Yes, the title says it all!
We actually flew in a 10 hours flight with a two and half months old baby and we had the most amazing 3 weeks road trip in the most amazingly beautiful New Zealand!
Why we did it
Bandi and I love road trip (I’ve said it a million times) and New Zealand is the perfect paradise for this, but everytime we wanted to plan for NZ, the time seemed like not long enough, so jokingly I told Bandi, “Let’s just do New Zealand during maternity leave when we have baby.” Then we planned to have a September baby, so we could bring the baby to New Zealand during summer time (yes, we seriously planned pregnancy to accommodate our travel plan). When we found out we were pregnant (for an August baby), guess what Bandi did after that? Yes, looking for New Zealand ticket, not particularly in December, but in November (early summer).
What’s the itinerary
We did 1 week of North island and 2 weeks of South island. I really think this is the perfect itinerary for first time New Zealand trip; but if you only have 2 weeks, do not split both island to be 1 week + 1 week. Just ditch the north island and do 2 weeks of South island, coz seriously you should not do South island less than 2 weeks.
In my future New Zealand trip, I will only plan for South island, coz it’s crazy beautiful!
We drove car in north island and only drove camper van in south island because in north island, it was only me, Bandi and Alessandro (the newest member of Cahaya pack), while in South island we have 2 friends joining us. We rent a 6-berth maui camper van and it was surprisingly spacious enough for the five of us. I’ll talk about it later.
In North island, we drove a loop from Auckland to Auckland, passing by Hamilton, Taupo and Rotorua, all in 1 week. We lived in airbnb’s.
We then took a domestic flight from Auckland to Christchurch.
In South island, we drive one way from Christchurch to Queenstown, passing by Godley Head, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook and Wanaka. In Wanaka, we made a lot of detour, such as to Blue pools, Milford Sound and eventually to Glenorchy when we reached Queenstown.
About driving and living in camper van
In my next New Zealand trip, I will definitely ditch camper van and go for normal car plus staying at the lodge. But if I could redo, I would still do camper van for my first New Zealand trip. Paying camper van is not necessarily for economic reason or convenience reason (coz trust me it’s not) but merely for experience reason.
Why is it not economical? Because paying for car rental + lodges are the same price with paying camper van and DOC entrance/ holiday park entrance.
Why is it not convenience? Because the self contained status can only serve you for at least 1 night without electricity, clean water and waste water. Once we learned the hard way about how easy the waste water is filled up, we ended up using facilities like kitchen and shower at Holiday parks instead of in the camper van itself. The only great thing about camper van is that we can park at beautiful DOC camp sites like we did at Godley Head, Mt Cook and Milford Sound with relatively cheap price of NZD15 per person. Apart from that, all holiday parks that we parked our camper van in, offer comfortable lodges.
Camper can also gives you so many maintenance to upkeep, filling in clean water, emptying waste water, septic tank, turning on and off gas and fill it in again at the end, and not to mention sweeping the floor, cleaning the bed sheets, etc. You kinda do housekeeping works during your holiday lol.
Highlights in New Zealand
I will skip north island for the highlights, because once you visit the south island, you kind forgot about the north (lol no offence but it’s true). I love outdoorsy stuffs so imagine road trippin’ in south island, passing by so many beautiful landscape, mountains, lakes, fjords, farms, forrest… New Zealand is the feast for the eyes! We also did a lot of short walks and hikes to enjoy the view.
A lot of people recommended us to take a cruise in Milford Sound, so we did. Yeah it was a must do in Milford sound, of course, because cruise is the only way to enjoy the Sound. Sound is basically similar concept with Fjords just larger in size. Milford Sound is beautiful, filled with hundred of temporary waterfalls (temporary because the waterfalls happened due to rain and there is no soil on the top of the lands, just rocks. You’ll most likely visit Milford Sound when it’s raining because it is one of the wettest area in the world, its annual rainfall is three times higher than amazon!
