Does the thought of traveling to the other side of the world with your kids sound crazy to you?
Follow the adventures of Solen and her family who prove that, with home exchange, this is possible!
Solen and James are a couple of adventurers who have grown accustomed to backpacking and road tripping on their vacations. They run a surfing school in Porge en Gironde during the summer and take advantage of the winter months by embarking on voyages in search of the sun. The couple recently became parents to twins and they have maintained their adventurous spirit by taking their children on trips!
Of course, organizing a trip is very different when one is planning to travel as a family with young children as opposed to a couple. Thus home exchange became the best solution for Solen, “Discovering your site a little over a year ago was a huge change for me, and ever since I found your site, my first instinct is to search for homes on GuesttoGuest before searching other rental offers!”
Join us in following their adventures around the world. Here is the story of their first trip: “Traveling to the other side of the world with our kids: discovering New Zealand!”
The family on a trek at Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand’s famous volcanic zone
How did your trip get organized?
For our very first trip with our twin babies we decided to complicate our lives and go as far as possible…. to New Zealand!
Why this destination? We simply wanted to stay warm while it was winter in France (a trip from December 2015 to March 2016)! We chose NZ to avoid getting too hot and to make sure that our babies would be comfortable (the summer in NZ resembles that of France concerning temperatures), for the good sanitary conditions in the country, because it is a country to visit by car (which is what we needed considering the amount of luggage we were carrying), and finally because we had been dreaming of going to NZ for a long time!
While we were there we didn’t do just one exchange! I sent requests to many places, we were flexible about the dates and locations, and out itinerary was built based on the responses we received.
"We had the fortune to vacation in magnificent homes that we would never have imagined to rent!"
How was the process of contacting hosts to organize your exchanges?
All of the conversations we had with our hosts went very well, either via the GuesttoGuest messaging system or by email, and sometimes also by telephone when our arrival date was near so that we could find each other more easily.
Many of the hosts in New Zealand had no experience with the site and I guided them to the best of my abilities to explain how GuestPoints work, the need to pre-approve an exchange before being able to finalize it, or how to turn an exchange into a reciprocal one.
In some cases, when I was trying to finalize an exchange with someone who could not understand a word I was saying (probably due to my English or that they were not very skilled with the use of the Internet? :P), I solicited help from the GuesttoGuest team who finalized the exchanges in record time (ouf!); I really appreciated their help.
Sometimes our hosts preferred not to use GuestPoints but base our exchanges on trust instead; they hosted us a few nights in their home and later, when they plan a trip to France, they can stay with us (a reciprocal exchange that is not simultaneous). This is how we vacationed with Jenny and Malcolm in their home by Lake Rotoiti in January and also how they came to Porge in September.
How did the exchanges go while you were there?
We had the fortune to vacation in magnificent homes that we would not even have thought of renting:
Roger and Napier’s penthouse on the North Island!Voyage Nouvelle-Zélande twins Napier
The cottage of Angie and Alan in Havelock North!
Jim and Anna’s villa in Nelson in the north of the South Island!
Jenny and Malcolm’s home on Lake Rotoiti
In certain cases our host was home while we stayed with them, like with Michelle in Auckland who prepared a room for us and brought out all of her grandson’s toys! We spent many lovely evenings with her and she recommended places to visit in and around Auckland. She gave our babies very classic gifts for Christmas (All Black player figurines and Busy bees – THE toys for New Zealander babies).
At Mount Maunganui we stayed on the first floor of John and Gloria’s home which they reserve for family and friends; we invited each other over for meals, and they even offered to babysit for us so that we could go out to dinner as a couple!
Generally, we always met our hosts. Those who left us their homes always waited for our arrival so that they could show us around the home and exchange last minute details with us before they left.
“I appreciated that I was asking myself less questions, compared to traditional accommodations where we tend to constantly make comparisons.”
How did home exchange influence your vacation compared to a more traditional accommodation?
I created our two and a half month itinerary in New Zealand in function with the positive responses that I received while trying to best connect the dates in between exchanges. We saw some places that we never would have visited if we had not been invited to stay in someone’s home; places we really enjoyed like Havelock North on the North Island or the Lake Rotoiti, near Rotorua.
I appreciated that I was asking myself less questions, compared to traditional accommodations where we tend to constantly make comparisons: geographical location, price, amenities, etc; things that demand a lot of time. It is different when dealing with a home exchange; if we make a request and it is accepted we simply seize the opportunity and the process is completed in a much simpler way.
Tell us what you were able to visit and appreciate during your vacation 🙂
We have so many good memories!!
During our stay at Jenny and Malcolm’s home, near Rotorua: we visited Wai-O-Tapu, the geothermal park rich in colors
During our stay in Havelock North, at Angie and Allan’s home: Our hike at Cape Kidnappers
During our stay in Nelson at Jim and Anna’s home: kayaking in the Abel National Park
Bonus question: what is the best memory that you took away from home exchange trip?
Our most beautiful memory from this road trip in New Zealand was going from discovery to discovery – seeing new environments, meeting the hosts and staying in their homes, and the occasional home surprise… We booked homes that did not have images on the website and when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by just how amazing a few of these places were. When we arrived at Glen’s home in Wellington we discovered that we had an amazing view of the bay, one that we could fully enjoy thanks to the balcony and huge bay windows!
Thank you Solen for taking us along during your trip with your family!
Find more information on her blog, Trip and Twins, as well as her advice for traveling in New Zealand. We will see you again on the next blog covering their adventures in Australia!