Ever thought of hosting couchsurfers? Well my guest this week, Phil Hoover, has hosted 532 people from 97 countries over 38 months and amassed a coffee mug collection second to none.
Have questions about full time travel? I’m always willing to share what I know. I wouldn’t be plugging a mic into my laptop if I didn’t. Hit me up on social media or email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org with all your family travel questions.
Each week I’ll release the next chapter of the book along with a supporting podcast, covering that chapters topics and highlights. Comments and questions are encouraged, so please comment and ask below. I’ll answer any questions either on the podcast or directly to you via email.
House-sits are a great way to visit locations and live like a local on short change. There are literally house-sits all over the globe and you could actually travel around the world on house-sits alone. Not all, but many house-sits involve a pet sit. Pet owners need someone to feed, walk and care for their most loved furry, finned, feathered our scaled friends while they are away for extended amounts of time. I would say that 3/4 of the house-sits that we have completed have been pet sits, dogs, cats and fish, so I thought that I would share some good questions to ask pet owners to make your first pet sit a successful and rewarding one.
Food – How much, how often? Is there anything you should absolutely not give them? If there are more than one pet, can they eat together? Is there a specific place in the house where they eat? Are they territorial about their food? Some animals can be aggressive when they are eating.
Snacks – How many, how often? Are you free to give the pet a snack at will , or does the owner reserve snacks for special occasions, like after a walk? Cat nip?
Water – Usually you will want to keep the water bowel full at all times. You try walking around in a fur coat all day, you’d be thirsty too. Just clarify with the owner, just to make sure.
Physical Activity – Probably the main job of a pet sitter is taking dogs for walks. Again, How many, how far? Are you a runner? Then you may have a niche market. Some dog owners regularly run with their dogs and would like to keep their dog’s mileage up while they are away. Just be clear how far and how fast you should run? Note, I’ve yet to hear of any owner that runs their cat, but you never know.
Veterinary Services – Where should you take the pet in case of an emergency? Does the pet have any upcoming vet appointments you will need to take them to? How should you travel to the vet, on leash, in a kennel? Depending on your arrangement with the owner, you will want to make sure they have a credit card on file to cover any charges for vet visits. Put the Vet’s phone number on the refrigerator to easily find it.
Medications – Many pets have monthly medications they take to keep them healthy, like flea prevention or heart worm pills. Make sure you know how often to give the pet their meds and if it is an extended pet sit, you should mark on a calendar the date of each administration. It’s easy to forget when you last gave a pet a pill after a few weeks go by.
Procedure for leaving the house? Can the dogs and cats stay in the house? Should you keep them in a particular room or are they free to roam? Are they allowed to be on the furniture? Do they run out the front door?
Asking these questions will help ensure you meet the needs of the pet and the expectations of the pet owner. Email the list of question to the owner ahead of your house sit and review their answers before you get to the house, that way you can ask any follow up questions in person. I hope you found this article helpful. Please comment below with your pet sitting experiences or questions.
On Podcast #6 CJ talks with Eric Zimmerman, the owner of Trip Zero, a sustainable hotel booking tool that calculates your vacations total carbon foot print and then offsets your footprint for FREE. Global warming is the single most important topic in the modern day. This was a great conversation about sustainable travel, renewable energy, reforestation, methane gas capture and much, much more. Trip Zero is one of many new companies that are emerging to tackle this problem head on and we’re thankful for that.
CJ mentioned Housecarers annual cost, it is $50 per year, cheaper than 1 nights stay in a hotel.
Vagabonding with a family can be a challenge, testing your patience and problem solving skills everyday. Adding the family dog to the mix adds a whole other level of effort and planning, but life is better with a pet. After all, having a pet decreases your stress levels and helps you live longer.
We travel with a 6 year old English Bulldog named Brutus, fitting name, and we’ve learned a few things about traveling with a dog that we want to share. One, not all hotels are pet friendly, and many like Marriott claim to be friendly, but will charge exorbitant fees per night, upwards of $120 per night, so make sure you do a little research on hidden pet fees. Most hotel websites have the information on their sites, though you may have to dig some. We have been using the Priceline app on our smartphones which has a filter for pet friendly as well as, free breakfast, free parking, wifi, etc. this has saved us a ton of time and money out here on the road. You can find the app at www.priceline.com, bottom right on the home page.
