Our First House Sit – TrustedHouseSitters.com

What is house sitting?

You live in someone else’s house whilst they’re away and look after it. There might be a pet to look after (if you’re lucky) and some simple household chores, like collecting the mail and watering the plants/garden.

The benefits for the house owner are that their house is occupied whilst they’re away and if they have pets, the pets can continue to live at home, rather than in kennels.

The benefits for the sitter? If you love pets, you get to look after a pet, bonus, and you get free accommodation. Double bonus.

Requests go on every day from all over the World. The assignments vary from a few days to a few months.

Want Discounted Membership?

If we refer you, you get 15% off your membership and we get a month for FREE. Once you’ve joined, you can refer people too, and get your own FREE months! We need to send a special referral email to you, so comment on this blog or drop us a line with your email address and we’ll get the ball rolling!

Our Tips On Responding to Requests

TrustedHousesitters.com send out a daily email with new sitter requests and this is when we look carefully at the locations and dates the sitters are needed. The most popular destinations and dates will always attract lots and lots of responses. We stick to these rules to help us stand out against the competition:

Respond Quickly – We always read the daily email as soon as it arrives and respond to the requests we’re interested in. Finding a sitter is another task on a huge list for the owner to complete before they travel. If you can help them tick that one off quickly, it’s a load off of their mind.

Personalise the Response – It’s too easy to copy and paste the response you sent to that owner in Barcelona with the cat, to the owner in Malaysia with a bird, saves you time, right? People can see through the copy and paste, catch all responses. If it’s not personal, you don’t want it enough. We always address the person by name and when referring to the pet(s), we use their names too. The owner needs to know that you’re going to treat their pet as a part of the family, just like they do. Tell them why you really want to house sit for them, and if it’s for a pet, then tell them why you want to look after their pet too. Tell them what experience you have and what you plan to do whilst you’re there. We always makes sure that they feel they’re ok to respond with a list of questions too, whatever it takes for them to feel happy.

Keep Your Profile Up to Date – The owners will be able to review your profile when you respond so make sure it is up to date. If it’s not up to date, they won’t get the information you want them to get. It’s like sending an old CV in response to a job posting. Get it? We always include the important bits from our profile in our response anyway. They’ve got the best bits straight away and to hand that way. We’ve uploaded pictures of us and our Cockerpoo, Teds. People like to picture who they’re talking to. Keep the photos simple though, no crazy party photos, especially house parties, go for head shots or close full body shots. Keep your clothes on.

Don’t get Disheartened – You’re not going to be accepted for every house sitting assignment you apply for, so deal with it. It’s not personal. Take it as experience at applying and move on to the next request. As we’ve said, some of the most popular destinations, like Sydney at New Year, will attract hundreds of responses. Imagine having to syphon through all of those messages and choose one person.

Be one of the first to reply and stand out, be remembered.

Our House Sit

Where: Sutherland, Sydney, Australia

When: December 2014 – January 2015 (Yes, Sydney, over Christmas and New Year, for FREE)

About Our Sit: We stayed in a two bedroom apartment, south of Sydney City Centre. It took us about forty minutes on the train to get to all of the main City’s attractions. The trains are double deckers, two storey trains, crazy I know,, but loads of space, we always got a seat! Even on NYE on the way home after midnight, seats galore.

We had the pleasure of looking after Jasper, a little Jack Russell who loves walks and attention:

Apart from our dog, Teds, back at home, he’s the cutest dog we’ve ever seen!

We met with Jasper and his owner a few days before we were due to house sit, so we could make friends. He loved us and we loved him!

For almost three weeks, we were his adopted parents and he seemed very happy about that!

We spoke to Jasper’s owners about their alternatives to TrustedHousesitters.com and they said that the best offer they had apart from kennels was a friend of a friend who would come by for an hour a day for $600 for three weeks. Yikes. It looks like we saved them a packet of cash too.

Jasper had a routine so we tried to stick as close to that as we could, so he wasn’t disrupted in any way.

We took him to all of his usual haunts and we took him to new places too! He warmed to us from day one. He would often climb up and snuggle on Lois’ lap in the evening and go to sleep.

One day, when we were walking, a huuuge pit bull type dog came running towards us with his teeth out, Jasper literally jumped into my arms. It was nice to know that Jasper realised that we were his protectors!

The apartment was great and it was ours for almost three weeks. We had spent so long in bunks in hostels, that it felt like luxury to have our own place, our own double bed, our own kitchen and living room.

It was bliss.

We made sure that we kept Jasper’s owners up to date with his adventures and sent them pictures a few times so they could see how happy he was with us.

