One look at a globe makes it abundantly clear simply how far New Zealand really is from the U.S.

Greater than 7,000 miles away from our dwelling in Houston, the island nation has lengthy attracted outdoorsy sorts eager on exploring its lovely mountains, fjords, volcanoes and seashores.

So, when my household of 4 determined to plan a March journey round our work and faculty schedules, we knew we had been in for a grand journey that we would not neglect anytime quickly. Certain, there could be lengthy flights concerned, plus a packed itinerary to maximise our restricted time on this far-flung vacation spot, however we had been up for the problem.

Recognizing we might solely have 10 days on the bottom, we determined to principally stick close to the cities and fly between the completely different areas we visited, which included Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland.

Regardless of our lack of ability to enterprise to extra distant components of the nation like many guests do, we nonetheless managed to expertise a few of the greatest issues to do in New Zealand as a household. Nevertheless, we realized a couple of classes and made a mistake or two alongside the best way.

Should you’re planning a household journey to New Zealand — or hope to in the future — listed here are seven issues to remember, plus a couple of suggestions for 3 of New Zealand’s hottest cities to go to.


The present change charge makes issues fairly inexpensive

The change charge from U.S. {dollars} to New Zealand {dollars} favors American vacationers … a minimum of, in the meanwhile. On the time of writing, $1 equals NZ$1.62, which implies that the NZ$100 exercise or meal you take pleasure in will value you about $62.

It isn’t an all-time greatest change charge for People, however it’s higher than it has been for many of the final 20 years, making all the things from Uber rides to meals, accommodations and actions much more inexpensive. So, when you’re sticking to a decent finances, it’s possible you’ll wish to goal to go to sooner reasonably than later.

Professional tip: Make sure to pay in New Zealand {dollars} when utilizing a bank card with no international transaction charges to keep away from any pointless costs. Your financial institution will deal with the conversion to U.S. {dollars}.

Associated: Easy methods to get to (and keep in) New Zealand on factors and miles

You do not (often) should tip

Tipping service employees is usually not anticipated in New Zealand since employees within the nation are usually paid a dwelling wage. As somebody who could be very used to U.S. tipping tradition, I truthfully discovered this to be extremely refreshing.

Again dwelling, a $15 breakfast would set me again about $20 by the point gratuities are factored in. However in New Zealand, a NZ$15 breakfast value me about $9 due to the change charge and the no-tipping coverage.


We did expertise some exceptions to this rule whereas in Auckland. There, a number of eating places displayed indicators encouraging tipping.

Nevertheless, in Queenstown and Wellington, we did not should think about suggestions when calculating our each day bills for consuming out and actions. I might add a few {dollars} to Uber rides, however we in any other case did not tip.

Bank cards are broadly accepted

Not like some locations the place it is nonetheless greatest to carry money, New Zealand is straightforward to go to with solely a bank card. That is as a result of bank cards are broadly (and nearly universally) accepted. Most U.S.-based bank cards would require a signature each time you swipe, however they work simply high-quality.

That mentioned, a 2% bank card utilization charge is fairly widespread, so be ready for that trade-off when you resolve to lean on playing cards greater than money in your purchases.

Associated: Finest bank cards for worldwide journey

You might not want a automobile rental to get round

We had deliberate to hire a automobile in a number of New Zealand locations we visited, however after the primary couple of days in Wellington, it grew to become clear that that would not be mandatory.

Naturally, you may want a automobile rental when you resolve to plan a highway journey or spend plenty of time exploring smaller areas, however since we had been there for a restricted period of time and spent most of our time in and round cities, Ubers made probably the most sense for us.

To place numbers to it, throughout our 10 days in New Zealand, we took a complete of 15 Uber rides, with the common value per trip coming in at $14.59. That whole included a number of airport journeys and our longer rides whereas in Queenstown, as we stayed a bit outdoors of city on the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa.

Know, although, that Uber automobiles are usually maxed out at 5 folks, together with the motive force. Most of our rides had been tight squeezes for the 4 of us because of the prevalence of compact automobiles. So, when you want extra space, a automobile rental could also be the easiest way to go.

