How to plan and what to pack for a winter holiday in New Zealand

How to plan and what to pack for a winter holiday in New Zealand

I am talking in this post about how to plan and what to pack for a winter holiday in New Zealand but for many of us living in Australia, travelling to NZ at any time of year can feel cold!

I know I’m a cracked record on my number one packing and planning tip but I’m saying it again. Please do become a weather nerd and track the temperatures via the weather app on your phone in the weeks and days leading up to your trip. When you do this, you get a better sense of what the temperatures and conditions are going to be like (when compared with what you’re used to) and you’re better able to pack accordingly.

In 2019, when we were planning what to pack for a winter holiday New Zealand (Queenstown), I did this. Not because I thought it mightn’t be cold (hint: winter in the south of New Zealand’s South Island is always cold) but because I wanted to get an idea of how cold it might be in comparison with our ski trip to Japan. This helped me to judge the level of layering that might be required.

For that trip, we were mostly skiing and snowboarding. If that’s your plan too, then the information I shared in this post will help you tick off the gear you need.

For non-snow days or a complete New Zealand winter non-snow holiday, these are my tips for you:

1. Learn to layer like a boss. You may be walking from one heated spot to another or doing a lot of walking outside in the cold, so being able to layer and de-layer at a moment’s notice is crucial.

2. If out and about for extended periods of time, you’ll need thermal layers nearest your skin, thermal socks, a beanie and gloves. 

3. A lightweight but warm coat will be easier to travel with and also more practical if you’re out walking or doing an adventure activity that New Zealand is famous for. 

4. It’s unlikely you’ll need snow boots in New Zealand, but you might want to pack trail or hiking shoes if you’re planning on doing any “tramping” in National Parks. 

5. If your idea of tramping involves stepping in and out of shops and/or bars and restaurants, then packing a comfortable pair of ankle boots and a pair of sneakers will be all the footwear you need.

6. Unless you’re travelling to New Zealand for an event or occasion, you’ll mostly need casual and smart casual clothes – think jeans, ponte pants and thick leggings worked back with button-down shirt, knits and/or blazers.

7.  If you live somewhere where it never gets cold, consider borrowing key winter pieces from friends and/or family. Otherwise buy wisely through stores like UNIQLO, Aldi (annual snow sale) or second-hand through buy, swap and sell or marketplace pages.

8. If you’re travelling in peak times and planning to do any planned tours or activities, it’s a good idea to book ahead. Ditto with any dinner reservations in popular restaurants. 

9. Consider securing your travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked flights and accommodation – even if it’s in advance. You never know what unforeseen circumstances might happen before your holiday. 

10. Speaking of travel insurance, consider adding a snow pack to your policy if you’re thinking about hitting the slopes. Without it, you most likely won’t be covered for any accidents while on the slopes.

15-piece New Zealand winter travel capsule wardrobe

The below capsule is a starting point. I always start with about 15 pieces that all work with each other and add in extras depending on where I’m travelling, what I’m doing and what the access to laundry facilities will be like.

Travelling in winter can mean a bulky suitcase but if you’re clever, you’ll find layers that bring the warmth without the bulk to minimise that.

You also don’t sweat as much on a winter holiday (generally), so the need to launder some pieces of clothes won’t be necessary with every wear.

What to pack for a ski and snowboarding holiday

(This will be a 15-piece capsule laid out like above but including pieces available at the time of publishing)

So, tell me are you planning a winter trip to New Zealand? Where are you headed and what will you be up to?