By staying here we saved ourselves three weeks worth of accommodation costs, we managed to cook for ourselves, saving money by not eating out and some nights, we just stayed in and watched a film on the TV, saving money by not being forced to go out because some hostels have no common areas.

Our membership for TrustedHousesitters.com cost the same as two or three nights accommodation in Sydney would have cost. Staying with Jasper for three weeks recovered our membership costs within days.

We miss Jasper, but it was really nice to spend a few weeks with him. We wore him out and he wore us out!

Thinking about house sitting? Drop us a line with your email address and we’ll refer you and you’ll get 15% discount!

Ryan and Lois

 

Fraser Island – Self Drive Tour

We wanted to see Fraser Island whilst were in Queensland, and who wouldn’t? The Island is awesome. It’s the World’s largest sand island, without bitumen roads.

There’s a couple of ways to see the Island; you can go across on a ‘tag along’ tour, where you and fifteen others pile into three 4×4’s and take it turns to drive. There’s one tour guide in the front 4×4 and the rest are just like you. Has it’s advantages, but you’re crammed in a 4×4 with a group of people you don’t know and it’s hot and room is limited.

Not for us. We just spent three nights on a Catamaran touring the Whitsundays, which was epic, but we were stuck with 26 other people and found some of them a little annoying. We wanted some time to explore on our own.

We hired our own 4×4 which came with some camping equipment, included the barge fee and the cost of a camping permit for the island.

We used Fraser Dingo 4WD Hire – we’ll complete another post about what we think of the company and the value for money they did or didn’t provide. You’ll have to read that post to see what we thought.

We arrived at the 4×4 rental centre just after 0800. It’s on a small industrial estate near Hervey Bay Airport. We signed the paperwork and watched a DVD about how to drive on sand, what to do if you get stuck and when and where to drive. This took about forty five minutes all in all.

The owner showed us around the 4×4, a Jeep Cherokee, called Little Miss Sunshine, and pointed out a few things, like how to change from 2WD to 4WD.

We left the office with an hour to spare to get to the Barge at River Heads. We stopped at a supermarket and picked up a drink and an ice cream. It’s already in the mid twenties. We stocked up on food the night before, to take to the Island with us. We were camping overnight and had a small camping stove.

We drove the 3km to the barge terminal, which took no time at all, the barge doesn’t leave for another hour. We swapped our voucher in for a return ticket at the office. We were first in line for the barge, actually, we were the line.

We got a spot on a bench at the water’s edge. Lois sunbathed and I read a book out loud so she could hear.

There’s a sign at the barge terminal that tells you what to do if you get attacked by a Dingo… I read it twice.

Basically, a fox clearly mated with a stray dog at some point and the Dingo is the result.

The barge arrived from Fraser with a small amount of traffic on board and as soon as they disembarked, we were on.

Being first in line meant first on the barge. What I didn’t realise until this point, was that everyone had to reverse on. So there we are, in a 4×4 we’d known for barely an hour, never driven one before, and I’m first to reverse down a ramp, onto a barge, in front of about thirty other people.

I managed it without breaking a sweat, of course.

We left the 4×4 on the vehicle deck and took a seat up top. We grabbed a cup of tea and a sausage roll special for $6. The sausage roll was so good, I bought another!

The crossing took around thirty minutes or so, during which I continued to read the book out loud to Lois.

We docked at Fraser Island and everyone rushed back to their vehicles in order to get off. Despite sitting reading a book for thirty minutes, I now realised that I needed the loo, so Lois kept watch over the progress of the disembarkment. Being first on meant being last off.

I ran out of the toilet with about two vehicles to go before it was my turn. Breezed it.

There’s a short dirt track that leads to the sand roads. You could immediately tell who had been to the Island before and who hadn’t, or who was stupid and who wasn’t. There were cautious drivers keeping to the left at about 20mph, then there were the big 4x4s with people who didn’t give a damn, overtaking the steady stream of orderly 4x4s.

We were right at the back, but I was more than happy with that, as I could watch what everyone else was doing and either copy them if it looked right or not if they got stuck!

There was a small crossover vehicle at the front of the queue, full of 60 somethings. I lost count how many times it got proper stuck in the sand. People were digging the sand out from around the wheels, pushing it, putting the footwell mats under the wheels and at one point, towing it out. The majority of the tracks are only wide enough for one vehicle, so if someone’s stuck, everyone’s stuck. We took the opportunity to eat chocolate biscuits and take selfies.

I hate to think what damage the owner did to that vehicle.

The trick is to keep moving, the sand is really dry and really deep. As soon as you stop, the weight of the vehicle buries the wheels in the sand. Getting out again isn’t impossible, but it is a challenge.

