Top tips for winter road trips

Winter is a great time to take a roadie – as long as you’re prepared. Consider renting a Quirky caravan – like Ivan (pictured). Photo: Supplied.

Almost 31,000 Kiwis have looked into campervans and rentals already this month, according to Google New Zealand search results.

An additional 72,420 of us have plugged road-trip related words into our search engines.

Now, the team at Quirky Campers NZ have shared their recommendations for winter campervanning, including what to look for in a van, what to pack and how to plan ahead to ensure Kiwis have a trip to remember for all the right reasons.

"It’s a great time to explore New Zealand and visit those places we haven’t seen before. Not only is it quieter but it supports our team of five million and it’s a welcome escape. You don’t have to wait until the borders reopen for a chance to relax and have fun,” says Quirky Campers NZ co-owner Leanne Edwards.

"And why not make your trip really special? Choose a campervan with a log burner to cosy up in front of with a glass of red wine. Or perhaps pick one with a queen size bed and proper sprung mattress. Maybe take the dog too. Whatever you choose, it’s important to be well prepared. That’s why we decided to pull together a few top tips."

Leanne says campervanning in winter tends to be cheaper and quieter. The daily rental cost of a campervan from June - October can be up to 70 per cent cheaper than the peak summer months. Not only that, but it’s quieter.

Freedom camping spots are easier to find and there’s less traffic on the road. This can make campervanning much more pleasurable. It’s also a great opportunity to take your pet.

Many places, particularly beaches, have much fewer restrictions on dog access during the winter months.

But make sure you plan for the weather. As Alfred Wainwright said: "there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing".

Remember to pack clothing you can layer up, bring your waterproofs, sturdy footwear, hats, gloves and chunky socks. When you’d rather not be out in the elements, look up indoor attractions - wineries, galleries, museums, escape rooms, leisure centres and good pubs - to help support local economies.

Most campervans are insulated (it pays to check) but you can take your winter getaway to a whole new level if your campervan has heating. And Leanne says she’s not just talking about the hot-air blowers in the cab that work when the engine is running!

“The most effective and efficient are diesel and LPG heaters. At the more dreamy, romantic, primal end are the log burners. They are lovely but do require a little more work to build a fire and keep it topped up with wood,” says Leanne.

“And then there are portable electric heaters. Again, these will warm the space quickly and easily… if you can plug them in. Most run off 230V power so if your chosen van comes with one, check your options on when you can use it.

“Also, remember to ventilate - it’s tempting to close all the windows and vents so you don’t let the heat out. But you don’t want condensation so just crack one or two open.”

Winter can bring more hazardous conditions when it comes to driving, so Leanne recommends picking the most suitable van for your trip in the first place.

“It’s not the time to opt for a manual drive vehicle when you’re most familiar with an automatic. You need to feel comfortable and confident with the size of your campervan so that you’re not putting yourself or others in danger when manoeuvring.”

It’s also a good idea to check if you’ll need snow chains and find out if there are any planned or unplanned road closures.

And there’s nothing wrong with staying put for a while. Keeping your travelling distances down makes sense in winter when driving conditions can be more challenging. So why not pick a region to explore and stay relatively local.

“It’s a great way to really see what an area has to offer. Before booking your van, do some research on local events. Maybe a comedy or open-mic night, a concert, pub quiz or well-reviewed restaurant,” says Leanne.

While campervanning is an experience all on its own, it’s ok to take some home comforts. Think hot water bottles, mulled wine spices and downloaded movies. Everything you need to nestle in and feel extra cosy when you return from exploring outdoors.

Leanne thinks that customised campers are climbing in popularity as they are such a comfortable, unique way to explore more of the country’s iconic spots without looking like a tourist.

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