10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Trip to New Zealand

Whether you’ve been waiting patiently for the New Zealand borders to re-open or just started planning a vacation, you know that a magical country awaits. But do you know if your itinerary is too rushed, under-budgeted, or over-booked? Learning from the errors of other travelers will help maximize your time and ensure a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our travel advisors and Kiwi contacts share ten mistakes to avoid on your trip to New Zealand.

Rangitoto, Auckland, New Zealand. Photo credit: Fraser Clements
  • Only visit big cities. Over two-thirds of the country’s population live in the greater Auckland area, and it’s a starting point for many itineraries. Culture, nightlife, history, and cosmopolitan cuisine are easily found in this and other city centers. But to see how the other one-third lives, it’s essential to leave the busy hubs and head into the countryside. Pairing a few nights in a downtown hotel with a few more at a wilderness lodge will introduce you to more of the country’s impressive environments.
  • Only visit one island. While many travelers choose to focus on the North Island and it’s big cities, we suggest making time to explore North and South Islands. Kiwis make fun of both islands with typical self-deprecating humor: snotty urbanites live up north, rural bumpkins live down south. In reality, the whole country is known for its hospitable people, and you won’t want to miss out by just touring one half of it.
  • Only visit in summer. A Pacific Island will always be tempting when you’re surrounded by North American winter snow. Especially when winter here is summer in the Southern Hemisphere! But by traveling in New Zealand’s off-peak seasons (autumn, winter, or spring), your trip will be less busy and less pricey. Many vendors offer lower off-season rates. Activities will have more availability, which gives you more flexibility in planning and booking. And New Zealand’s spring and fall temperatures tend to be mild, so you won’t have to pack the winter jacket and “woolies”, as the locals say.
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand. Photo credit: Rob Suisted
  • Squeeze Australia into the same itinerary. The two countries may appear close on a map, but fitting Australia and New Zealand into one itinerary can make for a crammed, expensive trip. Instead of trying to incorporate both on your next visit, we suggest amplifying time in one or the other. With contacts on both sides of the Tasman Sea, our advisors can prepare an itinerary that will feature the best that either country has to offer.
  • Fly everywhere. When vacation time is limited, Air New Zealand domestic flights can help you cover more of the map. But a car is best for finding those off-the-track experiences that give New Zealand it’s positive reputation. Self-driving or hiring a private driver are highly recommended alternatives. Other unique transportation options include crossing from Wellington to Picton on an Interislander ferry or catching the TranzAlpine train across the Southern Alps.
Phia, Auckland, New Zealand. Photo credit: Sam Mahayni
  • Under-estimate the distances. If you measure the country from the top of the North to the tip of the South, it’s about as long as California. There are lots of rural roads, meaning distances that appear short on a map may turn into unexpected adventures. New Zealand also uses the metric system, so everything’s measured in kilometers, not miles. Be careful to adjust for this change and allow yourself plenty of time between destinations.
  • Under-budget your time. Rushing from sight to sight can stress out any itinerary. By allowing extra travel time between destinations, you will avoid the frustration that comes from missing out on your Must-See list. Add an extra 30 minutes to each drive, in case you make a wrong turn or want to stop along the way. We also suggest down time in-between activities, should something start or end late due to inclement weather. Finally, leave an empty day or two in each location, so you can add in any additional tours or sights that you might discover during your stay.
TranzAlpine Train, Christchurch to to Greymouth, New Zealand. Photo credit: KiwiRail
  • Under-budget your trip costs. U.S. and Canadian Dollars are frequently stronger than the New Zealand Dollar, which makes your trip budget stretch farther. However, it’s important to remember that costs for daily goods, from toothpaste to paperback books, may be more expansive than you’re used to at home. Where possible, be ready to increase your trip budget so you can enjoy all the sights and sounds the country has to offer.
  • Forget to take the Tiaki Promise. The Tiaki Promise is more than a verbal commitment to eco-friendly travel. The Maori word, which translates roughly as ‘protect, care, conserve’, is an invitation to share the same perspective as New Zealand’s indigenous peoples. This means protecting the country for future generations of travelers and making careful choices in your trip planning. Visitors are encouraged to consider their movements and make The Tiaki Promise before arriving in the country.

Frank Krieger