It took us a lot longer than we anticipated to get to Central Station, because of the traffic jams! We parked Litte Miss Sunshine in the shade under a tree and headed off for Basin Lake.

Our plan for the two days was set by the hire company, as the tide times dictated when we could drive on the beach, Fraser Island’s Highway..

The walk took about 50 minutes, on a small track through a wooded area. We were spooked by noises in the trees, probably worrying that we were being stalked by Dingos!

When we got there, we had the whole place to ourselves:

Pretty impressive, right? We think so.
The walk back seemed to take less time, maybe because we were slightly down hill and maybe because we were talking about plans for the future, time seemed to fly by.
We stopped for lunch at the picnic area when we got back to Central Station. We had planned soup… Which meant a saucepan, a travel stove and a few bowls. The flies and ants were unbearable, so we ate quickly.
We were only there for about twenty minutes but the smell of our hot soup had attracted a Dingo and it’s mother. Thankfully, they were quite shy and didn’t come too close.
A short drive along some pretty awesome sand tracks and we reached Lake McKenzie:
An absolutely stunning place, although there was a tour bus of people there when we arrived, they left shortly after, leaving this whole lake and beach to just the two of us. So we did a bit of swimming!
When I say swimming, I mean posing… Once we were done here, we had to head to the camp ground, driving after sunset isn’t allowed/advised.

We got to the ‘campsite’ at Central Station at around 1730. It was literally just a load of cleared spaces in the woods with a small toilet block. When I say toilet block, I mean a portaloo with wood around it.

We had paid for our camping equipment with the hire, but we had no light…We had to get everything done before sunset. This included cooking and eating dinner and getting the tent up.

The tent was apparently a two man tent. I’m not short, but I’m not that tall.. I couldn’t even lie down in this tent diagonally with my legs out straight. We were in for a fun night.

The sun was well and truly set by 1900. Pitch black, everywhere. Time for bed then. It had been a tiring day..

Within an hour, we’d realised that the fly nets were just that. To keep flies out. We we inundated with mosquitos and small biting bugs.

We did what we could to stop the bugs getting through and tried to sleep.

At about 0100, Lois gasped, which woke me up. Something or someone was outside. Was it a person? Was it a small animal? Was it a Dingo!? We had no idea. We lay as still and as quiet as we could and eventually, after about thirty minutes, the noise stopped and it went away.

We had to be up early in order to get everything in on our plan of action, so we were more than happy to fold the tent up at about 0700 and chuck everything in the boot of LMS.

I counted 17 bites on my right arm alone. They itched like mad. Thankfully, we had some cream to stop the itching, which we applied about twelve times an hour!

Today we drove on the beach! Scary and fun at the same time! Just before we got to Australia, a 4×4 overturned on the beach, kiling an occupant. Driving on sand is like no other form of driving. It’s like dry snow.

Oh and then there were the planes to watch out for…

Not only is the road, it’s also the airport and runway…

We made our way up the beach for about forty minutes and parked up, on the beach, and walked to Lake Wabby. Surrounded by huge sand dunes and again, all to ourselves!

 

From here we planned on going to the shipwreck, but it was rammed full of people, so we continued past it to The Pinnacles:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Then we drove back down the beach to the Shipwreck of SS Maheno, which ran a ground in 1935 whilst on it’s way to Japan for scrap. The ship has a great history, even serving as a hospital ship in WW1 in Europe.

The shipwreck is pretty iconic to Fraser Island:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that was it. Our time on Fraser Island was done. The 4×4 had to be back that night and we had to clean it out and wash it.

It was a busy and expensive few days, but we had made sacrifices elsewhere in order to go. We loved it and would recommend it to anyone!

Then Lois wanted to drive back to the ferry…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic: Bricks and Mortar Style

It’s a term I’d never heard of. Bricks and Mortar. It means a shop, a real one. not just a dotcom.

We went to Albuquerque for two reasons. It was on the way to Texas from Vegas and; Breaking Bad was filmed there. We’re massive fans.

We arrived late on a Thursday evening and planned to leave again late Friday night. We had another 700 miles to go and only a couple of days in which to do it.

We stayed the night in a Denny’s car park after consuming a huge amount of really unhealthy food, for a few dollars, whilst using the FREE wifi.

I had found that there was only one magic shop in the whole state of New Mexico. I wanted something for a trick I was practicing and found the shop using Google. I told Lois ‘It’s just down the road’

That was a white lie, I really wanted to go. It was technically down the road, it was on the same road, it just happens to be a pretty long road. We did pass the Crossroads Motel and another Denny’s that featured in Breaking Bad so that made the journey a little more interesting.

