Travel Kit

A long road trip in any country requires you to pack a lot of functions in a few small items. This is what we packed or bought along the way.

Cameras

Nikon D5000 SLR

Nikon D5000 SLR

Ash took his Nikon D5000. He bought a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens From Ted’s Camera Store for AU$1149.95 to replace the two lenses that came with the camera kit. This is ideal for travelling and a lot lighter than carrying a camera with two lenses. Most of the photos on this site were taken with this camera.

SD Card

Ash’s camera had a 4 GB card and it took just over 1600 pictures at default settings. Almost none of our pictures end up poster-sized and barely a handful end up postcard-sized, so the default settings give images that would need about 8 monitors to view without reducing to fit Ash’s 24-inch monitor. The 4 GB card was filled up on the last day. Unfortunately, Ash didn’t investigate earlier why the shutter wouldn’t click, else he would have had some more desired shots. In hindsight, at least an 8 GB SD card (which we have, but forgot that it was in another camera at home) would have been better.

Only you know your photo-shooting style. Some people are happy to shoot ten versions of every shots; some even more. They probably carry enough high-speed SD cards to suit their needs (cheap SD cards are often slow, that is, you have to wait a second or two longer while the image is written to the card).

olympus-5010

Olympus 5010

Lesley borrowed an Olympus Stylus 5010 14 MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide Angle Dual Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7-inch LCD (Pink).

GST Refund

Ash got a refund of the 10% GST on the lens at Melbourne airport before we left Australia (30 minutes wait in the queue owing to the holiday rush), but he had to declare this item when we returned as the personal tax-free allowance is AU$900. The item must be purchased within a month of departure.

Travel Insurance

We had dropped RACV Insurance for our cars and home policies when we found AAMI to be much cheaper, but still have Roadside Assistance. Therefore, we got the cheapest travel insurance from RACV – AU$212.50 for the 3-week duration for two adults and one dependent.

Telephone/Internet

It’s fine if you want to roam in NZ with your international number, particularly if a company is paying for your calls, but you’ll find it convenient to get a local number so that your local contacts can call you without having to make an international call. The rest of us need to find a cheap way to make phone calls.

Which telco?

Telecom NZ is the best choice, we were told by numerous forum discussions such as this one on Whirlpool, if you are travelling beyond the larger centres. Australians, note that Telstra NZ is merely an MVNO of Vodafone, so it doesn’t give you as good a coverage in NZ as you get from Telstra in Oz.

We tried to order a Telecom XT SIM for NZ$29.95 online and gave our NZ address for delivery but the form had a problem and kept asking for a local mobile number, which we didn’t have. It would not accept a NZ landline number even though the form allowed you to enter one.

You get $10 credit when you buy the SIM. You cannot buy one at the airport, (unless you want Vodafone), so we bought ours on Boxing Day at the Sylvia Park shopping mall. Once you buy it, use it to make at least one call and four days later you can register it by¬† dialling *123 and you get an extra $10 credit. We didn’t have to wait – we did this an hour later and got the extra credit.

Data plan

For 3G phones like our iPhones, Telecom XT is the best option. After you get a local SIM, dial *333 and a monthly prepaid plan for $29.95, which gives you 500 MB. This is better than a casual plan. Note that this paragraph mentions what the forum discussions recommended, but we did something else.

What we bought

We bought two Telecom XT SIMs for NZ$29.95 each, which includes $10 credit, and we paid for a further $20 credit. There was a special promotion that doubled its value, so each SIM gave 240 MB of data. More details in this post.

Prepaid Telecom NZ XT SIM

Later in the trip, Ash added a further $10 worth and this was just enough for posting all the blog entries and most of the pictures and a couple of phone calls to Australia and a handful within NZ. Telecom NZ allows the SIM to be tethered from an iPhone, which was our main Internet access most of the time other than five days in Auckland where we used our relatives’ WiFi and in Napier for one night where the motel offered free WiFi.

So, you can say that NZ$55 was adequate for two weeks’ worth of daily blogging, tweeting and the occasional phone call. The SIM ran out of funds on the last day.

Phone Coverage in NZ

In spite of Telecom NZ having better coverage than Vodafone, once you left a town, there was no coverage in much of the country. Lesley still had her Optus SIM in her phone and it roamed to Vodafone most of the time, so we checked it for coverage when there was none on Telecom.

At Cape Reinga, Ash tried in vain to find the millimetre spot where he saw a flicker of “Telecom NZ” on his iPhone but had to start the Foursquare check-in and wait until we reached the nearest large town to submit it. The Foursquare app should allow us to store a check-in based on the GPS coordinates and bulk-submit when data coverage is possible.

Telecom NZ coverage map link. (Much of our route, especially around East Cape and Westland) had no coverage.

MagicJack

If you need a US or Canadian phone number and are happy to use your data-enabled PC to make VoIP calls, then a magicJack device will give you that functionality all over the world. We have one, but didn’t bother to take it. Here is a link to a magicJack review.

Driving Licence

We have Australian driving licences, which are fine for renting a car and driving in New Zealand (and many Western countries). Cars are driven on the left, as in most British countries.

GPS

We own a Garmin 1390T Car GPS, which came with maps for Australia and NZ, so we took it with us. Hiring a GPS from the car rental company for three weeks will probably cost more than buying a cheap unit.

Cables

Make a note to pack all the power cords and cables you might need for your electronic devices. Check this list before you pack your suitcases. Take more than you need.

Mobile Entertainment

Radio reception is often non-existent on hilly country roads, but we forgot to take some CDs. Kate had a Zune MP3 player and the Ford Falcon had a 3.5 mm auxiliary socket, so we had to pay a steep NZ$19.95 at Dick Smith for a 3.5-to-3.5 mm cable. Also take some music on a USB stick in case the car can take it. Don’t assume anything about the available connections except that cars in NZ are less gadget friendly than you might be accustomed to.

Rental Car

We had chosen a “Large” car from Europcar. This meant a choice of a 3.5L Toyota Aurion or a 4L Ford Falcon. We were surprised that the boot (“trunk” for North Americans) of both models couldn’t take our five bags of varying sizes and we had to keep one on the back seat. However, our son picked us up at Melbourne Airport in Lesley’s Hyundai i30CW wagon and it took all the luggage in its boot.

Prescriptions

Bring your prescribed medicines with you complete with your name on the packaging. Lesley had forgotten her asthma inhaler. In Australia you can buy it over the counter, but not in NZ. Luckily the chemist we saw in Wellington was happy to fill out an emergency prescription and sell the inhaler.

Checklist

Create a travel checklist that you can reuse next time and over time you will be able to depart at short notice for your next adventure!