Tips for Sports Fans and Participants Heading to New Zealand
Nothing beats the electric atmosphere and being among like-minded travellers at an international sports event. Whether you’re an avid supporter following your team to the exciting destination of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) or utilising the majestic scenery and terrain for your own participation in golf, skiing, hiking and more, this guide goes through everything you need to prepare to travel for sport.
5 Tips for Planning a Sports Break
Although our guide on how to prepare to travel for sport goes through the points we’re about to list extensively, here are just a few quick tips to keep in mind:
- Buy sports tickets through reputable websites! Buy from the official website of the sports event you are attending or from official dealers like Go Sport Travel
- Look out for ticket release dates and be on stand-by by your computer; international sports events especially book out quickly
- Secure accommodation reservations as soon as you have purchased tickets
- Allow time to get over the jet lag, as well as to explore your destination in between games
- Participating in sports? Make sure to declare all sports equipment on arrival into New Zealand.
Now, let’s get into the full guide on how to plan for sports travel!
The Best Time for Sports Travel in New Zealand
Timing is everything when it comes to sports travel. Whether you’re a spectator or a participant, planning when to take your sports break should be the first thing on your mind.
The Best Time for Spectator Sports
Certainly the most straightforward sports travel category when it comes to timing, spectators and sports fans need only plan their trip to New Zealand for the period of their chosen event.
International sports championships can occur at any time of the year, from the balmy fringes of summer as was the case for the 2021 Rugby World Cup to the depths of winter as it was for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. On the other hand, the annual NZ Sevens, New Zealand’s largest rugby party, typically takes place in the heart of summer – check out more annual sports events in The Top New Zealand Events & Festivals.
Spectators might not have a choice of when their chosen sports season is, but they can certainly prepare for the conditions in New Zealand using the advice we give in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Whatever sports event or championship you decide to follow to the far-flung islands of the South Pacific, it’s highly recommended that you arrive in New Zealand at least a few days prior to the event to get over the jet lag and get settled. After the sports event, don’t miss the opportunity to explore one of the most exciting destinations on the planet – which we have a full guide on in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.
The Best Time for Participation Sports
For travellers wanting to get stuck into their favourite sports, this is where timing becomes a little nuanced. Some sports like skiing are only available at certain times of the year, while most participation sports in New Zealand are available all year round. At this point, you might want to shift your focus to seasonal weather patterns:
- Summer (December to February) – Summer is the warmest time of year reaching highs of 25°C (77°F). Expect finer days than during the rest of the year.
- Autumn (March to May) – Autumn has milder temperatures between 6°C (43°F) and 20°C (68°F). Weather patterns start to become more interchangeable with a few more rainy days than in summer.
- Winter (June to August) – Temperatures can be anywhere between -3°C (27°F) and 15°C (59°F) depending on which parts of the country you are in. Snow falls in alpine regions and rainfall is more frequent.
- Spring (September to November) – Temperatures rise again during this shoulder season, where lows are 2°C (36°F) and highs are 17°C (63°F). Expect a balance of fine and rainy days.
For more information on the climate, check out What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
The Best Time to Visit New Zealand
Summer (December to February) is the most popular time to travel New Zealand for both international travellers and locals. While you can do most activities in summer under milder weather, things are more expensive, such as flights, tours and vehicle rentals. Attractions are busy while accommodations and transport book up quickly for the summer months.
The low season, i.e. winter (June to August) is the cheapest but coldest time to travel. Attractions are far less busy, but some tours like canyoning and white water rafting may be closed during winter. The exception to the low season rule is the ski resort towns, such as Queenstown, Wanaka and Ohakune.
Visiting in any of the shoulder seasons, i.e. from March to May and from September to November, brings warmer weather than winter along with more affordable travel deals than summer. These months tend to be the best time to visit New Zealand.
Booking Arrangements for Sports Events
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for sports travel is making sure you’ve secured your event tickets, accommodation, flights, vehicle rental, etc. before they are sold out. Needless to say, sporting events are highly popular and, with that, tourism services are booked several months in advance in the towns and cities where the event is taking place.
Our advice for planning to see an event is to book tickets as soon as they are available and accommodation as soon as possible once your tickets are secured. These are the two items that sell out the fastest. Once you have those down, flights and vehicle rentals can come soon after; see How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand and How to Plan a Road Trip in New Zealand for more on the subject.
Sports Packages with Go Sport Travel
Take the hassle out of booking your sports break with Go Sport Travel. Offering sports packages in Europe, Asia, Oceania and beyond, the experienced and qualified team offers breaks for some of the biggest sporting events in football, golf, rugby and more. Packages ensure event tickets and accommodation, including breakfast, are locked in, while their emergency number means they’re only a phone call should you need extra support during your escapade. Find out more about making your sports dreams a reality at gosporttavel.com.
