Packing 101: New Zealand
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
So, if you know me, you may laugh at this post. Mainly because I'm notorious for not packing light, thus, me providing you with packing tips is comical. However, I can do it. Prime and recent example, I flew to the Dominican Republic for a wedding, that I was in, mind you, and only packed a carry-on. I might have forgotten loads of things, borrowed a bra and spanx, but it's still a proud moment for me. Let me have it.
If you're reading this, it's likely you're visiting New Zealand or thinking about it. If you are coming to this magical land, you are in for a treat. New Zealand has everything from beaches to mountains, so while it is magical, it can also be tough to pack for due to the diversity.
Four things I can tell you for sure.
First, don't waste space in your bag packing anything fancy. New Zealand is very laid back and most of the time people don't even wear shoes. Yep, grocery store feet are a normal thing here. No such thing as no shoes, no shirt, no service. In my year here, I've only dressed up a handful of times, so it's unlikely you'll need dress clothes on your holiday. If you are going to spend the majority of your time in Auckland or Wellington, you could opt for a nice top and maybe some cute shoes with jeans. That will save you some packing space and hit your hip city quota.
Second, bring a rain coat.
Third, sunscreen. No matter what season or island you visit.
Fourth, this is the southern hemisphere. Keep that in mind. It's pretty important when planning and packing.
What to Wear in Spring or Summer:
The weather is warm here on both islands in the spring and summer. During spring, you can expect the temperatures to range from 41 - 70 degrees F, depending on your location. In summer, the temperatures can be 86 degrees F during the day and down to 50 degrees F at night, especially on the north island, where it tends to get hotter. Tip: You may be thinking, "mid 80's, that sounds like ideal weather - that's not hot." It is hot. The sun is completely different here. They don't have much of an ozone, if any, so the sun is relentless. My best advice, especially if you are spending time on both islands is to check the weather and bring layers. You probably won't use any sort of jacket in Auckland during February, but you may really need it if you are in Queenstown, especially at night. I would veer more towards a light jacket or hoodie. You will also need a bathing suit or togs, as the kiwi's say, when you visit during the summer months. Everything in spring / summer in New Zealand is based around outdoor events, which is usually a swim and BBQ. Your bag may look something like this, give or take some garments. My bag tends to mirror these items, plus additional athleisure wear. Yoga pants are a true staple during any season.
What to Wear in Fall or Winter:
Much like the warmer months, the weather in the fall and winter can be completely different depending where you are in New Zealand. In Auckland, it tends to be very wet and mild, something similar to Seattle, with the mountains on both islands being snow capped. Biggest thing for this time frame, in my opinion, is a rain jacket. And not just a cutesy rain jacket, a legit rain jacket that will keep you dry. Even if you are planning on doing nothing outdoor (not sure why you are visiting New Zealand if this is your plan, but to each their own) you still need a rain coat.
My Auckland winter essentials last year were hoodies and / or a light jacket, with a few days needing my puffer. The main occasions when a heavier coat was warranted was near the water. It can be chilly on the ocean in the fall, winter and even spring months, no matter which island you are visiting.
When we visit the south island in the winter, it's usually to ski. So, a warmer jacket and beanie is key. I'd throw in a scarf or buff to keep your neck warm as well. Keep in mind, if you are planning to hike or do outdoor activities, it's not a bad idea to bring thermals, gloves and other winter gear for both islands, mainly for the cold in the south and wet in the north. If you forget something or need to bulk up on heat gear while you are here, don't worry. Some of my best shopping is done at Kathmandu, the resident REI in New Zealand. Other options are Macpac and Torpedo 7.
Hiking / Outdoors:
For me, I would pack one of the day to day looks above, depending on when I was travelling and the forecast, as well as my outdoor gear.
The best part about outdoor clothing is it's versatility and ability to be layered. While a long sleeve shirt may not seem ideal in the summer, it's necessary if you want to protect yourself from the sun. Plus, most hiking shirts are lightweight and can be rolled up at the elbows. Adventure pants are a staple for me - they wick moisture, repel water and can be zipped off at the knees. It's like magic, a pair of shorts in a flash. If it gets cold at night, layer up with some long sleeve merino wool or even better, wait until you arrive for the merino. Just remember, if you are going on a great walk or a longer hike, less is more, so pack carefully.
Now for electronics. Bring a camera. Whether it's your iPhone, GoPro, drone or DSL, you'll need something to capture your time in New Zealand. The images still won't do it justice, but at least you can show all your envious co-workers when you get back. We tend to take our GoPro's everywhere, they are small, easy to use, durable and have numerous accessories.
Important reminder: Bring an adapter.
However, don't bring any electronics that will be effected by the voltage difference here. We have 230/240 voltage, while most American electronics are 110 volts. I've fried a few appliances already.
RIP straightening iron.
Now all you need are your basic toiletries (including bug spray) and travel necessities and you are New Zealand ready. Just remember, if you've forgotten something, it's likely we have it here. Happy Travels!