So how did we find our way around during our 1 month motorhome trip in New Zealand?
We rented a “Kruze GPS travel guide“, which we thought would be our primary tool for finding our way around.
But that turned out to be pretty much useless – mainly because it was reeeally slow, and because you couldn’t easily pan around or zoom in and out. It had some kind of commentary function, where suddenly a voice would start droning on about the history of whatever town we were driving through. We thought that would be fun, but it was really boring, and there was no way to turn that off without turning off all sound (including the more useful driving instructions). An expensive piece of junk.
So we packed that away after a day or so, and ended up using the iPad for the rest of the trip. That was really great! In fact, this is the first time we’ve really made use of the ipad, that is for more than just watching movies and playing games and facebooking and other entertainment-ish stuff.
In fact, we had the iPad out pretty much all the time while driving around. Our three essential apps were Maps, Rankers, and TripAdvisor.
Maps (the default one that is on all IOS devices) is a simple but astonishingly well-designed app.
We used it to find out where we are, to find possible routes from A to B, to find gas stations and supermarkets (just type “gasoline” or “supermarket” in the search field), and to find local points of interest. We used map bookmarks to store the location of everything relevant – the friend we’re going to visit, the route we’re going to hike, the campsite we’re going to stay at, etc.
Of course, Maps is an online app – it downloads everything from the Internet.
So one of the first things we did in New Zealand was buy a Vodafone Pocket Wifi with a prepaid 3G simcard.
Using that we could get all of our gadgets online while on the road. The 3G coverage was surprisingly good, except for some of the less inhabited areas on South Island (as expected). Really convenient little gadget, highly recommended! There are lots of other ways of getting 3G broadband access, but we did some research and found that Vodafone’s prepaid 2 Gb simcard was by far the cheapest. The fixed traffic quota of 2 Gb bothered us at first, until we noticed that 2 Gb actually lasted *a lot* longer than we expected when just doing usual surfing and emailing and map downloading. It turned out that just about all forms of wifi and 3G internet access options in New Zealand have data quotas attached, so we just had to get used to being a bit more careful about doing big downloads & uploads.
Anyway, back to the Maps app.
The Maps app on the iPad is surprisingly offline-friendly, since it keeps a huge cache. Whenever we were about to enter an area with shaky or uncertain 3G coverage, we just opened the map app and scrolled around in the area that we were planning to visit, causing the app to download all the map data locally. That way it would stay available even when we went offline.
What about figuring out where to stay for the night?
We used Rankers for that.
Rankers is a slightly clunky but highly useful app that shows a map with icons for various types of campsites – from free & simple to expensive & luxurious. It also includes contact info and, most importantly, ratings and reviews from other travellers. Kind of like the TripAdvisor app (see below) but geared specifically towards motorhome campers. Not quite as offline-friendly as the Maps app, but definitely the best way to find out whereto sleep.
And finally, we used TripAdvisor to find out about stuff to do.
The ratings and reviews were especially useful. For example while driving we might see a sign to some attraction, or while visiting a tourist center we might pick up some glossy brochures. Using TripAdvisor we could quickly figure out which things are actually worth doing, such as the Base Camp rock climbing center in Wanaka.
One of the essential gadgets we brought along was a car USB charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter thingie on the car and lets you charge anything that can be charged via USB. So we never had to worry about the iPad running out of batteries while driving.
Anyway, to make a long story short:
If you plan to do a motorhome tour in New Zealand:
- Bring an iPad and download Rankers and TripAdvisor (Maps is already on there). Actually, an iPhone would probably be OK too.
- Buy a Vodofone Pocket Wifi thingie + a prepaid 3G simcard