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New Zealand is a beautiful country to visit and is amazing for families. To truly enjoy the majesty of this fantastic place, you need to rent a car and hit the road. While road trips in New Zealand are relatively easy, there are some things you need to know in advance. These smart tips will improve your New Zealand road trips so you can have the trip of a lifetime.
During our trip to New Zealand, we took a road trip that stretched the length of the North Island. We started in Auckland and spent a week working our way down to Wellington before making a beeline back to Auckland for our flight home. It was such an amazing experience. I am so glad we decided to see the country by car!
Tip #1: Give yourself plenty of time.
The most important tip for your New Zealand road trip is to give yourself plenty of time to get to each place.
While New Zealand looks small on the map, it is much larger than you think. Additionally, there are no major highways like you will find in the United States. So, the speed limits are a lot lower than many people are used to. All of this means that it will take you longer to get from place to place than you might think.
During one portion of our road trip through New Zealand, it took us about six hours to travel less than 150 miles.
Tip #2: Master the traffic circles.
Traffic circles (or roundabouts as some people call them) can be confusing, even when you are familiar with the area. If you are driving in a new location, they can really throw you off.
New Zealand is full of traffic circles. It seems like there’s one every time you look up. So, to make your New Zealand road trips easier, take some time to wrap your head around the concept of traffic circles.
As you enter them, make sure you know which lane you need to be in. Also watch the other cars so you don’t end up in a car accident. And take your time. This isn’t a situation where you need to speed through the traffic circle.
Tip #3: Know your route.
Another tip to help navigate the traffic circles in New Zealand is to know your route. Know what road you need to be on, especially as you are entering a traffic circle.
Many places in New Zealand have similar names, so pay attention to the route and road numbers so you can get where you want to go without getting lost. The last thing you want to do is to waste hours trying to get yourself back on track, especially after it gets dark.
Tip #4: Be compact.
Like I mentioned above, there are no major highways in New Zealand. Instead, you will find roads and highways that are small, narrow, and that sometimes have lots of curves. Because of this, I recommend you rent the smallest vehicle that will fit your family’s needs. A compact vehicle will make it easier to navigate these roads.
Now, while you want to be compact, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy camping as part of your New Zealand road trips. Just think of renting a van designed for camping instead of a traditional RV.
Van camping is very popular in New Zealand. There are lots of options for renting camper vans during your trip.
Tip #5: Enjoy the sights.
New Zealand is a breathtakingly beautiful country. One of the best reasons to take a road trip here is to enjoy all of that beauty. So, take some time during your vacation to enjoy the sights.
But, please be safe while appreciating the feast for your eyes. If you see something that calls for you to linger, pull over in a safe location so you can savor the views without putting your family or other people in danger.
Tip #6: Explore along the way.
In addition to enjoying the sights, you should also do some exploring along the way.
I’m a huge proponent of planning your trips as much as possible. But, in New Zealand, I recommend leaving yourself some time to just explore. You never know what amazing things you will discover.
You can explore in a variety of ways. You can take a day and just wonder wherever you feel the day taking you. Or you can choose a spontaneous location to spend a day. You could also leave a little time open each day to spend exploring whatever you come across.
Tip #7: Get out of the cities!
There are tons of small towns scattered throughout New Zealand. You will undoubtedly go through some of these during your road trip. I highly recommend stopping to explore some of them.
The small towns in New Zealand are clean and pretty. They have awesome mom and pop stores, fun playgrounds, and gorgeous public art pieces. You might just discover that one of these small towns is the highlight of your trip.
We spent time in several small New Zealand towns. But, my favorite was Taupo. And it was a spontaneous stop for us. As we were driving back at the end of our trip from Wellington to Auckland, we went through Taupo. We decided to stop and do a little shopping. It ended up being a great discovery for us.
Tip #8: Have fun.
My last tip for improving your New Zealand road trips is to have fun! This is a destination full of interesting and entertaining things to do. Don’t get so caught up in getting from place to place that you forget to enjoy the moment.
A trip to New Zealand can very easily become the trip of a lifetime for your family. So have fun with it each and every step of the way! Be spontaneous. Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Let loose. And enjoy time with your family. I promise, you won’t regret it!
New Zealand is an amazing location for family vacations. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a bucket list type trip. It’s beautiful, has tons to do, and is very safe. And one of the best ways to experience it is through road trips. I hope these smart tips to improve your New Zealand road trips help make your trip better than ever!
For more help planning your New Zealand vacation, see our ultimate guide to New Zealand trips, things to do with kids, free things to do in New Zealand, reasons to visit New Zealand, tips for driving in New Zealand and mistakes to avoid. And check out the New Zealand’s government website for important information on travel visas.
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