How To Read the Budget:
The first two columns show our budgeted amounts for the month for two people and for the applicable categories we included per day averages. The next two columns are what we actually spent. The final two columns are on a backpacker’s budget so you see both the reality and how you could do New Zealand for less, which can work for some people and not for others.
Valcomspirt vs Backpacker Budget:
Valcomespirit is a word we made up combining the words value, comfort, and free spirit. After much contemplation of the type of travelers we are, we really couldn’t pick one as we are a little bit of everything. We seek valuable life experiences and if it makes sense we will live more like a backpacker, like traveling around New Zealand in a campervan. Other times we seek more comfortable accommodations, especially after living in a campervan for 17 days! We are always trying to get the most value of where we are with a balance of staying true to our free spirit of not planning every detail. Being open to take up whatever adventure strikes us at the time, without always having to restrict ourselves to a tight budget.
We discovered while researching our trip around the world that there were a bunch of these Travel blogs that focused on spending as little as possible. The consensus was you could live on $50/day, which sparked some questions in our minds. When you live on $50/day what activities are you doing, what conditions are you living in, and how many countries that you want to see are you actually seeing?
With the Valcomspirit budget we are looking to have more freedom to go out and experience the fun things in life. We also will be trying to live in places where we at least have privacy as a couple most nights. With a Valcomspirit budget we intend to spend about $32 pp a day more on average than what the typical backpacker budget would spend. This gives us more flexibility to do the things we enjoy and not count pennies as we travel.
Note: Everything is converted to US dollars and we spent 22 days in New Zealand so the per day is based on that time frame.
NEW ZEALAND OVERVIEW:
For New Zealand, overall, we were 6% or $327 overbudget, which was primarily due to things we did not initially consider when making the budget. For instance, not initially expecting to drive 2,8000 miles (4,500 km) and all the gas the campervan would suck up. Or having to pay for holiday parks because wait all the campsites we paid for don’t have showers? It costs what to take your car over the ferry? Weather also came into play as it was a lot colder than expected and we had to buy some miscellaneous items to keep warm.
We were mostly on track for entertainment in New Zealand ($60 over). Our alcohol purchases were down 66% from last month in Belize! It is hard climbing mountains and hiking hungover after all. In all actuality, there is just so much to do and see in New Zealand, that the bar scene is a lot less appealing.
There are many activities in New Zealand that are great and can really suck up the budget! But, with New Zealand’s stunning natural beauty, we were able to find many activities that were free and chose what we wanted to spend our money on. The main activities that went into our entertainment budget were visiting Waiheke island ($42 pp for the ferry and tour), Hobbition ($58 pp), sea kayaking in Abel Tasman ($60 pp), riding the gondola and luge in Queenstown ($40 pp), and a boat cruise around Milford Sound ($32 pp).
With a budget around $350 for entertainment and $100 for alcohol it reduces the activities you can do in New Zealand as a couple. You would have to choose a couple of your favorites and spend the other time trying to find some free hikes or other things to do. Also, you would have to really watch your alcohol spending with an average around $7 a beer.
There was so much we wanted to see in New Zealand, we made our lodging mobile and decided to get a campervan for 16 of our 22 nights. For the 16 nights including insurance, campsite passes, etc… it was ~$1,140 so half of this went to lodging and half went to transportation in our actual numbers. Our campervan was equipped with all the essentials; the back laid down into a double bed and there are compartments under the bed area for a refrigerator and to store the cook stove, pots and pans, plates, etc…
We did not get a self-contained vehicle so we were required to stay at campsites that had running water and a bathroom. With our campervan we got a 2 week DOC pass that allowed us to camp at all DOC camp sites in New Zealand that participated. Unbeknownst to us, most these campsites (when I say most I mean like 3 in all of New Zealand) only had vault toilets and running water with NO showers or anything else. Now I am by no means a prissy girl, but when your hiking and doing a lot of nature things I need a shower a minimum of every other day. We stayed at holiday parks (~$15 pp per night) at least every other night where we could park the campervan, take showers, use the kitchen, and laundry. This was an unexpected expense for us in our lodging budget which added up to ~$200 over the 16 days we had the campervan.