I had a look on the shop’s website to see if it had the particular item I was interested in and spent an hour browsing the tricks and accessories. I noticed that the shop had a theatre too, there were regular magic shows. Sounds fun!

The thing is, we’re travelling, and we don’t have a physical address for anything to be delivered to us whilst we’re on the road. We need to actually go to a shop and pick up the things we want.

The shop is called Max’s Magic Theatre. The owner? Max Krause. Awesome guy. His shop and theatre rates number 8 out of 124 things to do in New Mexico.

We arrived at the shop at about 1110 and Dave, a volunteer, had just opened up shop. It’s just like you’d expect a magic shop to look like. Glass cabinets teasing you with tricks of all varieties, There’s some nice vintage cardistry and magic art on the wall and some curious objects lying around; probably parts of a trick. Max produces and sells his own magic tricks and effects. He’s got some really cool stuff. Some really strong magic.

We asked Dave for a particular magic accessory, and although they didn’t stock it, it didn’t stop him spending thirty minutes on the phone trying to find it for me. I’ve been in the shop for thirty minutes and this guy is bending over backwards for me. This is great service.

I can’t say that I’ve seen a magic shop in England, and if I had, I wonder if the service would be as great?

Ten minutes later, Max walks in, I know it’s Max because I’ve seen his photo on his website. We were about done and ready to leave. We introduced ourselves to Max and we ended up staying another 90 minutes!

I HATE shopping. But this doesn’t feel like shopping. This is a place where I can talk to like minded people about a serious hobby I have and they’re just as keen to talk about it too! Whilst I’m here, I’m seeing some awesome displays of magical skill.

Max asked me some questions about what kind of magic I was into and what I knew and what I didn’t know. I admitted that I struggled with a well known sleight and Max spent ten minutes or so teaching me his way, and he let me film it on my mobile so I could reference it later! Brilliant idea!

Although I didn’t find the item I was after, Max impressed both Lois and I with two of his own effects, that we bought them both. We don’t have a DVD player so Max took them time to explain the secret.

I talk to Max about his theatre and Dave offers to show me around. The theatre, just back from the shop, has tiered seating for around thirty spectators. It’s intimate but that’s just how this should be. Everyone can see everything. I talk to Dave and Max about how disappointed I was that we would miss the show as we were leaving for Texas.

Max, without being pushy in anyway at all, tells me all about the show and why I should stay another day and come to one of his shows.

I really want to. This will be the first magic show I’ve seen whilst we’ve been on the road.

We decide to stay another day for the show and I pick up two tickets for the Saturday night.

We say our goodbyes and we leave feeling that the show is going to be great.

We spent the day time on Saturday finishing off our list of Breaking Bad filming locations, Walt’s House, The Laundry, Jessie’s House and The Candy Lady. Mmm.

The show starts at 1930, but we arrive at around 1900. I wanted to have another look around the shop and chat some more to Max. We’re travelling for seven months, the smartest clothes I have are jeans and a jumper. I felt like I should have made more of an effort, but this is all I have. I made sure I did my hair.

Max made both Lois and I feel really welcome. We felt like his guests. He showed us around the theatre one more time, as it was set for a show and we were first to be seated.

The show was oversold, more people wanted to see it than there were enough seats for! Max ran around and mustered up some more seats and stools. The theatre was as full as it could be.

The show involved everyone in the audience in some way. Max has a great ability to adapt the show to suit the night’s audience. He did an awesome piece of coin magic for two children. They loved it!

I won’t spoil the show in anyway, you should check it out for yourself! Here’s Max’s promo video for the show.

Really impressed with all the staff I met, Max, the shop and the show.

I feel like I left the shop having made a great friend!

Awesome.

The only problem is that I then needed to drive 700 miles to Texas… In a day..

Ryan

Have We Been Kidnapped?

It's 0515. We're bundled into the back of an old van under the cover of darkness.

The foreign driver says 'Not long' in his broken English. He's wearing a sand coloured uniform, with a badge stating only his name and rank.

I can see the Toyota badge on the steering wheel. That's all I know.

There's no sign of other vehicles on the road.

We've had very little sleep. We're a little disorientated. I can't figure out which way we are going. Is this the right way? I'm not sure.

Every time the van turns a corner, the clapped out powered steering squeals in pain. The brakes sound like they're 500 miles past replacement.

I can't see much out of the front window but it feels like we've just turned off the main road, right, and it sounds like we're slowing down. We come to a complete stop and there's silence.

The front passenger door opens and someone gets in. It's a comrade of the driver. They say no more than two words to each other. The passenger looks back at us. Not a word is exchanged.