We stayed overnight at The white horse camp ground, in our camper van when the weather was stormy. It was one of the unforgettable night! Our camper van was shaky because of the wind, it was sooo scary! We ended up leaving the next morning because the rain just didn’t stop without doing any hike. We then stayed at Glentanner Holiday Parks with the Mt Cook View. The following morning, suddenly the sky was so clear, so we rushed back to Mt Cook and did some hiking!
So one thing to take note that it’s VERY VERY WINDY in Mt cook, it’s so windy that the public shelter that is made of concrete shook a little! So imagine people who walks and hikes, they literally had to wade against the wind! When we were about to do Hooker Valley Track, Bandi carried Alessandro in Ergo and covered him with a lot of fleece, but of course there was some part that was uncovered and the wind went and blew his face. Alessandro was so scared, he stopped breathing for a while! Bandi was so shock, he shouted his name and ran so fast into the public shelter. Only afterwards we googled that baby below 6 months are unable to handle win blown to their face, they tend to hold their breath when that happens. Our heart dropped… but thankfully everything was fine. We then brought Alessandro back to the camper van and did solo hike in turns, and then followed by cooking Nasi Goreng in the camper van, with Mt Cook as a view. Life’s good again.
The weather was on our side this time! In the morning, we enjoyed the weather while having quick breakfast, then went for a hike! I must salute Bandi for doing this hike while carrying the fatty baby. Lake Tekapo is beautiful and serene, the color is just so dreamy. Oh we wished we spent more time in Lake Tekapo.
If you could choose one city to be your hub (let’s say you want to park your caravan), Wanaka would be the best because it is like the last intersection between Queenstown and Fox Glacier. Going north, you will be venturing the glacier, going south you will be settling for Queenstown and further again to Milford Sound.
Queenstown and Glenorchy
Oh what a beautiful town Queenstown is. If I was offered to move here, I would do it in a heartbeat! If you’re planning to explore south island, most likely you would make a stop or even arrive at Queenstown. This small city has it all to be a vacation town; quirky town center with good food with mountains in the background, not to mention it is the capital of adventure in New Zealand, whether you want to bungee jump, skydive or paraglide. Everyone would fall in love with this city instantly.
1 hour driving from Queenstown, along the most beautiful drive you’d ever seen, is a little town called Glenorchy. It is quiet, beautiful and perfect for a weekend getaway. We had a walk in the Glenorchy Walkway and really enjoyed the view we had.
About traveling with 3 months old baby
Trust me, I wanted to cancel the trip so many times but Bandi kept assuring me that it’s gonna be alright. And again (even though I don’t like to admit it) he’s right. It turns out the time we spent in New Zealand was the best part of my maternity leave. I enjoyed the time the three of us spent together.
People usually ask us, “how’s the flight?” It turns out the flight was not the biggest issue, the jetlag was! We didn’t think about how jetlag would impact so much on baby until we experienced it ourselves. Oh my… the first night in New Zealand was the longest night I’ve ever had in my life. It was summer in Auckland, no aircon, we were drenched in our sweat and then Alessandro couldn’t sleep because of jetlag. His normal bedtime was 8 pm and because of jetlag, he slept at 1 am, along with crankiness and fussiness.
The next day we brought him outdoor often so his biological clock would adjust better. The second night he slept at 11 pm and in the third night his bedtime had been neutralized.
If you’re planning to travel to different timezone with baby, I suggest for you to read about baby jetlag and be prepared about it. Be prepare that your first 2 days in the country will be spent adjusting to the new environment and time.
This time, we also travel slowly, unlike the usual pace that Bandi and I usually do. This time, we relax more, drive short distance and only do easy hiking.
Alessandro seemed happy throughout the trip, he also enjoyed looking around, afterall babies love to see the world goes by.
We’re planning for our second trip as a new team but still thinking where to go next and when to go (since Alessandro will start solid soon).
Hit me up in the comment below if you have questions about camper-van-ing in NZ with a baby; and if you would like to share your trip with a baby and suggest to us where to go next.