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How to save money while on holiday — New Zealand trip tips

  • 2 minutes

Freedom and Wild Camping in New Zealand @TripSavvy


Accommodation, especially if you have one or two days in a place location is critical as you do not want to spend your time travelling to and from places and activities.

Location versus the cost of the accommodation is the tricky balancing act I have not always got it right myself.

The first question, before you choose your accommodation is how you plan to get from A to B during your stay. If it is public transport then it is important that you are near the train station, bus station… If it is guided tours then it is important that you are either one of the hotel pick ups or within half an hour walking / public transport to pick up point. This is especially important after a long day out and about sightseeing.  We have all dragged our weary feet halfway across town to get to our hotel.

I’ve been faced with four flights of stairs, no lifts and it was not that close to the railway station anyway. I was seriously cross with myself for taking the lure of, “It looks really good.”

Off season rates combined with an airline deal are often for weekdays. Perhaps consider several weekdays as weekends in popular cities such as Melbourne and Queenstown are not as frequent. Combined with 3 nights with the fourth night either discounted or free is worth considering. In particular accommodation websites offer these deals. It is not as frequently marketed on accommodation broker websites such as trip advisor. You are then going to use your base as a hub for day trips. Remember to check out my day trips.

Cobb River Campsite, Nelson Region, NZ @Rankers Cobb River Campsite, Nelson Region, NZ @Rankers
@CamperMate @CamperMate


Getting somewhere in New Zealand or Australia can be expensive due the need to rent a car to check out the outdoor activities that are on your bucket list.

Most scenery is not in a convenient city location, rather a remote park. Check out a route that goes against the flow of tourists and car relocation is an option. It does take some effort as it is a logistical exercise which then influences your journey direction. A good example of relocation in NZ is Wellington to Auckland. Most international travellers arrive in Auckland and then collect a rental car. Onwards to Wellington. Similar in Australia check out flow of traffic and, if renting a vehicle ask the rental company for the favoured routes for returns. Negotiate with the rental company.

One way rentals are expensive, try to avoid whenever possible when you on a budget.

I have not personally shared the cost of traveling with on the spot recently acquired travel companions. I was not sure about how I would sort out priorities and travel styles. The seasoned backpacker, serious budget traveller who survives on instant noodles will have stories galore to regale audiences with.

Sustainable travel is not hopping from regional airport to regional airport. It is the least time in flight possible. And that cheaper airfare might gobble up valuable time on holiday. If your time away is ten working days and four are spent flying. It is a trip of endurance in flying rather than relaxing into a holiday vibe. I recommend a hub and spoke travel destination. One or two places with family and friends pivoting from your locations to local attractions. Public transportation is then a viable option, it is fun when you are not going to work, economical and always remember the bus operators of hop on and hop off services are familiar with public routes. Ask a local the best way to get somewhere without a car.

Transport costs are lessened by forward booking online tickets, especially seasonal or weekly specials. Remember to download / offline copies of your purchases. I recommend you do not use third party agencies for public transport as the specials are not usually promoted. It is not a tour you are going on, rather you are simply going from A to B.

Petone railway station, New Zealand @Wikipedia Petone railway station @Wikipedia
Auckland Trainstation Auckland Trainstation


Eating out and restaurant food, when all you want is a home cooked favourite. Local markets are a great source of local favour without breaking the bank. Check out where the longest queue is and it is likely to be a firm local favourite. And the fruit is probably seasonal which should mean it is fresh, plentiful and not expensive.

TIP: Use the mini fridge in the hotel to store the fruit. Empty out the mini drink bottles and place them on top of the counter while your reusable water bottle, local fruits and snacks stay chilled in the fridge.

TIP: Families can have a picnic at the local park with the grocery store goodie bag. Remember to pack your cash and carry a reusable shopping bag.

TIP: Ask the front desk receptionist the best place to eat for a bargain. The person is a local and has to manage an income that is not great. They will be a fund of useful information about how to get around without spending next year’s salary.

Classic breakfast, Whitianga, New Zealand Classic breakfast, Whitianga
Seafood bounty, New Zealand Seafood bounty


How to contact loved ones without running up huge data expenses?

Check your mobile data package offers for the place you are visiting. Install or advise friends and family you will be using Skype, Whatsapp or Google hangouts, Wechat to message. Texting is a great way to find out where family is a strange city complete with a google map locator.

How to pay for goods and services without incurring extraordinarily high exchange fees.

The rule of thumb here is to withdraw money, not exchange money. Your bank card will offer good currency exchange rates, so forget wads of cash and instead withdraw local currency from the ATM. And be sure to travel with a bank card that reimburses all ATM fees. If using a credit card I have been advised to choose the option of the bank deciding on the exchange rate rather than purchasing in the local currency immediately.

Sustainability and budgeting go together.