Second, keeping a supply of dog food can be a challenge. Bulldogs are very sensitive to their food and it’s difficult to suddenly change their food on them. Our dog eats a food only found at Petco. We have to monitor his food supply closely and hit Petco regularly since we don’t have much room for extra food. Google maps has been a great resource for finding Petco all over America, though we have certainly hit some patches of the country where there were no Petco’s to be found.
Third, water, especially since our road trip has now taken us into the desert, where we have seen temperatures well over 100 degrees. We make frequent stops for water and bathroom breaks. Remember your dog is walking around with a coat on, they can over heat very quickly, which obviously is not healthy for them. Plus, making frequent stops for humans isn’t a bad thing either. Grab a coffee, stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery, you may never make it back to this spot.
Del Mar Dog Beach
Fourth, exercise. We have found some great places around the country to take the dog, though remember your dog can’t go everywhere and plan accordingly, you don’t want to leave you dog in the car while you hike through White Sands New Mexico. In California we found some fantastic dog beaches, again using Google maps. We recommend the Del Mar Dog Beach just north of San Diego near Torry Pines, incredible, though I’ll warn you there will be hundreds of dogs and make sure you bring plenty of water.
Lastly, make sure you have your dogs medical records with you. We took Brutus to the doggy spa while we went to Disneyland. The kennel will want to see proof the your dog has all the necessary shots to spend the night and if you need to see a vet out on the road, their medical record could be very valuable as well.
P.S clean up after your dog too!
What experiences or challenges have you all had traveling with furry friends?
We’ve now been on this family vagabond journey for 2 months hitting PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN, SD, WY, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA, NV, AZ, NM so far. As I reflect on where we have been and the great things we have seen, I thought I would put together an initial list of what I’ve learned so far.
1. I don’t worry about posting to social media for fear of people knowing I’m not home and breaking into my house. I don’t have a house.
2. You don’t need material belonging to be happy. I have one roller bag, my family has two duffel bags. We have two skateboards, helmets, an American Girl Doll and two backpacks with laptops and cords.
3. Sometimes you just have to step out of the box and go with the flow. Most days we don’t know where we are going to travel to, nor do we know where we are going to stay till around an hour before we get to a destination.
4. Don’t put things off till tomorrow, it may never come. Don’t wait till you retire to go see the world, it will probably be more difficult to check these places out when your old anyway. Related, stop saying someday, today is someday.
5. I only have a hand full of cloths and I respect having a washer and dryer.
6. It feels liberating to not have a plan. “Where are we heading today?” “I have no idea.”
7. You really can save money by traveling, if you stick to a budget. You can’t spend like you’re on vacation.
8. We have no room for anything, so pictures, vlogs and blogs are better keepsakes.
9. The Earth is such a beautiful, diverse environment and we all need to experience it.
10. Motel 6 has a great logo and a great website; their properties suck!
It was a brisk morning in February when my wife brought us the news, we had landed our first housesit in Happy Camp, CA! Happy Camp? I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or this could be hell, comment below if you got that reference. I Google mapped it and I remember thinking, “God, I hope I don’t need to travel anywhere and is there even internet there?” It turned out that I had to take one business trip using the Medford, OR airport, a 2 hour drive and there was just enough internet to keep my work going, though we couldn’t post any Traveling Chimp videos to YouTube.
We drove over the pass, an hour drive on a switch back that closes often do to snow, luckily, they hadn’t gotten much snow this year, though there was quit a bit of snow at the highest altitude. Our ears popped as we descended on Happy Camp, not sure what we would find. On recommendation we stayed at The Forest Lodge http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32472-d271299-Reviews-Forest_Lodge_Motel-Happy_Camp_California.html for the night, where the warm smell of Bermuda raised up through the air, our housesit wouldn’t start till the next morning. We strolled over to the house we would be watching and had pizza with the owners. They were incredibly nice people and told us all we needed to know about the surrounding area, even leaving us maps to find the local spots. They were incredibly hospitable baking chocolate chip cookies for the kids, leaving us recipes for easter, and finding out about an easter egg hunt in the area for the kids!