We drive about five minutes more. I work out that it's about a mile and a third.

We come to a stop again, this time outside a building. I hear footsteps coming towards the van. The doors open and a silhouette figure pulls our bags out and walks away with them. There's more people. They get in the van and sit down, they looked dazed.

The silouhette figure comes back and this time he's smiling.

“BULA!' “Welcome to FIJI”

We've arrived at our accommodation.

 

RVs – The Basics for a First Timer..

“You've driven one of these before, right?” The rep at El Monte said as we walked towards something I can only explain as the size of a bus.

“One of those?” I said, hesitantly nodding towards the thirty foot beast sat on the far side of the car park.

Truth is, when I imagined we'd be renting an RV or motorhome whilst in the USA, I thought more Sooty and Sweep rather than a medium sized apartment on wheels.

The guy showed me around and pointed out a few things that I'd need to know in order to keep this ship sailing for the four or five days we had to get it from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Height and Length

Double check the length and height of the vehicle – Thankfully, the Hurricane had a sticker in the cab with the height on, which was 13'6″, which came in very handy when we got to this tunnel in San Francisco, which was also 13'6″. We got to the tunnel and had no way of turning around. We drove through at about 4 mph. My cheeks were clenched the whole way through.

Our second RV did not have a sticker with the height on it and I didn't realise until after we had left the pick up site. That meant a pricey mobile phone call to the hire company the following day to find out. The guy on the phone said 'I think it's 12 foot' Brilliant. 'I think' isn't good enough. We treated it as if it was the same height as the first one. The insurance on the RVs doesn't cover anything on the underside or on top of the vehicle. The air con unit sits a couple of feet above the roof, so make sure that's included in the height. They're expensive to replace, especially when it's out of your own pocket. We met someone who had hit the aircon unit on a relocation special, ripping the roof up. Their world travel came to an abrupt end with an expensive bill to pay.

Check for Damage

When the rep checks the vehicle over at the rental station, walk around the vehicle with them. Point out every little scratch and dent and make sure it's on the check out sheet. Any 'new' damage when you return the vehicle is on you, and your deposit. I noticed that the rep doesn't check the roof, so climb the ladder and check that everything is in order before you leave. If it's not, go back inside and have the sheet amended. I noticed the the driver's window catch and lock was broken when I got in the RV to leave, so went inside with the foot long catch in my hand and had it added as existing damage. Don't think of it as bothering the staff, think of it as protecting your deposit.

The Waste Tanks

You've got two. Black and Grey. Think Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, both dirty but one is worse than the other.

Black is from the toilet. Nothing in here smells of roses, despite what people might say.

Grey is from the sink and showers. Dirty water but it's not going to do you too much harm.

The best thing is to wear plastic or rubber gloves when handling anything to do with the 'dump', a technical term for emptying the tanks.

Each RV's tanks will be different in size, but the colour coding is the same. You will most likely need to empty these tanks during your journey. I got this job, I wanted to flip a coin but Lois was insistent that I should do it…

We were tricked into buying a 'pre-dump' from El Monte. They charged us $25 and we can return the tanks empty, because apparently we won't find a dump station that charges less than $40 on the road.

This simply isn't true. There are hundreds of low cost and FREE RV dump stations throughout the USA.

We used www.sanidump.com which gives you a whole list of RV dump stations by State, City or Town. It will tell you which ones charge, how much and which ones are FREE. We like FREE. We love FREE. We had this page on our favourites! After that initial sting for $25, we didn't pay for another dump the whole time we were in the USA.

Potable Water

The fresh water that feeds the taps and shower is from a tank. You will probably need to fill it up during your journey, especially if you like to wash your hair as much as Lois does I do. The water has to be 'potable' which is a technical term for fresh or drinking water. Many of the dump stations will supply this for FREE too, but check and double check it is potable. Some RV dump stations will only have water for you to wash the tanks through, which is not suitable for consumption. If they're not sure, don't risk it, go somewhere else.

To Pitch Up or Not?

We didn't stay on a single camp site or RV Park. Not once.

Why would we? We had unlimited use of the generator, which uses a minimal amount of fuel and unlimited use of the LPG gas.

So we didn't have a cable TV hook up, but we're travelling the World! We haven't got time for cable TV!

Some nights we stayed in Shopping Mall Car Parks, some nights we stayed at the side of the road in a quiet residential street. One night we stayed on the side of a hill, and this was the view from the living room window:

When we were travelling across the Country as opposed to staying in a City overnight, we found Flying J's Travel Plazas the best for overnight RV'ing. Most Flying J's have cheap gas, free potable water, a Denny's and FREE wifi. We love FREE. They often have a truck stop on one side, so they're use to and happy for overnight car park guests.

