You’ve probably been thinking about a New Zealand trip for a long time and you want to make the most of it. You want to see as much as you can and have an authentic, relaxing adventure (we don’t think ‘relaxing’ and ‘adventure’ are mutually exclusive).


So, is that best achieved with or without a guide? Whether a guided or self-drive trip is best for you depends on a number of factors, including personality, budget, and your appetite for planning, risk and adventure. Below is a list of four benefits of a guided trip and a list of 7 questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether a Guided trip is the best option for you. Our companion article, 4 Benefits of a Self Drive Trip, will follow.



1 | Someone else does the driving.


This might seem obvious, but in New Zealand, this is a bigger deal than you might think. New Zealand roads are well maintained, but driving here can be a challenge, particularly if you’re unused to driving on the left-hand side of the road. Roads are narrow and winding, sometimes with little shoulder, so you must attend to the road at all times, which is tiring for a visiting driver. New Zealand guides, however, are ‘road trip fit’ and used to the focus that driving here requires, making it a safer option. And if you’re normally the designated driver, there’s no craning your neck wondering what you missed when your passenger is constantly pointing out the window, saying, ‘Wow, look!’ (something you hear quite a lot here).

New Zealand scenery constantly commands your attention, yet so do the roads. © Graeme Murray
New Zealand scenery constantly commands your attention, yet so do the roads. © Graeme Murray


2 | You can fit more into less time.


Not that we advocate the tour equivalent of speed-dating—we’d much rather you take your time getting to know us—but we recognize that your vacation time might be limited, particularly if you’re fitting into a work- or school-vacation schedule. In short, guides know where they’re going and what they’re doing. They know where the great photo ops are and the safe pullover points to take them, the well-timed rest stops, and the baristas serving up the best road-trip brews. Distances and driving times are very deceptive in New Zealand, so with that road fitness, your guides will simply cover more ground more safely in the time you have available.

With a guide/onboard photographer, there's the bonus of finally being in your own vacation photos. © Black Sheep Touring Co.
With a guide/onboard photographer, there's the bonus of finally being in your own vacation photos. © Black Sheep Touring Co.


3 | You get a deeper understanding of the country.


While you don’t need a guide to view New Zealand’s gobsmacking scenery, which is everywhere, a guide gives your New Zealand trip more depth. And if you have a Kiwi guide, he or she can provide unique cultural insights from politics to language differences (we might all speak English, but have you ever used the term ‘gobsmacking’?). A guide can also point out interesting flora and wildlife that you might otherwise miss. Sure you can read about those things in a guidebook, but there’s nothing like talking with a local about his or her homeland. Have a special interest? Your guide can often track it down or gain insider access. Kiwis are very connected (it’s our two-degrees-of-separation thing) and if you say the word, you may well end up stopping by mate Trevor’s place to check out his organic hops farm or wandering through Aunt Susan’s heritage rose garden.

A guide shares his passion for New Zealand's unique eco-system. © Black Sheep Touring Co.


4 | You’re 100% on vacation.


With a guide, there’s no admin to do when you’re here—there’s nothing to confirm, no reservations to make, no timetables to consult, or best routes to debate. Self Drive trips have their own benefits (see our next installment, 4 Benefits of a New Zealand Self Drive Trip), but you do still need to coordinate logistics that can put you in work mode, if just for a short time each day, and take you away from achieving full vacation-vegetation. This can feel intrusive if your vacation time is limited.


And if you’re on a Guided trip with family or friends, everyone gets to be on vacation. There’s no shouldering of responsibility by the pied piper amongst you and no decision-making tension that can arise even amongst the best of travel companions. Your biggest decision becomes whether to order the Sauvignon or the Chardonnay (because, of course, your designated driver is all sorted).

A convivial stop in Marlborough for winetasting © Black Sheep Touring Co.


Your guide is your driver, teacher, personal assistant, parent, and friend all rolled into one. One of our favourite guide memories was when a well-travelled, 60-year-old guest asked, “Will I need my jacket,…*sheepish grin*…Mommy?”. Vacation vegetation achieved.





One of many one-lane bridges found throughout the South Island. © Tourism New Zealand
One of many one-lane bridges found throughout the South Island. © Tourism New Zealand
Are you uncomfortable driving on unfamiliar roads or in countries with unfamiliar signage or that drive on the lefthand side (see image above)?


Do you get anxious driving in adverse weather conditions?


Do you prefer to look out the window and enjoy the view rather than watch the road; are you easily distracted?


Do you like to learn a lot about a country you’re travelling in? Do you prefer learning through locals?


Do you enjoy meeting and socializing with like-minded travellers?


Are you travelling on your own and prefer to share your travel experiences?


Do you prefer to let someone else do all the planning and to take care of all of the logistics when you’re on vacation?


If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to any of these, a Guided trip could be the right choice for you.



A list of our guided and unguided trips can be found on the Tour Types page on our website. If you want to learn more, Contact Us to talk to one of our Travel Shepherds who are always eager to help.