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18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

Espoo, Finland
2 posts
1 review
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18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for some advice on planning our family trip in South island in November. We're a family of three, the youngest one being 18 months old. Nothing else, except from the flights is fixed yet. We're arriving in Christchurch on the 10th Oct in the afternoon and flying out from Christchurch early in the morning on the 28th Oct. We're hoping to travel on a budget and willing to see some spectacular scenery, visit some wineries and to do some outdoor activities. All this in a toddler friendly way.

I've seen some beautiful pictures on Abel Tasman's national park, is that worth going with a toddler? Is there other recommendable beach/nature options that could be recommended and would fit our possible travel-route better. We've done a lot of hiking at home in Finland with our son traveling in a kid carrier and we're happy to do some short day trips on foot while over in NZ.

Other places of interest/things to do on our list are Milford sound, Lake tekapo,Lake Pukaki,Te anau, Hooker Valley Track, Malborough.... We've got a friend living in Queenstown and we'd like to stay there for at least few nights, even though we'll have to skip all those adrenaline booster activities this time :) We do realize that we can not do everything and therefore we're looking for help to put the holiday plans together.

We've ditched the idea of hiring the camper van as so many people have said that it's not suitable for families with toddlers. I guess staying in 3 or so places and making day trips from there would be ideal. Our son travels quite well in a car, so driving isn't the biggest issue and we can consider staying in a new place almost every night if that is recommended. We will definitely hire a car at some point, but would it be best to have a car for the whole time or would you recommend the transalpine? We're traveling considerably heavy with a pram and a luggage for 7 weeks trip :)

What should we take into consideration? Is it easy to rest a car with a toddler car seat? What kind of car should we rent? What sort of accommodation is recommended? How to cut down the costs?

We welcome any comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for your help

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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32,102 posts
330 reviews
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1. Re: 18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

Welcome to TA. 18 days is a great amount of time for the SI, but your first decision is going to be your itinerary - while staying for 5-6 days in each of 3 places sounds good, these places are probably too far apart to be drivable in a day so you might find 2-3 days in 5-6 places with the odd single night stays in between purely for logistical reasons works best.

Places where you might want to stay longer include Nelson/Abel Tasman NP, Wanaka, Te Anau, Dunedin, Queenstown, Mt Cook & Christchurch.

To drive a complete circle around the SI visiitng all of those places would require a couple of nights on the West Coast (eg Punakaiki & Fox Glacier) as well. Or you could leave out the West Coast & add in Kaikoura & Oamaru on the East Coast instead.

If you really want to reduce travel time, you would need to be ruthless and perhaps drop Abel Tasman in favour of some beach time somewhere closer to Chch such as Akaroa.

If you do decide to stay longer in fewer places consider renting holiday homes (called baches in NZ):



New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
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28,297 posts
81 reviews
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2. Re: 18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

Welcome to the forum :)

Great to see you have done your research and have realistic plans for your visit.

I suggest you have a road trip rather than stay in a central base - which often means far more daily mileage as you travel to and fro.

Car rentals - look at Apex, Ace and Jucy - and yes, you can also rent a car seat.

Motels can be an affordable option - each unit is like an apartment so you have your own a kitchen - preparing your meals can be a huge money saver. If you get a one bedroom unit (cheaper than a two bedroom unit), you can put your toddler to sleep in the evening then stay in the main room which usually has it's own sleeping arrangement.

Backpacker hostels are even more afordable but you will find most are noisy, plus the communal kitchen at mealtimes can be a bit of a zoo. I would skip these with a toddler.

When eating out, lunch is usually a less expensive meal then dinner so plan to eat lunch out then prepare a simple dinner in the evening at your motel - possibly with beer or wine from the supermarket. Most motels have a BBQ for your use.

For an itinerary, you could;

10 arrive Chch

11 drive to Blenheim, explore Marlborough wines

12 drive to Kaiteriteri

13 explore Abel Tasman National Park

14 explore more or drive to Nelson

15 drive to Punakaiki

16 drive to Franz Josef

17 drive to Wanaka

18 explore

19 drive to Te Anau

20 explore Milford Sound, stay Te Anau

21 drive to Queenstown

22/23/24 explore

25 drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook

26 explore

27 drive to Chch

28 fly out

lots of great walks suitable for your family in all the above locations.

In Queenstown - TSS Earnslaw with farm tour; luge; pan for gold in Arrowtown; hire bikes and do a wine tour (at least one of the bike rental places should provide a bike with baby seat).

Hope this helps :)

Espoo, Finland
2 posts
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3. Re: 18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

Thank you for your replies. We've spent a great amount of time trying to put the itinerary together,yet still struggling. The first part of the trip should be sorted, but the second part is giving us some grey hair.

we've decided to skip Milford sounds and Te Anau as well as the glaciers. This should give us some time to enjoy the lake area more in detail.

Our plans look like this at the moment:

day 1 Arrive in Christchurch

2 Drive to Hanmer springs

3 Drive to Blenheim, lunch in Kaikoura wishing to see some seals.

4 Drive to Kaiteriteri

5 Explore Abel Tasman and stay the night in Nelson

6 explore Nelson and the wineries/ breweries around the area

7 Drive to Punakaiki (Or skip Punakaiki, and drive from Nelson to Hanmer springs to spend the night and further to Lake Tekapo way)

8 an extra day somewhere, depending on the route

9 Drive to Mt cook

10 explore mt cook

11 drive to wanaka

12 drive to queenstown

13 queenstown

15 queenstown

16 extra day in queenstown drive to Dunedin /Otago area somewhere

17 oamaru/ otago area somewhere

18 drive to Christchurch

Does this sound doable with a toddler? Is it wise to skip the west coast route when not going to the glacier or should we still consider driving that way rather than going across the arthurs pass/ nelson-hammer springs way. How should we deal with the rest of the trip. Mt cook and queenstown are the must sees, wanaka is also on the list, but can be dropped if needed. The reason to go to Dunedin and Oamaru is the penguins, seals and other sea life so could that be covered somewhere else? In that case, we'd like to have an extra day up north in Kaiteriteri/Nelson area and in the lake area.

Thank you again for your advise!

4. Re: 18 days with a toddler (18 months old)

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