Upon arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, our family packed up a 5-passenger station wagon and set off for an epic six week road trip around the entire country of New Zealand.
Here's what we learned after traveling around New Zealand for a 6 weeks with kids.
Book an Airbnb.
We stayed in Airbnbs instead of freedom camping around New Zealand. When you are pregnant and have small children, it's important to remain a sense of normalcy and have a home base in each of our locations. A comfortable bed to sleep in, a washer and dryer, a kitchen with a stove top and oven, and wireless internet were all pretty much requirements everywhere we stayed. Although I know the boys would have loved a night or two of camping, we didn't think it would be best for everyone's sanity for the entirety of the trip. Since most of the airbnbs here are cottages attached to or on someone's property, it ended up being a wonderful way to find out where the locals recommend sightseeing and eating. We had owners take us on hikes, teach us fly fishing, invite us into their home for meals, and play with the boys.
Limit Time in the car.
For the majority of our road trips, we planned two hour drives. There was one or two trips that required a bit of a longer drive (closer to 4 hours), but we scheduled those for later in the evening/night time so that the boys could sleep for the longer journeys.
Take breaks along your drive.
Even for the two hour car drives, we always stopped about half way through to let the boys stretch their legs and get energy out. In New Zealand, it seems that every ten minutes or so there is something awe-droppingly beautiful to see and explore so we made sure to find spots along our journey that both us and the boys would enjoy. Whether it was a waterfall, a desolate beach with crystal clear aqua water, or just lunch, the stops along the way kept everyone happy.
Choose child-friendly activities.
In each location that we visited, we choose adventures that were child-friendly. Honestly, this didn't mean that we, as adults, missed out on much that we would have wanted to see if we weren't traveling with kids, we just had to keep in mind if they would enjoy it. For example, in Rotorua I wanted to go check out a park that was filled with geothermal wonders (mainly for the photographs), but it was quite expensive and we weren't sure if the boys would have enjoyed it. We ended up finding a free park in the center of the city that had geothermal activity and even had thermal foot baths to soak your feet in (which the boys loved). After ten minutes of walking around looking at the bubbling mud and boiling water seeping up from the ground, the boys just wanted to play and I was so grateful that we chose the free version over the expensive one, realizing that the boys would not have enjoyed walking around all day just looking at the thermal wonders. And honestly, I didn't feel like I missed out that much either. If you choose an activity that the kids won't enjoy, it means that no one will enjoy it.
Stay outside of cities.
We stayed outside of the major tourist areas in places that had yards for the kids. Every airbnb we looked at, we made sure it had an outdoor area for the boys to roam and let off energy at the end of everyday. We stayed at a lakehouse with kayaks, several farms that let us participate in their early morning animal feedings, places that backed up to bush walks, and homes where other children lived so the kids had new-to-them toys to play with.