Associated: 9 rental automobile rewards packages you could learn about

Taxis value rather more than Uber

Whereas we principally relied on Uber to get from level A to level B in New Zealand, we grabbed taxis a handful of occasions. Each single time we used a taxi, our pockets instantly regretted that alternative.

Throughout our go to, cab rides had been constantly two to a few occasions as costly as Ubers. So, until you really want the comfort of that cab idling on the curb, fireplace up the Uber app and save your self some huge cash within the course of.

Associated: Frequent Uber or Lyft person? These are the most effective bank cards for you

The climate is in cost

Whereas I recommend reserving a few of your must-do actions earlier than the journey to make sure availability and probably profit from an advance-booking low cost, hold some flexibility in your schedule because the climate in New Zealand — irrespective of the place you’re — can change all of the sudden and dramatically.

In Queenstown, for instance, you may wish to guide your out of doors adventures on the primary day or two of your keep so you’ve buffer days to modify them to within the occasion of rain getting in the best way. Even have some wet day actions in thoughts so you do not waste valuable time in New Zealand simply sitting round ready for sunny skies.

For our journey, we saved museum visits and indoor mountaineering for these days when the skies appeared ominous. In fact, when the solar does return, you may wish to make sure you are able to benefit from it.

As an example, whereas we had deliberate to save lots of the Wellington Cable Automobile and botanical gardens for one explicit day, we improvised and added that tour to our schedule one sunny afternoon as the subsequent day’s forecast appeared prefer it’d be a washout. Certain, we had been just a little drained since that ended up being a very full day, however we knew that that tour would not have been practically as pleasurable within the rain.

Associated: Why Aotearoa-New Zealand is the most effective worldwide vacation spot of the 12 months

Most actions have a household low cost

Earlier than buying particular person tickets to any exercise in New Zealand, analysis whether or not a household package deal consists of grownup and youngster tickets at a bundled low cost. Virtually each exercise we did was cheaper if we booked by way of the household plan reasonably than pricing out the tickets individually.

For instance, the Shotover Jet we did in Queenstown costs NZ$139 ($86) for adults and NZ$77 ($48) for kids, however as a substitute of a household of 4 costing NZ$432 ($267), you may pay simply NZ$355 ($220) when choosing the household package deal.

One other instance of that is the Skyline Queenstown gondola, which costs NZ$46 ($28) for adults and NZ$33 ($20) for kids. As a substitute of paying NZ$158 ($98) for a household of 4, select the household plan low cost for NZ$133 ($82).

Planning just a little upfront additionally has its monetary benefits. For instance, the zip line tour we did in Queenstown has a 15% low cost when you guide on-line a minimum of three days upfront. Most actions will let you change your plans up till 24 hours earlier than your tour, so it will probably make sense to guide forward however keep some flexibility due to these widespread insurance policies.

Issues to do in Auckland with a household

Whereas the percentages are excessive that your journey plans will take you thru Auckland whilst you’re in New Zealand, I would advise towards spending too many nights there. I’ve nothing towards Auckland, however spending time in a big metropolis is tough to justify when there are such a lot of awe-inspiring landscapes and locations to discover.


Waiheke Island

Must you spend just a little time within the Auckland space, I extremely advocate taking a 30-minute ferry trip to Waiheke Island, which is filled with wineries and seashores and has a laid-back island vibe. An added bonus: It is cheap and straightforward to discover by bus.

To buy bus tickets for getting across the island, merely cease by the bus kiosk on the Waiheke Island ferry terminal. Playing cards are loaded with an quantity of your selecting primarily based on the variety of occasions you anticipate to get on and off the bus.

Every bus trip will value round $1, so a full day on the island would probably require $5 to $6 per card, per individual.

Hobbiton Film Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves

For us, no go to to Auckland could be full with out an tour to the Hobbiton Film Set to view the place the hobbits “lived” in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, plus a trek by way of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Whereas these locations are a number of hours outdoors the town, each are phenomenal if you wish to expertise a mixture of pure and human-made wonders.

We booked a 12-hour guided tour to see each and journey by bus. It was an extended day, however it was in the end definitely worth the payoff as a “Lord of the Rings”-loving household. Should you could not care much less in regards to the film, the journey might not be price it, although it was unquestionably a lovely a part of the nation.