What to Pack for When Travelling for Sport
New Zealand is renowned for its ever-changing weather, so versatile clothing and layers to add and remove are essential. Ensure you’re comfortable for spectating, as well as for visiting the rest of New Zealand, by following the below packing list. Oh, and don’t forget your team’s colours!
What to Pack as a Spectator
Bring versatile outfits that are good for exploring the New Zealand outdoors in between games and bring no more than a week’s worth of clothes, as laundry facilities are everywhere. New Zealand is a developed country so has plenty of shops and services should you need to buy anything while you’re travelling.
The below packing list is an overview of our full New Zealand Packing List. Note that it’s just for one person.
- 1 Leggings/sweatpants/hiking pants
- 1 Shorts (summer)
- 1 Sweater/hoody/mid-layer
- 1 Comfortable walking shoes
- 1 Flip-flops
- 1 Swimwear (suitable for watersports)
- 1 Thermal underlayer (top and/or bottoms)
- 1 Waterproof and windproof jacket
- 6 Socks (a mix of woollen and cotton)
- 1 Warm jacket (winter/spring/autumn)
- 6 Tops/T-shirts
- 6 Underwear
- Toiletries including a mini first aid kit, sunscreen and insect repellent
- New Zealand travel adapter
- Electronic device chargers (extra batteries are a good idea)
- Reusable water bottle (tap water is safe)
- Your team’s colours!
Packing Sports Equipment for New Zealand
If you prefer to bring your own sports equipment than rent in New Zealand, then you need to take your airline’s luggage regulations and New Zealand biosecurity restrictions in mind.
Check the Airline Regulations
Before considering bringing your own sports equipment, you need to check what the regulations are for transporting them with the airline you plan on using. In the instance of bikes, most airlines require bikes to be packed in a bike box or bike bag. This means you will need to dismantle your bike to fit; there is no way around it.
Check if there are any additional charges for checking in sports equipment, as some airlines charge around NZ$200 to check in oversized baggage, which most sports equipment falls into the category of.
Finally, there may be a weight or size limit to your sports equipment packaging so be sure to check that information too. Usually, it’s around 2 m / 6.5 ft long and 23 kg / 50 lbs limit.
Insurance for Your Sports Equipment
Remember that you may want to add your sports equipment as an extra personal item to your travel insurance, which is usually much cheaper than buying stand-alone insurance for it. Learn more about getting good travel insurance for New Zealand in How to Choose the Best Travel Insurance for New Zealand.
Declaring Sports Equipment on Arrival
Note that all sports equipment must be declared on arrival into New Zealand through your Passenger Arrival Card and/or verbally to a Biosecurity Officer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t bring sports equipment into New Zealand, but they must be clean and free from soil, water, etc.
Concerning fishing gear, there are strict restrictions on felt-soled waders, which are likely to be seized at the border. Plus, felt-soled waders are prohibited in freshwater in New Zealand. While fly ties are allowed, non-artificial ties must meet the Import Health Standard, so could be seized for inspection, treatment or be destroyed.
All freshwater equipment and fishing gear must be clean and dried before you bring it into New Zealand. Wet gear will likely be treated or reshipped at your expense or destroyed with your authority.
For more airport advice, be sure to check out our guide, Arriving in New Zealand: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.
Visas, NZeTA and IVL
A tourist/visitor visa for New Zealand activates automatically upon entry to New Zealand for most countries, usually allowing visitors to stay for up to three months. Visitors also need to pay for an NZeTA and IVL before arrival in New Zealand.
Although the ACC in New Zealand partly covers accidental injury medical bills, many travellers opt for travel insurance for extra peace of mind.
ID and Driving License
Your passport is obviously coming to New Zealand with you, which is ideal because it’s one of the only accepted forms of ID for proof of age, for example, to buy alcohol. For driving, bring your driving license – if your driving license is not written in English then it will need to be accompanied by an International Driving Permit.
The currency of New Zealand is New Zealand Dollars (NZD). There are ATMs in towns and cities where you’ll be able to withdraw cash. Credit cards are also widely accepted, however, there is a percentage payable with each non-New Zealand credit card transaction.
Accommodation for Sports Breaks
New Zealand offers many forms of accommodation. While hotels often provide the most comfortable and familiar stays for sports fans, those on a budget can save a ton by staying in some of the country’s more affordable accommodations.
