We have spent the last three weeks in a camper van, Lucy, driving across New Zealand. While we still have several weeks left, we wanted to share a few of the things which have helped smooth our transition to camper van living.
First things first, you need a camper van. There are dozens of different companies that rent them in all shapes and sizes across the islands. We went with Jucy after doing lots of research and realizing their Cabana was a good fit for the two of us. We have been spoiled by Lucy’s bells and whistles.
However, our trip wouldn’t be going as smoothly without a little preparation of our own.
Here are eight things you need before setting out on your New Zealand camper van adventure:
Google Maps has an offline maps feature that allows you to download a map within a specific area. By downloading multiple maps which overlapped just a little, we were able to map out a large area, in this case the entire north and south islands of New Zealand. This has allowed us to use our phone just like a GPS, but without using data or relying on connectivity.
While this is a very valuable feature, there are two cons. First, you need data in order to download the maps which can be tricky to come by in some places. Second, the maps expire after 30 days.
This app has been a lifesaver for us. Created by two guys who love New Zealand and wanted to provide information on where people could camp, the app lists more than 1,500 camping locations on both islands. There is not only a map of each location, but also reviews, pricing, and lots of information about each site. The best thing about this app? The maps can be downloaded and accessed offline. We have found some incredible off the beaten path campgrounds thanks to this app.
Ben’s brother Peter introduced us to Vudu before we left the States. Vudu is a free website and app which allows you to have digital copies of DVDs you own accessible on their website from anywhere. Pete told us whenever you buy a DVD you are provided with a digital copy code. You type that code into Vudu and the site will store the video so you can either stream or download it. Since we were prepared for life without consistent internet, we downloaded a handful of movies onto our computer along with all six seasons of Game of Thrones. (No spoilers please we have just started season four.)
We have Amazon Prime, and one of the perks of Prime is Amazon Video. Using our iPad we downloaded a handful of movies so we could watch them without Wifi as well. There is nothing better than a rainy day camper van movie marathon.
Another part of Amazon Prime is Amazon Music. I like to call it a cross between Spotify and Pandora. You can either choose an artist or album you want to listen to, a la Spotify, or you can choose an artist or genre and play a station of songs which fit into that genre, a la Pandora. We knew we weren’t going to want to spend loads of data streaming music, so we downloaded dozens of our favorite artists so we can listen to the music we love on offline mode.
Even the best of intentions sometimes go awry. We learned the hard way that offline music can and does expire.
Another thing we did to prepare for our trip was to sign up for Audible. For a monthly fee you can buy audiobooks, and for each month you are a member, you get a free credit to use on any book of your choosing. We signed up and bought a handful of books and then cancelled our membership when we had several credits banked. Then I went on a shopping spree and bought books I knew we would both enjoy. We have listened to two and a half of the books so far and it is a great way to pass our driving days.
It is no secret that we both love to read and one of the things we were most looking forward to on this trip was more time to do just that. We both had the first generation Kindle for many years but upgraded to the Paperwhite shortly before we left. It allows us to read in any lighting condition which is a huge upgrade from our old kindles where you needed some sort of light in order to read. We also just found out about Amazon Households which allows Ben to access all of the books that I have bought, and vise versa.
While New Zealand may seem like a small country, the mountainous terrain and jagged coastline prolong any kilometers you drive. When we are between books, or tired of music, we have also used Podcasts to pass the time. Again, we downloaded many of these before we left so we could access them without using data.
Add in a good travel partner, some Cheezels, MallowPuffs, and this is what has worked for us so far.
Have you ever been on a camper van adventure? What is on your must-have list?