposeful, with an infinite lavatory, an enormous residing house and a separate sleeping space. The considerate design allowed us to have a rollaway mattress for our teen in the lounge, a desk to eat dinner at and loads of house for all our jackets, sneakers, luggage, backpacks and extra so we might simply keep organized.

Because the occupancy restrict for rooms and suites right here is three individuals, know that the majority households might want to guide a connecting room. We reserved ours with money by way of the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program so we might use the annual $200 hotel credit we nonetheless had on my Platinum Card® from American Express. It’s also possible to reserve connecting rooms with World of Hyatt factors, however do not forget that solely commonplace connecting rooms (which means ones that do not connect with suites) are bookable this manner.

Issues to do in Queenstown with a household

Whereas it is true that Queenstown is nice for critically adventurous actions, equivalent to paragliding, bungee leaping and skydiving, you do not have to be fairly that excessive to have a good time on the South Island.

Regardless that free-falling wasn’t on our household’s agenda this journey — imagine it or not, even younger kids can take part in paragliding and skydiving right here as soon as the load necessities have been met, which begin round 44 kilos for paragliding — we nonetheless had superb adventures in Queenstown that I would absolutely advocate.

Shotover Jet

To begin, I can not counsel the Shotover Jet — a fast-paced boat journey by the Shotover Canyons, situated a few 10-minute shuttle journey exterior of city — sufficient. This twin-engine boat does 360-degree turns, zooms across the canyon in only a few inches of water and goes over 50 mph.

We had smiles (typically accompanied by water splashes) plastered on our faces your entire time.

Onsen Sizzling Swimming pools

If you wish to calm down after an exhilarating journey by the canyons, go to the Onsen Hot Pools, which overlook the identical river the Shotover Jet boats use. Right here, you’ve entry to a personal sizzling tub, which may accommodate as much as 4 individuals, for an hour. Youngsters are allowed till 4 p.m. day by day.

Whereas the views from the recent tub are greater than definitely worth the payment, know that your rental additionally comes with a drink and snack per particular person. Choices embrace juice, wine, beer, chocolate and ice cream, so there’s a lot for each adults and youngsters.

Skyline Queenstown

A go to to Queenstown ought to, with out query, embrace a journey on the Skyline Queenstown gondola. You will not solely get to absorb breathtaking mountain and lake views, however you may even have the possibility to get pleasure from a couple of laps on the luge monitor.

Packages that embrace the luge, gondola and even lunch or dinner can be found. There are household packages that bundle all these actions with varied numbers of luge rides, too, to make the expertise barely cheaper. The family of four package that features the gondola journey, three luge rides per particular person and a buffet dinner got here to NZ$421 ($261).

Whereas the buffet was actually first rate, it was only a buffet, so in the event you’re strapped for money, think about a package deal that doesn’t embrace that meal and as an alternative eat on the town at a spot like Fergburger, the place mouthwatering burgers begin round NZ$16 ($10). My household liked the gondola and luge, although, making it one in every of our favourite components of our journey. The adults in our group have been happy after three luge rides, whereas the children have been longing for a few further rounds.

Ziptrek Ecotours

For an extra exercise so as to add to your gondola and luge day, guide an outing with Ziptrek. Along with attending to get pleasure from varied zip traces, your loved ones will study a bit about New Zealand’s conservation efforts.

We did the package deal with two zip traces and a drop, which ended up being the proper household exercise, because it was far more thrill-inducing than we had anticipated.

The place to remain in Queenstown

You will discover a couple of lodging choices within the coronary heart of Queenstown. Nonetheless, we selected to remain on the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa so we might guide a family-friendly, two-bedroom suite.

Regardless of the lodge’s inside feeling dated and overdue for renovations, we totally loved our keep. The extra eliminated location did imply we needed to take an Uber or water taxi to city every day, however the sweeping lake and mountain views from the property greater than made up for the slight inconvenience.

Issues to do in Wellington with a household

Wellington was the shock hit of our household journey to New Zealand. We anticipated to love it, however we did not understand how a lot we would like it.

The town was very compact, making it straightforward for our household to get round and check out totally different actions with out committing a full day to at least one journey.

Wellington Cable Automotive

The Wellington Cable Car is a must-do for households or anybody searching for a brief, reasonably priced journey to expertise among the metropolis’s greatest views. As a bonus, there is a gentle present within the tunnel alongside the best way.

When you attain the highest, you may discover the doorway to the free botanical backyard. The playground — with a enjoyable zip line — can also be only a five- to 10-minute stroll from there, so do not skip that you probably have your youngsters alongside for the journey.

Wellington Museum and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The Wellington and Te Papa museums are strong choices for some academic (however enjoyable) actions while you want a break from New Zealand’s unpredictable climate. Each accessible from virtually anyplace on the town, the museums are free to go to, although a donation is recommended.

The Te Papa Museum might simply fill a minimum of a half day for households or adults. Children will probably recognize the home that simulates earthquakes, the “Moana” references and the animal reveals, whereas adults should not miss the “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our Struggle” exhibit.

Wētā Workshop

In case your group contains film buffs, particularly followers of “The Lord of the Rings,” you’ll want to take a look at Wētā Workshop, the place lots of the movie trade’s costumes, prosthetics, props and extra are created. Wētā Workshop can also be answerable for the huge troopers you may see within the “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our Struggle” exhibit on the Te Papa Museum.

You may go to the free small museum and present store or guide one of many 90-minute excursions. Ought to the tour be your desire, you’ll want to guide it effectively prematurely, because it ceaselessly sells out.


With places in each Wellington and Auckland, Fergs is a perfect spot to spend a couple of hours on a wet day.

In Wellington, you may discover the indoor mountain climbing venue by the waterfront. It has a number of climbing areas for varied ages and skills.

Admission lasts all day, so you might burn off some vitality within the morning and return within the afternoon, making it doable to time your go to across the climate on any given day.

Wellington Zoo

On a sunny day, head to the Wellington Zoo, which is only a few minutes away by automotive from the middle of city. It has some enjoyable reveals starting from roaming wallabies to tigers, giraffes and pink pandas.

Like Wellington itself, the zoo was clear, joyful, attention-grabbing and enormous sufficient to be partaking whereas nonetheless sufficiently small to be manageable for a day.

Cuba Avenue

Whether or not you crave a primary photo-op or a improbable meal, Cuba Avenue should not be missed. The realm is house to a photo-friendly rainbow-painted road, plus quite a lot of tasty eateries serving all the things from Malaysian fare to handmade pasta.


The place to remain in Wellington

If you wish to use factors for lodging in Wellington, think about the InterContinental Wellington and/or the DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington. Each sit in nice places and permit households of 4 to share one commonplace room if desired, a rarity in some components of New Zealand.

The DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington in New Zealand. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Backside line

Whereas my household loves closer-to-home getaways equivalent to Disney World and Caribbean cruises, New Zealand simply ranks as one in every of our favourite household journeys of all time.

It might sound formidable to take your loved ones to the opposite facet of the world, however in the event you’re keen to take that leap of religion and provides it a go, I can guarantee you you will not remorse it. You will be rewarded with jaw-dropping surroundings you may barely imagine is actual, interactions with among the friendliest individuals round, quite a few adventurous actions, superb espresso and plentiful playgrounds, amongst different highlights.

Better of all, you may make recollections that can final a lifetime — simply as I do know mine will.

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