Planning To Visit New Zealand by Campervan? Here’s what to know before you go.

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Back in 2018, Heath and I ventured across the ocean to New Zealand for our first big international RV trip. This trip changed our lives—plunging us further in love with travel and convincing us that we should move to this gorgeous country immediately.

We always dreamed of returning to New Zealand one day but wondered if or when it would ever happen.

Then, as we booked flights to Japan, a thought crossed our minds. Should we hop down to New Zealand? We were already halfway there!

Well, we were kidding ourselves if we thought Japan and New Zealand were remotely close to each other! Japan is one of the northernmost countries in Asia and New Zealand is the southernmost country in Oceania. It took a long, ten-hour overnight flight, but we made it to Auckland ready to start our next adventure!

Check out our first day picking up our motorhome and setting out to explore the North Island:

In this blog post, I want to share helpful basics for anyone inspired to take their own road trip across the islands of New Zealand. I’ll cover what you need to know before you go, plus tips for planning your route around the country.


If you’re American, you do need a visa to visit New Zealand. (This came into effect in 2019, after our first visit to New Zealand.)

You need to apply for what is called a NZeTA, or New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority. The application is simple and straightforward. You’ll need your passport handy for this, but it shouldn’t take more than two minutes of your time.

I had to get four of these total—one for each member of the family including the children—and each application was approved in about 60 seconds via email. They advise that you apply a few weeks ahead of time for your visa due to processing times and you can even pay extra to have your visa processed “in a few hours.” I applied a month before our trip and as I mentioned, we were instantly approved.

While these visas are easy to get, they aren’t cheap. They cost $58 NZD or about $36 USD each, meaning it cost nearly $150 to procure visas for our family.

Driver’s License

You do not need an international driver’s permit or IDL to drive in New Zealand. All you need is an active driver’s license from your country—with an English translation, if necessary—and the confidence to drive on the left side of the road!


Flights to New Zealand can be expensive and, if you’re coming from the States, very long. Now that we have kids, we have a new travel rule: Always fly direct. We flew direct from Tokyo to Auckland and since the flight was overnight, jetlag wasn’t too bad. (Plus there’s only a four-hour time difference between New Zealand and Japan.)

I highly recommend flying Air New Zealand if you can. We flew Air NZ from Tokyo and home to Houston. Both times were amazing and some of our easiest flights yet with the kids. Not to spoil the last video of our series, but let me just say, I’ve NEVER had such good sleep on an airplane. 10/10 would recommend.

Air New Zealand doesn’t fly out of every US city, but they do fly direct out of major jobs. It’s worth it to book with them to start and end your New Zealand trip!

(I have no affiliation with Air NZ, but flying with kids and babies is hard. They made it easy. I’m now obsessed with them.)

Best Times to Visit

New Zealand, as I mentioned, is the southernmost country in Oceania, meaning you can expect cold winters. This is the only time of year I would not recommend visiting New Zealand. You can campervan the country in the winter—especially if you like to ski—but if you’ve ever camped in freezing temperatures before, you know the challenges that come with ice.

For both of our visits, we chose to visit during the fall months, March, April, and May. The temperatures are perfect this time of year. It’s warm during the day and chilly at night, though you can expect rain. You’ll need a warm jacket and a swimsuit (for those hot springs!). You’ll get similar temperatures in their spring months, September through November.

Summer is probably the best time to visit, with warm weather perfect for New Zealand’s many beaches or hiking through the mountains. But it’s also peak season for tourism, which is why we generally avoid it. Busy season requires more planning and reservations for campsites, which can be a headache to book from abroad. We prefer shoulder season to beat the crowds and have a more flexible plan. (Bonus: rentals and other things are usually cheaper in the off-season too!)


Packing for a camping trip is very different than packing for other vacations. You’ve got to think about if your suitcase can handle hiking boots and if you’ll need a heavy jacket for camping in the mountains. (I recommend both for New Zealand!)

One thing we were very cognizant of after our first trip to New Zealand was our number of bags. We had three checked bags for our trip and failed to realize that our final flight into New Zealand—all booked with Delta—was on a partner airline that only allowed one checked bag per person. We spent 20 minutes on the floor of the airport repacking items to fit into two bags and be within weight! (Those hiking boots ended up on our feet.)