If you google search 'Stealth Camping' there's plenty of suggestions on other places to stay overnight that aren't as obvious; WalMart Car Parks, Camping World Car Parks etc.

Gas

It's not gas though is it? It's petrol, yes, unleaded. These beasts drink unleaded, some of the better ones will give you 12mpg. If you travel through a handful of States, you'll notice, like we did, that the price of fuel varies massively. We saw a whole $1 difference per gallon between Michigan and Texas. Be smart and buy fuel when there's an incentive, like when you dine somewhere or spend money in a supermarket. If you're spending the money anyway, then it's win win.

We used WEBSITE to tell us where the cheapest gas was nearby. It saved us a packet in unessecary fuel costs. Some RV's have fuel tanks that can take 60-80 gallons of fuel. At 50 cents difference, that's a saving of $40 on a full tank. You do the maths.

My personal advice if you haven't driven one of these before is to take your time, make slow and deliberate movement, signal your intentions well. If you're unsure, familiarise yourself with the vehicle in a large parking lot or quiet streets. It might be useful to observe the trucks on the roads, they do this everyday, do what they do.

Good luck!

Ryan

 

 

How to Complain – Effectively

“Is everything ok?”

“Of course it is..Thank you”

You don’t want to make a fuss, do you?

You end up saying thank you, several times, for something that’s clearly not ok.

Travelling or at home, when something’s not right, you shouldn’t keep quiet.

Something goes wrong, something is inferior quality, something isn’t as you expected. Tell someone about it.

Here’s our tips for complaining effectively.

Remain Calm

You want to rip the air hostess’ head off, you want to smash the call bell into the receptionist face and you want to force feed the drivel on your plate to the waiter. We all get those urges, but they’re going to get you nowhere, fast. The person you are complaining to is human too, they will react to these situations in exactly the same way as you and I would. If someone starts shouting and yelling at me, helping them is the last thing I want to do.

You’re angry, tell them you’re angry, annoyed and upset, but don’t show it. There’s a difference in being motivated to resolve a problem and being hostile.

Ask For The Person’s Name

Whether face to face or over the phone, ask for a name and then use it. This works two fold, the person feels like you’re treating them like a person, rather than just an employee and they know that you know their name should you wish to take the complaint any further.

Tell Them You’re Complaining

Don’t let your comments just be passed off as a negative remark. Tell the person you’re speaking to that you’re complaining and you want the situation rectifying.

Keep To The Facts

When relaying the circumstances surrounding your complaint, keep to the facts. Keep it clear and simple for the person you’re telling to understand. You cannot be criticised for stating the facts.

Tell Them What You Want

There’s no point in complaining if you’re not sure what you want someone to do about it. They might need some guidance on how to keep/make you happy. Before you complain, take a minute to think about what you expect them to do or how you want them to respond. If their response isn’t adequate, then tell them.

Check The Law

Consumer Law can be really powerful. If you’re abroad, check to see what the local consumer laws are and how they can help you with your complaint. Google is your best friend.

Something that few people know is that in the UK, we have the Consumer Contracts Regulations. This covers purchases made over the phone, online, from a catalogue or through a TV shopping channel. There is certain information a trader has to supply you at the time or before purchase for example. The best bit is, you can cancel your contract or return purchased items, from the moment you buy them and up to 14 days after receiving them. Find more details on Which.

Whether writing, face to face or on the telephone, keep these points in mind. If you are writing, you may be able to find template letters online to give you a point in the right direction, especially with consumer laws. Another good source for information is Citizen’s Advice Online.

Keep a Record

Whichever way you contact the trader or supplier, keep a record of your contact. If you make phone calls, record the date, time and person’s name if you have it. Calls are recorded and if you supply this information, the call can be retrieved.

Do the same with letters or emails, keep copies of all sent and received letters.

Not Getting Anywhere?

If this approach doesn’t work, then escalate the complaint. Ask for details of a department manager to write or speak to. If you can’t escalate the complaint with the company any further, then think about other organisations that can help.

If you paid with a credit card, then speak to your card provider. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes your card provider jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company. Your card provider will ask for information on the transaction, what the problem is and what you’ve done about it so far. You can approach your card provider at the same time as approaching the trader. You don’t have to had reached a dead end with the trader before speaking to the card provider. There are some limitations however. The item needs to be valued at more than £100 and less than £30,000. You don’t have to have paid the full amount with your card though. Even if you’ve paid a deposit for an item using your card, your provider is obliged to assist. Isn’t that awesome!?