Happy Camp, CA US Post Office
Happy Camp is located about 20 miles south of the Oregon boarder along route 96, in the Klamath River Valley. It is the Bigfoot capital of the world. There have been more sightings here than anywhere else and the town welcome this fact with open arms. There’s not a lot of business in Happy Camp, but the ones that are here are using Bigfoot in their name, like the Bigfoot RV Camp. The post office even has a Bigfoot statue outside. Every Labor Day the town throws their annual Bigfoot Jamboree http://bigfootjamboree.com/, I’d love to make it back there someday to participate. If it’s anything like their Easter Egg Hunt, it will be awesome. We were super impressed with how good their Easter Egg Hunt was, especially for such a small town. It was probably the best one we’ve had been to.
The center of town has a giant Bigfoot made out of donated materials and assembled by a local artist. Chilear and I wasted no time in taking a selfie in front of it.The town also has a large Native American population (Karuk Tribe) that is very welcoming and have their own museum http://karuk.us/, a must see. There are beautiful hiking trails, hot springs, swimming holes and some of the best white water rafting in the world. Even if you can’t land a house sit here, there is plenty of lodging and camp grounds to fit your needs. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. The people are extremely welcoming and everyone I asked had a Bigfoot story, reference the warm smell of Bermuda above. You probably have never heard of Happy Camp, but if you ever get a chance to check it out, it’s worth the snowy pass.
Did we ever find Bigfoot? You’ll have to catch that episode of Traveling Chimps to find out. Next up Southern California with a stop at Disneyland! What’s the most magical place you have ever visited?
Wow we’ve been to 7 states since the last blog, spending the most time in South Dakota…yup South Dakota…hard to believe I know! It started as a necessity but turned into a blessing in disguise. We ran into an April blizzard so we decided to camp out in Sioux Falls for a few days to wait it out. The Sioux Falls were absolutely magnificent!
We arrived on a beautiful 70 degree day enjoying the falls beauty..while the kids ran around climbing rocks like little maniacs. What transpired was the biggest plummet in weather we have ever witnessed. Our beautiful 70 degree day turned into a knock you over windy 27 degree day in what felt like 2.5 seconds!! Next came the snow!! Wow Mother Nature is full of surprises!
After a couple of days we raced the next storm towards the Badlands National Park, a must see!!!! We were in complete awe of the beauty of the Badlands..the kids were so impressed they actually put their tablets down :)!
Badlands National Park
The pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice. We stopped by the visitors center, which was impressive in and of itself..great museum!! The staff was beyond helpful and even encouraged the kids to become Junior Rangers. The Junior Ranger program is at every national park and is so much fun for the kids. They learn a lot, by completing challenges, and all sorts of other fun stuff. After completing the program the kids were awarded Junior Ranger badges and can stamp their passport at each national park!!
Next we headed for Rapid City, SD to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse! Mount Rushmore was very cool to see and they had a cool movie, narrated by Brokaw, that was just the right length of time for the kids and fantastic facilities, however we were so much more impressed with Crazy Horse! The museum was gorgeous, the staff welcomes you and escorts you right into a quick movie to get some background knowledge before walking into the bigger than you would expect museum. The whole place, floor, ceiling, and walls are covered in wood to give an earthy feel..and you can just feel the passion of Crazy Horse and Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor…his quote
“When the legends die the dreams end. When the dreams end there is no more greatness” permeates throughout.
So off to Yellowstone…we decide it would be a better idea to go through Wyoming rather than up into Montana and back down into Wyoming through the North gate . I must say the drive was the most beautiful and unexpected I’ve ever been on. We ended up climbing Big Horn which was beautiful, exhilarating, and terrifying all at the same time. Late at night we finally found a place to stay in Cody, WY, another great place! We were greeted by T Bone who is so enthusiastic and welcoming…and informative. After chatting us up, he discovers we are headed to Yellowstone…apparently a rookie mistake in April! The roads to Yellowstone are all closed till May because they are impassable with 15 feet of snow!!! Oops guess sometimes you do need to plan things out and not wing it…lesson learned!
What’s the dumbest thing you ever did on a trip? Comment below.
