There’s no denying the New Zealand domestic tourism campaigns have ramped up, with many companies offering cheap deals to entice New Zealanders to “Back Your Backyard” and “Do Something New New Zealand.”
So perhaps you’ve decided to “Get Moving, to Get New Zealand Moving” with thl - New Zealand’s largest operator of Motorhomes. The booking, as cheap as $29 a day, has been booked with only a $1 deposit and you’re searching New Zealand on google maps wondering where this road trip will take you.
Eventually, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be awake at 1 AM one morning thinking:
“WILL THERE BE A CAN OPENER!?”
Alright, so that might hit a bit closer to home for me, seeing as the past three camping trips I’ve been on with Jonas resulted in me begging him to go and talk to our camping neighbours to try and borrow a can opener. I’d brought the whole kitchen with us but had somehow forgotten an important accessory. That’s kind of my thing though. Forgetting important things. When I went camping with a few friends in the Rocky Mountains in Canada I was in charge of the airbeds. Airbeds. Air. Beds. No one said, “Jess, you’re in charge of the airbeds AND the pump to blow up the airbeds.” I’m not even good at blowing up balloons. You can imagine the effort two double air mattresses took!
And the most important question of them all:
“HOW DOES THE TOILET WORK!?”
Well, Jess Brien, first time #vanlifer here reporting for duty.
Here’s a comprehensive list of everything you need to know about your New Zealand campervan rental.
Our 883.50 km North Island road trip with Maggie - our Maui campervan rental. Maui is owned by thl which also operates Mighty and Britz campervans. We actually booked a Mighty van but were upgraded in the pickup yard to a Maui instead.
Our Maui 2 + 1 Berth Ultima Plus
Originally we booked a 2 Berth Deuce from Mighty but in the yard we were upgraded to a Maui. The main difference between Maui, Britz, and Mighty - who are all owned by thl - seem to be the age of the motorhomes. The Maui Elite promise states that your vehicle will have had less than 2.5 years on the fleet.
This van came with an outdoor fold out table that is connected to the van, and a barbeque.
here's a quick screenshot of the floor plan of Maui Ultima Plus
THE DRIVING CAB
Notice Jonas on the passenger side?! His driving licence conveniently expired during the coronavirus lockdown which meant I had to take full responsibility for driving this van around the North Island. YAY! (If you don’t know me please know that “YAY!” is 100% sarcastic as I actually really hate driving.)
All vans are fitted with a GPS, however, I wasn’t able to make it work (perhaps due to the stress of getting out of the parking lot on the first day) so I gave it a miss. I preferred the dulcet tones of my Google Maps and the not-so-dulcet shouting at Jonas to help with the directions anyway.
In the passenger door, there were handy instruction guides on the van’s functions and a first aid kit. Interestingly a first aid kit was an optional add on during the booking process for $35, yet the van came with one. Maybe it’s because we booked a Mighty and got a Maui?
In the glove box, there was also a car manual. This did prove to be helpful when I thought I broke the handbrake!
Speaking of the handbrake, if you leave it on and try to drive away the horn will beep at you. There were many beeps in the pickup yard and along our road trip, not just from me!
Where the magic happens
There was a can opener!
I was pleasantly surprised with the number of kitchen supplies that came with the van. Generally, there were four of everything (small plates, big plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, drinking glasses, and wine glasses) with a couple of sizes of pots to choose from, one frying pan, randomly a big glass casserole dish, a chopping board, a couple of sharp knives, a colander, and all of the standard utensils (fish slice/spatula depending on your British or American dialect, big spoon, tongs, can opener, etc) The only noticeable disappearances were that we didn’t have a whisk or a lid for the frying pan. No biggie though.
The kitchen also comes with x2 tea towels, a dishcloth, a sponge, and x2 packets of dishwashing liquid. I’ll remember that the van came with these things for the rest of my life as Jonas will never let me forget. I may, or may not, have thrown a tantrum that there was nothing to clean the dishes with, maybe even shouting, “I HAVE looked everywhere, Jonas!!!!” Turns out I hadn’t actually looked under the extra tea towel in the colander and that’s where everything was hiding. Oops.
There is a kettle to use on top of the stove or an electric jug you can use if you're plugged into electricity, with a coffee plunger/french press for those all too important morning coffees.
Speaking of electricity, the fridge (with mini freezer inside) and extractor fan with light can operate with only the 12v power battery, however, the microwave and toaster will only work plugged into the 240v mains power.
In my opinion, the most important room of them all.
