Hurrah! Our South Island road trip is taking shape.
To date, we’ve booked a campervan – $660 for two weeks in September – and flights.
I’ve paid a 10 percent deposit ($66) and for flights to Christchurch and back for two ($372). If I was willing to wait until very close to the time and stalk Grabaseat for last minute deals, it’s likely we could have saved maybe $30 per flight, but I’d rather lock it in and forget about it.
We chose to go with checked baggage flights, because along with clothing and toiletries for two weeks, we’ll need to bring bed linen (but the kitchen is equipped, thankfully). After scouring both Webjet and Mix and Match, I determined when the best times to fly were and on what airline.
I wanted to fly Air NZ both ways – we’ve flown Jetstar before and not personally had any major issues, but the last time the airline managed to send everyone’s checked baggage on an entirely different plane, messing up lot of travel plans (luckily we only had carry on). Initially, I booked our flight down on Jetstar because of the flight times and the cheaper cost, and our return on Air NZ, but when Jetstar went and cancelled its morning flight on me a few days later, I asked for a refund and booked us on an Air NZ flight down. It means we’ll have to wait around a little at the airport, because of their flight schedule, but it does give me some peace of mind.
(NB: sometimes it pays to make a snap decision. The first time I called Jetstar, the rep was practically encouraging me to take a refund, rather than rebook on another flight that same day, but I was too paranoid that Air NZ wouldn’t have any suitable flight times. Instead, I ended up calling back later after checking Webjet again, and had to actually ask for a refund this time, as the rep didn’t offer that up as an option.)
I opted not to take the campervan company’s insurance option, in favour of booking our own travel insurance. Which reminds me – the insurance rep who gave me my quote hasn’t got back to me. Must chase. Don’t they want my business?
What’s next? Arranging my leave from work and mapping out a rough itinerary for our two weeks.
We pick up our campervan in Christchurch, and then want to loop the South Island, hitting the likes of Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka, Milford Sound, Nelson, Marlborough Sound, etc. If we end up loving the lower South Island and don’t have time to cover the northern half, that’s fine – we can catch up on that anytime, it’s not going anywhere.
To be honest, we aren’t planning on doing much. We definitely fall on the lazy side of the outdoorsy continuum (hence two weeks should suffice). Think more sightseeing – penguins at Oamaru, the Moeraki Boulders, the Catlins, Mt Cook, Franz Josef Glacier, whale and seal spotting in Kaikoura – and hopefully enjoying some fresh seafood along the way…
The only places where I’m thinking we might do organised activities are at Milford Sound for sightseeing on the water, and skiing either around Queenstown or Canterbury. So I’ll have to arrange a skiing package, or at least research it. We’ll need to hire all the gear and potentially get a ride up the mountain. Need to figure out which mountain to go up, too (there are many. But we won’t have the time nor the energy to do more than one – we’ve only been to the snow a couple of times ever in our lives so really a day will be enough and we’ll be wiped).
I’ve started on a rough itinerary, which will also need to include possible campsites – free, and paid (to recharge, empty wastewater etc), like nzcampsites.co.nz, holidayparks.co.nz, nzcamping.co.nz, and doc.govt.nz.
Campervanning will give us the freedom to stop on the go without having to worry about making it to a prebooked accommodation or worry about finding a bed for the night. Granted, the new freedom camping law passed does place some restrictions on that – in places where signs explicitly forbid stopping – but we have a self contained vehicle with full bathroom facilities so will have as much freedom as possible. And T insisted on a manual, turbo diesel van, so hopefully we won’t be the dreadful lot slowing down everybody else on the open road.
Any tips to share on campervanning?