Traveling in New Zealand without a Van: we did it and we don’t regret it

Traveler blogs are full of photos of Vans at the edge of the water, in front of the mountains, facing the sea. Symbol of freedom, promise of adventure, the van more or less big (or RV for larger families or the wealthiest) was tempting us! Free campsites, accommodation and transportation “2 in 1”, everything suggested that it was a good plan. We had rejected this idea in Australia and we did not want to miss the opportunity to live an extraordinary experience in New Zealand. New Zealand is certainly one of the countries with the most “sleeping vehicles” in circulation! It’s pretty amazing to see that.

However, after long researches on the internet and long reflections on our motives, we did not rent a van. Reason #1 – the rental price The quotes have made us almost faint!

Reason #2 – the price of campsites. We will not always camp in the middle of nature => it will be necessary to pay.

We have realized all the reasons why we MUST go to the campsite even if we have a Van “self-contained” (it means that there is a pot to do his needs)

  • to take a shower
  • to use the wifi (otherwise how to publish the articles and videos on the blog?)
  • to use the electrical outlets of the kitchen or WC to charge the PC / tablet / telephone because the 2nd battery is empty (if one has one).
  • to empty the chemical toilet (but we can find free deposits or go to the public toilet as often as possible, the galley!)
  • to do a laundry (but we can also find a laundromat in town, but we do not really want to park in the meanwhile)
  • to cook in the common kitchen and not behind the vehicle (especially when it is raining)

Reason #3: Promiscuity

We wondered about the pleasure we would have in being in a small van, not being able to stretch, to cook on a small stove. The idea of ​​sleeping within a meter of my shoes has cooled everyone down.


Conclusion: we are delighted to have travelled in New Zealand by car:

– car rental + cheap nights ” seems more economical than a van (we respected a budget of 55 € / pers / day including some activities yet expensive (Day at the fjord, summer toboggan, hiking with a guide, Maori village, animal park …) and sometimes housing at more than 80 € per night …)

  • we consume less gasoline
  • no problem driving a bigger vehicle
  • when it rains, we are glad to have a room 
  • Sacha had room to spread lego and little soldiers and to do his school work!

Obviously there are also disadvantages: redo the bags, load the trunk, look for the following housing, do not wake up at the edge of the water … sleep in tiny cabins and use the common campsites (housing is really expensive ).


But in comparison with the worries in a van … it was a no brain-er for us …

Conclusion: We are attached to our minimum comfort even if we travel around the world!

Advantage of having observed the vans during 44 days, we were more aware of our luck, our little happiness.

It seems that leaving in van is a good solution:

  • for young people who like the “freedom” side and especially the long-term travelers (Work/holiday visa, students, woofers …) who buy the van and resell it at the end.
  • from 4 people because it can then be more interesting on the budget side.
  • For those who have a larger budget and who can afford a large van or a large RV because the comfort is much better. It goes with the price!
  • for those who want to live the “experience” at any price and we can understand, we envied them for a few minutes sometimes.



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