How to start House sitting as a family

We have completed a couple of house sits through ‘Trusted Housesitters’ and we are so pleased we stumbled across this site. If you are planning overseas travel on a budget, or want to visit a place more in depth then you should seriously consider housesitting.

We joined the site trustedhousesitters.com and paid $139 NZD for a year membership (see below link for 25% off membership), this allows you to apply for housesits or advertise your own home. The house sits generally require you to take care of pets, house plants, and the home.

You will need to build a profile which will help the potential house sitter seeker to get to know you at a first glance, then you are ready to start searching for your house sit. We recommend reading the house sit advertisement thoroughly so you know what you are getting yourself into with the housesit, for instance if you are planning on being out and about constantly, looking after dogs might not be suitable for you.

There are filters you can put in for better search results, so if you are a family package like we are just click on the family friendly filter and that will help you avoid wasted time looking at house sits that won’t be applicable for you. Once you have found one that you are interested in you apply, we are no experts at this as we have only just started out but we have found putting as much information as you can without writing an essay has worked for us. If they like your application they may ask to speak with you over Skype or WhatsApp, so they can get to know you and show you around your potential accommodation.

Our house sits so far have been an absolute blast, we have ended up with amazing houses, beautiful hosts who are now great friends, and great pets who the kids will never forget.

Use this link to receive 25% off your membership https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/refer/RAF241114/

USA – California Road Trip

Days 1 – 4 Los Angeles

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THE FLIGHT – We flew American Airlines Auckland to Los Angeles and the flight was 11 1/2 hours and was one of the better airlines that we have flown with so far. The food and service was great and the flight was early so we arrived 30minutes before we were scheduled to. Our one bug bare would have to be the seats as they were tiny and there was very little leg room, which equals ZERO sleep. However we picked up our airfare for $549 NZD pp which was quite reasonable and would definitely recommend them to anyone flying this route.

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Just arrived in LA waiting for our shuttle to pick us up and take us to our rental car…very tired and jet lagged but excited to explore.

THE RENTAL CAR – We hired a car for 12 days from Dollar rentals and had originally picked a Nissan Sentra for $546.65 NZD which advertised that it had room for…., however on arrival the lady at the desk informed us that there is absolutely no way that we would fit in and that we would need to upgrade to the larger car for $436.16 NZD extra. This was SUPER frustrating and I am absolutely guttered that I made such a stupid mistake (I still secretly think that we could have fitted in). She also tried to sell us multiple other add ons to which I replied very quickly NO thank you. Well I have learnt a very valuable $$$ lesson, over estimate the size not under estimate because if I had of ordered the larger car to begin with it would have costed much less.

This car turned out to be a bit of a dud, the oil needed changing pretty much on Day 2 of our road trip and we had to put air in the tyres everyday, which we found that if you are not purchasing gas at the same time the air costs $1 USD. So we didn’t feel very safe driving it around but we had already gone too far to turn back and get a replacement.

THE LODGINGS – We spent 3 days in Los Angeles staying in Tarzana at the Tarzana Inn, this was a very affordable Motel (around $512 NZD for 3 nights) that included breakfast, a pool, and has very clean rooms. The Motel is also very close to Hollywood and downtown LA, we hired a car but if you didn’t have one it wouldn’t be an issue as there is buses running right by the Motel. The breakfast consists of pastries, fruit, cereal, toast with jam, bagels with cream cheese and coffee juice etc. There is also a deli next door and takeaway shops within walking distance and In and Out is 1km down the road. We were very happy with our stay here.

ACTIVITIES

This was very hard for us as getting to sights seemed impossible! First day we were too jet lagged and then second day there was a Storm with flash flood warnings. However we found our feet on Day 3 and managed to tick off a lot of the sights that we had wanted to see.

Hollywood Sign

Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is a must visit, it is very educational and you can spend half a day here easy. Unfortunately we only paid for an hour parking and our car was parked quite far away as this is a very popular spot to visit, so we only got to scratch the surface. The kids favourite was the satellite, it was the first one to be sent into space.

Hollywood Hill walk

We initially set out on this walk to find the Hollywood sign because the nav directions directed us to roads that were blocked with mud, but instead we decided to walk as far as we could (for as long as we could handle the moaning).

Hollywood walk of fame

Kids were excited when they saw this STAR, they love his movies.

Shopping – Citadel Outlets

This was a day that was raining heavily so we thought we should spend it having a look around the shops, this photo was on our lunch break at Ruby’s Diner.

