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I lived in Australia for 5 years. So, prior to my trip to New Zealand, I did not look up any packing lists, or research what I needed to pack because I thought “Meh, New Zealand’s just gonna be pretty much the same as Australia.” I thought “hiking” was just going to be a few hours of a slow stroll in a nature reserve or park. I’m not sure what universe I was living in then thinking that but, NOPE. So, I just packed my usual–jeans, t-shirts and denim jacket. Boy, was I in for a ride.
New Zealand’s climate is pretty crazy. We got rained out almost every day on our 10-day road trip around the South Island, and were 100% not prepared. We had 30°C sunny days in Christchurch, and then heavy downpours of 7°C in Te Anau. So it’s safe to say, that you’re gonna need to prepare yourself for an all-season packing list. And if you’re going to be hiking, which you probably will since it is New Zealand, you probably won’t have shelter for the many hours you’re out in the wilderness, so you’re gonna need the proper gear.
Well, my loss is your gain, as I can now tell you what to pack for New Zealand road trip, and not be a fool like me.
Here’s everything you’ll need for your wonderful self-drive road trip down New Zealand’s South Island!
PS. I’ve handcrafted a super handy printable checklist to help you pack for your New Zealand South Island road trip! Just pop in your email below and you’ll get it sent straight to your inbox!
Btw, I’ve got a few other resources here to help you in your New Zealand South Island road trip planning!
What should I bring on my New Zealand road trip?
You’ll definitely need a light backpack you can carry around, especially on your hikes, to hold your essentials such as your water bottle, passport, rain jacket, camera, etc. I love my Marmot Kompressor Plus that weighs next to nothing, so I can pack all of my stuff in it and it still doesn’t weigh me down. There’s also a laptop compartment where I can safely stow my Macbook away.
I never travel without my portable charger because I am a heavy mobile user, especially as I use a lot of Google Maps when navigating on our road trip. And that drains my phone quite quickly. I usually go for a portable charger with at least 10,000mAh so that it holds multiple charges. My smartphone supports Fast Charging as well, so I always look out for a Fast Charging portable charger.
Other items you might need
Toothbrush Cover – I love this cause it fits even my electric toothbrush and tongue cleaner!
Travel Pillow – the memory foam ones are the bestest
Car Charger – you’ll need this when you’re on the road for many hours and need to juice up your devices!
Travel Umbrella – this is super handy when it rains. And when I say handy, I mean it fits in your hand. So you can conveniently throw it into your daypack. Whoo!
Noise-canceling Earphones – unless you want to be serenaded by the lovely lullabies of screaming babies on your long-haul flight, I full recommend this. It also helps me sleep when you’re bunking in with snorers (super handy in hostels cause well, you never know)
Flashlight – for those night walks, and when you’re hunting for glowworms in the forest!
Gorillapod – to mount your camera on just about anything for those awesome self-timer selfie shots.
Free Printable New Zealand Packing Checklist
Want all these items in a nicely curated printable packing checklist? Just sign up below to get it straight in your inbox!
Planning your trip to New Zealand? You might like these posts.
Have better packing tips? Leave me a comment below!
MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Here are my top travel tips and resources to help you save money and plan your trips effectively! If you're looking for more tips, head over to my travel tips resource page or my comprehensive guide on trip planning.
- Booking Flights: When it comes to finding great flight deals, I always start my search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. To save some cash, consider flying mid-week or on the weekends, opt for carry-on only with budget airlines, and be open to red-eye or early morning flights. Check out my in-depth guide on how I find the cheapest flights.
- Accommodations: I'm a stickler for finding the absolute best deals on my stays, so I will obsessively oscillate between a few booking sites: Booking.com (in general) and Agoda (for Asian destinations). When it comes to vacation rentals, there's Airbnb or VRBO.
- Travel Insurance: It's always a wise decision to purchase travel insurance for international trips. I can't stress this enough - it's highly recommended! For international travel insurance, I suggest considering World Nomads or SafetyWing. SafetyWing, in particular, stands out as one of the few policies that cover Covid-19. They also offer excellent monthly policies that are perfect for digital nomads and long-term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: My go-to travel credit card for booking trips is the Wise travel card. I love that there are no foreign transaction fees, so I can pay like a local and never get any surprises at the end of my trip. You can also withdraw cash from the ATMs wherever you are. With Wise, you are always guaranteed the best exchange rate, and I have saved sooo much money just by using this card. Most of the time, I get charged the exchange rate I see on Google, plus or minus a few cents.
- Tours: Most times, I prefer traveling independently but sometimes, getting a guide and a local's perspective makes the experience all the more enriching. When it comes to tour bookings, I trust Viator and GetYourGuide to provide me with excellent options. In Asia, I choose Klook as they are the biggest provider in the region. Plus, you can often get entrance tickets and discounted prices!
- Transportation: To navigate through public transit options and plan my journeys from one place to another, I rely on Rome2Rio. When it comes to rental cars, I compare rental companies and find the best deals through DiscoverCars.
- Connection: It's essential to me to have seamless connectivity wherever I go. I need it to navigate to new places, Google what's around me, and keep in touch with my loved ones. But fumbling around with multiple SIMs has always been a nightmare, which is why I choose Airalo when I travel. No more switching SIMs, just purchase a plan on your phone, on the go, anywhere, and stay connected.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever I need to check out early or take advantage of a long layover, I securely store my luggage with LuggageHero. It's a reliable service that allows me to roam around freely. As a bonus, you can use this link to enjoy your first hour of FREE luggage storage on me!
- What to Pack: I always have packing anxiety once I've left home—you know the phantom feeling that you've forgotten something even though you've checked 372836 times. So I made my own packing list and use it religiously before every trip, and by religious I mean I tick off that list at least 7 times before I zip up my bag. Check out my in-depth packing list here.