There were many things that were different about this summer. Vaccine passports, variants and traffic lights were not on our mind last vacation.
Yet other parts of the Christmas break were reassuringly familiar. One of those summer staples was the DoC campsite and tramping hut, which were packed - as per tradition.
Nights in huts, tent sites and campervans on the Department of Conservation network were up 14 per cent on last summer.
This accounted for over a quarter a million nights, according to the Department of Conservation's Strategy and Insights Manager, Tim Bamford.
"We're seeing roughly the same numbers of New Zealanders planning to get outdoors compared with last year, albeit with a little more concern related to COVID-19."
Peak Great Walks bookings?
A further 100,000 nights were booked on the Great Walks, which operate a separate booking system.
At around 84 per cent capacity, this represented a slight decrease on last summer's numbers.
Considering Aucklanders were unable to travel for the first fortnight, some of the -3.67 per cent fall in bednights was to be expected.
While there had been empty bunks on the network, the Milford Track huts are now full throughout summer.
The Abel Tasman track is set to be the busiest walk, with double the bookings places of any other on the network.
Changes to old favourites
The network is the busiest it has been with Coromandel and the upper South Island continuing to be firm favourites. However, DoC says there have been some changes to where and how Kiwis are camping.
Due to the ongoing Red traffic light setting in Northland previously popular campsites such as Urititi and Otamure fell 8 per cent.
It appears Aucklanders booking a late summer break outdoors shifted plans from Northland to the Coromandel with camping sites up between 15 and 16 per cent.
Tōtaranui Campground in Golden Bay was the busiest campsite of the season.
The requirement for proof of vaccination to stay overnight at DoC facilities was another change on last year.
"This policy was brought in to provide people with more certainty when making plans for the holidays, allow us to keep accommodation open, and to ensure facilities are as safe as possible for visitors and those who work in them," says Bamford.
A survey of campers revealed that safety and Covid hygiene were a priority for four in five New Zealanders when choosing a campsite. Although vaccine
Between the announcement of DoC's vaccine requirement on 2 December and 22 December 1,998 bookings were cancelled - an increase of 72 per cent on last year.
In spite of this, net bookings were up across the network as Aucklanders sought to make last-minute Christmas plans and campers across the country made the most of another summer of closed borders and domestic travel.
DoC continues to provide full refunds for Covid-19-related cancellations including if people are unwell, affected by travel restrictions or are not able to meet the vaccination requirements.
DoC's biggest summer gripes
Last year unpermitted fires, pets and reckless driving and boating were the source of most complaints to DoC.
One of the biggest concerns raised by the DoC survey group 'other New Zealanders won't follow the rules' - whether these be longstanding rules on dogs or new covid guidelines, said Bamford.
"Please check where you can take your dog, or if you can light a fire. Know the boating rules before you hit the water, so you don't harm our whales, dolphins and seals."
While the vaccine pass requirements are fairly new Bamford says that there could be further changes to conditions of use at DoC campsites.
"Where necessary we may bring in additional restrictions or, as a last resort, close facilities"
To make sure you are up to date campers are urged to check the DoC website for the latest information before travel.