How to get a House Sitting Gig

So we’ve officially been house sitting for a week.

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We’re living in a new country, learning new routines (more on that later), meeting new neighbors. There have been some interesting moments for sure, but all in all it has turned out to be better than I thought it could be. Life without AC has definitely been the biggest adjustment. All of the windows are screens so we have 3 fans pointed on us at night and an ocean breeze during the day, it’s not terrible but it’s pretty steamy at times. I think my body is getting used to it though. Haha.

The people here live a much slower paced life. There’s one dirt road in our town, two grocery stores, a small handful of restaurants. It’s the most simple, laid back community I’ve ever visited. Since it’s so remote and most people don’t have a car there is a fruit and veggie truck that comes by twice a week. He parks out front at 9am and honks his horn to let us know he’s there, then we go out and pick what we want and pay him at the back of the truck. It’s one of my favorite parts so far.

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Some people have been asking me how it works so I wanted to answer some questions about house sitting here.

Is it a paid house sitting job? No, most of the ones I’ve seen online are a free swap. You stay for free and they get a free house sitter, it’s a win win.

How did you get it? I just made a profile and applied with Trusted Housesitters. I think the key is to tailor all of your applications to the particular house sitting job you’re applying for- similar to any job application. Also make your profile look good, put some time into it and be quick to respond to listings.

How many people apply? Ours had over 150 people contact the owner but he only interviewed a couple applicants. Like I said, tailoring your application will really help you stand out. If you just copy/paste the same line that says, “I love pets and I’d love to take care of your dog” and then you apply for a house sit that doesn’t have a dog, that shows you’re not really trying. 

Are you still working? Danny is working full time remotely and I’m still doing illustration and design. So hit me up if you have a custom project in mind ;)

What are your responsibilities? They’re all different, but at our place all we really have to do is be at the house overnight. We turn the porch lights on and off, take care of the chickens, sweep the pool sometimes. There is a house keeper and pool caretaker so it’s pretty well looked after, we’re just here for extra security.

But, why Costa Rica? And why 3 months? We’ve visited Costa Rica twice before and knew that we loved it, and it felt familiar. This house sit in particular was for three months but they all vary, some are just one or two weeks.

 

*extra application tip: you can set up alerts for specific areas that you’re interested in, so when a new listing becomes available you’ll receive an email. It’s important to apply quickly so if you’re serious you should definitely look into that. You can browse for free without paying for a membership, but if you want to sign up with my link you’ll get 20% off member fees (and I’ll get a month for free :) 

 

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Here’s to learning new things and experiencing a different culture, even just for a little while. xo.

How to save over $400 on flights

If you have someone you frequently travel with and want to get half of all of your flights for free (I mean, who doesn't?), then this post is for you.

by kelsey davis design

I just spent way too much time booking our flights to Turks and Caicos, comparing cost breakdowns to see if it's a better value to book with cash or points. I wanted to share my findings with you here because A.) I'd love to save someone else the headache of figuring it out themselves and B.) somehow turning my 2 hours of research into a blog post makes me feel a little bit better about myself.

So, here's the breakdown of how we saved over $400 by booking with points and using our Southwest Companion Pass.

  • Every SW point = 1.5 cents.
  • One flight from OKC to Turks and Caicos costs 14,730 points, plus $103.41 in fees (intl airport fees are steep)
  • Converting points to dollars, it comes out to $411.44 for one roundtrip ticket, fees included.

If we booked using cash instead of points, the total cost would have been $457. So, we already saved $45.56 by using Southwest points instead of paying cash.

Now, in comes the beautiful Companion Pass, which lets your designated partner fly free with you on every trip for *at least an entire calendar year. With your pass, you only have to pay taxes and fees, which varies by country for international flights.

  • $103.41 = cost of reserving your companion's ticket (taxes and fees)
  • $514.85 = grand total for two roundtrip tickets from OKC to Turks & Caicos. (instead of $914, which would've been the cost of two full priced Southwest tickets.. pretty, pretty good!)
  • Plus - in case you're not familiar, you get two free checked bags apiece on every SW flight. Yep, even your companion. We usually carry on, but in those times when you need to bring a lot of sunscreen (Caribbean vacay, y'all) it's nice to check for free.

Now, I was curious about how much we were actually saving by booking specifically with Southwest (because that's how I get my kicks in life, lol) so I looked into how much it would cost for both of us to fly to T&C on a different airline.

The cheapest I could find was a combination of Delta and United, which costs $1,142 for two roundtrip tickets, plus $50 per checked bag (um, plus a 16 hr layover? bye). So, compared to the $514 we spent booking with Southwest, that's $627.15 in savings, not even counting baggage fees! And that makes me so dang happy. We just got our second Companion Pass, so we're going on 3 years of free flights and let me just tell you, it never gets old.

A few things I want to point out:

- These prices are reflective of flying to the Caribbean from the Midwest area. If you live in Florida your ticket will be chump change compared to these prices, on any airline I'm sure. I envy you.

- You do need to get two Southwest credit cards to get the Companion Pass. Although it might seem tricky to juggle multiple cards, we use ours as if they were debit cards. I get on and pay them off a few times per month so that we never have a balance and never pay interest, which is just a personal preference but something I wanted to note.

- The fees that you'll pay for your companion ticket on domestic flights are WAY cheaper. 

* The Companion Pass can last you more than a full year, depending on when you get it. See my post here for more details.

