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Queenstown on a Budget: Affordable Ways to Experience Luxury in the Southern Alps

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Southern Discoveries
Milford Sound
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Planning a trip to Queenstown can mean endless googling, endless tabs open, and a seemingly endless list of things to pay for. There’s no doubt that as you delve deeper into holiday planning, the cost can also begin to snowball. However, there’s a few hidden tips and tricks to save money in Queenstown that will allow you to prioritise your budget for those go-all-out, luxurious experiences on your bucket list.


Car hire
If you’re looking to save money on hiring a car in Queenstown, consider taking up the transport options available for any activities you’ll be booking. Many tours have transport leaving from central Queenstown either included in the booking or able to be added on easily. Even activities that are further out of the way can lend a ride; the Southern Discoveries Milford Sound tours operate comfortable coaches to make it simple to explore the rumored 8th wonder of the world. 

Combo activities
Activities can often be bundled together when booking to give you the maximum experience for a minimum cost. Usually you can find combo deals available when two activities are at the same location, but there are times when local companies put their heads together to come up with a truly unforgettable experience. 

The KJet & Milford Sound Cruise combo is one such chance to take in two must-do Queenstown activities; the KJet and Milford Sound Discover More cruise. You can find out more and book here.   

Early booking discounts
Many Queenstown activity operators also offer early booking discounts when you book direct on their websites. So be sure to do your research early, and book online early to get the best price.


Accommodation can be expensive. When planning your Queenstown holiday in advance, make sure you account for this first and try these tips to save.

Plan your visit during off-season
There is no bad time to visit Queenstown and the surrounding areas, but there are times when it is less popular. By choosing to visit in the off-season (usually shoulder seasons of Autumn and Spring), you can possibly benefit from reduced off-season prices on accommodation. It’s also a great time to visit Milford Sound and other hot spots without the packed crowds that the peak seasons attract. 

Avoid school holiday periods if you can
Families from across New Zealand take advantage of school holiday periods to travel and especially to hit the ski mountains in winter. If you have some flexibility over your travel dates, consider avoiding these busy periods to also avoid inflated prices, limited availability, and potential crowds. In 2024, school holiday dates are around:

  • 13-26th April
  • 6-21st July
  • 28th September – 13th October
  • School summer holidays are for five to six weeks and range from the end of December to late January or mid February. 

Don’t overlook campgrounds and holiday parks
Everyone’s definition of luxury can be different. There are some great campground and holiday park accommodation options with nice private rooms that ticks this box! A great example is Driftaway Queenstown (Bonus: park guests also get a discount on their picturesque private hot tubs). If you are planning on living van life, you can’t miss a night at Milford Lodge’s Rainforest Campervan Park for an affordable stay in Fiordland National Park.


Think like a local
If you’re not a total foodie and are looking for hearty meals that won’t break the bank, we suggest you locate the local Queenstown-Lakes Weekly newspaper or read it online to find the daily deals on offer at nearby restaurants. With this method you can discover deals like Taco Tuesday deals and special discounts on drinks for a limited time.

Make your meals an experience too by shopping for your food at the local supermarket or farmers markets to reduce the cost. New Zealand has a huge, rich farming and agricultural heritage so you’ll be getting some amazing farm-to -plate local produce and meats. You can also take your own ingredients to a lakeside public BBQ and have an outdoor dining experience in the fresh mountain air that money can’t buy.

Five star views
Similar to an outdoor BBQ, take full advantage of Queenstown’s five star views during meal times. Find some delicious and affordable takeaways or food truck meals and take it to eat on Lake Wakatipu’s beach in central Queenstown (you’ll see many people doing the same in evenings), at a high point for sunset like Queenstown Hill, or aboard the popular BYO food spot Perky’s Floating Bar.

Top FREE and low cost ways to see Queenstown:

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the South Island and Queenstown area for good reason. Not only does it provide a massive pay off of mountain views, but it’s also relatively low cost with thousands of public trails to choose from. Some of the most popular day hikes that don’t require transport from Queenstown are Queenstown Hill Time Walk, the Tiki Trail to Bob’s Peak, and the Ben Lomond Track (demanding). 

Bike trails
One of the best parts about visiting Queenstown is spending time immersed in the stunning scenery. Hiring a bike can be lower cost than sightseeing tours or car hire while also stretching your legs and getting outdoors. Bike trails in Queenstown stretch for miles between hotspots and can offer some more rugged and off-the-beaten-track scenery that is easy to navigate on two wheels. Also consider accommodations that have on-site bikes for guest use; this is common in Wanaka. 

Visit all of the best lakes
They say the best things in life are free, and Central Otago’s collection of freshwater lakes of all sizes certainly supports it. Park up or put your walking shoes on to explore Lake Wakatipu, Lake Alta, Moke Lake, Lake Hayes, or any other nearby lakes.

Cutting costs while on holiday in New Zealand doesn’t have to mean cutting out the fun, the adventure, or the once-in-a-lifetime activities that all we know Queenstown for. There ARE affordable ways to experience luxury in the Southern Alps if you plan ahead and allow for some flexibility. Your wallet will thank you!

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