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Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Kids in New Zealand

Your next holiday will be a hit with the kids–and adults–if you follow these top 10 tips for traveling with kids in New Zealand.

Traveling with kids can be tough. You need to balance keeping the kids entertained with ticking off the sights, and do it all at a comfortable pace.

But family travel doesn’t need to be stressful. With these tips, you can look forward to your New Zealand holiday without worrying.

Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Kids in New Zealand

1. Pay attention to what your kids are excited about

time in queenstown new zealand
The TSS Earnslaw cruise and farm tour in Queenstown

Depending on the age of your children, they might or might not care about the big-ticket sights in New Zealand. You’re excited about visiting Milford Sound, while their best memory could be playing on the slides at an unremarkable playground.

But if they are interested in something you can incorporate into your New Zealand holiday, be sure to include it!

Are your kids obsessed with animals? Stay a night on a farm and give them the chance to feed and interact with friendly farm animals.

Are they Lord of the Rings fans? Don’t miss the Hobbiton Movie Set, and try to include other notable filming locations along your route.

Do they have a blast playing at the beach? Make a stop a Hot Water Beach, where they can dig their own hot pools in the sand.

Are they adventure-loving teens? Try to incorporate adrenaline activities the whole family will enjoy–scenic jet-boat rides, zipline tours, glowworm cave tours, and rafting trips.

2. Minimize time in the car

lord of the rings tour

The biggest problem most families run across when planning their New Zealand holiday is an over-ambitious itinerary.

Though New Zealand looks small, driving distances are long.

Children quickly grow restless when trapped in the car for hours on end. To keep them engaged and happy, aim to stay as many nights as possible in each destination, and keep longer drives to a minimum.

For families with younger children, the North Island is an ideal destination. Driving times are shorter, since most highlights are close to one another.

The South Island is hard to see without a few longer days in the car, so it’s more suited to families with older children.

3. Choose active and interactive experiences

an interactive Maori experience--top tips for traveling with kids in New Zealand
An interactive Maori experience at Te Puia, Rotorua

Children love hands-on activities. Wherever possible, keep them engaged with interactive experiences.

If you want to experience Maori culture, don’t visit a museum–enjoy a culture show that invites audience participation.

If you want to unwind with a lake cruise, combine it with an interactive farm tour (the TSS Earnslaw Cruise and Farm Tour in Queenstown is a great option for all ages).

4. Schedule down time for visiting parks, playgrounds, and beaches

Piha Beach, Auckland, New Zealand family guided tour
Piha Beach near Auckland

When planning your itinerary, make sure you don’t fill each day from sunrise to sunset.

To keep your kids from getting restless, incorporate down time that’s geared to them. Scope out playgrounds in each city before you visit. Spend time splashing around at the beach (even if you don’t stay near the ocean, many of New Zealand’s lakes have beaches kids will enjoy). Pack frisbees or balls so your kids can burn off excess energy at the park.

5. Stay at accommodation designed for families

Instead of staying in two separate hotel rooms, choose a two-bedroom (or larger) apartment for your family so you have room to spread out. You can stock the kitchen with snacks and prepare a meal or two at your accommodation when your kids don’t want to go out.

Other family-friendly accommodation features to look for are a swimming pool or playground on the premises and a quieter location away from the noise and lights downtown.

6. Make travel arrangements well in advance

Family vacations are not the time to be spontaneous. You will have much more fun if you book your travels well in advance and get all the details pinned down long before you arrive in New Zealand.

This includes renewing your passsports or, if your kids haven’t traveled overseas before, applying for their first passports.

7. Find small ways to minimize hassle

A family picnic at Muriwai Beach, Auckland
Picnicking at Muriwai Beach near Auckland

When kids are involved, small hassles can add up to a stressful family vacation. Keep the inconvenience to a minimum by finding ways to avoid hassle.

Pre-order breakfast at your accommodation each morning if your family is slow to start the day.

If you’re planning to ski while in New Zealand, rent gear rather than toting it from home–the rental costs are usually similar to the excess baggage fees in any case.

Give your guide an idea of what foods your family enjoys so he or she can pick restaurants for you.

Stock up on snacks so you’re prepared if your kids start complaining during long drives.

8. Plan a recovery day after your international flight

Tired, grumpy kids jetlagged from an international flight are likely to ruin any sightseeing you have planned for your first day in New Zealand.

Take it easy with a relaxing visit to the beach, a short drive without any sightseeing, or a low-key activity scheduled for the middle of the day.

9. Find ways to keep the kids engaged

Franz Josef Glacier helicopter flight with snow landing New Zealand
Unwinding with a snowball fight on the Franz Josef Glacier helicopter flight

When you can’t avoid longer drives or destinations that don’t interest your kids, keep them engaged in other ways.

While driving, play road trip bingo or other games that have them spotting things out the window.

If your kids are old enough for it, buy them disposable cameras and let them develop their photography skills.

10. Bring games and activities to keep travel time and downtime fun

From card games the whole family can enjoy while waiting at the airport to coloring or activity books that only make an appearance on family vacations, special games and activities will make your New Zealand holiday even more memorable for your kids.

* * *

Keep these top tips for traveling with kids in New Zealand in mind when planning, and you next family holiday is sure to be a success!

Your travel consultant and guide will work with you to figure out the pace and destinations that your family will enjoy most.

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