We've learned so much about the little details that make our house sits and travels easier and not so overwhelming. Following are some suggestions for sites that have helped us and may be useful to you. These are popular sites with experienced travelers for good reason - they are informative, user friendly, and some are even fun!
Checking out the Hood
Would you like to see a bird's eye view of the neighborhood and surrounds of the house sit that you're applying for? Do you want to see a street view of the exact house that you'll be staying in? You can if you have the address and Google Earth. Google Earth is a free program for PC and Mac users that is easy to use and amazingly comprehensive in scope. We've used this program to see the street view of an upcoming house sit and to familiarize ourselves with the general area. We find nearby parks, bus stops, shopping centers and roads. The images are in 3D and provide views from above as well as from street level. It's the next best thing to being there! You can find Google Earth at google.com/earth. Warning: it's a highly addictive program that may result in hours of virtual travel experiences...
Frugal Travel Guy
The Frugal Travel Guy is the guru of traveling the world at prices you can afford. His site is packed with information pertaining to every aspect of travel. He is a specialist at "churning" credit cards (rotating cards that offer perks) and he offers a free assessment for choosing the most suitable credit cards for your travel needs. His site and subscription newsletter are free and an excellent resource for keeping you informed of the best travel related deals around. You can find him at frugaltravelguy.com.
Maximizing Minimum Time
This resource is specifically tailored to cruising. Have you ever been frustrated to arrive in port only to be handed a map limited to the nearby shopping sites? It is one of our pet peeves. Yes, we occasionally shop, but it is not all there is to visiting the ports of call on a cruise even if that is what the cruise lines will lead you to believe. Looking for alternatives to the cruise line's often over priced excursions but uncertain about venturing off by yourself when your time is limited? We recommend visiting Tom's Port Guides before you leave home. Packed with good information on commonly visited cruise ports, Tom's offers the best advice on how to maximize your minimum amount of time in port. Best of all, his guides are downloadable to IPAD, Kindle and other Wifi formats so you can take them with you.
Travel & Medical Insurance
Is it really necessary? Well, only you can decide that! But if concerns about becoming ill or injured while traveling out of the country are keeping you from traveling as extensively as you'd like then insuremytrip.com is a great place to start researching your options. Offering comparisons of more than two dozen travel and medical insurance providers helps you weed through your options, saves time and, maybe, even some money!
There are times when we need to arrive at a house sit a day or two early for orientation with a homeowner. Sometimes we find better flight schedules or prices to our destination if we book a day or two ahead of our house sit. When this happens we need a roof over our heads but we want it to be affordable. That's when we turn to airbnb.com, vrbo.com, and booking.com. Airbnb.com offers everything from rooms in private homes to entire houses and often at prices much better than a hotel. Vrbo connects you to property owners around the world that offer everything from bunk beds to McMansions. Booking.com offers hotel accommodations and we've saved a few bucks booking through their site.
Finding a flight to your destination of choice is time consuming if you are shopping for the best price and schedule. Actually, sometimes just finding an airline to a particular destination can be a challenge! While there are a plethora of airline sites to choose from, we like and usually use kayak.com and skyscanner.net. Skyscanner is particularly useful for booking with small or budget airlines outside of the U.S.
We manage a good part of our life with the internet. We have to because we don't have a permanent home at the moment! While this is absolutely wonderfully convenient for us, our having dozens of passwords to keep track of and keep secure is not. That is until we found Keypass. Keypass is a free program that encrypts your data. We have it on our laptop and on a thumb drive and use it to keep track of passwords, user names, addresses, due dates, renewal dates, serial numbers and all of the other data of modern day life. Why do we have this information stored in so many places? Because if our laptop is stolen we'd have our thumb drive as back-up. (We never keep the thumb drive in the same location as our laptops.) There are many encryption programs available - the important thing is to secure your data - but if you are interested in Keypass then give it a Google.
We miss a lot of special occasions while on the road. Our family and friends have birthdays and anniversaries. There are holidays and other causes for celebration and we just can't be there. But we try to always acknowledge them and stay connected and that's where e-cards come into play. We use jacquielawson.com. It's easy and keeps track of dates, sends reminders and allows you to schedule card delivery in advance. Interested in animating your cards? Then jibjab.com may be for you. Want to go the traditional route and send a "real" card through the mail? Bluebirdcards.com provides this service. You may not be able to be somewhere in person, but you can be there in spirit!
These are but a few of the e-sources we use. We've included many more in our book "The Housesitters How-to Handbook" and we'll keep you posted as we discover those resources that can help make planning your travel adventures more fun and less stressful.