Plans for our 18 week trip to Australia and New Zealand
by Roisin Markham
Well, we joined Homelink International in November 2011, in preparation for our trip in 2012. We have really been on an adventure. My husband Greg works as a trawler skipper fishing out of Rossaveal Harbour in Co. Galway. When he finished up with the herring and mackerel season in April, he got another man to skipper for him for the prawn and white fish season and we started our 18-week trip of Australia and New Zealand with a few days each in Hong Kong and Singapore at either side of the journey.
We have been to Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns (gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest), Port Lincoln, South Australia (the largest fishing port in Australia. A must for my husband!...although we did not do a house- swap there. It's quite isolated.), Perth, Adelaide - we drove from there along the Great Ocean Road to our next exchange on the Mornington Peninsula (Melbourne's Playground) in Victoria, Ayer's Rock (no exchange there) and now Darwin before we do another exchange for a few days in Melbourne and head off to New Zealand. We also have exchanges organised in both the North and the South Island in New Zealand. We will stay in an hotel in Singapore on the way home as we will only be there for two days.
In terms of enjoyment, how would you rate your holiday?
I would have to rate our holiday as high-end, in terms of enjoyment. Every house we've stayed in has been immaculate and well set up with welcoming messages, useful information packs and friendly neighbours/relatives to chat to and to help us out if we needed it. The locations we have stayed in have been very central with easy access to the places we wanted to visit. In Adelaide, we were just up the road from a train- stop and although we had use of their car, we used to go into the city (2 stops, 7 mins) on the train because the children enjoyed the excitement of it all. A lot of people have left a little box of toys for the children to play with, which they loved. Other people's toys are always more interesting!
What about savings?
Our case is exceptional, in that we have been away for so long, so the savings we have made have been enormous. I think that the best way would be to break it down into component parts. Firstly, I should point out that Australia is very expensive, from the basics at a supermarket (milk is twice the price here) to tours and excursions. We have saved roughly AU$1400 a week on accommodation, AU$500 a week on car-hire for a mid-sized car( but then the excess on hire-cars here ranges from AU$3,500 to AU$5,000, so you end up paying the excess waiver of around $20 a day to avoid having to pay that in the event of an accident. Then if you don't bring car-seats for the children, you have to rent those as well...), We have found that a meal for the four of us usually works out at $80 for a lunch. Then if you were staying at an hotel you could include money for launderettes... and all of the other expenses which add up if you're not staying in a house. (These are rough estimates, but if you like, I'm sure you could get exact figures on the internet, if you wish.)
The only real downside is the housework. If you're not a big fan of housework, you may find it a chore. You have to prepare you own house and have it immaculate for the exchangers who are coming. Then you have to leave their house as immaculate as you found it. You may find yourself under pressure to do it all before your flight-time. There is of course, the option of looking on the listing to see if the exchanger has noted “domestic help available”. In this case, you leave money for the exchanger's cleaner to clean the house and do the bed-linen after you have left, before the exchangers come home. Easy-peasy. Otherwise, you'll just have to do it yourself. However if you're staying for a week or two, it's hardly a back-breaker to do one big clean before you leave.
The other thing is that you have to be prepared to put in the time on Homelink sending off requests. It's not that hard, but the main thing is to blitz off lots of requests at a time, working on the law of averages, that the more you send out, the more positive responses you are likely to get. This isn't really a downside, but it's something to be aware of. I would also recommend that people look on it as an adventure. If you get a request from somewhere that you hadn't listed, you might think “ I've never heard of it. I wonder would it be nice? What the heck! Let's do it.” On that basis we are going to be staying in a house in a former gold-mining town in New Zealand. Let's hope we're lucky panning for gold!
Why home exchange rather than hotel option?
The most obvious reason is the savings made by doing a home exchange. In effect, the only expenses incurred are those of maintaining your own home while you are away and the exchangers are at your home; electricity, gas, heating etc.