In general, our lodging budget was under estimated for New Zealand. On average the cost for 2 people at budgeted accommodations with your own private room is ~$50 per night. If you want to stay a step above, like a hotel room or nicer Air BnB you are looking at ~$80 per night.
Hostels are ~$19-$24 pp per night on average in New Zealand for a ~ 6-bed dorm, which again you would most likely be in a bunk bed and nightly snuggles would get a little awkward. I hope one of your 4 other bunk neighbor doesn’t snore. Most of the hostels in New Zealand have kitchens to cook in to lower the costs of some of your meals.
Transportation was our major learning experience in New Zealand. Our initial plan was to take buses around New Zealand (there are some if you book far enough in advance you can get for $1 a bus ride) and stay in the towns and cities near points of interests, which is where the $675 for local transportation was calculated. As mentioned above we opted for the camper van and included half of the total or $570 into our actuals, which didn’t leave much room for any other transportation expenses.
We completely under estimated our gas expense, which after 2,800 miles (4,500 km) of driving at ~$5 per gallon ( ~$1.70 per liter) came out to $580 for the 16 days. We also didn’t consider the large cost of the ferry ride with our camper van from the North to the South Island of New Zealand, which was $163. This is one place where we learned that winging it may bite you in the butt, and at times you should spend more time brain storming and researching all costs.
To travel to both islands on a backpacker’s budget you would have to get the 60 hour InterCity Flex Bus Pass for ~$320 pp (The $1 buses you have to book far in advance and takes lots of planning ahead; I don’t believe it would be flexible enough for a backpacker). This will take you to all the prime locations you would want to go in the main towns and cities. Then you would have the remaining $350 to get around each town/city by the local bus, taxi, bike rental, etc… It would be a more restricted schedule for traveling the island and would result in longer drives than it would in a car. Hopefully you don’t get carsick. With about a month time frame you would not be able to spend multiple days anywhere on your trip since the bus is not as efficient getting around.
If you are feeling friendly and adventurous another option is to download the couchsurfing app and try to find a car share with one or two other travelers.
Once again food saved the day! Having our cook stove, using the communal kitchen at holiday parks, and eating mostly sandwiches for lunch helped save us beaucoup bucks. Grocery prices were comparable for most items with the states. They have awesome cage free eggs everywhere and they are a bargain (like $3 US for a dozen)! Restaurant prices were comparable with the US (at least the Sacramento area in California) after tip, and it really just depends on where you go. Our meals out averaged from ~$10-20 per person and ~$20 to 40 per person if you’re getting some drinks or an appetizer/dessert.
With an average of $25 per day per person for food you would have to be really cautious of your spending and make sure you are getting a lot of your food at the local supermarkets. When you do eat out it would have to be at the lower priced takeout or cafes. You would also have to buy cheaper supermarket foods like the good ole’ PB&J or spaghetti, which is low cost in New Zealand. You would also need to carry any extra food you had and could not bring anything that needs refrigerating, unless you carried an ice chest around with you.
For flights, we were slightly over. This was the cost for two one way flights during the slow season out of Los Angeles (peak season is the end of December-March). For round trip tickets from San Francisco I found some from $800 to $1,400 per ticket depending on how flexible you are on your timing and travel time. If you are flying from other locations the price will increase since we are one of the closest states to New Zealand.
The cheapest one way fight I could find coming from San Francisco was $609 pp, which is what the budget is based on. This would change depending on where you’re coming from and if you need a one-way or round trip ticket.
Miscellaneous, other things we didn’t consider:
As discussed above we didn’t consider the higher lodging costs, expensive gas, and the price of camping in New Zealand. Additionally, we misjudged the weather which can be unpredictable. Thinking it was going to be in the 60s and 70s (15° to 23°C) we brought a wind breaker and jeans, no real warm clothes. As in some places it was 40°F (5°C) we had to buy some items to warm us up!