Best New Zealand Travel Tips for a Family Vacation

Milford Sound, New Zealand. Photo credit: Bernard Spragg
Milford Sound, New Zealand. Photo credit: Bernard Spragg

If outdoor adventure and stunning landscapes make your family happy, a trip to New Zealand should be on your bucket list. With no language barrier, a modern culture and few safety concerns (plus a whole lot of sheep!), families find travel to New Zealand very familiar and stress-free. U.S. visitors don’t even need a visa. Visiting New Zealand is perfect for those looking to unplug and immerse themselves in nature. These New Zealand travel tips will ensure that your family vacation to this incredible country pleases everyone.

Ciao Bambino Family Vacation Advisors work with vetted partners in the region to make sure that family trips hit just the right mix of outdoor adventure, time to soak in the scenery and participation in cultural immersion activities. The video above gives great insight into one of the most breathtaking countries in the world, as well as helpful advice about travel to New Zealand. Consider Ciao Bambino your personal travel guide! Our advisors can help your family incorporate visiting one of the wine regions, selecting the most amazing accommodations and planning activities full of fun. We have more travel advice below — read on for invaluable insight.

New Zealand Travel Tips
Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island. Photo by Bernard Spragg

Top New Zealand Travel Tips for Families

Travel Basics: When to Go and More

For families coming from the United States, New Zealand is a long way away, and traveling there means crossing the International Date Line. This means a family vacation to New Zealand is not a quick trip, especially when you take time to recover from jet lag. However, with direct flights from many U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Houston, the journey is manageable and well worth it.

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Taking all this into account, the minimum length of stay for a trip to New Zealand should be 10 nights. Staying at least 12 to 14 nights is ideal to get a full taste of the country’s two islands.

High season in New Zealand is December through late April, during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. The weather in mid-September through November or early May (shoulder season) can also be mild but a bit more unpredictable, with visitors experiencing all four seasons in just one day.

June through mid-September is cooler, but New Zealand doesn’t experience harsh winters. These can still be good travel months with off-season pricing, if you don’t mind temperatures in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit.

Choosing the Right Age

Since New Zealand is for adventure seekers and those who love spending time outdoors, it is really ideal for tweens and teens. Many popular activities have a minimum age of 5. If you are traveling with toddlers or preschoolers, your activities will be limited to things such as boat cruises, short hikes, farm visits or Jeep tours.

Tweens have more options for activities, such as luge rides and jet boating. However, even they need to hit minimum weight and height restrictions for activities like ziplining or rafting. Meanwhile, New Zealand is a teen’s playground!

New Zealand Travel Tips
Milford Sound, New Zealand. Photo by Bernard Spragg

Where to Go

Since you will likely fly into Auckland, spend a few days adjusting to the new time zone on New Zealand’s North Island, with time split between the city and the countryside. However, since the adventure capital is on the South Island, hop on one of the domestic flights that connect the North and South Islands, to spend the rest of your time there. The majority will be divided between destinations such as Nelson and either Queenstown and/or Wanaka.

While the list of things to see and do in New Zealand is vast, the destinations on most bucket lists include:

Fjordland National Park & Milford Sound. This area is known for its ice-carved fjords, lakes and valleys. The breathtaking scenery can be enjoyed by land, air and water with hikes, helicopter rides over the fjords and boat cruises on the lake. Getting to fly past gushing waterfalls and maybe even spot dolphins, seals and penguins is a true delight.

Queenstown. The adventure capital of New Zealand is perfect for thrill seekers, with jet boat tours, bungee jumping and horseback riding.

Abel Tasman National Park. This wilderness reserve near Nelson, at the north end of the South Island, is known for its long trail that winds over beaches and across ridges. It is also home to fur seal colonies, penguins and bottlenose dolphins.

Hobbiton. Any Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit fan should definitely include a visit to Hobbiton on the itinerary. This recreation of the Shire, used in the movies, lets fans step inside the Hobbit holes and take a guided tour of the area.

What to Pack

Because the New Zealand weather can be so temperamental, it is important to be prepared. We recommend packing layers and avoiding jeans, as they are very uncomfortable when wet. A good pair of hiking shoes and pants, paired with a base layer, a fleece layer and waterproof outerwear will keep you warm and dry during your trip to New Zealand. There’s a good possibility that you’ll see some rain no matter the time of year, which is what keeps New Zealand so beautifully green.

Are you ready to plan a trip to New Zealand? Your family’s next adventure awaits! Contact your travel advisor to get started.

Relevant Links:

Best places to visit in Australia and New Zealand with kids

The perfect 2-week itinerary for visiting Australia with kids



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  • I have never been to New Zealand – but after reading this article, I definitely would like to visit!

  • This would be a great trip for my family next December when our boys are off from school. Thanks for the tips!

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