New Zealand is a fantastic motorhome holiday destination with lots to see and do on your travels while enjoying the freedom to pick your own path. A little planning and these tips and tricks will help you get more from your holiday.
Before you come – having a bit of an idea about New Zealand before you arrive along with what you would like to see and do will help pull together an itinerary. Even if it's sketchy, a rough plan will maximize your precious holiday time. There are plenty of on-line resources, which your favorite search engine will lead you to. Another way if you would like to stop over and meet the locals is to get the Native Parks guidebook so you can make up an itinerary from the people and places that catch your interest. While in New Zealand the local people are a great source for information about the surrounding area and swapping stories with other travelers will give you ideas too.
Getting on the road – your camper or motorhome should have ample space to store your personal items but they are not suitcase friendly. Bring bags that will fold down or if you will return the vehicle to the pick-up point ask ahead and see whether your rental company will store empty luggage.
Getting around – a good road atlas helps and some will have camper friendly info and points of interest (try Hema New Zealand Touring Atlas). Not all rental companies provide detailed road maps so it's worth checking and if you can get one before landing in NZ it will assist with your trip planning. The open road speed limit is 100 km / hr, although do not expect to cover much more than 75km / hr and if you are stopping for photos and such 50km / hr would be more realistic. Even with a good road atlas it is possible to get lost in large towns and cities, the best option here is to take your time and head in the direction that you want to exit from. A compass is a huge help, especially if you are from the Northern hemisphere, as the suns position in the sky is opposite and can be quite disorientating.
Parking up – at night you want your motorhome to be level, what may appear to be flat during the day will be extenated at night while you're in bed, especially if you are a bit head down. If you're not sure an easy check is to put a ball on the floor of your camper and see which way it rolls. The perfect thing is a glass marble and if your campervan is carpeted, as many are, put a book on the floor. If you like some shade in the morning you need to consider this when parking up, your compass will help here too. During peak times camping grounds are busy and a set of ear plug may restore your sanity.
Logistics – a camper is your home away from home, but instead of being connected to essential services you carry these with you. A self-contained motorhome has a fresh water tank, gray water (from sinks and shower) and black water (toilet). Gray water and the toilet cassette can only be emptied at a dump station, of which there is an extensive network through New Zealand and your rental company will give you a brochure covering where to find these. The toilet cassette contains chemical to kill bugs and keep everything smelling fresh, suddenheless treat the dump station surrounding area with suspicion and wear depositable latex gloves. It is usual for a tap to be located near the dump station so the cassette can be rinsed after being emptied. NEVER use this tap to refill your freshwater tank. All this being said, with care the dump station process is clean and hygienic. Fresh water is easy to come by if you're staying at established campgrounds, but many travelers prefer a less formal approach and finding water requires a bit more ingenuity.
One potential source is from petrol stations, you're bringing them business so ask and they will usually say yes. The same goes for rubbish deposit, using public rubbish bins for household rubbish is not appreciated but its fine to use the ones at petrol stations. The key is to dispose of your rubbish frequently so that the quantity stays small. For a couple expect your fresh, gray and black water to last three to five days between serving. If you are traveling for an extended period it can be a good idea to completely empty the fresh water tank periodically when refilling. Lights, water pump and refrigerator all run off the household battery, which needs to be conserved when not hooked up to mains power. The easiest place to save power is to turn the fridge temperature down, especially when you stop at the end of the day. It's usual for Fridges in rental campers to be 2-way (mains power and battery), 3-way fridges can only run on gas when the vehicle is stationary.
Entertainment – few but the largest rental motorhomes come with televisions, and anyway, who wants to watch TV on holiday? A pack of cards or travel game set make for a pleasant way to wile away the evening with a glass of wine, not to mention sorting out who is on dishes tonight! There are many outdoor pursuits and one you may like to consider is fishing. New Zealand has an extensive coastline and no license is required to fish in the sea, the same is not true when fishing in freshwater so pop into a tackle shop to find out the local requirements. In either situation size limits are strictly policed and ignorance is no defense, especially as they are widely publicized. Purchasing serious fishing tackle may not be practical and a basic setup will do. The Warehouse chain of stores, home to all things cheap and cheerful, carry fishing gear and you can stock up on those bits and pieces that you left at home, like that swim suit (though ask for togs so the locals know what you're looking for). Do take care when fishing from the rocks on a surf beach, it can be dangerous, never turn your back to the sea, wearing a floatation device is a smart move, tell someone where you are going or leave a note in the vehicle and don 't go if it looks too rough.
Things to bring – if you are not planning to stay in camping grounds and have electrical devices to charge, a twelve volt charger or power inverter with cigarette lighter adapter will be needed. Only use these when the engine is running as they draw from the main battery. A torch will come in handy as will insect repellant. Ethyl alcohol hand sanitizer, such as Purell, is convenient and will cut down your water usage. A washing line and pegs, or better still as travel washing line made from two twisted bungee cords, allows hand washing to dry and can be set up in the camper while driving.
Enjoy your holiday!