From New Zealand, With (SERIOUS) Jetlag

Boat sitting in Auckland harbor on a gorgeous dayI hardly ever get jetlag. My bottle of Ambien and I usually become good friends whenever I fly long-haul trips. It helps me keep my sleeping schedule normal. Whenever I land, I take another Ambien that night, pass out, and wake up feeling like sunshine and moonbeams. Yet all did not work out for me this time. My flight from Bangkok left at 5pm and landed in Sydney at what would have been 1am Bangkok time. I don’t even go to bed until 2am. Despite two sleeping pills, I couldn’t fall asleep. And I didn’t sleep on the plane from Sydney to Auckland or the bus to the hostel.

So how have I enjoyed my first three days in New Zealand? I haven’t. I’ve slept. While I did manage to squeeze in a dinner with Craig and Linda from the Indie Travel Podcast and a day at their friend’s wine party, I’ve pretty much slept the entire time here. I landed Friday and was in bed by 12:00. I woke up 30 minutes before the wine party on Saturday and was only awake for five hours on Sunday. Today (Monday), I slept until noon.

I’ve been a complete waste with only two more days left in Auckland and no sights seen except my pillow. Luckily, after three days of hell, the jetlag has begun to wear off. I have energy and an appetite again. Now, I can really see the city.

And the little I’ve seen, I’ve loved. The suburbs are beautiful—houses surrounded by lots of green space and mountains—and the harbor is filled with dolphins, the air is crisp, and the city is clean. And I noticed all that in just about 10 hours of being awake. Something tells me New Zealand is going to be a beautiful place if I’ve noticed all that already.

And I’ve set a challenge for myself. Lately, I haven’t been the best budget traveler. I sort of splashed out the last few weeks in Thailand. Working and traveling means I don’t always have to be as tight with the money as I used to. But while here in New Zealand, I want to be. Originally, I set a goal of $60 NZD per day, but after realizing a meal is about $20 NZD and a bottle of water is $3 NZD, I upped it to $80 NZD per day. So for the next two months, that’s going to be my average budget. The rules of my challenge are:

  • I stay in dorms wherever I go but no more than eight people (I’m old, I like privacy).
  • I will cook 50% of my meals.
  • I will spend $112 dollars per week on alcohol. That’s the equivalent of two beers per day here.
  • New Zealand is an adventure-travel mecca, so while I won’t limit myself in the activities backpackers and travelers come here to do, I am going to be selective.

I’m doing this to see if I can be a good budget traveler again as well as to see how much fun and adventure I can have in New Zealand without destroying my wallet. New Zealand is big travel destination for budget travelers and adventure seekers, but the real question is: like limbo, what’s the lowest I can go without falling? (Here are the results of my challenge and how much I spent in New Zealand.)

For more information, visit my guide to New Zealand travel.

  1. Hey Matt, sorry to hear the jet lag hit you so hard. Why do you think it was such a challenge this time?

    Can’t wait to hear about your NZ adventures! I’m headed there next year so I’ll be taking notes.

  2. Glad to hear you are over your jet lag! That’s never a fun task…

    Here’s another tip – NZ has some of the most amazing tramping (hiking) imaginable. No need to carry a tent – the huts are all there waiting for you. If you stay in a back-country hut, you could sleep for $5 a day with a roof over your head and usually have running water inside. With the purchase of a small gas stove (it is possible to find some durable, compact, easy to use ones for cheap) you could even cook some hot meals. Apart from the cost of the hut and your food, you are allowed to hike most places for free – a great way to see the country without killing your wallet. Also allows you to save up for those more expensive adventure thrills that are hard to say no to (like Zorbing in Rotorua or Dam Dropping in Hawera

    Enjoy your time in NZ. I look forward to hearing your stories from that country!

  3. Hey matt, sorry 2 hear about the jetlag – bummer. If I recall there is a free tour bus that tours Auckland and I believe takes you all the way out to Paihia. (probably spelling that wrong…) They’ve got some great beaches out there, huge riptide though, so don’t get sucked under being all non-energetic and what not. Might save you some money though and let you see a little more of NZ before callin ‘er quits. It stops outside of Xbase or whatever that massive hostel is downtown near Queen St. Ask the reception guys to double check that though. Best of luck hombre.

    • NomadicMatt

      Actually, in Piahia now. Beautiful place! Love it here. Wish I could stay longer but I need to jet down to Christchurch for the holidays.

  4. I’m a terrible sleeper on planes. So I know of which you speak. I haven’t tried Ambien but I’m a little worried to because I don’t know how I’ll feel once the pill wears off. Plus my body is a bit of a temple. :)

    Would love to hear some suggestions on non-pharmaceutical sleep aids.

    Glad you’re loving NZ!