Don’t try to check off everything on your list.  It does not matter if the lake got missed out, it is not going anywhere and you can dream about the return journey to find that magical lake.

Travel in the slow lane minimises the cost of transport and accomodation, you are in the same place for several days. Feel like a local and enjoy the space you are in, rather than hopping every night to a new place. Leave that for the mass tourist bus operators.

Keep some days free from forward planning. Avoid booking in advance on your free days. Think of it as a ‘free’ day at the parks, beaches, walks and simply absorbing the sights and sounds of your holiday location.

Sustainability is about contributing to the local economy, shopping local, eating locally you are one person extra supporting the hospitality service providers.

New Zealand and Australia are not the cheapest places to visit. We do not have a low wage hidden immigrant component to our employment market. Generally people can live on their wages. Hence our country is more expensive. However you are holidaying in a place where it is not a bargain, rather it is fair to the people who are supplying you with goods and services.  Holiday local, holiday here and backyard is familiar. We can instantly recognise a bargain when we see it.

Wellington, New Zealand @Andrew Surgenor Wellington, New Zealand @Andrew Surgenor


Location influences the daily cost of food, outings and activities. Balance the thought of Great Barrier Reef experience against snorkelling Turquoise Bay (Western Australia) where costs are substantially cheaper than tourist hot spot Great Barrier. Of course you have to get there, that’s another balancing act. Transport versus daily cost.

How to make the dollar go further?

Self-catering is the catch cry here for people with families. Snacks, drinks (in reusable containers), fruit, pastries and muesli bars all go a long way to resisting the lures of more expensive cafes alongside activities. Save the treats for one delicious beach side ice cream. This is where AirBNB comes into its own with the usual option of laundry facilities.

If you are staying in a hotel check out the breakfast plus room option. There is nothing like the family laying down the energy reserves for a day’s activities with a full buffet breakfast. Remember though it is not considered honest to ‘borrow’ food from the buffet for the rest of the day.

TIP:  A hot tourist spot activity such as a zoo or entertainment centre usually has more expensive eating options due to their proximity to the visitor experience. Carry snacks to avoid “I’m hungry …” moments.

Getting around with a family needs research beforehand. Usually public transport such ferries, buses and trains are cheaper if they are booked online with several days worth of transport loaded up. Ensure you have an offline version of your tickets just in case your local mobile service decides to not cooperate while you are trying to board the boat.

Being connected for yourself as well as other members of your family is a necessity. It keeps everyone sane when we can quietly read our downloaded book or check the local weather forecast or ensure our family and friends are in touch. Local SIM cards, roaming services offered by your mobile provider all need checking before you depart.

Harbourside Market @masa osada Harbourside Market @masa osada
ThorndonFarmersMkt, Wellington, New Zealand @ThorndonFM ThorndonFarmersMkt @ThorndonFM

When to travel and the cost of travelling during the school holidays

School holidays are busier, they are often more expensive and the adults can feel they are surrounded by a school bus trip. I am not encouraging caregivers to wrench school age children out of school, rather to avoid high season. It is just a given that while younger people are tied to an educational timetable you will have limited travel dates available.

Budgets and all those expensive entrance fees with children in tow

The good news is the entrance fees are not a shock. You can easily check out the entrance fees and total up the potential cost for the family. And then you have younger people with various interests.  Compromise definitely as it is not solo travel rather it is shared experiences. Perhaps you could allocate one or two paid activities per person. Each person gets a choice which can easily be expanded around a trip to a park (free entry), walks to explore, mapping a city with interactive guides. A week of holiday entertainment sorted. And I know gift shops can be placed in the path of the exit.  You have to negotiate your way through talk of …  ‘Mum look at this …

Matakana village farmers market, New Zealand @TODD EYRE Matakana Village @Todd Eyre
New Zealand supermarket @Lou Atkins New Zealand supermarket @Lou Atkins

How to minimise the impact of gift purchases, souvenirs and the detritus of holiday memories?

Encourage sustainable practices this should minimise the purchase of that plastic trinket. Younger people can have a notebook for memories and notes, either electronic or physical. Collecting entrance tickets, visitor centre brochures for images, complimentary maps for locations, receipts, ribbons and string around objects all contribute to the journey of building a picture of the holiday that is not simply paid for.

Pressed flowers and leaves will need to be checked by customs if you are entering both Australia and New Zealand however for domestic holidays it is a great way of remembering the walk, the day at the beach or the exploration of a new playground.

Local supermarkets are a great holiday experience

For younger people the favourite muesli bar is available, the yogurt for breakfast looks different. A food adventure in the Brisbane or Christchurch supermarket awaits all parents who travel. Encourage those less adventurous, with their food choices, it is an exploration to search and locate stuff they like. You can always stash in your carry on pack a favourite nut bar, remember to carry commercially wrapped food only and declare at customs.

Escape, enjoy and explore.

The journey is worth it.

What do you think about “Budget tips”?

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