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It's a cause for huge celebration — our 13-month-old protective bubble has stretched to include Australia ... and at last our Aussie friends and rellies are literally pouring into New Zealand and vice-versa.
From April 19, we are free to travel to and from Australia without having to spend two weeks in an MIQ hotel on return to New Zealand ... so crack open the bubbly and celebrate the bubble! It’s worth it.
Having "done time in iso" after our last trip to Australia, I hope I’ll never have to repeat that experience.
Like many others with family in Australia, we made bookings to fly across the Ditch as soon as the transtasman bubble date was confirmed. Both our daughters, sons-in-law and two wee granddaughters live in Sydney, so we can’t wait to get back there. I’m heading over in early May and hubby will join me a little later.
We were last there in January, for the birth of our younger daughter’s first baby and the first birthday of our elder daughter’s child, and to help out with baby-sitting and day-to-day household chores. It was the happiest, most joyful of times but full-on so we were grateful to have a tranquil place of our own to retreat to at the end of a busy day with little people.
In the evenings, we enjoyed many a relaxed glass of wine or beer on the balcony overlooking the rugged coastline between Bondi and Coogee beaches and the famous coastal walkway — great for a sunrise or sunset stroll.
You pay an annual membership fee (see panel) and then stay free, absolutely free.
We arranged a points swap, which meant David and Imy were not locked in to a simultaneous swap with us but could use the points or credits they earned from our visit to stay in the home of any Love Home Swap member, anywhere, any time. Their scope is mainly limited to Australia and New Zealand at present due to Covid-19 but as soon as international border restrictions ease, they will have the choice of thousands of homes in hundreds of countries all around the world.
Many people are under the impression that you need to own a mansion before you can become a member of a home swap club like Love Home Swap.
But from our experience of 13 home swaps — some palatial and some humble — the value is in the homeliness of the experience and all the extras that come with a house that’s lived in ... things like large kitchens and laundries, pantry supplies, cookbooks, beach towels, spare linen, car parks, BBQs, lawns, gardens and even pets, pools, hot tubs, gyms and tennis courts.
Above all, for family groups, there’s room to spread out, inside and outside, with both private and social spaces.
And animal-lovers can search for pooch-friendly home swaps so they don’t have to leave their furry mates in pet-lodges which cost a small fortune.
There are no strict check-in and check-out times, and no exorbitant booking and cleaning fees or demands for deposits months before you travel.
Love Home Swap members tend to share their local knowledge about favourite pubs, eateries, bakeries, coffee shops, art galleries, walks, beaches and boutiques so you get to "live like a local", not like a tourist.
On a couple of occasions, we have been hosted by Love Home Swap members which has turned out to be a huge bonus. In the French Alps, we stayed in a self-contained apartment belonging to a couple who lived upstairs. It was invaluable having access to their local knowledge and generous ski-guiding services. They even pre-booked lift tickets, ski hire and a husky sled ride for us. In the evenings, we often cooked together and shared cosy meals and wine by the fire.
It goes without saying that one of the main reasons home swapping is so popular is the amount of money saved on holidays. Accommodation is a large percentage of the cost of a trip away from home, so when that is factored out of the equation, holidays are much easier on the budget. The end result is that you can take more holidays and stay longer.
As soon as we are free to travel the world again, I have my eye on a private African wildlife conservancy in Kenya with a colonial country house that sleeps 10; a villa in Wakatobi Marine Reserve, Indonesia that sleeps five; and a French château built in 1490 set in 36 hectares of grounds in Limoges, France, that sleeps 12.
And if you are into quirky accommodation, how about a treehouse in British Columbia, Canada; a Mongolian yurt in Essex, UK; a converted church in Edinburgh, Scotland; a windmill in Merseyside, UK; or a glass-floored loft in Amsterdam, Holland.
In the meantime though, there are plenty of outstanding Love Home Swap properties in Australia and New Zealand to entice Kiwis and Aussies ("Kiwaussies") across the Tasman to reunite with family and friends, or indulge in an "overseas" holiday at long last.
• Now the Trans-Tasman bubble is open, have a look-see at what’s available across the Ditch in Australia: https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes/Australia
• There is a two-week free trial and then you choose from one of three Love Home Swap membership tiers starting at around $NZ20 a month.
• Rent a vehicle from Kiwi-owned JUCY Rentals who have been providing reliable and budget-friendly rentals in Australia for over 11 years. https://www.jucy.com/au/en