  5. We suffered a lot from jetlag this time also. Landing in India, it took us 3 days to function properly. I have to get some of the Ambien, sounds like it normally works like a charm.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself for not being a great budget traveler, you deserve to splurge once in a while. You are doing so well, that you should reap the rewards and enjoy the benefits of all of your hard work at living the dream:)

  6. That sucks on the jet lag. I have the same problem even though I sleep like a baby on most flights without any pills. If you’ve been out for so many days it must be your body telling you something. Plus flying takes a toll and there are a lot of bugs going around now. Thank your body for making you sleep and take a time out. You could’ve gotten sick if you kept pushing and traveling when sick sucks – especially in dorm rooms. Can’t wait to hear more about New Zealand and your budget! I’ll be there this time next year visiting my cousin and I can’t wait. :)

  7. Forest

    Staying on budget is always hard, the balance between having fun and not being broke can be difficult! I haven’t had the benefit of earning money while traveling, but I imagine that does soften that line a bit. I’m interested to see how you do!

  8. Sonya

    Hey Matt,

    Writting here from Hamilton which by the sounds of it isn’t too far away from where you are now. Just a word of advice don’t get sucked into Rotorua( it’s smelly and very gimicky!) Try get to the South Island as that it’s gorgeous. Failing that go up north.

    Grab a pie and a coke or fish and chips on the beach wearing your gumboots. Instantly kiwied.

  9. The jet lag sounds pretty bad, I’ve not had it like that before.

    $112 week sounds quite specific for alcohol! Would be nice to see a budget break down after you’ve finished there, I’m heading to NZ after Oz next year, will be good to see how the compare.

  10. i cant really follow your prices and estimates. i pay 10-12 dollars every time i eat out in auckland (without any extra drinks), and i work in the city center. its a bit cheaper up on k-road and further out of town. a 12pack of beer costs about $20 in supermarkets, so $112 per week is a lot – unless you want to knock yourself out at the waterfront on friday nights.
    dont buy bottled water, just drink the tap water – nz is not mexico or india :)
    BurgerFuel is a good place to eat once a week, but i would avoid all the food courts – this stuff is just to greasy and the ingredients far away from fresh.

    • NomadicMatt

      I don’t want to go super cheap. I want to have some fun and do more than live off McDonalds. I’ll be out at bars a lot and that is about 8 dollars a drink it seems.

      We’ll see what happens. I just got here!

  11. Crap beer?! Yeah the mass produced stuff (Export, Tui, Speight’s etc) isn’t the best in the world, but there are some amazing craft breweries about!

    Monteiths, while isnt a small brewery, has an excellent assortment of tasty beverages. Macs is also popular, with a varied line. You can get both brands in any bar, bottle shop or grocery store.

    Craft beers Ive known and loved include: Twisted Hop, Weka, Tasman Brewery (another fave of mine, from Nelson), Dux de Lux (from Christchurch although they have opened another location in Queenstown), and Three Boys (also Christchurch-based). The list just goes on and on! You may find your 2 beer a day limit seriously challenged!

  12. You haven’t tried any of the new Monteith’s or Epic ranges, huh? Both are doing some interesting ales and lagers and doing NZ proud on the beer front.

  13. Been great spending a few hours with you over the last few days. Hopefully the new and improved weather will stick for a bit and you’ll be able to hit the beaches some more.

  14. I’m assuming your daily budget of $80NZ includes the $112/week for alcohol as well as sightseeing/admission costs….does it?
    Either way, I’m very interested to see how you go. I’d love it if you did a follow up post outlining your actual spending costs in New Zealand – it could be a great guide for many of us who are just over yonder…

  15. Congrats on making it to the Promised Land. I’m full of envy — NZ has been on my must visit list for a long time, but it’s So Effing Far Away. Better planning and focus is required on my part.

    I find jetlag either nails you or it doesn’t, and when it does, it takes a week/10 days to go away. It helps if you’re somewhere sunny and can get outside.

    Also, wow, 100+ a week for alcohol! Yowza. Now *I’m* old. Two beers a day, I’d have NO trouble sleeping.

    • NomadicMatt

      ha! well, Pam, I don’t drink every day but when I do go out, I also tend to have a bit more than two.

      I will be reporting earnestly from the promised land so you can live vicariously through the blog!

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. For me NZ doesn’t look country for budget travellers especially if you are involved in some activities, which you can’t avoid as it is part of experience of the trip to New Zealand :)

  17. Bec

    Just wanted to say how happy I am to see so many people eager to get to NZ! I just came off 2 years working and travelling around NZ (and Oz, but mainly NZ) and I just loved it so much! Seeing people go, makes my day:-)

    Cheap out for lodging and food (nothing there is anything to write home about, for the most part…eat a pie, if you must!!! they are cheap and filling) but don’t cheap out on activities. There is loads to do there that you can’t do anywhere else.

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