Top 10 tips for living in a motorhome in New Zealand

As our four-week motorhome trip around the South Island of New Zealand is coming to an end, we would like to share our top 10 van life tips to help you on your trip.


Download CamperMate

Seriously, this one is a lifesaver!

CamperMate is New Zealand’s and Australia’s most popular free travel app and in our opinion the BEST out there.

CamperMate helps you find local campgrounds, dump stations, LPG top-up stations, petrol stations, Wi-Fi, restrooms, etc…

The app is super easy to use, very visual, allows you to filter searches and even offers you local campsite deals!

Be conscious of waste

Unlike being at home or in a hotel where shower, sink and toilet waste can be forgotten about, in a motorhome, you are responsible for emptying all waste into dump stations.

As this is the case, be conscious of how long you shower for and how full you fill your sink to wash up.

Maintaining the waste and fresh water in your motorhome should become routine every 1-2 days.

Admittedly dumping your waste is nobody’s favourite job but believe us, having no fresh water and a smelly toilet cassette whilst freedom camping is not fun.

More than likely your motorhome will have two tanks and one cassette on board.

Grey waste tank – all shower and sink water will drain into this tank.

Fresh water tank – the shower and sink taps will be supplied with water from this tank. This tank should be filled with fresh drinking water. The tap you use to fill this tank will be separate to the main dump station taps (however usually close by).

Toilet cassette – toilet waste will drain into this cassette. Try to empty each day for obvious reasons however the cassette will hold waste for 1- 2 days.

We found using Porta-Pak toilet chemicals helped us keep our bathroom smelling clean!


Cut your luggage in half

Although van life can be glamorous, most of the time exploring is your priority over your outfit.

We were guilty of packing outfits for all occasions, however, realistically you do not have the space to store them.

Basic day outfits for 3-4 days is all you need.

Soft bags/ cases are also easier to store in the motorhome rather than hard bulky suitcases.



Make sure you wave to other people in motorhomes/ campervans! Van life is FUN and we are all in this for the same reasons!


Make spontaneous stops

One of the main beauties about travelling in a motorhome is that you are FREE and mobile 24/7! You can de-tour, stop and sleep anywhere you like (within reason) so make sure you make the most of it!

It’s great to have a plan however if you pass what looks like an interesting place or perfect campsite, stop and explore!

Freedom camp and use Top 10 Holiday Parks

Freedom camping is a great way to save money and spend a night ‘off the grid’. It’s camping for FREE!

You will find there are some amazingly stunning freedom camping spots on lakesides, beach fronts and deep in the bush.

Freedom camping in New Zealand, however, is not as simple as parking your vehicle on the side of the road and bedding yourself down for the night. Where you can and cannot camp is pretty well-regulated and always use Campermate to check!

Some of our most memorable nights were at freedom camping sites.

*Blog coming soon sharing favourite freedom camping spots!*


It is important after 1-2 nights freedom camping that you re-charge your house battery at a powered campsite.

Although there are hundreds of powered campsites spread across New Zealand, we found ‘Top 10 Holiday Parks’ were the best! You are guaranteed clean facilities, laundry use, recycling stations, dump stations, 24/7 security and welcoming informative staff.

Like everything that is luxury, it comes with a price tag. Top 10 Holiday Parks charge between NZD 40-50 per night however it only takes 1 night to re-charge your battery, have a long shower and do your washing!


Don’t forget to turn OFF your gas

You will probably find you turn on your gas multiple times a day, this is perfectly fine however always remember to turn the gas off before driving!

Due to it being a legal requirement that the gas can only be accessed from an external locker, it is easily forgotten about.


Don’t try parking in city centers or multi-story car parks

To much surprise, we found that city centres, shopping centres, and supermarket parking was not very motorhome friendly!

In the four weeks of travelling in our motorhome, we found one car park that had specific motorhome spaces, everywhere else we were expected to park in a standard carpark.

As you can image, this is stressful and very difficult at times, therefore, we recommend you park on the outskirts/ main road and walk.

Do not ever attempt to park in a multi-story car park. Motorhomes are too high and you will cause serious damage to both the building and your vehicle!


Invest in a good battery pack

If you plan on freedom camping a battery pack will be your best friend.

A battery pack will help you keep your phones and technology charged. Although it is nice to be offline at times, it is important to always have a charged phone (and torch).


Stock up at Pak n Save 

If you are travelling on a tight budget, Pak n Save is the most affordable grocery store in New Zealand.

You will find small grocery shops in every town however everything is usually double the price of Pak n Save.

Pak n Save stores are few and far between in the South Island of New Zealand and are mainly found in the big cities only. We recommend you make a special trip to stock up as you pass!





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