This is our second time travelling around the South Island in a camper van. The first time we went around the top part of the South Island, the second time we went around the bottom part of the South Island – a 1,300km trip!
They’ve become a pretty big part of our family holidays. Especially when we ran off to Glenorchy and eloped with the kids in a camper van (more on that over here)!
So over these trips we’ve learned a few things and we wanted to share with you our 11 tips to making your camper van holiday a success…
#1 Shop on your first day
There are not as many supermarkets as you think! Some days you won’t see any. And besides that – you’ll be having too much fun and you won’t want to stop to do the groceries.
We planned to eat breakfast and lunch in the camper and save dinners for eating out.
So our shopping list looked a bit like this…
- Bread (so much bread)
- Peanut Butter
- Museli Bars
- Loads of fruit
- And loads of wine and beer (you are in a camper van with children remember – you will NEED a drink at the end of the night!)
#2 Pre register and get all the extras
Pre-registering online saves loads of time when you check in which with 3 excited kids is well worth it. And adding on all the extras saves loads of worry. We went for a zero excess and added in all the extras like snow chains. And even though we didn’t need them it was worth having them just in case.
#3 Leave a couple of nights unplanned
Part of the joy of having a camper van is having your house on your back so make sure you leave a couple of nights to chance. Whip out your Getting Lost Game and get lost! You can literally end up anywhere and it’s a great way to explore off the beaten track.
Just make sure you don’t leave it too late like we did in Haast…
#4 Instigate a no poo policy
At the end of the holiday you have to clean out the toilet tank. It’s for that very reason that we instigated the no poo policy. Just do the math – 5 people, 7 days – that’s a lot of poo we didn’t have to deal with!!
#5 Left over dinner
Even with the most careful planning you are going to have left overs and no one wants to be taking all those on the plane with you so plan for your last nights dinner to be a left over dinner.
We went to the campground family room, put on a movie and put out all the left overs on the table for dinner and just let everyone dig in. It was an odd mix but it really works!
#6 Don’t be afraid not to stay in the camper
You’ve invested all this money in hiring the camper so it’s natural to want to spend every night in it. We did the first time.
But the second time we’d just got married so we wanted a bit more space from the kids on our wedding night so we booked somewhere to stay for the first two nights.
And it actually works really well. Think of the camper as a great big storage unit that takes all your stuff with you and allows you to make breakfasts and lunches as well as sleep when you need to.
We also returned the camper van a day early so we could have a final night of luxury at the Hilton in Queenstown.
#7 Bring colouring in books for the kids
The great thing about the camper van is that it has a table where the kids sit in the back so colouring books are a great thing when kids start to get bored on those long stretches of road.
#8 Take the time to organise
Camper vans have so much storage! We packed all our groceries into the cupboards above the sink, we hang jackets up (they even have coat hangers) and put as much as we could in cupboards. It really does make it easier and tidier.
And a bit of a camper van hack… To stop your wine bottles rattling (only 3 of them I swear!) put them in the rubbish bin under the sink. It’s the perfect size.
#9 Don’t just be a passenger
The first time we hired a camper van I let James do all the driving. It looked scary driving this huge 6 berth camper. I was quite content to be a passenger again this time.
But in Glenorchy James had ran into a shop so I had to move the camper. Turns out it’s really no different than driving a car! And it definitely helps splitting the driving so one person doesn’t get too tired.
#10 Top Ten’s are a really good choice
Like what I did with the ten and ten there?? Right, moving on… We’ve found a whole heap of amazing camp grounds around New Zealand and not all of course are Top Tens but the thing that impresses us with Top Tens is the consistency.
They are always clean, always friendly and always have things for the kids to do.
On this trip we stayed at the Top Ten’s in Te Anau, Invercargill, Dunedin and Cromwell and loved them all.
#11 Remember your size…
Tall really is the main one to watch for. Don’t take out a neighbourhoods power. Jump over here to see how we learnt that lesson!
So that’s our 11 tips on the best ways to have an amazing camper van holiday with the kids. We used Maui both times and found them really good (apart from a few hiccups the first time around which you can read about here so you don’t repeat our mistakes)