Accessible planning tips for New Zealand
Earlier this year we travelled to New Zealand and learnt a thing or two in our travels which we thought may help others when planning an accessible holiday to New Zealand.
AIR NEW ZEALAND
The national carrier for New Zealand has always been highly recommended by our readers but this was our first time flying with them. After two international flights and one domestic flight we can see why the airline has firm fans. You can read more about our experience and the alternative loading system they use when there’s no air bridge in our airline review.
DRIVING AROUND NEW ZEALAND
From our travels in the South Island it seems there are few straight roads. Allow extra time for trips. A trip which is 150km will take you longer than it would if doing it on Australian roads. A combination of the windy roads, slow driving camper vans and some spectacular views which demand a photo stop will require more time.
ACCESSIBLE PARKING PERMIT
Strangely Australia and New Zealand do not have a reciprocal accessible parking permit agreement. It seems odd considering our countries have a reciprocal health care agreement. So if you’d like to use your accessible parking permit while travelling in New Zealand, you’ll need to apply online for a permit and allow plenty of time for its arrival. There is a fee attached to both the parking permit and the postage for delivery. The application form can be found here.
ACCESSIBLE TOILET FACILITIES
In our travels throughout New Zealand we found plenty of unisex stand-alone accessible bathrooms. Many had press button opening doors and spacious facilities. They were also extremely clean.
New Zealand’s first Changing Places bathroom is in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton (North Island). It’s a hoisted facility with an adult changing place but it’s currently the only one in the country.
You can read more about this facility here.
We knew the Australian Companion Card would not be accepted but we thought a concession rate would apply to entry into attractions for people with a disability. This wasn’t the case and we thought this was particularly unusual where wheelchair access wasn’t available throughout the entire attraction. We continued to ask about concessions for people with a disability and found when the tourist information staff phoned ahead and enquired about a concession rate, some provided our entry at a reduced rate. It was minimal but better than full price. It’s always worth asking the question.
Access throughout New Zealand is generally good. Like many countries we found the best views were found on the steepest and most difficult tracks. But scenic drives are a plenty and many have spectacular mountain and water views easily seen without leaving the car.
BJ’s off-road tyres were beneficial when tackling many of the tracks and now we’ve trialled the FreeWheel we feel it would have helped make the holiday even easier.
CLOTHING – WHAT TO PACK
We always put our destination into our weather app a couple of weeks in advance so we can get a feel for the temperatures and what to pack. New Zealand has a mild summer compared to Australia and we found we needed to pack layers and used them all. Wet weather jackets are essential. We travel with light-weight wet weather jackets and these really didn’t keep us dry in some of the heavier down pours. Just make sure to pack one!
I smugly pulled out Aeroguard and liberally sprayed us all with it when I knew we were headed into an area which would more than likely be prone to mosquitoes. It turns out the sand flies don’t look twice at Aeroguard and require a stronger brew. I highly recommend getting a repellent which is sand fly proof. Many stores in New Zealand sell roll-on or sprays, many free of DEET. A New Zealand local has since told me the best deterrent is equal parts baby oil and Dettol.
A friend told us before we travelled to ensure we packed and lathered up with sunscreen and we received the same advice from a customs lady at Queenstown airport. The sun can catch you off guard in New Zealand so be aware.
A helicopter flight to Franz Josef Glacier was a headline attraction for us. It was the sole reason for us travelling to the area for a second time. We’d visited when I was pregnant with AJ and I was keen to show her a glacier. Plus, we heard an accessible experience was available on the glacier and we couldn’t wait to give BJ the opportunity to participate. The flights are weather dependent and our first one was cancelled due to the weather and flights were cancelled for the two days prior to our arrival. We allowed 3 nights in the area in the hope of getting a flight and our backup option worked for us. It was the highlight of our trip but keep in mind if you are booking a weather-dependent ‘headline attraction’ for your family, allow more than one day for it to work out.
HAVE A WET WEATHER/BAD WEATHER PLAN
It’s good to research a couple of ‘in case’ activities for bad weather. We had a few wet days and it was good to have activities in mind to keep BJ active.
Count Down supermarkets are large and stock many of the brands we buy in Woolworths stores here in Australia. New World Supermarkets are another good option and at the time we travelled to New Zealand they were offering fuel discounts on their receipts which helped when covering large distances every day.
Shopping bags need to be purchased in all the supermarkets we visited so if you’d like to save some money take reusable shopping bags with you.
We absolutely loved our time in New Zealand. It was a holiday which saw the whole family involved in a range of activities but a bit of research and planning was key to ensuring we made the most of our time.