New Zealand: To Campervan or not?

New Zealand: To Campervan or not?

Nowadays experiencing New Zealand via a campervan is a popular travel option.  As discussed below, it’s likely not the cheapest way to see the country, but it is more flexible than the typical rental car/motel option. Campervans allow one to camp in a wide range of outdoor environments, from urban to almost back-country (obviously a road is needed to the campsite!).  Assuming one is interested in sleeping in remoter areas of NZ than motels will allow, but without being a back-country tramper, it’s a great way to go!

What to consider when planning your New Zealand Campervan Adventure

There are two main questions to ask yourself. What route will you take, and in what vehicle will you travel? When beginning to plan your trip, both questions can seem overwhelming.

  1. What route will you take? When thinking of what route to take you have to determine where you will begin and end your trip, and where you will stay each night. A full breakdown of our route and where we stayed each night, can be found in this blog post: New Zealand: Month-long Campervan Route and Lodging Information.
    • Pick-up/Drop-off Camper Rental Locations: Consider flying in or out of Christchurch, as flights into this airport are often cheaper than others. We recommend doing the time/cost trade of touring in a single direction (paying Cook Strait ferry price once), as opposed to making a loop and flying in and out of the same airport (paying Cook Straight ferry price twice). Ultimately, we flew in to Christchurch and toured the South Island for three weeks and the North Island for two weeks, ending our trip and flying out of Auckland.
    • Where will you park your campervan at night?
      • There are three basic types of camp sites: Freedom Camping Sites, DOC Sites, and Privately Owned “Holiday Parks”. Having a self-contained camper enables you to park in any of the aforementioned site types. Renting a non-self-contained vehicle limits you to only private parks and some DOC sites. DOC sites are run by the New Zealand Dept. of Conservation (DOC), and are often ½ the price of the holiday parks, but do not generally offer more than a toilet, so no power, shower, laundry, kitchen or dumping facilities. Freedom camping allows one to park and camp overnight for “free” in many areas of public land in NZ, and can be an awesome way to both find a stunning campsite and save money. Some freedom camping areas are restricted to self-contained campers. If you’re new to camping, I’d recommend a powered site once every three days. That way you will have the ability to dump your tanks and take a warm shower! See my post on our route and lodging (New Zealand: Month-long Campervan Route and Lodging Information) for a complete breakdown of the sites we selected and their price per night.
      • Download the Campermate and/or ViewRanger App ASAP. Be sure to also download the offline maps/data in Campermate as well as in Google Maps, so you can access information without service. These resources give tons of useful information about campsites, groceries, fuel locations, etc. We used Campermate daily. We also heard the app Flush was really useful, as it maps all public bathrooms!
    • Useful Route Planning Tip 1: Give yourself a day or two in your campervan pickup location to learn your vehicle and stock up on items you need: groceries, hardware, rental bikes. We started our adventure in Christchurch, so a night at the Godley Head DOC site was perfect for giving our vehicle a test drive near our pickup location. Good thing we did, because we had trouble with our toilet, and had to go back to the JUCY office in Christchurch!
    • Useful Route Planning Tip 2: Make sure your route includes the following locations (trust us – you won’t want to miss these!): Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Mount Sunday (Edoras), Mount Cook (Lonely Mountain), Kenepuru Head Sound (stay at the DOC Site or Freedom Camp here), Cook Strait crossing via ferry, Wellington (Weta Cave and Victoria Peak for LOTR fans), Hobbiton, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and Cape Reinga.
    • Useful Tips to read before your journey: Click here for a list of things we wish we would have known, including must have items to pack or pick up when you arrive in NZ!
  2. What vehicle will you rent? There are MANY vehicle types and companies to choose from. As previously mentioned, I recommend selecting a self-contained vehicle, which enables you to freedom camp.
    • We spotted more than 25 camper rental companies on the road (yes – we tallied every vehicle we passed on the road during our last three weeks!). With Britz, Maui and JUCY being the three most frequently sited rented campervan on the road. The table includes a breakdown of the vehicles we spotted:NZ campervan stats.png
    • While there are many companies to choose from, we ended up selecting JUCY Rentals and we rented the JUCY Chaser. It ultimately cost about $175 USD/day to rent for five weeks – you will need to also factor in the additional cost of insurance, fuel, sites, and food when budgeting. Some rental companies offer add-ons like insurance, extra tables, chairs, bikes, etc. We didn’t select any add-ons, but did rent bikes from Natural High, which enable one way bike rentals. If you’re interested in a cost breakdown of the trip check out this blog post: The Economics of a Month-long Campervan Adventure through New Zealand.
      • Note on renting bikes in New Zealand: Most of the roads are two lane high ways without shoulders. This is particularly true outside of the major cities. The JUCY Chaser doesn’t come with a bike rack on the back, so we had to store the bikes inside our camper. Some companies like Britz do offer campers with bike racks, and rent bikes with their campers.
    • Insurance – It’s easier cheaper to take non-JUCY insurance. We went with Tripcover, and paid $313 for $4000 worth of coverage (including luggage in the event something was stolen from the camper and damage to the camper) as opposed to the insurance offered via JUCY, which was far more expensive.

