Road trip New Zealand for $50 per day

You’ve just seen those cheap flights to New Zealand come up and naturally, you start to dream of a New Zealand road trip.  Surely with cheap flights in hand, an NZ holiday will also be a cheap destination, right?  But… did you know that New Zealand is listed in the Top 15 most expensive countries to visit! 

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever visited (besides our home country of Australia of course!).  It’s also a very easy country to navigate as a foreigner, its small enough to pack in a lot of the “must see” destinations (and they are MUST SEES!) and the scenery in nearly ever NZ town is just truly incredible.  The appeal really comes for us Aussie’s when a short flight across the ditch, is also the equivalent as a domestic flight between some of our own cities.  Not just in your time spent in the air, but for the ridiculously low priced airfare sales you can pick up! 

Our family were initially eluded by the $159 international airfares from Brisbane to Auckland.  $159 each for our kids to see another country – you beauty!  But after I pressed “Buy me” on the Air New Zealand website, memories came flashing back to me on how expensive of a country it can be to visit.  We visited pre-kids, when we were just a couple in the year 2004, oh my goodness, we are now a family of four!  And so the research began to make New Zealand as family budget friendly as possible and keep our expenses under $50 per person a day!   We have based this off our NORTH ISLAND New Zealand budget.

Accommodation – the highest expense!

Giving your family a safe place to rest your weary sight-seers bodies each night when planning your NZ holiday, quickly becomes the priority.  

The two most popular choices for accommodation are Campervan Rental vs Car Hire/Hotel debate.  Campervan rental first appears an incredibly appealing option as New Zealand offers a lot of free camping.  We were quoted most commonly between $1,000 to $2,000 per week for a campervan hire.  For the flexibility it offered our holiday, we choose renting a car and using hotels.

To keep our accommodation costs down, we used a few vouchers !     

If your new to AIRBNB, use this code to receive an AIRBNB $55 AUD travel credit for your next holiday bookings (available in any country).  Or a 10% refund by signing up and using this gift These costs you absolutely nothing extra, but we receive a small gift from the suppliers. 


Our Families Cost:  $83 per night for a family of four

Recommended Budget:  A minimum of $100 per night for a budget styled hotel or motel room when staying in the main tourist areas.  In Wellington, we paid up to $140 per night, however, saved most of our costs by staying in the outskirt areas, choosing cabins at Caravan Park and using Airbnb.  


The first thing we noticed when arriving in New Zealand, is that the price of food is much, much more expensive than in Australia and many other countries we have visited.  The price of living (food in particular) for New Zealand is one of the highest in the world.  The higher prices of food go across all ranges too – everything from take-away’s to general groceries.  Here is a few examples of the price differences of groceries:

Generic brand milk at Safeway:  $2.50/L (AU$2.30 conversion) in NZ vs $1.20/L in Australia, Chicken Breast:  $14/kg (AU$13 conversion) in NZ vs $10/kg in Aus, Beef Mince:  $13/kg (AU$12 conversion) in NZ vs $7/kg in Aus, Apples:  $5/kg (AU$4.60 conversation) in NZ vs $3.50/kg in Aus, Colby Cheese 250g:  $18-26/kg (AU$16.50-$24 conversion) in NZ vs $16/kg in Aus 

The way to keep your costs down is to shop at Farmers Markets and Roadside Stalls where the prices of goods are drastically cheaper (and you’re supporting the local farmers!).  If you really are on a tight budget, you can always cook extra and freeze it for transport.  

Our families cost:  Averaging $29 a day for a family of four.  We really didn’t eat out much.  We may have missed out, but we also had 5 months in South America ahead of us!   

Our Recommended Budget:  Allow at least another 30% on top of your usual grocery bill.  Also if you can afford the extra in your budget, splurge and eat out often!  New Zealand has some of the freshest of seafood and homegrown fruits and vegetables!


New Zealand is one country you won’t have to give up your afternoon refreshments.  Despite food being way more expensive, alcohol is much cheaper.

Our families cost:  $11 a day – I know, but we were on a budget!


Another small stinger on the New Zealand holiday budget is the price of fuels.  Current prices for petrol’s are around $2.10 to $2.40 per litre.  Diesel is cheaper at around $1.60 to $1.85 mark, however, if you choose a Diesel vehicle over a Petrol, you can be charged an additional Diesel Road Users Charge by your Car Hire company. 

Our families cost:  $10.50 a day to be moving on average every 3 days and visiting the Bay of Islands in the top north and to Wellington in the far south.

Our recommended budget:  This absolutely will depend on how much you will be travelling around New Zealand.  If you visit Auckland for a week, this will be very different to a Road Trip around the entire of the New Zealand North Island like this budget was sourced from!  


How long is a piece of string?   A few of our MUST DO NORTH ISLAND New Zealand was a family tour and sand boarding adventure to the most northern tip of Cape Reinga, the world famous Te Papa museum in Wellington and our biggest splurge was Rob (Mr 9) and I walking on the active White Island volcano (what a highlight!!).  Luckily though, New Zealand being centred around the Great Outdoors offers so many free National Parks and sites to see and explore.  

Our families cost:  $25 a day for a family of four.  We found so many free things to do in New Zealand for families (Be sure to message me below if you’re keen to know what they are)

Our recommended budget:  Don’t miss a thing and definitely don’t go home from your holiday with regrets!  Balance your paid attractions with the many, many beautiful free things to do.  

Transport Expenses:

I’m including our road tolls (see including everything for you!) here as well as the ferry to the South Island for ourselves and our little red boom box that we car hired.  There are two ferry companies, InterIslander and Blue Bridge.  We found both of them have comparable reputations and services, so choose the best timetable and price for you.  They do offer online specials too and discounts for families!

Our families budget:  Averaging $16 a day (with a $260 car ferry included)

Our recommended budget:  Budget a minimum of $250-350 per way to take a car with you.  Booking in advance can lower your costs!  If your only visiting the North Island, make sure you take our the car ferry expense.

Phone and Internet:

We decided it would be cheaper for us to buy a Pre-Paid SPARK SIM card with calls and data included, then using our Australian mobiles on International Roaming.  I think Telstra is $5 per day to International Roam, plus data and calls.  We blog, upload photos and upload Videos to YouTube so our data is high use!

Our families budget: $5 per day

Car Rental and Full Comprehensive Insurance:

We were very use to free and low cost camping in Australia on a $500 per week budget, however when faced with taking buses around New Zealand we needed to hire our own car.  After a lot of research (because New Zealand Car Hire is expensive), we found a budget but decent (our opinion) car hire company that rents out 5-10 year old cars.  So fuel efficient enough, but not too costly for that new car feeling.  

Our families budget:  $25.50 per day for a 2012 Toyota Corolla that seats 5 people (just, with luggage!) 

Our recommendation:   Hunt around for the best deal.  We like using the comparison sites like

You've just seen those cheap flights to New Zealand come up and naturally, you start to dream of a New Zealand road trip.  Surely with cheap flights in hand, an NZ holiday will also be a cheap destination, right?  But... did you know that New Zealand is listed in the Top 15 most expensive countries to visit! 

Pin this NOW, for later!


For our family of four, we averaged just over $200 per day (Aus dollars).  

So next time you see those ridiculously cheap airfares to New Zealand, will you be booking your next New Zealand Holiday ?


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