A few years older and wiser, albeit with kids in tow, we now travel with only one large suitcase.

How do we fit everything for four people into one suitcase for a month-long international adventure?

The short answer: packing cubes. People swear by packing cubes and I have been converted. They make packing SO MUCH EASIER.

The long answer: a three-page list of must-have travel items that I follow to the letter.

Packing for a road trip is very different than packing for a trip where you plan to stay in hotels or Airbnbs. You have to keep in mind that you’ll spend most of your time outside, that you’ll likely be cooking more meals than eating out, and that you’ll be in more extreme temperatures compared to a climate-controlled hotel.

Fortunately, if you book the right camper, you don’t have to worry about packing sheets, towels, dishes, and other camping gear.

Booking a Camper

Heath and I have nowed RVed in 10 countries, renting an RV in each. Not all RV rentals are created equal. For example, in Japan, we had to pay extra for a stovetop, cooking utensils, and sleeping bags. And in our upcoming trip in the UK, we’re paying extra for sheets and towels. Personally, I find this incredibly frustrating. No one wants to fly halfway across the world with sheets in their suitcase!

But in New Zealand, we’ve never had to worry about this added hassle.

During both trips to the country, we rented our RV from Wilderness Motorhomes.

When I say they are the absolute best RV rental company in the world, I mean that very sincerely.

What makes Wilderness the best?

  1. Look at that motorhome. It is so incredibly spotless and beautiful. (Guys, getting a clean RV with the bed neatly made… This is not a guarantee with other rentals. Trust me on that!) Everything about a Wilderness motorhome is luxurious.
  2. Wifi included! Many rental options do not offer wifi. The internet on board our Wilderness is some of the best connectivity we’ve ever had in any country. We had wifi service everywhere we camped. And we camped in some pretty remote places!
  3. Amazing customer service. Customer service is a key component of any travel plan, especially when you’re flying around the world to visit a country. If something comes up before or during your trip, their team is quick to help you resolve any problems.

When we picked up our Wilderness Motorhome, one thing you don’t see in the video above is us signing the rental agreement stating that our rental would be returned on May 8th. There was only one problem with this. I booked our return flights to the US for May 9th! 🙈  Such a rookie travel mistake on my part. I completely mixed up the days when I booked our flight home. Wilderness waved off my stress and quickly adjusted our rental to be one day longer. There was an updated agreement in our email inbox before we pulled off the lot. The team was so quick to adapt, sympathetic to my mistake, and so kind to let us extend our trip.

I, on the other hand, am still embarrassed!

We are always blown away by the professionalism and warmth of the Wilderness team. There is no other rental company we would choose to rent in New Zealand!

Planning our Route

As we state in the video, during our last visit to NZ, we spent most of our time on the South Island. So much time in fact, that we had to cut our North Island visit short.

There were a few places I knew I wanted to revisit on the North, like Rotorua and Taupo, but I didn’t know where to start planning for the rest of the island.

I headed to Wilderness’s website, remembering how they helped me plan our trip back in 2018.

They have over a dozen road trip itineraries with stops, things to do, and convenient notes like how many days a route might take. I grabbed the Auckland to Cape Reinga road trip as well as the Auckland to Coromandel itinerary. (You’ll see us start driving the Coromandel peninsula in the video. Holy WOW it is one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.


If you’re planning a road trip to New Zealand, I highly recommend downloading one of their free road trip itineraries to help you start planning!

Things to Know Before You Go

I have long believed New Zealand to be the most beautiful country in the world. Revisiting New Zealand and seeing more of the North Island has only further reinforced this belief. It is truly a gem that should be on every bucket list.

We can’t wait to share this New Zealand video series with you. Be sure to subscribe on Youtube for all of the videos 🙂

3 Responses

  • Can’t wait to see this series! Because of you guys we packed up and did NZ with Wilderness, getting home just before Covid hit. 3 weeks in the south then the last 5 days in the north. Your videos on the first trip were SO helpful. Trip of a lifetime! We keep talking about going back with emphasis on the north. Someday….

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