It ain’t always easy buying Kiwi. For those families looking to both support our embattled tourism industry and stick to the rules regarding school truancy, the cost of a school holiday getaway is prohibitively expensive.
Many thought that the lack of international travellers and their fat wallets of foreign exchange would mean that Kiwi families would fill their shoes – at a fraction of the cost.
If my cost analysis of a family holiday in the second week of the winter holidays is anything to go by, many will just give up.
But Kiwis are certainly keen on exploring our backyard, with winter school holiday searches on Expedia jumping 400 per cent between May and June. Unsurprisingly, the winter hotspots of Queenstown and Taupo are where most searchers want to stay.
But even when I compiled itineraries avoiding such hotspots and opted for a shorter, four-night break not including meals (I haven’t tried to guess your family’s tastes), the end bill was still north of $2000. That’s no small amount for families staring into a recession.
Still want to escape under the guise of ‘doing your bit for the economy’? Check out the itineraries below.
WELLINGTON WITHOUT WHEELS
Our compact capital offers families the option of a car-free holiday, which will save you cash.
I found flight/hotel packages for the second week of the school holidays (Sunday-Thursday) for a family of five for $290 each (carry-on baggage only), combining flights from Auckland with Jetstar and a stay at the Ibis hotel, choosing rooms with 2 double beds each. The same package from Christchurch was $390 per person.
Te Papa’s exhibits provide hours of free distraction even if the weather’s bad (and in July, it inevitably will be). When the horizontal rain lets up, catch a bus to the seaside suburb of Island Bay (via the Number 1 bus, approx $5), grab coffee and cake at local haunt the The Bluebell Cafe and walk to the Red Rocks Reserve for some fur seal spotting. Ride the city’s iconic cable car one day and then connect with Zealandia’s free electric shuttle bus which will whisk you off to this inner-city sanctuary (family passes $50).
If your children were glued to the TV for the daily Covid-19 briefings, they might like the Parliament tours catering to 5-12 year olds during the school holidays. Like the general parliament tour which runs year-round, they’re free.
Approx cost per person:
Flights and hotel: $290 ex Auckland
Transport: $25 (bus, cable car)
Te Papa: $5 donation
Red Rocks Reserve: Free
Parliament tour: Free
Total: $1650, excluding meals. $2150 from Christchurch.
SOUTHERN LAKES ROAD TRIP
This is Queenstown, but not as you know it. The adventure travel hotspot for the jet-set has come under fire for being prohibitively expensive. Return airfares for the second week of the school holidays from Auckland were hovering above $500 per person, so go about it differently.
Instead, fly to Dunedin, hire a car and make it a Southern Lakes road trip. You’d normally require a hire car for a Queenstown stay, so this way makes it cheaper and you can explore more of Fiordland and Otago. The Dunedin flight + car option comes in at $1908, flying from Auckland with Jetstar on Monday and back Friday, and getting a family sedan from Ace Rentals at Dunedin Airport.
We could have a once in a generation opportunity to see this mighty glacier-carved fiord without foreign tourists.
You could pay upwards of $400 a night in beautiful Queenstown, so instead split your time with two nights in Te Anau (Amber Court Motel has family options from $266) and two nights near Cromwell (Riverview Cabin for $268 for a family of four), both options have cooking facilities and free parking tool.
This region offers no shortage of activities: some free, others jaw-droppingly expensive. Milford Sound is a must-do in the area (even if you don’t do a cruise) and a silver lining of the rain will be the waterfalls out in full force. Puzzling World, near Wanaka, has an outdoor maze and many optical illusions to keep young minds occupied. Nearby Roy’s Peak is a slog worthy of over-energetic kids and frugal parents, while a three-hour cruise and cave exploration with Te Anau Glowworms (book via bookme.co.nz) is worth splashing out on. Winter fun without setting foot on a ski field.
Approx cost per person
Car hire: $24 (using discount code from Ace Car Rentals)
Petrol: $50 (10 litres per 100km)
Milford Sound: Free
Puzzling World: $19.25
Te Anau glowworms cruise: $53.60
Roy’s Peak walk: $2 donation
Total: $2577 for a family of four
We’ve scoured the country, from Northland to Otago, for some of our best backyard secrets.
Mainlanders wanting some sulphur soaking with a side of adrenaline should fly north to Rotorua and take advantage of the lack of international tourists. There are direct connections between the two cities, but flying via a short stopover in Auckland brings the flights down to $391 per person flying on 12 July and back on 16 July.