Venice Beach

In N Out Burger

We were very impressed with the burgers and they are well worth the hype, not so impressed with the fries.

We also stumbled upon The Lego Movie 2 Space Hollywood interactive zone as part of the launch of the movie. This place was FREE and amazing, the kids had an absolute ball. There was dancing pads, Emmets house, photo booths, Lego play and freebies.

The kids have had an absolute ball in LA, we will need to come back again as we have not even scratched the surface of seeing the City.

Camping – Hot Water Beach

Every year we go camping straight after Christmas over New Years, and this year we decided to go to Hot Water Beach for 9 nights. Initially we thought that would be too long and we wouldn’t find enough to do, but boy were we wrong. Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday park is so well set up that once you have finished hitting up the tourist spots there is still plenty to do at the holiday park to keep you busy.

The camp sites are a really good size so if you have a lounge and or a boat you don’t need to worry about fitting in because if you let them know they will give you a big site.

The bathroom facilities are the best we have experienced so far with bathrooms everywhere and they are always kept well stocked and cleaned, the whole time we were there they never ran out of loo paper or paper towels.

Kids cleaning up

The Kitchen facilities are also one of the best we have seen, the main kitchen is very big with lots of space and equipment to use if you don’t have any. There are also BBQ’s spaced out throughout the camping ground and basins to do the dishes for those that do not want to make the trek to the main kitchen.

The shop has all the essentials and is a good place to stock up on ice, bread and milk (we also managed to get fresh rosemary from them for our roasts). The coffee at the cafe is available all day over the Christmas period and is very good quality. Breakfast is available from 7-10.30am and is very reasonably priced and probably the best cafe breakfast we have ever had, we highly recommend the bacon and egg roll which is $8. Dinner is from 4.30-8.30pm and has the usual items found at a fish and chip shop, their crumbed mussels were absolutely delicious and we found ourselves getting 2 every second day.

We do need to warn you that there is very little phone coverage at the camping ground, but coverage is good just down the road at the beach and in town. There is wireless internet in the camping ground, and guests are provided with a limited amount of internet for free, we paid an extra $5 for 1Gb of additional data on top to do a few posts. Apart from that it was a nice chance to log off and enjoy our holiday.

The playground is excellent with the bouncing pillow, basketball hoop, playhouses with slides, swings and a giant chess board (which the older kids loved) where we constantly found them. There is a TV room with a DVD player and Sky TV in the main lounge.

During the Christmas holiday period they run a free kids club programme for all ages in the mornings for an hour and a half, and also family nights every second night. Our six and eight year olds had an absolute ball at kids club in the morning playing games, crafting and making new friends, the whole time we were there they did not miss a day. The family game nights included quiz night, inflatable obstacle courses, water slides and games which were a whole lot of fun for all of us.

New Years Eve and every Saturday in January they have a band that comes to play at the park which was free and really was the icing on the cake for us, they had our whole family up dancing the evening away.

The camp is about a 10 minute walk along a board walk to the beach, we found in the heat with kids it was quite tiring so remember not to leave anything behind at the campground.

We had some spades so didn’t need to hire any but if you need to the camp and shops in Hot Water Beach all have them to hire for $10 with a deposit. We found that there were so many pools already dug out at this time of year that if you stand around for a couple of minutes you will be able to get yourself an already dug hot pool.

Every day we were there was a surf day so if you are a surfing family then you will never grow tired of this place. The best surf is early in the morning before the wind gets up, we would get up at 5:30am to get out for a dawn surf where we would often be the only ones out on the water. A few hours later and the breaks would be full of surfers. We loaded up the truck the night before so we could leave as soon as we woke up. We drove a short way down the beach to where there were some rocks that provided a great left hand break. The surf whilst we were there averaged about 6 foot, but towards the end of our trip we were graced with some very large waves, close to 10 foot, however they closed out very quickly, we managed to catch a few good waves on our last morning.

Hot Water Beach is located in close proximity to a lot of great places that you can venture out to. There are also shuttles running if you don’t want to drive and the times are on a board outside reception and the shop. Tours will pick you up from the camping ground as well.

Cathedral Cove – roughly 10 mins drive

Coroglen Tavern – roughly 17 mins drive

Cooks Beach – roughly 13 mins drive and also has the ferry to Whitianga

Whitianga – roughly 25 mins drive

If you are looking for great camping spot for the family then we HIGHLY RECOMMEND Hot Water Beach, it has literally thought of everything to make your holiday the best that it could be and the nine nights we were there we did not find one day where we were bored.

