New Zealand Holiday Planning - Self Drive Tours

The most popular way to discover New Zealand is by hiring a car or campervan rental. By having your own rental vehicle gives you great flexibility to explore, change your route, or visit those hidden gems that you may discover due to chance encounters with other travelers, or the local New Zealanders. A driving holiday allows you to explore at your own pace, and in your own time.

What do you want to do in New Zealand

When you start planning your self-drive holiday to New Zealand, take some time to plan exactly where you want to go, and what you want to do and see. So your interests  could include such things as Scenic Attractions, Wildlife, Adventure Activities, Maori Culture, History, Gardens, Hiking, Kayaking, Glaciers, Wine, Fishing, Family Activities or Historic Buildings, to just name a few. Depending on what your interests are, will depend on where you should go, and what you should do.

Allow Plenty of Time

Once you have decided where to go, and what you want to see, make sure you leave plenty of time to do it. Remember if you stay one night at every place you visit, you cannot expect to see anything of the town or region. Even staying 2 nights at a place, only gives you one full day to explore. Normally the day you arrive, and the day you depart is just spent travelling between destinations, with some sightseeing and exploration en-route. For most of the larger tourist destinations, staying 3 nights is the minimum you should plan on, with 2 night stays at the smaller centres.

New Zealand Coach Itineraries

Many people plan their New Zealand self-drive holiday by just following the itineraries of the larger coach companies. Be a bit cautious about doing this, as they have someone who just is there to drive you, and get you to the next town. Because of the sizes of the coaches, they often do not stop at some of the smaller places that may be of interest to you. Your particular interests may not, in fact almost certainly will not, match the interests of those on a large coach tour.

If you are going to plan your trip based on a New Zealand coach tour, do it first by adding one night to every stop the coach tour makes. This will then at least give you some time to explore each place you visit. Then research each place you have on that itinerary through books, the internet, or friends and relatives that have visited the area. Once you have fully researched each area, then you can sit down and work out exactly what you want to do on each of the days you have available. The chances are you will need to then add some extra nights in, perhaps reduce the nights in a few areas, or maybe amend the itinerary.

Driving Times & Distances

Always allow plenty of time, and err on caution when planning your trip. Using Google Maps is an easy way to estimate your daily driving times and distances. Just go to Google Maps, put in your daily start and finish points, with any intermediate detours, and Google Maps will work your driving route out for you.  If you find you have a long day, then think about how you can improve your plan. Adding in an intermediate overnight stop or adjusting the route will often produce a much more enjoyable holiday and driving experience.
If you are thinking of seeing both islands of New Zealand, then allowing at least 21 days for your holiday is a good amount of time to give you a more relaxed trip, and allowing plenty of time for overnight stops. Those people with only 14 days or less available, should think strongly about not trying to do both islands, and instead concentrate on just one island. You will have a much more enjoyable time.

First day on your New Zealand Holiday

You should not drive if you are feeling tired. If arriving in New Zealand, it is better to stay one night in a hotel or motel, and pick your vehicle up the next day. Many car rental companies will arrange pick up or drop off from your airport or central city accommodation.