However, there are a lot of other advantages. When you do a swap, you arrive at another person's house which is all set up like your own, so you can do laundry, cook and all the other basics. Also the kids can have their own rooms, which you would never do travelling with young children and staying at an hotel. You would always want them in the same room as you.
Another advantage of doing a house-swap is that you get a real feel for a place. Most exchangers will have relatives, neighbours or friends who will meet you when you arrive and set you up in the house. That means that you have a chance to get to meet the locals and have a chat about the place and life there. You have a ready-made support network who can answer questions, give advice etc.
Every exchanger also leaves a pack with brochures and maps of interesting things to do in the area for tourists. So you don't have to rush out the first day and look for the nearest tourist office.
Another bonus with doing a house-exchange is that most people will include a car-swap with the home exchange. This means that you also make huge savings on car-rental and the only expense to yourself is to pay to put them on your car insurance for the time that they are in your home, which, is a minimal fee.
We have found that the people who do house exchanges are chatty and interested in both travel and life.
This is merely a very small sample of the many house swap stories from our HomeLink members.
Pat McCarthy (IEW 210107) - "Let sleeping dogs lie"
It was in the Australian outback, not far from Alice Springs, in 2010 that we had our funniest experience in many years of house swapping.
Our laid back Homelink partners apologised on our arrival that they did not have a key for any of the external doors. They never used one! We had already agreed to mind their two dogs, Mollie and Bella. These turned out to be two docile, friendly, old ladies of uncertain lineage and about the size (and temperament!) of small donkeys. The owners explained that the dogs normally slept in the master bedroom with them. But during our stay they would happily sleep outdoors under the Southern Star(s).
All was fine till it came to bedtime. Both of them steadfastly refused to budge from the rugs in the lounge! No amount of coaxing, bribing, threatening or pushing would move them. No option but to withdraw gracefully from the battle and let them sleep in the spot of their choosing. This pair were not going to be pushed around by any strangers. That was OK but next morning we got a strong - and rather unpleasant - smell on entering the lounge. You’ve guessed it. The search was on for a shovel, mop and some strong disinfectant. We had to think of a plan to outwit them.
We noticed that they liked to soak up every last minute of sun by the poolside till sunset. Simple solution - just close the doors before they had a chance to get back in the house. So we happily retired for the night.
About 3 am in the morning my wife woke me to say that she could hear someone breathing heavily in the house. Let us say that a slight bout of panic may have ensued. After all we were miles from anywhere in a house with unlocked doors. Nervously, I reached for the light switch and as I moved my foot towards the floor I felt it landing on something furry. It turned out to be Bella’s tail! She was sound asleep, and so was Mollie on the rug at the other side of the bed. Not only were they both sleeping soundly, but snoring as well. The clever ladies had outwitted us by themselves opening the door from the outside, and claim their rightful place in the bedroom. Mollie and Bella had the last laugh on the intruders in their territory!
Kevin Healy (IE12183) - Greek Exchange:
It was our first night in Athens - and our very first exchange. After enjoying a most delicious dinner prepared by our Greek hosts we decided to go for a short walk in the neighbourhood.
We were staying in a most salubrious area of North Athens - large villas with stunning gardens, each protected by one or more large dogs. It was night-time and the dogs were all on protective duty, all barking furiously as we passed. It wasn't long before every canine for miles around had joined in the night chorus.
After half an hour's walk we decided to head for home and let the Athenians get some sleep. It was then we discovered that we were lost. While we knew our house was on Amynta Road we didn't realise that all the street names were written in the Greek alphabet! - entirely different to English. After much searching - and feeling very foolish - we eventually found a Greek couple who seemed very friendly and helpful. We explained that we were looking for Amynta Road. However, our pronunciation of the road was evidently not the best and it was only after five different attempts at pronouncing the street name that our Greek couple understood our problem and explained that our road was just around the corner!
After that, I kept a photo of the Greek alphabet and its English equivalent on my smartphone.
