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How to save money on the classic Kiwi road trip this summer

by Staff

For decades, Kiwi families have packed the car and hit the road over the holiday break. But in the current economic climate, is this still possible? By Sean Nugent.

Cost of living and inflationary pressures have hit families hard, with most of us left with less in our back pocket to get out and explore the country this summer.

For decades, Kiwi families have packed the car full of supplies and hit the road over the holiday break, keen to explore more of their own backyard.

But in the current economic climate, is this still possible?

It can be, as long as you plan ahead and are willing to sacrifice a few things. Here are some tips that can save you some money on your road trip this summer.


We all know the price of petrol has gone through the roof this year. Filling up the tank for anything less than $100 feels like ancient history.

Petrol costs are going to be a hefty cost on your road trip, but some places are cheaper than others. Heading to Wellington? Depending on which State Highway you’re taking, it can be up to 10 cents a litre cheaper to fill up in the Hutt or the Kapiti Coast than in the capital.

The same applies down south – it’s much cheaper to fill up in Wanaka, Cromwell, and Alexandra than Queenstown.

Gaspy is a great app you can use to monitor the petrol prices around the country and find the cheapest station to fill up.


View of campsite on Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands.

It’s hardly breaking news that taking a tent and staying at campgrounds or holiday parks is cheaper than booking motels or hotels. But it’s not always the same price. In fact, some are quite expensive.

Holiday parks in particular can rack up a sizeable bill. A non-powered site at the Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park for example for two adults and two children between January 4 and January 8 is eye-wateringly in the hundreds of dollars. Head further up the peninsula and you could stay at a DOC campground such as Waikawau Bay for about a third of the price.

Of course, these campgrounds book out fast, so planning ahead is critical. Free camping is also available in some places around the country.

If you’re willing to go without the bells and whistles of a holiday park, go for a cheaper option. You can find all DOC campsites here, while a helpful app is Rankers Camping NZ, which lists all the campgrounds in New Zealand and their price point.


Making your own breakfast, lunch and dinner is going to be critical to keep costs down. Even then, you probably won’t want to be having bacon and eggs every morning.

Think about cheap, simple foods that fill bellies for longer. Oats, baked beans and toast could be an option for breakfast, a supermarket cooked chicken can go a long way, while it pays to stick to seasonal fruit and vege. Avoiding too many perishables can help make it all a bit more manageable too.

It can be a bit of a mystery knowing where the cheapest products are when heading to unfamiliar towns, but the app Grocer can help you compare the price of products between supermarkets in the same area.

What to pack

There can be a bit of a fine line to hit between not packing too much while also preparing for all conditions. We all know the weather can be unpredictable so it pays to pack some warm clothes and rain jackets, as well as cards or a board game you could play while you wait for the clouds to clear. Critical things include a chilly bin, portable charger, sunscreen, some non-perishable snacks, cooking utensils, bin bags for your rubbish, a first aid kit and perhaps a good book.

Tips from the AA

Terry Collins, principal adviser for the AA, spoke to 1News and gave these tips for those heading on the road this summer:

  • Plan your trip and allow plenty of time. Check everything before you leave, including your tyre pressure
  • Plan some stops on your way and where you can get cheaper fuel
  • The more you accelerate, the more fuel you use. If you have cruise control, use it
  • It’s very hard to avoid traffic. Get into the mindset that you’re going to experience it and avoid getting frustrated
  • There will likely be a lot of roadworks this summer that have been pushed back due to bad weather. Give them some respect and a wave and don’t speed past them

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