So I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how to make this trip more meaningful, memorable, and maybe a tad bit educational…shhh don’t tell the kids!!! So I scour the internet trying to find ideas and voila notebooking! Ahhh the power of blogs!!! There are so many great ideas on homeschooling blogs and even if you’re not homeschooling you can find such cool ideas for fun with your kids with an educational twist. Kids are always learning that’s what I’m learning! Everything can be a learning lesson.
So on with the notebooking idea. I printed out sheets of info and activity pages off a few different blogs about each state..then as we are about to embark on that state we fill in the pages to learn more about it. After we get there and get to experience things then we go back and write about things we learned, what we saw, and most important what was fun!!! I also left a clear sleeve for each state so we can stick postcards, ticket stubs, and whatever else we collect along the way.
The verdict…..so far we are having loads of fun with it and learning some cool and strange facts I never knew and never knew I wanted to know..hah ha
Did you know you can’t back into parking spaces in Indiana…it’s against the law
Kids had a blast exploring Ohio and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!
Ohio had America’s first hot dog in 1900 and America’s 1st traffic light!
I certainly didn’t know that Akron was the rubber capital of the world
Looking forward to all the weird and crazy things to see and learn…off to look for the two story outhouse that Lincoln may or may not have used!!!!! Illinois is apparently the land of Lincoln.
There’s a lot more to driving cross country than getting in your car with a full tank of gas and Google maps. We’ve actually been working on it for 6 days and we’re still not 100% done with the plan. We know we have to be out of our house by the end of March and we know that we need to be in Happy Camp, CA for our first house sit by April 15th, so we have plenty of time to make the voyage. We plan on spending multiple days in at least two locations, Mount Rushmore/Wounded Knee and Yellowstone National Park, as well a week in Portland, OR. Probably hitting some skateparks along the way too. Our flexibility has us locating hotels in certain areas, but not actually booking the rooms.
We plan on taking the Northern Route hitting, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN, SD, MT, WY, ID, WA, OR, CA, and keeping our driving hours to around 5 hours per day. Motel 6 seems to be our best choice of lodging for both budget as well as pet friendliness, well behaved dogs stay for free. Many hotel chains either do not allow pets or charge anywhere from $10 – $200 extra per stay. I’ve been a long time Marriott Platinum member. I contacted their customer service and was told Marriott charges from $75 – $100, I’ll be rethinking my loyalty.
Having never planned a cross country trip, we looked to Google to find some help and discovered a couple of tools we’d like to share with you. One great tool is My Scenic Drive https://www.myscenicdrives.com It’s a free road trip planer that includes directions, to do list, daily breakdowns and fuel estimates, to name a few features. We adjusted the amount of hours you would like to drive each day and the tool calculated where we should try to stay each night. Very easy to use and best of all, for budget conscious travelers, Free!
My Scenic Drives
The end of our cross country trip is a week in Portland, OR. For stays longer than a day or two, we’re finding that corporate housing and extended stay accommodations can be much more economical, though we did find a site called Airbnb www.airbnb.com with local accommodations at competitive pricing. Locals rent out everything from rooms in their houses, Air Stream trailors in their yards, to full houses and condos. My plan really was to rave about the site, but after trying to book accommodations at several properties, one even having a skatepark in the back yard, with no luck, I’m starting to second guess how cool this site really is. The pricing is pretty good, but watch for hidden fees, beyond the Airbnb fee added on to each reservation of $37 – $68. Many properties charge an extra $10-$20 per person, per night, that adds up quick for a family of 4 with a dog, and we’re finding people are not updating their calendars, so when we try to book, suddenly their not going to be around that week. Also, some folks charge a cleaning fee, around $10 – $20 per stay. However, there really are some interesting properties listed on the site. We would say it’s a great concept, terrible execution. There are a few up and coming sites that may give Airbnb a run for their money, but their inventory is low at the moment.
We’re probably going to just stay at an Extended Stay. You get a full kitchen which enables us to go to the local farmers markets and grocery stores and cuts down on having to dine out, which can get expensive and usually is not as healthy.
Next up – Move our remaining stuff to storage and hitting the open road. What tools have you used to plan a US road trip? Leave us a comment below.