who are the watsons?
We are a 30-something married couple who decided to leave behind our home, careers and comfortable Silicon Valley lifestyle to try a new course. Join us as we travel the world to learn about other cultures, lifestyles and ways to generate income beyond the traditional 9-5.

Costs: Fast Travel vs Slow Travel in New Zealand

We spent half of our time in New Zealand traveling quickly, touring the North and South Islands, and half of our time traveling slowly, living in an apartment in Auckland. As you can imagine, our travel expenses vary significantly depending on the type of travel we were doing, so I’ve decided to report our travel expenses separately.

New Zealand: Fast Travel (quoted weekly in US Dollars)
  • Accommodation: $420
    Cost for double rooms at hostels, some with private bathrooms (when we had the option) and some with shared bathrooms (when no other option was available).
  • Groceries: $40-75
    We periodically made grocery stops during our New Zealand bus travels. More expensive weeks occurred on the South Island’s west coast, where there are fewer dining options.
  • Dining: $285
    Weekly meal expenses included breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on the road.
  • Entertainment & activities: $100
    This category includes rafting in Rotorua, Brian’s surfing lesson in Raglan, gondola and luge activities in Queenstown, and a trip to Milford Sound.
  • Cell phone: $3
    Brian purchased a prepaid SIM card from Vodafone upon our arrival in New Zealand for 29.50 NZD (~22 USD). He topped it up once during our three month visit for 20 NZD, and the total cost is split between our slow and fast travel segments.
  • Transportation: $235
    Transportation expenses are mainly our Max and Patch bus passes from Stray Travel.

Fast Travel Expenses, per week: $1,083-$1,118

New Zealand: Slow Travel (quoted weekly in US Dollars)

  • Rent & utilities: $165
    We subleased a tiny one bedroom, one bath apartment in Auckland’s CBD, including electricity, water and Internet for six weeks.
  • Groceries: $83
    Family chef Brian cooked frequently during our time in Auckland. We’re surprised the weekly totals here are so close to those during our fast-travel segments because we definitely bought more groceries while in Auckland.
  • Dining: $130
    Although we ate many of our meals at home, we enjoyed 5-7 meals out each week as well.
  • Entertainment & activities: $31
    We saw Complexions Dance Company during our stay, and we occasionally purchased bottles of wine or visited the local Belgian beer pub.
  • Cell phone: $3
    See note above about Brian’s prepaid cell phone.
  • Transportation: $10
    We generally walked around Auckland because it’s easily navigable by foot, but when we wanted to go farther distances, we took a bus or ferry.

Slow Travel Expenses, per week: $422

Wow, what a difference between fast and slow travel! I just totaled the sums for the first time and even I’m amazed to see that fast travel costs more than double our weekly slow-travel expenses. But, that was my whole point in writing this post. Some folks have said that what we’re doing is impossible for them due to the expense, but I believe part of that is that they’re accustomed to the expenses of vacationing. The kind of travel we generally do is not vacationing ā€” it’s living like locals in a new area and slowly enjoying our surroundings ā€” and, as such, it can be done a lot more cost-effectively than you might think.

Are you as surprised as I am by the cost difference between slow travel and fast travel? Have you seen something similar in your own travels?


  • http://simplyfearless.com/ Coach Cassandra Rae

    Wow. I might not have the same desire as you – to spend years traveling. BUT, this post makes me think that 6 week vacations as slow travel are very possible. Thank you for opening my mind!

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Hi Cassandra,

    It turns out we may not have the desire to spend years traveling either, but the possibilities of long vacations and personal freedom are something we’ll always cherish. Glad the slow travel info helped you realize some of your own possibilities! K

  • http://www.marriedwithluggage.com Warren Talbot

    Great insights and we could not agree more. Our highest expenses have come when we are traveling the fastest and we are forced to eat out too much and stay in places just a few nights. Right now we are settled into an apartment in Lima, Peru for 3 weeks and absolutely loving having our own kitchen. The money we save on food and rent is wonderful and will help out when we are back out “on the road” in a few weeks. We have decided to settle down for 2-3 months a couple times a year to help out on the budget but also to mentally recharge from all the travel.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. We have bookmarked all your travels in NZ and will be following in your footsteps.

    How did you all find the apartment in Auckland? Would love to rent something just like that.

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Thanks, Warren! We’re missing a kitchen right now. Few travelers apartments in Thailand have them so we’ve been eating out a lot. I think settling down periodically is a great idea. After 10 months on the road, we’re a little burned out and have decided to head to the States for a while to work on some business projects. I think if we’d been more settled recently that might not have happened but 6 weeks of downtime wasn’t enough in Melbourne before we started the Asia leg.

    We found our Auckland and Melbourne apartments on Gumtree. In NZ, TradeMe is also a good resource as are the community boards in the local grocery store.