Top tips for a budget friendly trip to NZ

Most people think a trip to New Zealand is a costly affair- mostly due to impressions of how expensive it can be to fly there. However, New Zealand is actually one of cheaper places I’ve been with prices comparing to trips around the United States. There’s loads of ways you can economize and save money in New Zealand that are fairly unique to the country itself, so I’m writing down all the tips and tricks for you to budget your way to the dream trip you’ve been waiting for.

How to eat for cheap in New Zealand

  1. Download the app first table or bookmark their website. This instrumental site allows you to make a reservation for a wide range of eateries for about $10. Then you get 50% (based on the deal) off your entire order when you eat there. If you like fine dining and great restaurants, this is a killer way to save 50% or more off your bill. *Note that you have to make the reservation 1-3 days in advance depending on the popularity of the restaurant.
  2. Explore the grocery market options. We tried to minimize our eating out to only 1-2 meals a day and bought sandwich supplies, breakfast items, and other snacks at the markets. The grocery stores are easy to navigate and have lots of fun options. The 3 top markets for saving money on groceries are: Pac N Save (Costco-like), New World (our fave), and Count Down.
  3. Fast food. Forget Mcdonald’s- that place let us down this trip as far as pricing. However Dominos really rallied for us and it’s got multiple locations across the nation. In under 10 minutes you get your order, plus one large pizza is only $6 NZD or $3.50 USD ! That’s even cheaper than in the US, really fast, and super satisfying after a long day when you’re just ready to curl up in your Airbnb.
  4. Book airbnbs that include breakfast. 50% of our stays did and they were all amazing! I’ve never stayed in such generous places- they usually included toast with butter/ jam, breakfast cereals and milk, fruit, yogurt, and of course a selection of teas and coffee.
  5. Buy your alcohol at the liquor stores or grocery stores instead of drinking at restaurants. It’s much cheaper- particularly if you like cider which goes for practically the price of water some places.
    • Note: For purchasing alcohol at stores OR at bars/ restaurants you’ll be asked to present identification proving your age. For international visitors, the only identification they will accept is your PASSPORT.  

How to save money on activities in New Zealand

  1. When shopping for adrenaline activities and tours check with multiple operators to see if they combo with other tours you want to do. Many do offer combos and discount the rate of the 2nd activity. For example rafting the Kawaru River we found operators that combo’d a cruise on Milford Sound, and another that combo’d jet boat tours and the Queenstown Luge. The latter ended up actually saving us more money so that’s the combo and operator we chose to go with.
  2. Bookmark the site: Bookme for last minute tour discounts. If there’s any activities you’re interested in that you aren’t on a tight timeline for or worried about going with a specific operator (ie: biking tours, wine tours, film locations, or horse back riding tours) visit the site bookme to see what options are available. This site sells discounted tours to fill empty seats or drive business on slower days and usually offers 40-50% off and more in some cases. During our visit to Queenstown we booked a horseback riding tour at 40% off and admission to an Ice Bar for 50% off.  
  3. Do less costly activities and more FREE stuff! If you’re a LOTR fan, see my post here for a diy guide to filming locations across the country. Visit the National Park visitor centers to learn about the history and culture and find info about great hikes in the area. Road trip out to scenic spots and have a picnic! There’s lots of great ways to plan a do it yourself tour and save lots off the organized tour price.

How to save money on gas in New Zealand

  1. If you saw my camper-van post than you know gas is a costly price for road tripping around New Zealand. The more you plan out where you will fill up, the more you will save on gas. Purchasing gas in larger areas is loads cheaper due to the demand. (for example, gas in Glenorchy was $1.50 NZD MORE than gas in Queenstown and it’s only a 46 km drive)
  2. Pick up an EXON Mobile rewards card at the start of your road trip. Exon stations were generally the baseline for price in the cities and with a rewards card you save $0.03 off each liter and once you accumulate enough points, you can cash in for $5, $10, $15 off your gas bill.

And of course the easiest way to save money when travelling anywhere is to visit in the shoulder or off seasons. This will save you the most money on your lodging and car rental and usually impacts even the cost of activities.

See my other cost saving articles for NZ below:

My top 3 budget friendly airbnbs in NZ

My top tips for road tripping New Zealand

Should you rent a campervan in New Zealand

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