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Summer is ready, are you? (Photo: Getty Images)
Summer is ready, are you? (Photo: Getty Images)

PartnersDecember 22, 2020

The art of packing: Start your summer the right way

Summer is ready, are you? (Photo: Getty Images)
Summer is ready, are you? (Photo: Getty Images)

Emily Writes lists the essential items you need for your family holiday. 

Packing to go on summer holiday is an art and a scientific problem. It involves using both sides of the brain. An emotional and intellectual operation that can make or break your summer. 

If you’re going on a summer holiday don’t let the excitement mean you pack badly. In the rush of Christmas, it’s easy to get your packing wrong. The last thing you need from 2020 is to leave the snacks behind when you head off on a six-hour drive or arrive without a phone charger.  

So I’ve put together an incomplete but important list of everything you need for an almost perfect summer getaway. You’re definitely going to forget something – don’t let it be these essentials. 

Ice packs

If you have children under 10, they will get injured. Like night becomes day, your children will find a way to maim themselves within seconds of arrival. One of my kids tripped over getting out of the car and needed an ice pack. That’s a three-second turnaround for an injury. A new record. An ice pack for a few minutes will fix almost anything if you pitch it right, and the magical powers will stop a four-year-old from flipping their lid.

Noise cancelling headphones and earbuds

Another one that’s great for parents. You can drown out your kids’ fights with some noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs. It’s also great if you’re camping and need to sleep through the DOOF DOOF teenagers, so you can get up bright and early to loudly say “How’s this weather? Beautiful!” at 6am while walking loudly around their tents. 


Yeah, you’ll need a lot of it. According to Southern Cross Travel Insurance, 75% of New Zealanders are considering travelling within New Zealand in the next 12 months. Over a quarter (28%) of New Zealanders cancelled a booked international holiday due to Covid-19. Half of them are planning on replacing it with a holiday in New Zealand within the next 6-12 months. It’s going to be busy over the summer. Remember everyone has had a hard year and they’re trying to relax. 

Drive safely. Don’t stay up past 2am driving everyone in the camp crazy and equally try to keep your kids chill until at least 7.30am. If you can. And I know that’s hard! That’s why we need patience.

Traffic jam at Mount Cook National Park (Photo: Getty Images)

Good towels

I know, how bougie of me. But trust me – in the cabin or motel, their towels will be so threadbare they’ll be sopping wet before you step out of the bathroom. Bring a nice thick beach towel to keep you warm at the beach when the weather turns suddenly. And it’ll be good for getting you from bathroom to bedroom covered when you have sudden guests.

Lots of fruit 

Stop at every roadside fruit stand and shop on your way to your destination. Support local during a hard year. You also need a lot of fruit so you can feed all of the kids around you. Inevitably your children will adopt other kids (or if you’re lucky – be adopted by other kids) and you’ll need double the food you thought you did. Always have plenty of apples so when they ask for ice cream for the 50th time in two hours you can say “have an apple instead”. They won’t have one but offering them fruit instead of a treat will feel like you’ve scored one point back against them. 

Fruits and vegetables at the local market of Oamaru, New Zealand (Photo: Getty Images)

A chilly bin

Long live the chilly bin! The greatest invention since insulin. Or maybe it came before then. Who knows? I just know that I cannot stomach a lukewarm ham sammy and nothing ruins a summer holiday more than food poisoning! Keeping your bottles of water cold on the car trip is also essential. Stay hydrated. 


Slip, slop, slap and wrap always! Take more sunscreen than you need because you’ll end up having to share it with everyone. Strangers appear like sunburnt zombies, hands extended for a squeeze of SPF every time I get the tube out at the beach. 

Insect repellent is an equally important – and equally communal – summer item. While we might not have crocodiles or snakes, New Zealand’s carnivorous beach insects are nearly as malicious. Don’t let sandflies ruin your summer.  


If there’s one thing we know for sure, your holiday is going to be equal parts burning sunshine and equal parts pouring rain – it’s New Zealand! So, be sure to pack a sturdy beach umbrella. They serve an essential role in blocking out evil UV rays from New Zealand’s porous ozone layer. But they also provide fantastic shelter from a tropical cyclone when plugged in the centre of the picnic table. Don’t let the weather get the better of you no matter what it’s doing. 

A mountain of books

There are few moments in the year when you truly get to disconnect from the world. But during that period post Christmas Day there’s honestly nothing more you should be doing than almost nothing. So switch off your phone and pick up a book – these opportunities don’t come along often. And lucky for you, The Spinoff’s books editor Catherine Woulfe has prepared a list of her favourite books of 2020

This will be you on Boxing Day. Just don’t try it with Obama’s memoir or Hiakai – ow! (Photo: Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy, via Getty)


Revenge is a dish best served at a high pitch. One year at a camping site we found ourselves next to a makeshift Boomer commune. They were clearly relishing their no grandkids time and they stayed up till 5am singing ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Freebird’. One of them then peed on the side of our tent. We are now always prepared for retiree escapees – we bring kazoos for the children to sing the song of their people at 6am.

Plastic bags and a water bowl

While I support the ban on single use plastic bags, it has made finding a vehicle to pick up your dog’s poo a lot harder. Don’t get caught out at the beach this summer when your dog decides to take a dump next to a family. Start building up a supply of plastic bags from the dog park dispensers (and the fruit and vege section of the supermarket) now. Then make sure your glovebox is fully loaded and there’s always a couple tied to the lead. 

If you’re taking the pup on a long drive a collapsible water bowl is essential. Ergonomic, thin and light, they tick all the boxes for an easy to pack item. Whenever you stop, pop out the bowl and give the pooch a drink. They also make a decent frisbee. 

Domestic travel insurance

This might be the most important one. Just 11% of New Zealanders purchased domestic travel insurance last year before the outbreak of Covid-19, but a new study reveals 27% of Kiwis now intend to buy it ahead of their next domestic holiday. That’s a good thing. 

Southern Cross Travel Insurance chief executive Jo McCauley said, “Kiwis have told us when looking for domestic travel insurance they want cancellation cover, theft and loss of luggage and rental car excess reduction – so we’ve tailored our product to include these benefits. Many Kiwis taking a road trip don’t often realise that purchasing domestic travel insurance can be more cost-effective than paying for excess reduction directly through a rental car company.”

Southern Cross Travel Insurance has calculated that a customer could pay approximately $90-95 for a seven-day domestic travel insurance policy for two adults aged 35 years-old and two dependent children, which includes cover for their rental vehicle excess.

A colleague booking their summer holiday just went through this process and they’re saving approximately $50 by taking out domestic travel insurance with Southern Cross Travel Insurance instead of what they would have paid for additional car insurance fees through the rental company. Plus they get all the other benefits like cover for lost luggage and domestic pet boarding services if the trip is delayed. Win win!

So have fun, but be safe!

Keep going!