One of the most comprehensive styles of accommodation in New Zealand, holiday parks consist of self-contained units, private cabins, backpacker dorm cabins, tent sites or powered sites for campervans. Check out listings in our New Zealand Holiday Parks category.
In this budget accommodation, stay in shared dorms or private rooms where you’ll share facilities, such as a kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. Check out listings for every town in New Zealand in our New Zealand Hostel category.
Hotels are found in New Zealand’s larger cities, top tourist destinations and certainly near sports stadiums, following the usual international standard with star ratings. Some small towns have historic hotels, which are typically budget-friendly but have less modern facilities. See hotel listings in our New Zealand Hotels category.
More common than hotels, motels offer a more compact home-away-from-home usually with a kitchen, a bathroom and at least one separate bedroom, all within one unit. Compare motels across the country using our New Zealand Motels category.
New Zealand has a number of boutique and luxury lodges scattered across the country in both towns and pristine wilderness. Discover our recommendations in our New Zealand Boutique Lodges category.
Enjoy entire holiday homes, locally known as “baches”, all to yourself with plenty listed on booking websites like Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb. See our listings in our New Zealand Holiday Homes category.
Things to Do for Sports Lovers and Fans in New Zealand
Spoiled, you are! Spoiled! New Zealand has so much to do that we could hardly fit it all in our 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.
New Zealand’s Top Participation Sports
With the landscapes being the reason many travellers flock to New Zealand, active outdoor and adventure sports are extremely popular. These include:
- Mountain biking
- Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
- White water rafting
New Zealand’s Top Sports Events
Of course, when it comes to sports events, New Zealand has that down too as one of the top destinations in recent years for the women’s world cup in rugby and football, as well as annual events like the following:
- HSBC NZ Sevens
- New Zealand Open
- Winter Games NZ
- Marathons – Queenstown, Wellington, Christchurch, Hawke’s Bay and more
- Triathlons – Taupo, Tauranga, Auckland, Hastings, Wanaka and more
- Ironman New Zealand
- BDO Taupo Cycle Challenge
- Crankworx MTB Festival
And much more! See some of the upcoming sports events that you can book packages for on gosporttavel.com.
New Zealand Sports Museums
That’s right, New Zealand even has something for sports fans during their downtime! Discover a local love of sports at these compelling sports museums:
- New Zealand Rugby Museum, Palmerston North
- New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin
- NZ Olympic Committee & Museum, Wellington
- New Zealand Cricket Museum, Wellington
- TSB Bank Bowls New Zealand Museum, New Plymouth.
Food and Eating Out
One that’s often overlooked when planning to travel for sports is eating. Whether you’re refuelling from giving it your all from the sidelines or on the field, you’ll need to factor in food throughout your travels and their associated costs. Travellers have a choice of dining out or self-catering in New Zealand.
Cafes and Restaurants
New Zealand is a melting pot so most menus have a diverse range of international dishes, from Westernised food, such as fish and chips, burgers and pizzas to Asian cuisines like curries and sushi. Gluten-free and vegetarian meals are readily available. For other dietary requirements, it’s best to discuss them with the restaurant staff first.
Note that tipping is not mandatory but is appreciated for good service. For many restaurants and cafes, expect to order and pay at the counter. For advice on where to eat, see our New Zealand Foodie Guides for each town and city across New Zealand.
Because eating out is much more expensive than in other parts of the world, self-catering while on a sports break in New Zealand is extremely popular. Most accommodations have some sort of cooking facilities.
Groceries can be picked up from supermarkets in towns and cities. Smaller towns and villages usually only have a convenience store, locally called a “dairy” but tend to have higher prices. Farmers’ markets are a fun option on weekend mornings to buy local produce. Note that New Zealand shops don’t give plastic shopping bags so bring your own bags or purchase bags in-store. For more advice, head over to our guide on Food Shopping in New Zealand.
Typical Costs and Budget for Sports Travel in New Zealand
We all travel very differently. Therefore, making a precise budget for everyone is an impossible task. Nevertheless, you can work out your own needs, thus budget, by simply looking at the typical prices listed in our guide, How Much Does it Cost to Travel New Zealand?
Match Day Deals and Sports Packages
You can also find the best deals for premium seating, match-day hospitality and accommodation with Go Sport Travel, so check out gosporttavel.com for the latest deals for sports travel in Oceania, the UK, Europe and beyond.
More Tips on How to Prepare to Travel for Sport
That’s it for our guide on how to prepare to travel for sport. If you can’t get enough of our advice, then feast your eyes on the following:
- The Best Places to Watch Rugby in New Zealand
- 21 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand
- 15 Most Epic Extreme Sports in New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’ll find more advice on gosporttavel.com.