Gosh, Aotearoa, hasn't it been a year! With all the restrictions in place and the constant threat of financial woes ahead, planning a holiday can seem a little overwhelming. I totally understand the pressure of making sure you make the right decision in booking a trip that the whole family will enjoy, espescially when you don't quite know when you'll get a chance to take another break. To make it just that little bit eaiser, I've put together some tips for making sure you get the most out of your next family getaway to or including Christchurch.
If there is one thing you can do to get the most out of your trip it is to sit down with pen and paper (or tablet) and come up with a game plan.This will help you focus on what you really want to achieve this holiday and stop you getting distracted from things that look interesting but aren't too relevant to your family. Remember those AA 1000 places to visit in New Zealand books we all picked up a few years back? Time to dust them off and look at what itineraies interest you most. For success with kids under 7, try to pick options with less than 4 hours driving required each day. It may still take you all day to get somewhere but at least you won't be getting stressed when the little ones need to stop for breaks and you can squeeze in stops at some of the amazing playgrounds in small town NZ - we always stop at the Steampunk Playground in Friendly Bay, Oamaru when travelling between Christchurch and Dunedin.
Check out some of the facebook groups on travelling around NZ although do be mindful that not all of the advice is objective and what might seem like good value to one may be an extravagance to someone else.
This is also the time to set a budget. Only you know what your families' tolerance limit is for travelling on the smell of an oily rag - but, it can be done! Remember that as you are travelling in NZ, the same budgeting principles you apply at home can be extended on your stay. Once you have factored in how much you can allow for food, transport, accommodation and activities you just need to divide it up into those 4 pots. Each area can be done low cost if you want to. I know our family is very happy to do free things and travel on public transport. We do like our food and a comfy bed though!
Think about the timing of your trip. Do you need to travel inside the school holidays? If not, it is much easier to get a bargain. You can still save over the school holidays but you will need to book early and be prepared to hunt around for places that don't charge extra during these times. Often the price increases as seats on planes or beds are filled, so the earlier you book the cheaper it is. Public holidays are a different story, often there is a minimum night stay or a higher rate applied. This goes for restaurants as well as acocmmodation and flights.
Whatever you do, make sure you are familiar with the booking conditions of the businesses you are using. Tourism business are not obligated to refund you if you can't travel due to COVID, so make sure you know what you are signing up for! For example, here at Christchurch TOP10, if you need to cancel for any COVID 19 related reason we will give you a full refund or hold you deposit on file for as long as you need.
With Jetstar and Air New Zealand releasing extra fares it is definately worth considering flying. Make sure you include the cost of an uber/taxi or transfers at either end, sometimes these can cost as much as the fare itself. Christchurch has a bus that travels from the airport and you can easily get to most accommodation providers using it. I'm not sure it's a great option for my family as we overpack, so the thought of 2 kids, 2 tired adults and 4 extra large suitcases on a metro bus is not a great start to the holiday, however if your family is more disciplined and the kids can take care of their own bag you might consider it.
Bus travel - I remember when bus travel was the ultimate in budget travel! Not any more, while you may want to check the prices if you are unable to drive, it is not any cheaper than taking your own car, and in our experience is often more expensive than flying. Deals for backpackers, students and seniors are around though.
Train journeys really should count as part of the experience, and to be fair they are often priced accordingly. While they are a wonderful way to travel they definately do not count as a low cost option!
Car (and Ferry) - If you having been saving the AA points or Flybuys, nows the time to get those petrol vouchers. Traveling by car is probably the easiest and most cost effective way to get around, especially if your destination is within a days drive. Make sure your accommodation choice does not charge extra for parking, this includes some of the new Air BnB's which don't offer any parking, so you may be required to use paid or free on street parking.
If you do need to catch the ferry between the islands make sure you keep an eye out for the deals available,for example, Club Card members can save 15% on their ferry journey with Interislander including the car fee and onboard purchases. More deals on the Interislander!
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to accommodation options. For a budget family holiday though it helps to narrow down what facililties you need before you start your search. We suggest the following are non negotiable:
Some nice to have extras:
One of the reasons we have so many families stay with us is our facilities for kids. We have really tried to cater to the under 15 group so that parents can either make some amazing memories with their children or relax knowing the kids are going to have a blast. Some of our facilities just for kids include:
Our most popular family room is the self contained unit. This budget friendly option has everything you need to keep everyone happy including; TV, bathroom and full kitchen. We help you save by not including communal areas within the room, so yes all the kids beds are by the bathroom and the queen bed is in the main kitchen area, studio style. There is a door between the 2 rooms. If you want to have space to sit down for a family dinner you can use one of our 3 large communal dining rooms.
