How to Travel Inexpensively Without Hotel Points

Stoneridge, New Zealand
Stoneridge Estate, Lake Hayes, Queenstown
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Hello everyone—Mrs. Deals’s sister here. This is my first blog post with Deals We Like and while I would love to use this platform to provide readers with embarrassing moments from my big sister’s past (ask her how many times she needed to take her driving test in high school), I’ll spare her, and all of you, of those stories. Some may say that I am the odd one out of the family. For example:

I have one credit card that I use for everything, regardless if that card rewards my purchase with triple points or not.

I’ve accidentally let hotel points expire.

I have even *gulp* taken flights without attaching my frequent flyer number to the itinerary (THE HORROR!).

For those of you who haven’t fainted from my confessions above, don’t worry, I still don’t let my lack of points and miles (and money) stop me from traveling the world.

My husband James and I just completed the first leg of our five month backpacking trip — six weeks in New Zealand. Below I summarize how we stretched our budget on food and lodging while in New Zealand without using a single hotel point! Caveat: if luxury is they key ingredient for your travels, then you may not find these tips super helpful. However, if you are okay with a few cold showers, a bit of manual labor, and sharing accommodations with interesting people from around the world, then keep reading!

Tip #1: Create a WWOOF and/or WorkAway account

WWOOF and WorkAway are programs that allow travelers to work a few hours a day at a local business in exchange for free room and board. This can be an easy way to explore without having to worry about paying for meals and a hostel/ hotel. Additionally, you spend time with your host family and learn a ton about the culture.

While in New Zealand, we completed two WWOOFing assignments. Our first experience was in Wanaka, where we stayed and worked for 5 days. Our host was a 30 year old man looking to clean up an old family vacation house that was left to him. We worked for about 2 hours each morning landscaping (mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming back hedges, etc.), and then had the rest of the day to explore. When we came back at night, we had some nice chats with our host and other travelers over a few beers before going to bed.

Our second assignment was at Stoneridge Estates, a beautiful vineyard / wedding venue on Lake Hayes, just outside of Queenstown. In exchange for two nights of work as wedding servers, we were given five nights of free lodging and three meals a day. For those wondering, I did not spill ANYTHING during my wedding server stint. James may or may not have shattered a few champaign glasses right in front of the bride.

Stoneridge Estate, Lake Hayes, Queenstown

Even though we were technically at “work,” we had a blast chatting with the wedding guests and the other servers, bartenders and kitchen staff working at the venue. We learned all about New Zealand weddings and some of the popular drink choices (there are more toasts and speeches than US weddings, Sprite is called lemonade and often mixed with white wine, and Coke and raspberry is different than Raspberry Coke).

Rooms at the lodge here go for nearly $400 and we got to stay with the family on the property for FREE! (*If WWOOFing is not for you but you are interested in visiting Queenstown, I HIGHLY recommend booking a room at Stoneridge Estates. While there are no points to utilize, the location, facilities, and people are superb.*)

Tip #2: Camp as much as possible

Campsite costs range between $0 and $20 a day and are clean, safe, and a lot of fun. Some of the sites we camped at were next to top super-luxury resorts, meaning we had the same views for a fraction of the cost!

There is also a backcountry hut system in all national parks. You get indoor shelter and a bed/mattress, while you bring your own sleeping bag, pillow, etc.  One night, we paid $3 for a hut on a lake in Fiordland national park. It was technically a six-person hut, but we were the only ones there. So for $3 we had a beachfront hut on our own private lake with stunning mountain views. Beat that deal, big sis!

For your gear — there are two options:

  1. You can buy everything used through Facebook or other traveler forums. Since so many visitors camp their way through the island, there is plenty of second hand equipment available.
  2. If you can’t find all the gear you need second hand, just head to the nearest KMart or Warehouse. They have all the essentials at great prices.

We bought all of our gear new at Kmart for ~$150 (we even splurged on the “instant” tent and a queen sized air mattress). At the end of our trip, we sold everything through Facebook for ~$110.

Tip #3: Book shared housing through AirBnB

While camping and WWOOF/ WorkAway are the best ways to spend almost no money on accommodations, sometimes a hot, indoor shower and a real bed are a nice way to reset. Through AirBnB, a private room in New Zealand will cost you between $30 and $50 and can be worth every penny (especially if there’s laundry and breakfast included). Spacing out 4-5 nights of camping with 1-2 nights indoors was a perfect balance for us. The nights indoors allowed us to recharge our batteries, do our laundry, and get excited about camping again.

**Bonus Tip**

The last tip I will leave you all with is… visit New Zealand!!! Whether it is with points and miles or through other ways like the ones shared above, just be sure to put New Zealand on your travel list. It is a special country with fantastic people!

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4 years ago

No mention of couchsurfing?

4 years ago

Did you rent a car while in New Zealand? How did you get around.

4 years ago
Reply to  LT

Absolutely recommend renting a car! We used Snap rentals out of Christchurch and it was $25 NZD ($18 USD) per day. FYI driving is on the opposite side of the road!

Gary Steiger -

New Zealand has some very nice hostels. Also nice accommodations at some of the Holiday Parks. The famous Kiwi hospitality is always included. (I think the best hostels are private and are listed here)

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