Pictures weren’t allowed on the glowworm caves, however belief me: They had been in contrast to something I would ever seen. The fluorescent blue ceiling of worms you float beneath throughout your guided boat trip by way of the caves created a peaceable ambiance that jogged my memory of a Disney trip.

The place to remain in Auckland

Though there are a number of factors accommodations in Auckland, probably the greatest is the luxurious Park Hyatt Auckland, which is walkable to the ferry terminal and comparatively inexpensive by Park Hyatt requirements. A Class 5 Hyatt property, room charges vary between 17,000 and 23,000 World of Hyatt factors per evening. I wholeheartedly advocate it for each its fabulous infinity pool and its spacious and trendy rooms.

Should you occur to make use of a Hyatt Globalist suite improve or factors to safe a collection (as we did), know that the 764-square-foot Harbour Suite is a improbable deal with. Providing the identical structure because the Park Suite (simply with out the harbor view), the Harbour Suite was attractive and useful, with an infinite lavatory, an enormous dwelling house and a separate sleeping space. The considerate design allowed us to have a rollaway mattress for our teen in the lounge, a desk to eat dinner at and loads of house for all our jackets, footwear, baggage, backpacks and extra so we might simply keep organized.

Because the occupancy restrict for rooms and suites right here is three folks, know that the majority households might want to guide a connecting room. We reserved ours with money by way of the American Specific High-quality Inns + Resorts program so we might use the annual $200 resort credit score we nonetheless had on my Platinum Card® from American Specific. You can too reserve connecting rooms with World of Hyatt factors, however keep in mind that solely normal connecting rooms (which means ones that do not connect with suites) are bookable this fashion.

Issues to do in Queenstown with a household

Whereas it is true that Queenstown is nice for critically adventurous actions, comparable to paragliding, bungee leaping and skydiving, you do not have to be fairly that excessive to have a good time on the South Island.

Regardless that free-falling wasn’t on our household’s agenda this journey — imagine it or not, even younger kids can take part in paragliding and skydiving right here as soon as the burden necessities have been met, which begin round 44 kilos for paragliding — we nonetheless had wonderful adventures in Queenstown that I would totally advocate.

Shotover Jet

To begin, I can’t recommend the Shotover Jet — a fast-paced boat trip by way of the Shotover Canyons, positioned a couple of 10-minute shuttle trip outdoors of city — sufficient. This twin-engine boat does 360-degree turns, zooms across the canyon in just some inches of water and goes over 50 mph.

We had smiles (typically accompanied by water splashes) plastered on our faces the whole time.

Onsen Sizzling Swimming pools

If you wish to calm down after an exciting trip by way of the canyons, go to the Onsen Sizzling Swimming pools, which overlook the identical river the Shotover Jet boats use. Right here, you’ve entry to a personal sizzling tub, which may accommodate as much as 4 folks, for an hour. Kids are allowed till 4 p.m. each day.

Whereas the views from the new tub are greater than definitely worth the charge, know that your rental additionally comes with a drink and snack per individual. Choices embody juice, wine, beer, chocolate and ice cream, so there’s loads for each adults and youngsters.

Skyline Queenstown

A go to to Queenstown ought to, with out query, embody a trip on the Skyline Queenstown gondola. You will not solely get to soak up breathtaking mountain and lake views, however you may even have the possibility to take pleasure in a couple of laps on the luge observe.

Packages that embody the luge, gondola and even lunch or dinner can be found. There are household packages that bundle all these actions with varied numbers of luge rides, too, to make the expertise barely inexpensive. The household of 4 package deal that features the gondola trip, three luge rides per individual and a buffet dinner got here to NZ$421 ($261).

Whereas the buffet was actually first rate, it was only a buffet, so when you’re strapped for money, contemplate a package deal that doesn’t embody that meal and as a substitute eat on the town at a spot like Fergburger, the place mouthwatering burgers begin round NZ$16 ($10). My household beloved the gondola and luge, although, making it certainly one of our favourite components of our journey. The adults in our group had been glad after three luge rides, whereas the children had been looking forward to a few additional rounds.

Ziptrek Ecotours

For a further exercise so as to add to your gondola and luge day, guide an outing with Ziptrek. Along with attending to take pleasure in varied zip strains, your loved ones will be taught a bit about New Zealand’s conservation efforts.