Campervan Recipe Ideas

Campervan Recipe Ideas

During our five-week New Zealand campervan adventure, we enjoyed cooking in our camper, as well as a week-long spontaneous raw food diet. Below is a list of recipes for when you’ve had the last ramen, or PB&J, that you can stand and need to spruce things up a bit!

Recipe Links:

Simple Recipe Ideas:

  • Greek salad – mix cubed feta, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced and quartered cucumber, kalamata olives or olive tapenade, EVOO + balsamic vinegar and voila! You can add cubed avocado for more protein as well.
  • Smoked salmon with side of tzatziki and avocado or exchange the avocado for olive tapenade.
  • More to come!

Visiting Tallinn

Visiting Tallinn

Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, is the northernmost Baltic state, and is home to a lovely old town and a majestic waterfront path that runs east of the city. In this post, I describe top restaurants & bars and things to do in Tallinn.

“e-Estonia” is ahead of its time when it comes to Internet connectivity. The country has one of the highest Internet penetration rates – as high as 75%, and they have been voting on line for more than a decade!

Before visiting, check out this great site to learn a few fast facts about Estonia. I had no idea Estonia is to thank for space food, Skype, and more!

Continue reading “Visiting Tallinn”

Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway

Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, accessing Europe from the U.S. by way of Dublin is a simple way to reduce the cost of airfare… and taking a couple of days to tour Dublin and its surroundings can be a great way to start or end any Eurotrip. If you have more than a day or two, you should consider heading out west or up north to explore more of the lusciously green country!

In this post, I discuss transportation options to and from the airport, my favorite restaurants and to dos, and I provide a sample three-day itinerary.

Continue reading “Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway”

A European Summer

A European Summer

On June 21st, I departed to Europe on a one-way Delta award ticket from Boston to Dublin. I plan to post more about frequent flyer miles and credit cards in the future, but will mention now that it’s fairly common to find awards tickets to Europe in the summer for 30k miles (economy), 40k miles (economy plus / Delta Comfort), and 60k+ mile (business / first class). Points are a great way to cover travel, assuming you always pay your credit cards off!

I always try to fly to Europe via Dublin (DUB) or Amsterdam (AMS), booking one way flights with points. There’s an agreement between the U.S. and Ireland promoting tourism, so if you fly back to The States via DUB, you actually clear customs in DUB, meaning when you land in the US it will be as if you landed from a domestic flight (like SFO –> BOS). It’s great! On this trip, we fly home from AMS, on one way 30k mile economy tickets.

Some have asked how we picked the locations along our route, and honestly there wasn’t any grand plan. We had weeks here and there where we had plans to meet friends or family in certain locations — like Provence for group cycling trip, and Berlin to see our friend Larissa — and we filled in the rest.

We took a variety of transportation methods methods between major locations (planes, trains, buses, and boats), and always tried to use public transportation (buses, metros, trams, rental bikes) during our stays. Here is a map of our route!

Summer 2018 Europe Map With Transport.png

We also tried to book more economical lodging (Airbnbs, private rooms in hostels, friend’s pull out sofas). Our goal for the year is to have an average nightly lodging cost of <$60/night for two people, because that is roughly what we paid for our studio apartment in D.C..

Europe will likely be the most expensive leg of our gap year, with our average room costing closer to ~$100/night (for two people). You might be thinking – you stayed with friends and in hostels and still ended up spending ~$100/night? Are you crazy? Well, we had one week of complete splurging (Italian cooking school in Tuscany, which I will tell you all about) and several weeks of traveling with family and friends, so we weren’t in the super cheap places we might have stayed if it was just the two of us. More to come!

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

In May 2018, my boyfriend and I packed our bags in D.C. and set off on a year of travel and reflection. I call it “gap year”, but if I am being completely honest, I haven’t stopped working entirely. I established a technical consulting practice and work part-time on the side to help fund excursions!

I have four simple goals for my gap year:

  1. Exercise often
  2. Have fun
  3. Don’t run out of money
  4. Cut down on single use plastics

The first three are self explanatory, but I’d like to elaborate on the fourth. Did you know that last year, Americans used ~50 billion water bottles? Unfortunately, only 23% were recycled. We could all do better when it comes to producing less waste, and I figured I’d do my part in starting now!  

I pledged to not use single use plastic water bottles, which means carrying around a water bottle. As much as I’d like to deny it, I have never been the best at keeping up with things. This water bottle lasted about a month before it was left somewhere. I still have my second water bottle though!

I look forward to sharing itineraries, favorite travel spots, and travel hacks in the coming months!

Stay tuned, and if there is something you’d like to hear about in particular please reach out!