The best thing for travellers is that this Act also cover purchases made outside the UK.

Beware that if there is a third party between you and the trader, this act may not cover you. Amazon Marketplace, Travel Agents and Paypal can all mean you’re not covered for some purchases.

If all else fails then investigate a claim through the small claims court..

Most reputable retailers will want to resolve the problem as quickly as you do.

Don’t suffer in silence, if something’s not right, speak up and get it sorted!

Ryan and Lois

Travel Transport – New York City Subway

The Subway in NYC is overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) who maintain mass transportation for the whole State of New York.

There are some 468 Subway stations set around the 659 miles of subway tracks of New York City alone. There are 6,344 subway cars.

There are 24 lines servicing the City, so getting around is easy when you understand the network.

Get a Metro Card to use the subway. It’ll bring the cost of a single ride down to $2.50. It’ll cost $1 to buy the card, but when you’ve got it, keep it. You can top it up at machines, with cash, debit and credit cards.

If you’re in NYC for more than a few days, it’s probably worth purchasing the Unlimited Metro Card. The Unlimited card can be bought with a seven day or thirty day option and costs $30 and $112 respectively. There’s still a $1 fee to purchase the card.

MetroCard Vending Machines only dispense up to $8 in change in coins, they can accept up to 30 coins of any type per transaction (the coin slot then closes), and credit/debit card purchases must be above $1.

With the cost of a single ride being as much as $2.75, you’ll need to only make 11 journeys on the Unlimited card to be winning. If you’re in the City for a few days, this will be easy to accomplish!

You’ll need your ticket or Metro Card to enter and exit stations.

Subway Stations

With over 6,000 stations throughout the City, you’re not going to be too far from one. Most entrances to subways are on the corners of streets. Most have a green railing and a couple of dome ball shaped lights on posts, if it’s open, the light will be green. If it’s closed or only a part time entrance, the light will be red.

Some entrances are located within private properties, so may not be visible from the street.

Some entrances will only service a particular direction for that station, so check which platform you need. The signs will tell you. Some trains will be ‘express’ and stop at the same platform as the local train. Express trains miss out some stops, so make sure you get on the right train.

There will be a sign on the entrance. The sign will tell you which station it is and which lines it services. It’ll also tell you where the accessible access is located, if available. The signs continue inside and throughout the network. Overhead signs will tell you where your platform is located.

Top Transport Tips

There’s a FREE NYC Subway App and it’s brilliant. It’s basically a Subway map but it’s searchable. It’ll tell you if you need to change, where to change, how many stops you’ll go and give you an ETA. It’s called NYC Subway. Get it.

Wait for passengers to get off before trying to get on. It’ll be easier and there will be more room when you get on.

Wear a backpack at the front or carry it. You’ll avoid being the victim of theft or pick pocketing and you’ll take up less room on the train.

We used the subway non stop when we were in NYC and without hassle. In fact, so far, it’s been the easiest one we’ve used. We felt safe in all stations, but don’t be complacent. You can be the victim of crime anywhere at any time. Keep your valuables with you and know where they are. If something seems odd, trust your instincts. Most stations will also have an attendant in a booth – ask them for help if you need it.

Ryan and Lois

New York in Pictures

Just after touching down at JFK, on our way to the' AirTrain' which connects the airport to the Subway network. We had just spent over an hour looking for accommodation our on phones…She looks surprisngly happy..!
Two of New York's finest…Updating their Facebook status I expect…
The 'Kitchen' at the first apartment in Harlem..
Our first breakfast in NYC, huevos rancheros, it was deeelicious!
The second apartment was a World apart from the first one. It was a studio, the living room doubled as a bedroom, with an awesome pull out bed. We made use of the projector screen for a film too!
 
 

The Lego model of the Empire State Building, yours for only $10,000.

I didn't meet David Blaine at the Empire State Building, but I did take his photo…

Museum of Modern Art:

NYPD Police Museum

Artifacts found at Ground Zero after 9/11. The lump of concrete at the front left contains a service pistol.

Officer Safety Training… I'd give up two days on a weekend for this!

Al Capone's actually Tommy Gun

Houdini's House in Harlem

 

 

The Water Stinks!

You know that smell of rotten eggs, right? You do? How? When have you smelt rotten eggs?

We all know the smell. It’s like a bowl of wet farts.

Iceland’s water is from beneath the surface. Iceland bottle’s its water and sells it. There’s a huge spring underneath.

Iceland obtains 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. 100%. That’s impressive.