I searched and searched the internet for information on these chemical toilets that the vans come with. Originally I was going to book a smaller van that boasted a certified self-contained sticker but I couldn’t understand how the toilet area worked? Eventually, I realised some vans don’t have an enclosed toilet area (known commonly as a bathroom) but rather an emergency toilet (read: toilet to qualify for the self-contained sticker) that you just plonk in the middle of the van. Now, Jonas and I are pretty comfortable with each other, but we aren’t quite at the stage of just doing our business in front of one another, a la Eamon and Bec from #vanlife fame on Instagram and Youtube!
So, we decided to get a bigger van for a more private toilet experience.
We were not disappointed!
The bathroom is compact but it has everything you need:
Toilet (with flush!)
x1 roll of toilet paper
Basin (with no tap, just use the showerhead)
Bucket with brush & shovel, a bath mat, and x3 toilet chemicals.
The toilet chemicals are again an interesting observation, as they are an optional add on during the online check-in and payment process, so I thought the van didn’t come with any! Turns out the van came with three (perhaps one for every night?) and then the extra one I bought for $2.50. We only used one during our three nights on the road.
After following Craig and Aimee from Kinging It over on youtube with their #vanlife adventures through Europe, we were inspired to instill their rule of:
THE FIRST PERSON TO DO A POO HAS TO EMPTY THE TOILET
There were no number 2’s to enter our chemical toilet so Jonas emptied it for us anyway. He’s a good one. I’ll keep him on.
THE LIVING ROOM
As if a flushable toilet wasn’t enough, the van even comes with a TV and DVD player. But before you get too carried away, you aren’t able to receive television reception so come prepared as it is only USBs or DVDs for you. Next to the TV and the van control panel, there is a radio player with USB and AUX. The entertainment area can operate without being plugged into mains power which makes life really fantastic because here’s a hot tip: plugging your device into the radio or TV USB port will charge it!
When the bed isn’t made you have a U area of seating with a dining table in the middle with plenty of storage in the compartments above. There is also a cupboard with a couple of coat hangers.
We upgraded to more expensive insurance to get an electric fan heater included, but because this only operates when the van was plugged into electricity we really utilised the diesel heater. It’s really simple to use. It works just like the heaters in the front of the cab and the only piece of advice I read was to make sure you always had over ¼ tank of diesel - just to be safe.
Or actually beds! All we needed was the one bed, but thanks to the upgrade we had an extra single bed at the front directly behind the cab. We never used this bed but, because of it, we had a lot more bedding and towels than you would normally have.
The van comes with pillows, sheets, a duvet, and a blanket for each bed and towels for each person. We were worried we would be freezing due to embarking on this adventure in the middle of winter, but the bedding was absolutely fine!
The floor plan when the beds are made
How I feel about insurance
I don’t know what it is about insurance but as soon as you start mentioning what could go wrong to me it really gets into my psyche! Every van booking comes with the Standard Liability which is essentially third party cover but you will be liable for the first $5,000 worth of damage per incident. Initially, we only booked the Reduced Liability insurance which reduces the liability to $0 for only $10 a day (usually ~$29) but at the counter I was convinced to upgrade to the $15 a day (usually ~$35) Inclusive Pack which includes the reduced liability and cover for if you roll the van. (The mental images of me rolling the van were really vivid!) This cover also comes with a bunch of complimentary add ons like a picnic table and chairs, extra driver fees, linen exchange, and an electric heater. We are complete wusses when it comes to being cold so the heater sold it for us to be honest.
It’s worth having a good read through the insurance policies before choosing one that’s right for you.
THE THL APP
It’s definitely worth the free download on GooglePlay or Apple. Here you will find instructional videos for everything in the van! The map feature is also really handy - you can customize the search to find campgrounds, LPG refills, petrol stations, activities, public toilets, dump stations, water, supermarkets, hospitals, showers, laundromats... The list is endless!
Download on the Apple App Store
The big question! How much did it cost?
All up for the van, accommodation fees, and groceries it cost $528.77 NZD for two people.
Broken down that’s:
$140 Van Hire ($35 a day, promotional rate)
$60 Insurance ($15 a day for the Mighty Inclusive Pack, promotional rate)
$67.50 Road Miles ($7.64 per 100 kilometres)
$42 x1 night at Clarks Beach Campground (powered site)
$2.50 for the extra toilet chemical that we didn’t need
$5.40 in Mastercard surcharges
This was undeniably an amazing deal and prices won’t be like this forever. A press release from thl says, “rates range from $29 to $69 and will remain flat until October, including throughout the July and September school holidays.” Also handy to note that the minimum hire is only 3 days instead of 5 now, and the cancellation fees - very important for this new normal life - won’t start until 7 days before your booking, as opposed to the normal 90 days.
So I think that's everything! I didn't go in to the ins and outs of the workings of the van - I recommend that thl app instructional videos for that.
If you have any questions feel free to ask away! My DM's on instagram are always open (@jessssbrien)
Stay tuned for more posts on the activities that we got up to on our mini North Island roadtrip.
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