Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on May 23, 2013

Random Thoughts by Dave – Life On a Budget in New Zealand


We’ve arrived in a wet and chilly New Zealand, but it’s not much different from Japan. Even though they speak English I can’t understand a word the Kiwis are saying and they can’t understand me either. And it’s been five days now and I’m still not certain what side of the road I should be driving on.

Trust me, I feel very fortunate to be on this trip and want to make it last as long as possible. But I will say trying to stay on budget has been a challenge. Jill is meticulous about monitoring our costs, putting the price of anything we buy into her iPhone as we make the purchase, then totaling the costs and putting them into the spreadsheet at night. We knew we were going to be fiscally challenged when we got to Japan, then moved on to New Zealand and Australia, and we were right. We got an unbelievable deal on our camper van, spending less than $20 a day for it, but have to add on the costs of a place to park, anywhere from $20 to $40 per night. Then, once we figure in the cost of gas, which runs $2.08 NZD per liter (more than $8 U.S. per gallon) and driving any appreciable distance, and we can easily be pushing close to our budget without factoring in food and drinks. We’re not complaining, but it has taken some getting used to since typically when you’re on vacation you can spend freely, have an extra drink or two without impacting the budget, etc. This isn’t quite like that, but thanks to Jill’s bookkeeping we’re able to stay close to budget most days.

A sample menu. At a campground cafe!

A sample breakfast menu. At a campground cafe!

Things I think about while lying awake in a chilly camper van in the middle of the night: Is she asleep, is it OK to fart? How long does a robot need to recharge? I think plug-in cars take between 10 and 12 hours to fully charge so maybe 8-10? Must be why she likes to sleep so much.  What sleeping position will put the least pressure on my bladder so I don’t have to go outside and pee? Why is it when you start to think about peeing you have to go so much more? Fine, I’ll just go.

Howl's Castle - our ride and home for 5 weeks.

Howl’s Castle – our ride and home for 5 weeks.

Now that we’re back on the road, I’m reminded how much Jill does not like idle chit chat in the car. She can go 100 kilometers (62 miles) without saying a word no problem. Back in the States I used to play a game with myself (she was not aware of this game until reading this). The game was that I would try to not say a word and see who would talk first. Believe it or not I would almost always lose the game even though she didn’t even know she was playing it. The only time I would win, would be when she said something like, “you’re driving too fast.”

Jill: “New Zealand is a country that time forgot.” Also, “This country could be one large golf course” as we made our way through rolling hills with bright green grass.

New Zealand craft beer has been a bit of a disappointment so far. Very expensive at $8 and up a pint in a pub and upwards of $20 for a six pack. It’s also a tad weak in flavor and alcohol, with most beers in the 4%-5% range.  One exception was at Cassel & Sons brewpub outside of Christchurch.

One of the best beers we've had so far.

One of the best beers we’ve had so far.

The wine, on the other hand, has been stellar.  We’ve visited a handful of wineries so far in the Waipara Valley north of Christchurch, and while most of the vineyards are still young — planted around 2000 — they’re producing some great wines.  More about the wine in an upcoming post.

A day in the vineyards in north of Christchurch.

A day in the vineyards in north of Christchurch.


  1. Dave,
    No matter what kind of a day I am having I can also be sure when I read your post, I will get a chuckle! Thanks for making me laugh today.

    FYI: Jill gets the no idle chit chat from her father. I have also played that game (without his knowledge). I know it is hard to believe but I always lose.

    Love you,

  2. I don’t know which was funnier, your post or Babs’ reply. We love both of you “losers”. Keep the postings coming. I laughed out loud several times which made me feel so happy about your trip. They say you never know someone until you travel with them. Isn’t it fun to find out new insights into your spouse while traveling. Love, Mona

    • I am enjoying your “blogs” tremendously and think this trip sounds great.
      Your mom sends them to me and I think you both are very talented and
      adventurous. I think back to when Dave, I saw you in Rabbi’s office saying
      I AM NOT DOING ANY MORE for my Bar Mitzvah.
      Keep having a great, adventurous, happy time and hope to see you both
      some day soon.
      Love, Carol

      • Thank you for reading Carol. I can hear those words coming from Dave’s mouth…no surprise there!