Campervan adventures have always been a popular way to explore our beautiful country. There's a very smug feeling that goes with packing everything you need into a house on wheels and hitting the road knowing
there will be no erecting of tents, lugging suitcases into hotel rooms or trying to get out by checkout time (why is that always so hard?).
Motorhoming has many of the joys and general outdoorsiness of camping but with an extra level of freedom. Like the area? Stay longer. Want to move on? Secure everything, close all the cupboards and drive off. It's such a liberating way to travel.
While Covid has been pretty awful in so many ways, one of its small positives has been that taking this kind of holiday has become a little more affordable. Deals to help boost our tourism industry have meant there's no better time to take a campervan trip than now.
Lindsay Cowley, CEO of Motorhome Republic (an aggregator site for people booking campervans across any motorhome company in New Zealand), says they've seen a huge surge in Kiwis keen to try a motorhome for the first time.
"A first motorhome trip can be a bit daunting. It's great to see New Zealanders taking this time to explore our own backyard and make new memories."
Here are some top tips for anyone contemplating their first campervan holiday.
Booking your motorhome
• Booking well in advance is always a good idea, so you can get exactly what suits your party.
• Consider hiring a vehicle with more berths than people travelling (e.g. a five or six-berth for four people) as the extra room will make all the difference.
• If you want to be able to park in (authorised) spots outside of holiday parks, you need to make sure you hire a self-contained vehicle. This is a vehicle that is able to store at least three days' worth of fresh water and wastewater and has a toilet onboard.
• Check and see what's included in your booking - such as sheets, towels and kitchen utensils. It will vary from company to company and vehicle to vehicle.
• Take a look at the layout of the vehicle. Do the beds encroach on living areas and how would that work if travelling with kids who might go to bed early?
• Consider your driving abilities when booking. While more space is always a bonus, make sure you're going to be able to manoeuvre easily if you rent something large.
Before you go
• It's a good idea to book a powered site at a campground for your first night so you can get used to everything before freedom camping.
• Think about the area you want to visit and how long you want to go for. It's often good to add on an extra day or two if you can, to allow freedom and flexibility. Be planned but not rigid.
• Do some meal planning - cooking in a campervan can be challenging so one-pot meals are always a winner. If you plan for easy meals it will make your trip much smoother. Maybe take an extra gas stove too - potatoes, pasta or noodles can always be boiled in a pot outside while you're cooking inside.
• Take your favourite cooking utensils - if you have a favourite knife or peeler, take it as it will make your prep much easier.
• Fridge space is limited, so take small sizes of everything and remember you can buy along the way.
• Ziplock bags and plastic containers are helpful for leftovers and opened snacks. Take your favourite sauces and seasonings to make ordinary meals more exciting
Make sure you know the height of your vehicle, in case you're trying to park somewhere with a restriction.
• Download helpful apps. The Motorhome Republic Travel App, Campermate and Maps.Me are all great.
• Pack personal items and clothes in soft luggage if you can - it squeezes into whatever spaces you have.
On the road
• Try to find a place for everything in the camper, even if you are not naturally organised - it will avoid much frustration later.
• Mix freedom camping with holiday park plug-in stays. It's nice to have the option of a shower and kitchen blocks every few nights.
• Use the USB in the cab to charge devices while on the move — it means you can get the best use out of power sources. Power banks are also a good idea (make sure they are fully charged before you leave home and recharge when you stop at holiday parks).
• If you're in a group or family, understand it can take a day or two for everyone to get into the groove of living together in a small space. It can be tight but everyone gets used to it after the initial settling-in period.
• Understand how the power works. Most New Zealand campervans run on dual battery: the first battery is for the vehicle and the second one for the lights and fridge inside the vehicle. When the vehicle is stationary and not plugged into a campsite's main power, the lights and fridge will run on the second battery and will normally last for a few days (depending on supplier). That second battery will recharge when the vehicle is running - but not as fast as when it's plugged into mains.
• Park places you can easily get out of again (make sure you check for "No overnight parking" signs first). When you're desperate to park for the night or to get out and soak up that sunset, it can be easy to just park anywhere but remember you'll still need to be able to get out again - motorhomes are not known for their manoeuvrability. Always make sure you have someone guiding you out of tricky spots, as big vehicles have big blind spots.