We did the package deal with two zip strains and a drop, which ended up being the right household exercise, because it was far more thrill-inducing than we had anticipated.

The place to remain in Queenstown

You will discover a couple of lodging choices within the coronary heart of Queenstown. Nevertheless, we selected to remain on the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa so we might guide a family-friendly, two-bedroom suite.

Regardless of the resort’s inside feeling dated and overdue for renovations, we totally loved our keep. The extra eliminated location did imply we needed to take an Uber or water taxi to city every day, however the sweeping lake and mountain views from the property greater than made up for the slight inconvenience.

Issues to do in Wellington with a household

Wellington was the shock hit of our household journey to New Zealand. We anticipated to love it, however we did not understand how a lot we might like it.

Town was very compact, making it simple for our household to get round and check out completely different actions with out committing a full day to 1 journey.

Wellington Cable Automobile

The Wellington Cable Automobile is a must-do for households or anybody in search of a brief, inexpensive trip to expertise a few of the metropolis’s greatest views. As a bonus, there is a mild present within the tunnel alongside the best way.

When you attain the highest, you may discover the doorway to the free botanical backyard. The playground — with a enjoyable zip line — can be only a five- to 10-minute stroll from there, so do not skip that in case you have your youngsters alongside for the trip.

Wellington Museum and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The Wellington and Te Papa museums are stable choices for some academic (however enjoyable) actions once you want a break from New Zealand’s unpredictable climate. Each accessible from nearly wherever on the town, the museums are free to go to, although a donation is recommended.

The Te Papa Museum might simply fill a minimum of a half day for households or adults. Children will probably admire the home that simulates earthquakes, the “Moana” references and the animal reveals, whereas adults should not miss the “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our Warfare” exhibit.

Wētā Workshop

In case your group consists of film buffs, particularly followers of “The Lord of the Rings,” be sure you take a look at Wētā Workshop, the place most of the movie business’s costumes, prosthetics, props and extra are created. Wētā Workshop can be answerable for the huge troopers you may see within the “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our Warfare” exhibit on the Te Papa Museum.

You’ll be able to go to the free small museum and reward store or guide one of many 90-minute excursions. Ought to the tour be your choice, be sure you guide it properly upfront, because it often sells out.


With areas in each Wellington and Auckland, Fergs is a perfect spot to spend a couple of hours on a wet day.

In Wellington, you may discover the indoor mountaineering venue by the waterfront. It has a number of climbing areas for varied ages and skills.

Admission lasts all day, so you may burn off some vitality within the morning and return within the afternoon, making it attainable to time your go to across the climate on any given day.

Wellington Zoo

On a sunny day, head to the Wellington Zoo, which is just some minutes away by automobile from the middle of city. It has some enjoyable reveals starting from roaming wallabies to tigers, giraffes and crimson pandas.

Like Wellington itself, the zoo was clear, blissful, attention-grabbing and enormous sufficient to be participating whereas nonetheless sufficiently small to be manageable for a day.

Cuba Road

Whether or not you crave a main photo-op or a improbable meal, Cuba Road should not be missed. The realm is dwelling to a photo-friendly rainbow-painted road, plus quite a lot of tasty eateries serving all the things from Malaysian fare to handmade pasta.


The place to remain in Wellington

If you wish to use factors for lodging in Wellington, contemplate the InterContinental Wellington and/or the DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington. Each sit in nice areas and permit households of 4 to share one normal room if desired, a rarity in some components of New Zealand.

The DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington in New Zealand. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Backside line

Whereas my household loves closer-to-home getaways comparable to Disney World and Caribbean cruises, New Zealand simply ranks as certainly one of our favourite household journeys of all time.

It might sound formidable to take your loved ones to the opposite facet of the world, however when you’re prepared to take that leap of religion and provides it a go, I can guarantee you you will not remorse it. You will be rewarded with jaw-dropping surroundings you possibly can barely imagine is actual, interactions with a few of the friendliest folks round, a variety of adventurous actions, wonderful espresso and plentiful playgrounds, amongst different highlights.

Better of all, you may make recollections that can final a lifetime — simply as I do know mine will.

Associated studying:

For charges and charges of the Amex Platinum Card, click on right here.