- This post isn't sponsored by Southwest, but it should be ;)

how to save money on flights

Go Here: Bright Bungalows in the New Orleans Bywater

We went to New Orleans last year for Easter and it ended up being an unexpectedly colorful trip. I didn’t know much about NOLA beforehand but I came away loving the laid back vibe and wanting to make a tradition of it and go back every Easter. The weather in April was amazing and there was enough going on with celebrations and parades to feel like we were getting a true NOLA experience without the crazy crowds of Mardi Gras.  We decided to stay in an Airbnb in Bywater (the green garden house below) and I'm so glad we chose that spot! It was just a short bike ride through the newly redone riverfront park to the French Quarter or any of the other NOLA sights, and couldn’t be any cuter with its bright bungalows and corner cafes. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a quieter place to sleep but still stay close to the action.

Airbnb cutie in NOLA

We stayed in a private two story guest cottage with a balcony and free bikes -direct link here. It's safe, clean and comfortable (not to mention adorable), and it has a full kitchen with plenty of room to spread out and make yourself at home. If you've never used Airbnb before, its a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood instead of feeling like a total tourist, and you can use my invite for $40 off your first booking.

NOLA favorites. Cafe Du Monde
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.

Top row is from Elizabeth's in the Bywater- really is a must for brunch. The praline candied bacon and bloody mary were amazing, and I loved my shrimp and grits too!

Bottom row images are from Frenchmen Art Market and I'd definitely recommend it for a nighttime activity. Frenchmen is such a fun area to explore by bike or foot, with tons of restaurants and local music, it's like a hip version of the French Quarter and it can easily keep you busy for hours.

NOLA favorites.

Some of our favorites and my first attempt at a travel video below:

  • The Joint BBQ
  • Elizabeth's (praline bacon)
  • Satsuma (pancakes!)
  • Pizza Delicious (white pie)
  • Magazine Street 
  • Frenchmen Street at nighttime/ Frenchmen Art Market
  • Take the 12th St streetcar and hop off explore the whole way
  • The Zoo has a fun NOLA swamp exhibit
  • The French Quarter, obviously! Catch a parade. Explore the shops. Admire the architecture. 
  • Killer Poboys in the French Quarter
  • Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee
  • Lafayette Cemetary
  • One night you have to Uber to the French Quarter and get a Hand Grenade. Or a Hurricane. Or both.. ;) 
  • Biking and taking the street car are the best ways to see it all

Shout out to all of the 12 year olds on youtube that make how to videos for us middle aged girls just trying to put together a little travel vlog. They make it seem so easy (but it's so not).

The Best Costa Rica Airbnb's (under $200!)

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is spend hours on the internet looking at vacation rentals. (no, for real. I think it's actually a hobby of mine at this point.) I spent so much time browsing that I had a legit Airbnb nightmare last night.. we got there and the bed was missing, the sink was full of dishes, the pool had no water in it.. just a straight up nightmare, y'all. (Ha! I only wish I was kidding.)

I know that for some of you, vacation planning and rental searching is your own personal version of hell. Amirite? Don't worry, I'll happily share the fruits of my labor with you.

Costa Rica is a dream. Wild jungle animals meet miles of beaches, cute little towns, active volcanoes, and friendly people. It's not the place to go for an all inclusive vacation- it's the place to go for an adventure.

I've rounded up some of my favorites that meet most, if not all, of the things on my list. (and they're all backed up by excellent reviews- which I feel is super important when it comes to renting a house in a foreign country)

Costa Rican Airbnb wish list: 

  • Private house with a view
  • Swimming pool
  • Kitchen or kitchenette
  • less than $200 a night
  • Danny wants wifi.. not at the top of my list but I'll admit it definitely makes life easier

Of note: these first 3 options don't have AC, but the reviews all say there is enough of a breeze that this isn't a problem at all. This was our experience as well when we stayed at Mango Valley (pictured at the bottom).

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As if staying in a freaking awesome treehouse wasn't amazing enough, "guests enjoy free 24 hour access to the 12 natural hot and cool springs pools of various temperatures and rainforest trails." And um, hi.. it's only $129 a night. 

Costa Rica airbnb

Private two bedroom villa with everything a family needs on vacation and a shared pool with 3 other villas. Walking distance to Samara beach. $148

Costa Rica airbnb

"Spectacular volcano and lake views from every room" and a spacious balcony. Sold. $118

So I definitely think a tad rustic is the way to go in Costa Rica, but I couldn't resist including a few beautiful modern houses as well. 

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 "Serenity Beach House". $209, gorgeous private pool, AC, full house includes 5 beds.

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Fairly new so not many reviews yet, but so far no one has anything negative to say about this fully equipped, amazing house with open air in the common areas, AC in the 2 bedrooms. $129 and in a gated community close to the beach. 

Costa Rica airbnb

This amazing pool with an absolutely killer view pretty much seals the deal for me. (Open air shower, AC, and modern furnishings aren't so bad either.) $247 -more than we would pay on our own BUT it sleeps 4 people comfortably with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so split between two couples this house is a sweet deal.

Costa Rica airbnb

Infinity pool with an ocean view. AC and comfortable amenities as well as 2 bedrooms. $172

Honorable mention. Very simple cottages overlook the gorgeous Mango Valley, this place is an underrated gem. We stayed here one night because it's 25 minutes from SJO and we had an early flight the next morning- although I wouldn't recommend staying here for your entire trip, you can't beat this gorgeous little pool for $67 near the airport.

Also note: most of these places are near the Province of Guanacaste or Arenal volcano area but we stayed here two years ago in Dominical and absolutely loved it. The view is amazing and we saw a wild sloth chilling right outside our window. One of my favorite moments ever.

Now for the hard part. Will you stay somewhere with views of the valley or steps from the beach? Maybe a little of both? Life is full of tough decisions, isn't it ;) Hope I made it a little easier for you, though. Pura Vida.