After every big chunk of our trip so far, I’ve written a budget summary and it’s time for the numbers on New Zealand. I still find it a little weird to hang out our financial laundry out for the world to see, but I keep writing these posts because I think the numbers are really interesting and I would be thrilled if this inspired someone else to quit their job and hit the road. Whenever I talk about the budget, I always mention that Adam and I are very grateful and feel incredibly fortunate that the pieces all fell into place for this trip, financially and otherwise.
So anyway, I’ve kept track of our total and daily spending on our big trips. I knew New Zealand wasn’t going to be cheap. I was right:
I was surprised New Zealand ended up being this expensive because we did a lot of little things to keep prices down while we were there. We traveled with my sister and her boyfriend so we split the car four ways. There were free bikes at some of our AirBNBs that we used for DIY wine tours. The wineries were also reasonable. Once we were in town, we rode bikes, walked, or took public transportation almost everywhere. Our AirBNBs had kitchens so we could cook dinner lots of nights, and we almost always made breakfast there in the mornings. We had a few fun nights staying in and playing cards, which is a lot less expensive than hitting the bars.
On the other hand, it’s expensive to eat out in New Zealand and we did a lot of activities like the glow worm tour, Hobbiton and Zorb in a pretty short time. We may have had a few extra beers since it was so great hanging out with new people. Our long hikes also came with sneaky costs. We paid ~$50 for a shuttle to and from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and ~$60 for the water taxi trip into Abel Tasman so we could do a long one-way hike instead of an out and back.
To get a better sense for why New Zealand was so much more expensive than our other trips, I broke it out by flights, sleeping, insurance, and “fun stuff”, which is all the costs of being somewhere except sleeping. This includes eating, entertainment, getting around, and everything else.
Keep in mind that this isn’t really a fair comparison between the US and New Zealand. In the US, we slept in a tent and at friends’ houses most of the time, while in New Zealand we stayed at reasonably priced AirBNB’s and an occasional cheap hotel. I expect that these two countries would be similarly priced for more similar trips, excluding the airfare to get to New Zealand.
It is pretty reasonable in this case to compare New Zealand to SE Asia. Once you get there, and therefore excluding flights, we paid about $111 a day in SE Asia compared to $258 in New Zealand. I know there are some people who have found ways to backpack or campervan their way around New Zealand for dirt cheap, but that just wasn’t feasible for us this time given our scheduling constraints.
I always like to mention insurance because too many travel posts leave it out. The insurance numbers in the graph of $18-22 per day include our base health insurance plus car insurance for the US trip and travel insurance for New Zealand and SE Asia. I’m still mulling over travel insurance, and if you haven’t voted on my completely informal travel insurance poll, please take 30 seconds and let me know your thoughts. I’m currently slightly obsessed with it and really want to know what everyone thinks.
Returning to the budget bits, it’s clear that cost is only one part of trip planning, especially for (most) people who have limited vacation availability or really specific places they want to hit. However, if you are considering longer term travel or just looking for the least expensive places to visit, it’s worth considering the huge range of costs for similar levels of action and excitement. I always expected that SE Asia and other less developed places would be cheaper than places like New Zealand, but I am still surprised at the massive difference.
For our next trip, I’m definitely looking for the types of places where my dollars will go further. My current favorite trick is to leverage my husband’s cooking skills into free nights at our friends’ and families’ guest bedrooms all around the country. It also means that the tent and camping gear are headed back into the rotation before too long!