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A guide to everything you need for your summer road trip (Image: Tina Tiller)
A guide to everything you need for your summer road trip (Image: Tina Tiller)

PartnersDecember 19, 2023

The definitive guide to your best summer road trip yet

A guide to everything you need for your summer road trip (Image: Tina Tiller)
A guide to everything you need for your summer road trip (Image: Tina Tiller)

Planning to beach hop this summer? Here’s a guide to make your road trips as stress free, fun and delicious as possible.

Road trips are synonymous with the New Zealand summer, but while they’re all fun and games in theory, they can be logistically tricky in practice. That’s why The Spinoff, alongside Z Energy, has come up with a guide to take the stress out of, and inject a bit of fun into, your summer roadie.

With Z stations right across Aotearoa, you’ll never be too far from supplies. As the designated refueller tops up the tank, send the other passengers in to pick up a pie, the lollies, a few pre-ordered coffees, or even the bread and milk for tomorrow morning’s campside breakfast spread. 

For those New Zealanders who have already made the move to electric vehicles, there are a couple of additional steps that need to be taken to prepare for a road trip. Kaye Herrick, Z Energy’s EV experience manager says “it’s a little bit more thinking about where I stop and can I charge my car? Can I grab a bite to eat? Can I slip to the bathroom?”

While the proportion of EV drivers is still significantly lower than those still in petrol vehicles, the numbers of registered EVs in New Zealand has seen huge growth in the last couple of years, and is expected to continue growing. The term “range anxiety” has become well known, with people nervous about being able to get to their destination before running out of power, so it’s important this summer roadie season that refuelling options are available for more than just petrol cars. Herrick says Z is targeting main state highways and urban centres for the installation of their EV charging stations, so that people can have confidence that they can charge both on their journey and at their destination.

“In terms of charging stations, Z currently has 90 charging bays at select retail sites, with more planned for installation in the coming months. All of our chargers are fast or ultra-fast chargers; anything from 50 to 200 kilowatts. On average our customers are charging with us for around 20 minutes.”

But Herrick says even for those yet to make the electric transition, there’s lots to consider when it comes to making your roadie as frictionless as possible. “There’s those functional things too, like checking your tire pressure, washing windscreens, all those little things you just want to do in one clean sweep.” 

But what about all the other important things to consider for a packed-in summer road trip? The kai, the food, the music to keep everyone happy? We asked a team of experts from The Spinoff for their tips.

An electric vehicle charging station at a Z Energy station. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Car games 

You can’t go wrong with a good session of “Who am I thinking of?” to pass the time on a long road trip. I remember the winding drive from Auckland to Ōpito Bay being largely consumed by trying to figure out who Madeleine Chapman was thinking of (Jon Heder), and another trip to Ōnemana spent breadcrumbing clues to Tyra Banks. For the advanced version, you can also play “What am I thinking about” which is a great way to get your nearest and dearest to yell “FURBY???” from the backseat.

Beyond telepathy, you could also brush up on some little factoids ahead of time to form an impromptu car quiz. My personal favourite is “What is the ‘Jay-Jay’ in Jay-Jay Feeney short for?” (Jacqulyn-Joanne), but this particular thematic concern can also be extended to “Fletch” (Carl Fletcher) and “Flynny” (Paul Flynn). You need not prepare at all if you make the quiz questions about yourselves and each other, another thrilling way to either strengthen or implode your most treasured relationships before you’ve even stopped to buy party ice. / Alex Casey


The first rule of road trip snacking, or even just road tripping in general, is to forgo any preciousness you might have about the tidiness of your car. Once you’re over that speed bump the way in which you approach kai on your summer road trip is largely dependent on a few variables: how long you’ll be driving for, who’s in the car, whether you need to get to your destination by a particular time and the route you’re taking.

While I’m a staunch advocate of stopping for kai along the way, I’m well aware that life doesn’t always go to plan. The highly-rated bakery you planned to pop into might be closed or you might realise one third through your journey that no one packed the tent. Knowing this, heading out on your voyage without at least something to nibble on is a recipe for disaster: rumbling stomachs and a tense mood are both things we should do our best to avoid in life. So for the sake of being cautious, a few pre-packed snacks are a must.

Foods I would immediately avoid are crumbly foods (too messy), chocolate (too melty) and Pringles (those slender cans are a safety hazard). Instead, four supplies I’d reach for are water bottles filled with tap water (preferably with ice), really sour lollies, a bag or two of chips the whole traveling troupe can agree on and a punnet of seasonal berries, like grapes, strawberries or blueberries.

The worst case scenario is that you’ll only be able to find a place for hot chips or a pie along your journey – but when that’s your worst case scenario, there’s not much to worry about. / Charlotte Muru-Lanning


The soundtrack to a roadtrip is about the most important opportunity you have to set the mood for what’s to come. It’s very easy to cop out and pick a true crime podcast, but truly, those are empty calories. And depending on how remote your destination is, potentially just sets you up for a jittery holiday. 

When assembling a playlist for a roadtrip, I tend to lean nostalgic. New music discovery is very important, but that’s a city job requiring too much brain power and focus. I think it’s important to have some kind of thesis you’re advancing, a coherent thread that ties it all together. It will help crystallise the drive into memory by fusing a contained body of culture with the boundaries of the trip.

Here’s one I made in 2020, after the nerve-jangling lockdowns had ceased and the country opened up again. At 14 hours it was easily broad enough to get us round the whole of Northland. And by locking into the alt/indie scenes of the 80s and 90s it sonically took us a long way from the semi-dystopian present and into a warm bath of… freaked out post-cold war guitar music. Worked a treat.

With that all in mind, it’s time to pack the car (remember to pack togs near the top so you can grab them for a mid-drive dip), check your tire pressure, fuel or charge up and hit the road. / Duncan Greive

Keep going!