The only expenses are travel costs.
Fionnuala King and her husband Jim have been swapping homes with families overseas and in Ireland for well over 20 years.
The now-retired couple, who live in Raphoe, Co Donegal, have holidayed in homes in Ireland, England, Germany, France and Belgium, but also as far away as Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. They've been using the Homelink house-exchange website since 1997. "At the beginning, it was a case of perusing the book and then writing countless letters," says Fionnuala. "Now it is all online."
Even with their two children grown up, they rarely find themselves holidaying on their own. "One or other, or both, often accompany us or join us at some stage of our exchange," she says, while other members of their close family will often join them too. "I generally look for an exchange house or apartment that sleeps at least four, so as to have the flexibility of having family or friends join us."
Fionnuala says it is difficult to say just how much they save, but there is no doubting that they save considerably compared to someone renting a holiday home for two weeks.
"A home exchange allows you to stay in a place for a longer time as you don't have to pay for accommodation," she says. "The only expense is the cost of travel and whatever you choose to spend."
In addition, you can cook your own food, "so eating out becomes a choice rather than a necessity". They also generally exchange cars, so that cuts out the huge cost of hiring a car or travel by ferry.
P.Walter - We first heard of the concept of exchanging homes thanks to Meave Binchy's "Tara Road". Having looked at the various web sites available HOMELINK seemed the most professional and with the greatest variety of countries and members.
Once signed up with Homelink we were up and running within a few days.Exploring all the possible destinations for a holiday.
Within a very short period of time we had arranged a Homelink holiday, our first. The advice given in the introduction literature we found was well worth following and contained all the information required. And our Homelink advisor was only a phone call away.
We arranged a holiday in Germany. We had tried many types of holiday in the past but this was definately the best. The children had a great time as our exchange house became a home from home. All of the facilities required for a family, together with local knowledge of when and where to go.Would we do it again.....you bet!
Any advice for those thinking about it?....All advice given is relevant and worth following. We were lucky to meet our fellow exchangees at the airport both before and after our holiday which made it special. We also found email facility absolutely invaluable for communicating across the miles.
Here's to next year!
D.Moffatt - To say we really enjoyed our exchange this year would be an understatement, we have nothing but praise for the whole concept of Home Exchanging. The French family we exchange with had a beautiful house much larger than our own. They left our home in absolutely perfect condition, as we did theirs of course. I would thoroughly recommend exchanging homes with HomeLink, and have done so to family, friends and colleagues. We will definitely, be exchanging homes again, thank you for allowing us this experience.
Please send me a registration form for the next brochure.
Eamonn - Only just back from hols and already planning next year's!! Well - its what keeps us going, isn't it?.
After much agonising last year, we agreed to go to the Czech Republic. brilliant decision! It was certainly different from any other exchange - different culture, different lifestyle, a great learning experience, magnificent buildings (Prague!!!)very friendly people. The things we needed to buy were basic but cheap. As an aside-one great benefit which we have gained from house exchange is the facility for a "double exchange". Almost every year since we began, we have had a visit from friends who were exchanging 5-6000 miles away and/or we visited our friends at their exchange house. As a result, we have been in houses in many parts of Europe. I believe this adds an extra dimension to a holiday.
B.Fennell - How time flies - it's time to re-register with HomeLink for another year. Last year's exchange was the best yet - 2 weeks in a beautiful hill village in Corsica - wonderful in every way and a hotel just couldn't match the ambience, beauty and location of our "holiday home".
We have much pleasure and look forward to renewing our membership.
P.Powell - I am taking this opportunity of sending in our Exchange Agreement form regarding our trip this year. I can honestly say that each of our eight exchanges over the years have all been first class, and we think that all our exchange partners have also enjoyed their stay at our cottage. It is also interesting to note that we have made very firm friends with many of our exchange partners.
