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What to Pack for a Gap Year in New Zealand: Pre-departure Checklist

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The Packing Mission

The working holiday/gap year/backpacking mission: pack a year’s worth of essential items into a backpack while not exceeding the airline weight limit. It’s a tough one, but it can be done! It’s a pretty stressful thing trying to remember all the essentials in your check-in and carry-on luggage, but don’t worry! We’ve made the checklist for you, because here at NZPocketGuide.com we are super resourceful and do weird things in our free time.

Most airlines have a restriction of 22kg (48lbs) for check-in luggage and 7kg (15lbs) for carry-on, so keep this in mind when stuffing your bag full of extra “just-in-case” clothes you’ll never wear.

For a complete list of things to pack for a vacation around New Zealand, check out our complete New Zealand Packing List.

Some Fine Attire

Ah, clothes: the fine pieces of material we take everywhere with us. Backpacker science, which is totally not a thing we made up, tells us that clothes take up 85.2% of what every traveller packs in their backpack. With that fact in mind, we dedicated a whole article to the subject. Check out What Clothes to Pack to Travel in New Zealand.

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In Your Check-in Luggage

Whether you’ve gone for a backpack or a suitcase, see our Backpack Vs Suitcase showdown here, this is the luggage you will be checking in at the airport and hoping it makes it to the other side with you. Other than clothes, there are some pretty important things to remember to take with you on your gap year to New Zealand.

Travel Towel

A compact quick-drying towel is essential. Otherwise, you’ll never know what a dry towel feels like again, with the daily packing and repacking that comes with day-to-day travel in New Zealand.

Plug Adapters and/or Extension Cable

Travelling is when you need your electronic devices the most: phone, camera, laptop/tablet, etc. Make sure you can charge them with plenty of adapters or a multi-socket extension cable.

Paperwork You Can’t Leave Behind

Copies of your passport or prescription information are worth taking with you, just to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

With a gaping hole in the ozone layer sitting just above New Zealand, the UV rays are particularly brutal. Take sunscreen! Plus, keep those sandflies at bay with repellent.


This is personal to everyone, so you are the best judge of what cosmetic/toiletry items you need. Just remember to take enough prescription medication with you, which you can read more about on our Health Tips for Travelling. You can always top up your shampoos and soap in New Zealand, so don’t go too crazy with items like that.

Find out more in our The Ultimate Packing List for an Extended Trip in New Zealand.

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In Your Carry-on Bag

The bag you carry onto the plane with you should be full of your most important stuff, just so you can keep a better eye on it. Plus, some of the most precious things that you need to get onto the plane and into New Zealand are the things that people are most likely to forget. For more tips, check out What to Pack in Your Carry-On for New Zealand.

Small Backpack

The bag you use as your carry-on luggage is important in itself. A small/medium backpack can be used as your day bag as you take trips around New Zealand. If you are doing hiking, make sure it’s comfortable for that too. We like the Little America backpack from Herschel Supply Co. – check out our backpack review.

Small Transparent Bag

You will need one to put any necessary cosmetics in for the plane journey.


Take the medication you might need for your flight with you.

Laptop/Tablet (and Charger)

Not everyone needs to take a laptop or tablet. You can even enjoy your time a lot more without one, but there are heaps of reasons why we are more and more dependent on them: somewhere to store photos/videos, watch movies, Skype home, better web browsing experience, can see the NZPocketGuide.com on a bigger screen, etc.

Phone (and Charger)

Another precious item we are so dependent on. Remember to unlock your phone before you arrive in New Zealand so that your New Zealand sim card works with it. Alternatively, a good idea is to buy a cheap phone once you get here, as many travellers have lost or broken their high-tech smartphones due to extreme living.

Camera (and Charger)

New Zealand is a photogenic place, so don’t forget your camera! Check out our 8 Fun Ways to Document Your Travels for some ideas on how to use your photos.

Headphones and Music Playing Device (and Charger)

Drown out the crying babies on the plane by listening to music. Also, your own headphones will be better quality than what’s given or purchased on the plane.

Plug Adapter

Just in case you need to charge anything before you get your check-in luggage back.


A bit of emergency cash is always useful when travelling, for instance, just in case you have issues with setting up a bank account in New Zealand. If you are stopping over in another country for a while, take some cash in the correct currency with you.

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Paperwork and Documents

Remember to print out and pack these important documents in your carry-on luggage!


Without this, you are going nowhere. Make sure it is valid at least three months past the date you intend to leave New Zealand or your visa expires.

Flight Ticket

Oh, and you’ll need this to get on the plane too.

Another Form of ID

This could be your driver’s license, but make sure it is translated in English. It’s handy to always have a back-up ID, although you can only use your passport to buy alcohol in New Zealand, and you will need this if opening a bank account or applying for an IRD number.

Visa and Paperwork

If your visa is not already in your passport, print it out along with the evidence asked for by your visa. For instance, with the working holiday visa, you need: a bank statement proving you have sufficient funds, insurance certificate/policy, and return travel ticket if you do not have the funds to purchase one in New Zealand.

Prepare for the Airport

You might be physically prepared, but are you mentally prepared? New Zealand is full of biosecurity restrictions, immigration nonsense, and other things you might not be used to when travelling abroad. Take a look at our most helpful arrival articles to help you prepare.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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