New Zealand’s towering mountains, icy glaciers, adrenalin activities, gorgeous beaches, modern cities and sweeping scenes straight out of Middle Earth tick all the travel boxes and send it straight to the top of many bucket lists.
Geared for both young and old, the country offers many family-friendly activities with a thrill factor – so don’t leave the kids at home if you’re looking for adventure! Jetboating is suitable for youngsters and the minimum age for zorbing – hurtling around in a giant transparent ball – is 6. Bungy operators usually require a minimum age of 10, though this might rise to 12 or 13 for the bigger jumps. Whitewater rafting is typically for 13 and over, though there are a few easier family-oriented trips. For something a little gentler, try ziplining, canyoning or river surfing, horse riding, hot air ballooning or paragliding and swimming with the acrobatic Hectors dolphins. New Zealand is also excellent for skiing, with slopes for the whole family around Queenstown, in the South Island. Other top family entertainment includes farm tours, kiwi parks, mazes, cinema, lake and fiord trips, Maori shows, thermal pools, glowworm caves and much more. All these adventures and many more are suitable for children, but most have minimum age, weight or height requirements. Family tickets are often available and usually cost about the same as two adults and one child.
Most cities also offer ‘playlands’ which are fantastic children-only entertainment for the little ones, with bouncy castles, adventure playgrounds and lots more, and you can generally leave your children at these establishments for a few hours if you’re looking for some adult time.
Trip planning: Tips for getting the best deal
Getting to New Zealand
Travel at the right time. New Zealand's busy summer travel season runs from December - February. Both international travelers and Kiwis swarm the country's most popular sights this time of year, and prices rise accordingly for everything from airfare to accommodations. Consider visiting during the quieter spring or fall shoulder seasons, or during the winter (where tourism is down everywhere except ski areas like Queenstown).
Look for airfare sales. To help trim costs, keep an eagle eye out for fare sales on major carriers like Qantas. Qantas is also very accommodating for those travelling with kids. Your kids start earning frequent flyer miles with the Joey Club and fun activity kits are provided on most flights for 3-6 year olds that include a Joey Club bag, activity book, colouring pencils a guessing game and Mini Joey Club book on international flights. The inflight entertainment also caters to kids with up to eight family movies per month, children’s TV shows, games and music all available on the in-seat screens.
Getting around New Zealand
Getting around the cities is fairly cheap. Local bus fares vary for each city, but prices are generally around 3 NZD for an adult or less if you purchase a metrocard. The intercity bus system is quite inexpensive and the Naked Bus (Don’t be put off by the name) has promotional fares for 1 NZD if you book far in advance. Bike rentals are available in most cities for the active family, with daily rentals costing around 20 NZD per person and usually include helmet and locks.
Being a relatively compact country, it can be easy to get around in New Zealand. Boat services are available between the islands and train travel is comfortable and relatively fast although the rail service isn't particularly extensive. Flying is a great way to get around quickly, sign up to Jetstar’s “Friday Fare Frenzy” alert newsletters, only flying between the main centres the airline often posts fares for as little as $9.
Car or campervan hire is also a brilliant way to get around New Zealand. The roads are well maintained and signposted and there are literally hundreds of scenic drives to explore with the family.
Discounts & freebies!
Freebies. There are plenty of free attractions to enjoy, from beaches to hikes, botanical gardens and museums, including the Auckland Art Gallery and Wellington's Te Papa museum amongst others. New Zealand is home to an endless list of free hot springs, a definite winner for the family and can be found in most regions across the country. Auckland also has free outdoor movies during the summer months geared towards families.
Free walking tour. A few free walking tours in the cities are available, like Auckland Free Walking Tour or WellyWalks in Wellington. If you want to get beneath the surface of New Zealand then this is a great place to start.
Visit an i-SITE. Practically every city, town and village has one of these friendly tourist offices, staffed with local experts that can answer questions, hunt for accommodations and book tours and provide information on discounts.
Repeat discount. Some tour operators will knock a few bucks off the sticker price for travelers who book multiple tours with them. For example, Real Journeys, which offers a variety of cruises and adventure activities in the Queenstown/Fiordland region, will take 20% off the cost of the lower-priced tour if you book more than one.
City pass. Both Auckland and Wellington offer discount passes that will get you into multiple city attractions for less than the cost of individual admission. Auckland's Multipass gets you access to five of the city's top attractions like a Fuller ferry ride to Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower. The Wellington city pass grants you entry into the famous zoo, a trip on the cable car and more. During winter Queenstown offers ski passes and packages that grant access to multiple slopes for the cost of one.
Refill water bottle. Tap water in New Zealand is safe to drink and tastes good especially in cities like Christchurch where the water comes directly from the melting snow on the Southern Alps.
BookMe.com offers deals on attractions, activities and restaurants across the country, just book your trip early as the deals on offer have limited space and a specific travel period. GrabOne is a version of Groupon and a good site to look for restaurant deals.
Where to stay in New Zealand
Holidays Parks in New Zealand are usually well equipped with playground, swimming pool, communal areas like BBQ & kitchen and open space for games and gatherings. They are also self-catering and cooking at “home” and packing a lunch could save you a heap of cash.
To truly live like a local, rent a home or apartment on Airbnb or Bookabach. These websites let you rent a vacation home anywhere in New Zealand in a wide variety of price ranges.
Hostels are no longer just a stomping ground for students and backpackers – clean and comfortable family-orientated rooms and facilities mean that hostels now offer a practical, and affordable, place to stay.
Campervans are popular in New Zealand because the country is very easy to drive! There are two types of campervans you can rent – fully self-contained and non-self-contained (indicated by a sticker). The difference is pretty much a toilet. If you have a campervan that doesn’t have a toilet, you can’t freedom camp. Freedom camping is allowed around most of New Zealand and means you can camp on public land for free as long as you have the right facilities (a toilet). For campervans without toilets you’ll have to book into a camping facility each night. For families this means unpacking once – then heading out onto the open road to explore and your accommodation is also already sorted, as it’s conveniently combined with your means of travel.
With Qantas, you can make your trip to New Zealand even more affordable with their competitive airfares from South Africa and their activity and accommodation deals. Make your booking today!
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