If any member would like to make comments or include their stories please forward them to us for inclusion on this page
DISCLAIMER: The comments and stories displayed above are unsolicited, and have been received over time by HomeLink International in written correspondence from its members. Some of these members may no longer hold current membership status. HomeLink is unable to verify the accuracy of any statements or assertions made by its members, and waives any responsibility for same. These are not to be considered a representation as to the likelihood of similar results being attained by any other person in future.
HomeLink Ireland welcomes your interest in our service and in home swapping holidays generally. We are more than happy to assist your story with background industry and historical information, high resolution photos of available homes, and of course, interviews with our members about their home swapping experiences all around the world.
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Thanks a mill for your Newsletter . Excellent update .
I can add to all the people who find the experience valuable ...
Another advantage of Homelink... is it allows us to have a 2 week break in a country we could not necessarily afford to see in these difficult times . We have a sheep farm so we need to pay someone to look after it while we are away etc ...
So Homelink is more relevant than ever! It has also taught me to keep on top of the clutter during the year so it is not so huge before we leave!
Finally, I love the unexpected compliments regarding potential swappers that come through especially when I am having a tough day at work and someone say s “ we love your home”. Suddenly the day is better and I am transported to a beach in France or a villa in Spain and just for a few minutes, there is an escape and an opportunity to see something new !
So keep up the good work .
Margaret Hoctor .
Many thanks Marie...I appreciate so much the great work you are doing with the Irish site. I've had great exchanges since I joined HomeLink, all very positive. My latest trip was a wonderful 2 months in New Zealand earlier this year - 5 consecutive exchanges and no hitches - mind you it did take a bit of planning!
Keep up the good work.
Writer, Judi Curtin and her family have swapped homes several times and indeed the experience launched Judi’s writing career. Her first book, “Sorry Walter”, was based on a house swap.
Judi describes her first swap with a Canadian family based in Vancouver. “We realised all the wonderful things about swapping. There was a trampoline in the garden and a basketball hoop. There were skateboards and scooters and the house was full of DVDs. You’d pay an arm and a leg in a five-star hotel and get none of those things”. Judi describes her Boston seaside exchange as a “wonderful”. The family left loads of phone numbers and people would knock on the door and invite us to their barbecue. Another family took us out on the ocean in their great big yacht. We felt part of the community and it would never be like that in a rented house”
The strangest experience for Judi was in California. They had met the couple the night before in Ireland. The Curtins explained how various things worked in their home including their burglar alarm. They were taken aback when their American hosts informed them that their home in California was left unlocked. However, on their arrival everything was fine and it was quite common for homes in the area to be left unlocked!
We joined homelink 12 months ago and had an exchange in Vancouver last August - it was the most amazing and interesting experience - we are completely sold now! Thanks!!
We have had a wonderful exchange again this year..San Miguel De Allende in Mexico. It was fantastic, we loved it .And our guests here really liked Ireland too, which was great.
Keep up the good work!!
Just a quick note to say how impressed I am with all the new additions to the Homelink website. In particular the percentage response rate to exchange requests on each members page is just a stroke of genius ! Your IT guys have really been pulling out all the stops ……..When people realise this is in effect it should remove the v v v annoying practice of members not bothering to respond to requests.
Secondly I just went to ‘print’ the standard home exchange agreement form of old and that has also been updated. How wonderful ! Looks very professional.
Cant believe that with very little effort this year we have 2 exchanges organised! Ten days in Berlin at Easter and 3 weeks in the Hamptons in Long Island in July …….
It just constantly amazes me why more people don’t do these types of holiday……After our 6 week, 3 exchange holiday in the west coast of the US in 2007 we did ‘convert ‘ 3 neighbours/friends to join up.
Roll on the updates
Marguerite O Connor
Hi we have just finished our first exchange with homelink and it has been a great experience so we are hooked!! Can you tell me how to insure our profile now says we are experienced? I am sorry to say we never sent away the agreement forms to you, but I still have them on file....somewhere I hope!