Which way to holiday?

By Lydia Anderson

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Campervans can be a cheap, fun way to holiday over Christmas.
Campervans can be a cheap, fun way to holiday over Christmas.

Fancy packing the kids into the car and heading away for a good old-fashioned Kiwi holiday this Christmas? Be sure to book now. Lydia Anderson compares your options of a simple tent, a convenient campervan or splashing out on a comfortable motel.

Tenting

Camping in a tent is still Kiwis' preferred way to stay at a holiday park, according to the Holiday Parks Association of New Zealand.

More than a third of domestic holiday park guests stay in tents over the summer period, the largest accommodation category on the association's 2013 Peak Season Holiday Park Visitor Summary Report.

"The biggest attraction in the holiday park is the fact that you've got like-minded people around," says chief executive Fergus Brown.

"You go there and you meet other families. Your kids will jump out of your car, they'll rush off, they'll meet somebody else and you won't see them again until dinner time."

There has been increasing demand for improved facilities such as swimming pools and Wi-Fi access, and many parks are upgrading, he says.

Things to consider: If bad weather disrupts your holiday, your family could be cooped up inside a cramped, cold tent. Camping grounds can be noisy, so a good sleep might be out of the question.

If it's your first time camping there are initial set-up costs to consider, but once you've got the gear it's one of the most cost-effective ways to holiday.

Outlay for first-timers, based on a family of four: Tent $600 upwards, basic cooker $50 upwards, sleeping mat or bed $20 to $200 per person.

Camping ground costs: A tent site costs between $10 to $20 per person per night on average.

Variables: Food, activities, fuel.

Campervans

Usually the domain of international tourists, campervans are an increasingly popular option among Kiwi campers, Brown says.

The number of Kiwis staying in campervans at holiday parks rose from 6 per cent in the summer of 2009/10 to 10 per cent in 2012/13.

Retirees, especially, see campervans as a great way to get around, he says.

"You can stop; you're not locked into having to book accommodation ahead because there's always a campervan site available at a holiday park."

New Zealand Motor Caravan Association general manager Bruce Lochore says more Kiwi families and retirees are purchasing motor homes, with the association's membership growing 15 per cent each year.

Things to consider: If travelling through cities, finding suitable parking can be an issue. Many rural public picnic spots are no-camping zones, so make sure you check before you park up and risk a $100 fine.

Outlay: Rentals for four-berth campervans are $160 to $330 a day, depending on size. Fuel is about $20, or between 8-13 litres, per 100km for both for petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles, based on October fuel prices.

Campground site: $17 to $22 per person, per night.

Motels

Although it might seem like the priciest option, there is a wide range of built accommodation options to suit different budgets.

Almost a third of Kiwis staying at holiday parks prefer the comfort of built accommodation.

"We've got some quite luxurious properties where you might [pay] a couple of hundred dollars ... we've got cabins on the other hand which might be $50 or $60," says Brown.

However while a motel might offer more privacy, it might not be the best option if you're looking to meet other families on your travels, he says.

Things to consider: Standards vary greatly throughout the country, according to Consumer NZ. To avoid disappointment, check all your requirements can be met, if penalties apply for a changing or cancelling a booking, and confirm your arrangement in writing.

Motel prices: For four people, prices range from about $80 for a cabin to $280 per night. Prices on Trade Me's Travelbug website range from $40 to $295 per night.

Variables: Food, fuel, activities.

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