Packing Tips for New Zealand

My trip to Kiwiland was a challenge in many ways. It was my first solo trip, first time staying in hostels, and first time making my own itinerary (which was extremely exciting, for I love to plan things). Also a challenge because I forced myself to pack lightly! Now, after living out of a 36L backpack for over a month, I can’t believe that I used to bring an entire checked suitcase with me for one week at a resort in Hawaii. Whereas I’m currently trying to pack my entire life into one large suitcase, and that’s not going so well… more on that later!

Me with my backpack, ready to go! (I ended up shipping a box home after a week with a few unnecessary items.)
Me with my backpack, ready to go! This pack had side pockets for water bottles and Red Bull. Top compartments served as great food/small souvenir storage. (I ended up shipping a box home after a week with a few unnecessary items.) My other backpack held my computer, journal, cameras and important stuff.

What you need to pack depends on what you’re going to be doing and on the season. A friendly reminder that though it may be winter and below freezing in Boston, in the Southern Hemisphere it will be warm and still the middle of summer. If you plan on hiking, kayaking and being outdoors then forget the stilettos, honey. Actually, for Pete’s sake, if you’re going to New Zealand, just leave your high heels at home. New Zealand is incredibly casual, so skip the nicey-nice outfits unless your itinerary calls for it.

Because I’m a total control freak, I made this Excel spreadsheet of everything I needed for one month in New Zealand.

The basics: t-shirts, shorts, jeans, rain jacket, and a fleece or sweatshirt because sometimes it’s chilly. I wore my teal North Face fleece almost every day, and on the other days I wore my black, hooded North Face fleece. Seriously these are the best. Doing laundry can be is a pain, so bring lots of underwear. I brought a pair of black jeans that felt a bit dressier, although I kept it casual so t-shirts (like my favorite black v-neck tee from J.Crew) and jeans were fine everywhere. Maybe if I had been going to nicer restaurants and doing more wine tasting I’d bring a casual dress or two and a cardigan. 99% of the time I wore shorts and a t-shirt.

Stylishly strutting my South Pole Telescope 2015 t-shirt, flowery Lululemon speed shorts and fruit punch hued Nike running shoes.

Shoes: If you own hiking boots, bring them. If you’re worried about carrying around extra weight, or don’t own hiking boots, you will be 100% fine without them unless you’re tackling multi-day hikes. The most intense hiking I did was the Tongariro Crossing, and I just wore my favorite lightweight Nike running shoes. I also had my Birks, Toms, and a plastic/waterproof pair of flip-flops (The Kiwis call them jandals). In hindsight, I only wore the Toms twice. Birks weren’t necessary, but they were comfy and allowed me to change up my footwear from time to time.

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set

Other stuff: Definitely bring a hat, sunscreen, toiletries and a quick-dry towel. I was staying at hostels and they usually don’t provide towels. Also, luggage locks if you’re in a hostel. They work fine for keeping stuff secured in lockers or in your bags (NZ is safe but some people still suck). I also brought along a tiny first aid kit, which thankfully wasn’t needed but probably still a good idea.

I also had a Swiss army knife and some reusable bamboo eating utensils, which were both super handy for on-the-road snacks, hiking lunches and those times when everyone in the hostel forgot to do their dishes. Something I wished I had—tiny little cream cups for the free coffee and tea at hostels. Survived fine without them though!

I also had these awesome compression luggage organizers I got from REI, which allowed me to keep my clean clothes separated from dirty ones, and the bags compressed everything down so I could cram it all in my backpack and still have room for souvenirs! These organizers seem superfluous and pricey, but I’m so glad I had them. Using them to stay organized saved me a lot of hassle on the road, and made packing my backpack way easier and more efficient.

The bottom line: keep it simple while you’re traveling to NZ! Packing light allowed me to focus more on getting out and having fun rather than spending lots of time stressing over repacking my bag a million times.

Happy travels! 🙂


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