We had been planning for our New Zealand trip for about 8 weeks before THE big day. This trip was very special for me because I wanted to go to NZ for my honeymoon when I got married and also because I am a big fan of Lord of the Rings trilogy. So when we booked our tickets, it was literally like a dream come true moment for me. This got me to plan early because I wanted everything to be perfect.
One of the challenge preparing for this trip was that I couldn’t find too many resources online to suggest what’s doable and not doable in winters in New Zealand. There are tons of resources for summer trip to New Zealand but winters are different. The days are shorter and driving can be particularly difficult. We also hadn’t driven in snow before so I was also anxious about the trip.
I have put together this checklist that you must review if you are preparing for winter vacation in New Zealand:
1. Prepare for driving in winter & book tours in risky areas
Learn how to chain your car from the car rental providers as you may need it in some circumstances. The sign boards are very prompt and will guide you if you need one. Do not drive for more than 4-5 hours on any day. Take the coach to Milford Sound. Do not attempt to drive. If you are stuck in snow on that route, it will cost lot of $$$$$$ to pull you out.
2. Keep flexible itinerary
You can only start your day at about 10AM as the frost would settle by then. You can only drive from 10 AM to 5 PM which means you have limited time for tourism. Flexible itinerary can save lot of cancellation/booking costs and you can play by the day.
3. Stay for 2-3 nights in one location
Do not try to stretch by hopping from one place to another every day. There is a lot to see in one place. Remember, quality is more important that quantity in NZ.
4. Check your visa for Australia
Yes, you read it right. If you are transiting via Australia into New Zealand, you need Australian visa. This is a crap rule and I didn’t know about until 4 days before my trip. I was lucky that I had travelled to Australia few months ago and I had a valid Australia visa to transit.
5. Choose a new car with GPS
Google maps can sometimes act weird. Make sure your car has GPS and it’s a relatively new car. I personally did not prefer campervan in this cold weather but it is upto you.
6. Get travel insurance
I usually do not take travel insurance but I highly recommend for this trip. In case of snow, if you have make cancellations or are stuck somewhere it can cost a bomb. So, you can save some hassle if you are covered under insurance.
7. Power Banks
Since you are on the road most of the day, your gadgets will run out of battery. Carrying a power bank is advisable as you many need to reach out for help or coordinate with fellow-mates.
I hope you find these tips useful. New Zealand is super beautiful and it’s heaven on earth. Keep caution and you will have splendid memories to cherish.