We do also have Standard Cabins sleeping up to 7 which are the ultimate crossover option between camping and motel stays. These rooms have great beds, perfect for the camping adverse!
We all know that when the holiday starts the rubbish eating begins. My only advice in this area is that it is so much easier if you can pack reasonably healthy snacks for the car portion of the trip so that 1, the kids don't end up hopped up on sugar in a confined environment but also you don't need to stop at petrol stations every time someone gets hungry. If you can make the whole trip without a lunch stop well done, if not it pays to choose something you know everyone will like so now might be the time to compromise on the KFC or McDonalds. Dig out the entertainment book and see if you have any discount vouchers for the big chains dotted throughout the country.
I pack a snack bag for every trip we do which becamne a habit because of all our dietarty requirements, but I really think it is useful for everyone, even after your kids have moved on from being toddlers who need constant snacks! Here is what was in my snack bag for our week down south in July
You might like to swap in muesli bars and biscuits, our kids can't eat them. I think the energy balls are also a great option but none of us like them. I find low salt options are good, otherwise you'll have too many toilet stops!
I don't mind the kids having a little sugar, however I find on car trips everything gets sticky and the kids get a bit grotty with each other. I tend to dole out the skittles on long walks, 1 for every 15 minutes of no complaining etc. works a treat. Lollipops are handy when we need a break from the chitter chatter.
As long as you remember to put the snacks in your motel fridge they'll stay fresh. I always come home with a handful of items that go straight to the bin after 7 days in the car. If you have fruit fans make sure you keep a few dollars spare so you can stop at the market gardens on the side of roads in Canterbury.
One of the great things about being in a city is that we have almost unlimited food options to choose from. Christchurch people love dining out and there are restaurants of just about every kind to choose from.
When you are travelling low cost it helps to break up your meals with self cooked and dine out/take away. We are located a 10 minute walk from PaknSave and Countdown, so it's easy to gab the essentials on arrival or do a full shop online before you stay. Please do get in touch with our team prior to organising a grocery delivery so we can make sure we have adequate space to store items before your arrival. We have a range of cooking facilities in the rooms and communal areas, but if there is something specific you need, please let us know.
The Park is across the road from 7 restaurants including a Cobb and Co and the Mall has a great lunchtime food court with favourites suchs a Lonestar and Nandos. Our local area Papanui is blessed with what seems to be more than our fair share of take away restaurants so if you do decide to have a low key meal out or get take aways you don't need to make a special trip of it. Uber knows us well!
We find with children we eat in the room for breakfast and may be BBQ for dinner or whip up something simple. We save our dining out for lunchtime when we are all a bit happier to grab something cheap and easy. The Riverside Market in Cashell Mall is fabulous as it caters to just about every taste and has a definate upmarket feel to it, so really, it doesn't feel like you are scrimping at all. Families sitting along the Avon picnicking on their market purchases is a common site.
On arriving home it's really easy to blow the budget a little more by getting take aways as no one wants to cook after a long drive. Save the extra money by preparing a freezable meal before you leave. That way when you get home you can just microwave something hearty and healthy and everyone goes to bed happy.
One thing I am very passionate about is the amount of absolutely amazing things to do in Christchurch that are either FREE or very close to it! Help kids to get a little something extra out of the trip by looking out for the Kiwi Guardian activities along the way. The kids get sent a cute little completion medal after you register the codes you find. We hang ours on the Christmas tree!
If you have filled most of your days with energising outdoor activities, it doesn't sting as much to do a visit to a fun, family friendly paid activity. Wherever you are it's best to look for something truly unique to the area, such as the Auckland Zoo, Wellington Cable Car or Hobbiton in Matamata. Here in Christchurch you have a few to choose from but the Antarctic Centre is a good place to start along with punting on the Avon.
Another way to save on paid activities is to pick up our club card, this will get you savings on so many activities such as Orana Park, the International Antarctic Centre, Willowbank etc. It also has savings a quite a few restaurants. The card is $49 and is valid for 2 years. It saves you 10% on accommodation with us (up to $40) and works all over NZ.
Well I hope that gives you a few tips! Making travel accessible to families is one of our core values, we think everyone deserves a holiday and I hope we can help make that happen for you.