New Zealand Road Trip: Vacation Itinerary Template

This post in part of our New Zealand North Island 9-Day Road Trip series. 

There are many different ways to approach trip planning and we’ve tried several of them over the last ten years.
First there was our trip to Europe after college that consisted of us not planning. We’d get off the train in a new town and walk around until we found a suitable backpacker lodge for the evening. We’d ask the front desk for restaurant recommendations and our fellow travelers for activities in the area that they’d enjoyed. This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach can work really well in many parts of the world. It can also mean that you spend the night on the train station waiting room bench because all the hotel rooms are sold out.
Then there was Peru which was also us not planning – we sourced everything out to a travel agent. There were a few reasons for this but it mainly had to do with Ben, who was 20 months old at the time. I wanted a tour guide’s local knowledge of child-friendly activities, a car to be waiting for us when we arrived at the airport, and hotels with cribs. Definitely the most expensive way, but so worth it in this particular situation.
This trip was planned entirely by us. I spent many, many hours on TripAdvisor reading reviews and pouring over NZ guide books from the library. And in the end, we had a few hits and a few misses, not surprising, given our inexperience with the country. There is definitely an argument for using a travel agent: they’ve been to all the places they recommend and can weed out the winners from the losers.
In the end, we made most of the car and hotel reservations in advance but waited until we’d set foot in the country to make activity plans.
And then everything went onto the master spreadsheet. After my passport and credit card, this was the item that I least wanted to lose as it had all our travel details: flight info, hotel confirm numbers, drive times/directions, and activity recommendations.
Here is an example of a daily entry. Click on photo for close-up.
First, an overview of the day’s plans. In this case, it was a big driving day: Going from Russell to Rotorua, with one hike to break things up around mid-day.
Followed by the driving distance, estimate of how long it would take to get there, and basic directions.
Then the activity details, including a short description (and possibly a website link):
And lastly, hotel information (including confirm #s, which have been removed here), costs, type of room, dates of reservation, etc:
We lived by this thing while traveling! We also found the NZ i-sites to be a great source for maps and tourist magazines with coupons. There were only a few tours in which we showed up without clipped discount vouchers in hand.
Here is an excel version for download:
Happy Planning!

One comment

  • Thanks for sharing this. Your tips are very helpful. I am a travel freak and travel a lot. Next year Alaska is on my card.Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness., and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Next year I definitely want to explore Albany.
    People often have a theme that they base their worldly travels on, but how about a mental mantra for your travel? Out of a cheerleading event that consisted of our family shouting supportive words at our daughter who was attempting to kill a rather monstrous spider that the rest of us were too chicken to get close to, came this great quote, “If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!”

    This quote came back to haunt me when on vacation in Seattle. I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids on the Seattle Great Wheel, the ferris wheel overlooking the ocean, but as we approached it, I realized how high it went and immediately panicked! Just as I had decided to put the kids on it on their own, my daughter says, “Come on dad…If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!” What could I do at that point?! She was telling me to stop thinking and creating more fear about the situation and just get on the thing!
    “If you don’t think, and you just do, then it’s done!” We all now keep this quote in our back pocket, ready to whip out at any time to push one of us forward into an adventure we know they won’t regret. No hesitations, don’t allow any time for fear to set in, and be prepared for your kids to turn your life advice back on you

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