Cape Reinga & 90 Mile Beach

One of the things we all wanted to do on our trip to Pahia was take a day trip up to Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua, the northern most point of New Zealand. It’s a two and a half hour drive to get there from Pahia, so plan your trip well. We also wanted to drive back down 90 mile beach as well, which is best done at low tide.

So it meant an early morning so that we could get up and visit the Cape lighthouse, and ensure we had enough time to get safely onto the beach and back home before the tide came in.

We stopped in Kaitaia, filled up the trucks, and had breakfast at McDonalds. We were travelling with two other families, they both had four wheel drive trucks, where ours was just a two wheel drive.

There are multiple tours that can pick up from Paihia and surrounding areas if you don’t have a car or don’t want to take your own car, please note also that most rental companies do not allow driving on 90 Mile Beach.

We spent the whole morning walking around Cape Reinga, which has a pohutukawa tree and lighthouse, the views are spectacular so it is well worth the trip.

Cape Reinga posing

This is also a very special place for Maori as this is where their spirits/wairua travel to after their death.

 

After our visit to Te Rerenga Wairua we headed to Te Paki Stream to go board riding down the dunes and have a picnic.

Te Paki Stream – Entrance to 90 Mile Beach from Cape Reinga end

This was fun for everyone in our group which age ranged from 2 – adult, there is a stream that little ones can swim in whilst the older kids and adults surf down the dunes.

Moo playing in the water down the bottom

Please be very careful with children and keep an eye on them as there are generally a lot of vehicles around. The day before we arrived a boy was run over by a vehicle as he got to the bottom of the dune on his board. He needed to be airlifted to hospital.

We then started to make our way down the beach highway, the beach is actually not 90 miles more like 54 miles, it is a lot of fun and makes a nice change to driving on roads. We stopped around halfway to have a swim, surf and a look around the rocks.

Driving on 90 Mile Beach

I have listed a few tips below if you are thinking of taking the trip yourself.

Pack a Picnic

There are not a lot of places to stop to buy food, so if you want to make the most of your time walking around Cape Reinga and spending time on 90 Mile Beach then we highly recommend packing a picnic.

Time the tides right

Research the tides before you leave, especially if you have a 2WD!

Take a board

The sand dunes are sooooo much fun and was a highlight for the kids and adults ;), so make sure you take a body board. If you are going with a tour bus they have these already as part of the package. Pack a spare change of clothes or togs as you will get wet when you go through the stream at the bottom.

DRIVE CAREFULLY

90 Mile Beach is exactly that, a beach, so chances are high that you could get stuck if you don’t have a four wheel drive. Here are some tips for driving on 90 mile beach that will reduce the likelihood of that happening.

  • Don’t stop on the soft sand, or in the running stream
  • Drive at a consistent pace when you have to go on soft sand. You will need to do this to get on and off the beach
  • Don’t drive too close to the water on the beach
  • Keep left and treat the beach as you would a road
  • Be considerate of other users

If you do get stuck there is a good chance that a someone in a four wheel drive will shortly be going past. Give them a wave and they’ll likely be happy to help you out.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting out at lunchtime

It’s important to keep active, even when you have a busy day at work. Today was a nice day, there was no swell so surfing was off the cards. So I hit the local skateboard bowl instead.

I’m by no means a good skater, never have been. I was raised on a farm in Central New Zealand where there was very little concrete to skate on. So this is a very recent activity I have taken up, and it has mostly been because our two boys showed an interest and got skateboards for Christmas one year.

There was a part of me that always yearned to learn how to skateboard, I had at a number of points in my childhood wished that I had a decent skateboard that I could ride. However it always came down to not having anywhere to use it.

Now that I have a good job and plenty of concrete to use, the boys wanting to learn how to skate was my perfect opportunity to relish in the lost chances I had as a kid. So I bought myself a skateboard as well one day when we were searching for a replacement one for Trace. There was a special on at the skateboard store that we just couldn’t turn down, so we got two.

I’ve been practicing a bit, mainly to try to keep up with the kids. Ollies, jumps, and tricks are not my thing. I like just riding and carving, like I’m riding a great wave.

So back to my lunchtime excursion anyway. I work in a town called Opotiki, based in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, in New Zealand. We have a pretty cool skatepark, its often empty during the day when all of the kids are at school, so I can ride around without the fear of running over some poor unsuspecting child on a scooter.

Here is a Gopro clip from my half an hour at the park.

https://gopro.com/v/nr58rLWVa1b9Z