Budget Travel In New Zealand

People ask us all the time about how we can afford to travel across New Zealand for an entire year. Everyone assumes there is some sort of “secret” like an undercover sugar daddy who’s paying for all of our adventures. It’s true, there is a secret. But it’s not very glamorous.

Step 1 – Pay off debts 

One of our first goals once we got married was to pay off our debts. It would be much more difficult to travel if we were still trying to pay off student loans.

Step 2 – Save money

After we paid off all of our debts, we saved as much money as we possibly could. We simply made saving a priority because we wanted to travel.

Step 3 – Travel cheaply

The first two steps are fairly self-explanatory, but traveling on a budget can be a bit more of an art form. Read on to discover some of our most effective tips on budget travel in New Zealand.

  • House Sit
    • House sitting has likely been our biggest money-saver since moving to New Zealand. Housing used to be our biggest monthly cost, but now it’s essentially free. Check out this blog post for more info on how we’ve been able to house sit all over New Zealand.
  • Freedom Camp
    • Not only is freedom camping the cheapest way to see this beautiful country, it’s also the best way to get off the beaten track and experience the wild beauty that New Zealand has to offer. Thanks to our self-contained campervan, Gimli, we’ve spent the night in beautiful settings next to lakes, oceans, mountains, and forests. Check out this Guide for more information on freedom camping in New Zealand.


  • Don’t Eat Out
    • Eating out is SUPER EXPENSIVE in New Zealand! Even though it’s often tempting to eat out at all the enticing cafes and restaurants, one of the best ways to save money is to cook your own meals.
  • Buy Produce That’s “In-Season”
    • Produce prices fluctuate substantially depending on the season. During the summer, a carton of strawberries might be half the price that it would be in the winter. Thus, the produce you buy will likely be dependent on the season.
  • When You Do Eat Out, Stick to Pizza and Pies
    • Even though eating out is generally expensive, pizza and pies are still pretty darn affordable. Pizza Hut and Dominos both have very tasty $5 pizzas, and pretty much every corner store sells cheap mince pies.
  • Find Free Activities
    • There are lots of awesome free activities in New Zealand. Whether you’re interested in the Te Papa museum in Wellington or the thousands of beautiful walks dotting the countryside, New Zealand is full of free activities for everyone.
    • Also, we’ve found that there are lots of experiences in New Zealand that can either be free or very expensive, depending on where you go. For example, near Rotorua, you can pay over $30 per person to go to a geothermal wonderland like Waiotapu. Or you can soak in a variety of natural hot springs for free. It often just depends on if you’re willing to search a little harder for the free spots.
  • Do Things Yourself
    • Kiwis in general are a fairly resourceful bunch. Because New Zealand is a fairly small country that’s so far away from everything else, it’s often a lot quicker and more affordable to just do something yourself. Oil changes, for example are nearly 3 times as expensive in New Zealand than in the US. Thus, I’m doing all of the oil changes on our van instead of taking it into the shop.
    • One of the ways we saved quite a bit of money when we first arrived was building our campervan ourselves. Check out this post and this post if you want more info about our campervan build.
  • Don’t Buy Things You Don’t Need
    • When you don’t have much of an income (or any income at all), don’t buy random things. If you don’t spend $75 on a jacket, you’ll be able to buy a week’s worth of groceries instead.
  • Prioritize
    • Because you’re alive, you’re going to have to spend money. If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s important to determine which experiences and activities are worth it and which ones aren’t. For example, even though it’s expensive, we’re going to Hobbiton because we’re both Lord of the Rings nerds and because when else are we going to have the chance to get drinks at the Green Dragon.


  • Work When Possible
    • One of the main reasons we came to New Zealand in the first place is because they have the working holiday visa. This visa allows us to work while we’re traveling, and we’ve been able to make a bit of money to supplement our savings.

There it is. The “secret” to budget travel in New Zealand. We are certainly not travel experts, but we’ve learned quite a bit through trial-and-error. If you’ve got tips on how to travel cheaply, please share them in the comments.

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