Wellingtonians have it better, with direct flights each way from $235 all up, flying on 9 -13 July. If you fly in, you’ll need a rental car, yours for a family of four for four day, Rite Price Rentals quoted $206.40 for a mid-sized sedan.
Compared to the Southern Lakes itinerary, you’d cover much less ground, so I’ve halved the petrol budget to around $100 for the four-night break. Budget family accommodation, with kitchen facilities and private bathrooms was harder to come by, so I turned to Airbnb to find a central city apartment for $628 for four nights, over on Booking.com there was a Ngongotaha lakeside stay at Jack & Di’s Lakeside Motel for $750 for four nights in a one-bedroom apartment. You would save by having a few meals from your room, at least.
For activities, you could opt for Skyline Gondola and Luge, setting a family of four back $210, a couple of hours on rented mountain bikes in the Redwoods is a more active option, at $120 for a family of four. Alternatively the Whakarewarewa forest has many walking trails you can explore for free. Seeing (more like smelling) Rotorua’s photogenic thermal wonders should be mandatory for all New Zealanders, Wai-o-Tapu Thermal wonderland has all the geysers, mud pools and pungent thermal ponds in psychedelic shades of electric blue, orange, green and gold. Family passes are $85 and there are options for guided tours if you’re a geology/geography buff.
Approx cost per person
Flights: $391 (ex Christchurch), $235 (ex Wellington)
Car hire: $51.50
Petrol: $25 (10 litres per 100km)
Redwoods hike: Free
Total: $2816 for a family of four, ex Christchurch, $2192 ex Wellington
Sunny Nelson has family-friendly airfares during the school holidays, with options from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all coming in at around $230 per person for flights departing around 9-11 July and returning four nights later between 13-15 July. Capital city dwellers could instead take the Interislander for $606 for a vehicle and family of four on those same dates ($151.50 each) and save on car hire.
For the flyers, you’ll need a (hired) set of wheels. NZ Rent a Car has ‘cheap and cheerful’ 4-door options for $84 for the same period.
The city has quite a few backpacker hostels, but you don’t need to want dorms and shared bathrooms to stay at Bridge Backpackers and Tasman Bay Backpackers, both have private rooms with their own bathrooms too, and benefit from shared kitchen facilities too. Four night stays are $428 and $544 respectively. If you want more space, Booking.com is offering Boulder Bank Apartment for $150 per night across those dates.
Tucked away in Nelson is a record-breaking ride that takes you flying over treetops. We give the 3.2km ride a whirl.
Often blessed with the most annual sunshine hours in the country, Nelson is a great winter escape and on clear days the lure of a winter walk in Abel Tasman or the Marlborough Sounds is worth heeding. Park the rental car at Marahau, where you can pay to hop on an aqua taxi to take you into the national park to Anchorage and then tramp part of the coastal track back to town. Or walk both ways. Archery Park Nelson is part dragon-hunting fantasy, part nature trail and has rave reviews online, while the Cable Bay Adventure Park is home to the world’s longer flying fox – The Skywire. Neither are too kind to the wallet, but will definitely entertain the kids.
Approx cost per person
Flights: $238 (ex Auckland), $239 (ex Wellington), $219 (ex Christchurch)
Car hire: $21
Petrol: $30 (10 litres per 100km)
Abel Tasman National Park hike: Free
Archery Park adventure: $67.50
Skywire Experience: $73.75
Total for a family of four: $2153 for a family of four ex Christchurch, and approx $2273 ex Auckland or Wellington.
BRING THE COSTS DOWN FURTHER
Drive The largest single cost in all of these itineraries is the airfare. Although many kiwi families are sitting on Air NZ credit, swap out the plane for a family road-trip and you’ll save hundreds
Eat in We’re all sick of cooking at home, but a room with a kitchenette will save you from needing to have every meal out
Camp Only for serious budget busters in mid-winter, otherwise cabin rooms with shared facilities will be cheaper than motels in many cases
Chill Keep your itinerary light, one activity a day should do it, to keep the overall cost down
Shop around: For the above flexible itineraries I used Booking.com, Kayak, Webjet, TripAdvisor, Airline websites and more. Not once did I get the exact same price, so shop around and try to be flexible.
*Prices correct as at 22/06/2020, but subject to change
Have you booked a school holiday getaway? Let us know in the comments.