9 Tips For A Family Road Trip In New Zealand

New Zealand is a superb choice for a family friendly road trip, serving up activities from glaciers to beaches, culture to delicious grub.  I’m particularly fond of the place as we spent our honeymoon in the South Island, one of the most beautiful regions I’ve ever visited.  Wind the clock forward seven years and it’s the turn of the North Island with two young kids in tow (2 and 4 years old).

This was our route.  You can read more on how I planned our journey here.

New Zealand North Island Road Trip

Now for some tips we picked up on our travels:

  1. Unlike the crazy freeways we encounter on our US road trips, New Zealand is an easy and calm place to drive.  Do keep to the speed limit though as they like to enforce it.  Kiwis drive on the left side and you must also park on the left unless on a one way street.
    Road trippin
  2. Ever heard the Crowded House song ‘Four Seasons in One Day’?  Boy does this sum up the weather we encountered in late January.  Pack lots of layers, you can veer from boiling to freezing cold in a matter of minutes.  Here’s a more in depth guide to the weather you might expect, depending on when you visit.
  3. Apparently there’s no tipping in New Zealand!  Of course, tip away at your discretion if the service is good but I hear from the locals that they don’t…  FYI service levels in New Zealand are brilliant.
  4. I found New Zealand quite pricey, especially in comparison to travels in the US and Asia.  Save money on food by selecting self catering apartments.  We didn’t do this (unappealing with two young kids) but hiring a camper van is also a popular way to save money and go at your own pace.
  5. Internet can be patchy, especially in remote places and also at a slow speed.  Print off in advance anything vital you might need e.g. addresses, flight tickets etc.  Why not use it to your advantage and enjoy being switched off from the world rather than glued to your iphone!
  6. Op shops (charity stores) are all over the place.  These are great for stocking up on super cheap kids books and toys to keep them entertained in the car.
  7. Foodies will love New Zealand.  Not only is the homegrown stuff delicious from gourmet seafood meals to pies but also great Thai, Vietnamese, Indian etc.  We’ll often sit in our hotel room and use the Yelp app to find local restaurants with the best reviews.

    Best 'fush&chups' ever in Mission Bay, Auckland

    Best ‘fush&chups’ ever in Mission Bay, Auckland

  8. Visit the Tourist Information Centres in each town you visit.  Not only will you find useful info and maps but also vouchers to get you money off on attractions.
  9. Kiwis are a friendly and approachable bunch.  Follow these rules to understand what they’re saying:

    A becomes E“Now thet I hev your ettention, lets get beck to the lesson, ay?
    E becomes EE: “I’ll be there in teen meenuts”
    I becomes U“Lets go get some fush and chups bro”
    *UNLESS it’s pronounce ‘I’ as in ‘Ice’, the it becomes ‘OI’ as in, “Oi’ll just pop down to the dairy and puk us up some fush end chups.” I is a tricky letter mate.
    O stays the same and so does U

Thanks to How To Speak Like A Kiwi In 4 Easy Lessons


  1. Michael Orobona

    Nice list. We also found the less-busy “shoulder season” was a good time to visit. Booking excursions far in advance is also a good idea (I think); some things like the Milford Mariner fill up. Be aware of oncoming traffic on numerous one-lane bridges,

    1. Nicola

      i remember those one lane bridges from our south island trip!

  2. Dan

    Nobody really says Fush and Chups, that’s just propaganda spread by the Aussies 🙂

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