The glaciers and rivers generate 80% of the Country’s electricity needs through hydropower. The geothermal fields produce the other 20%.The underwater geothermal fields are what give tourists and local the geothermal spas; pools of hot water to bathe in. The most famous one being The Blue Lagoon, which you’ll find over towards the International Airport, Keflavik. It’s a tourist attraction and will cost between £30 and £135, depending on which package you choose.  Don’t be fooled though, there’s many FREE hot springs around Iceland, a list of the top five can be found online.

Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which gives it some truly unique geographical features; geysers, volcanoes, hot springs and glaciers.  Wherever you drive in Iceland, you’ll pass handful of waterfalls an hour, easily.

Icelandic Glacial bottles its water at source. The water flows underground straight into the bottling facility, without coming into contact with the air at all.

Does the water smell? Yes. Does it smell like wet farts? Yes. Is it harmful? Not at all. The cold water is some of the cleanest in the World. The hot water is perfectly safe to wash and bathe in, despite the smell. You’ll sniff your skin once you’ve washed and realise there’s nothing to worry about.

Ryan and Lois

Iceland – The Golden Circle Tour – Self Guided

The Golden Circle Tour is infamous in Iceland. If you’re a tourist in Iceland, someone would have shoved a flyer in your face about it. I never did find out the Icelandic phrase for “No Thanks” so I just shook my head from side to side instead.

The thing is, you don’t need to pay the 7600isk each (£40) for a tour company to take you to the natural attractions on the Golden Circle Tour.

We punched it into Google and found where each point of interest was and we drove it ourselves! Driving is easy in Iceland. Although you’re on the left hand side of the car and drive on the right, the roads are easy to navigate. There were sections of road when we were driving for miles and miles and we didn’t see another vehicle. Doing it this way meant that we could stop where we liked and do what we wanted when we wanted. Freedom!

Because we were driving the tour ourselves, there were bits we didn’t plan on seeing, so we skipped them. There were other things on our schedule that took priority.

We started the trip after a few days exploring the Country’s capital City, which included the Phallus Museum… Check that out. It’s not a massive museum, but I guess size doesn’t matter there.

The first stop on our tour was Pingvellir (Some people write it as Thingvellir) National Park. It’s about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

There’s a visitor centre located close to the viewpoint at Hakio. The visitor centre has a an interactive exhibition and it’s open 0900-1700. Admission is free. You will have to pay 200ISK (£1) to use the toilets however.

The faults and fissures of the area make evident the rifting of the earth's crust.

The faults and fissures of the area make evident the rifting of the earth’s crust.

Pingvellir is part of a fissure zone that runs through Iceland, sitting on the plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. From the viewing platform at the Visitor Centre, you can stand on the Eurasian Tectonic plate looking over a rift, at the North American plate. Pretty spectacular when you realise what you’re looking at.

Looking out to the North Atlantic Tectonic plate whilst stood on the Eurasian plate.

Looking out to the North Atlantic Tectonic plate whilst stood on the Eurasian plate.

From the Pingvellir visitor centre, it’s a short drive to the Geyser region. Iceland gave the World the word Geyser, which came from Geysir, which is a small inactive geyser on the Golden Circle Tour. At the same spot, you’ll find Strokkur. Strokkur is a geyser, which has erupted every four to eight minutes since the 1960s. It’ll sometimes erupt up to 40m high!

Iceland' most famous Geyser

Iceland’ most famous Geyser

You’ll notice the smell here. The warm water from beneath the earth is full of sulphur, and it stinks. A blog post will follow, all about the smelly water!

You’ll find a visitor centre here too. There’s a small exhibition room, which allows you to experience an earthquake of 5 on the Richter scale. There’s a small gift shop and clothing outlet. There’s a cafe and a restaurant, both of which are pretty well priced. Sadly, there’ no customer wi-fi.

When you do drive here, be careful of the mahoosive speed bump outside. You’ve been driving for miles and miles at 70mph without seeing a single soul and then BAM, there’s a speed bump the size of an elephant with a weight problem.

From the geysers, we drove to Gullfoss. Foss is waterfall in Icelandic, and Gull is the name of the waterfall. Hence; Gullfoss.

Gullfoss is a waterfall on a humongous scale. Photographs really don’t do it justice. There’s a short walk from the car park to the viewing platform. There’s a lower car park for people who don’t want to or can’t walk the stairs. Gullfoss is located within the Hvita river. The waterfall begins with three ‘steps’ and then plunges 11ft before plunging a further 21ft into a 32ft crevice.

The water drops into the 32ft crevice just out of shot, looking like it disappears into the Earth...

The water drops into the 32ft crevice just out of shot, looking like it disappears into the Earth…

When we finished here, we didn’t intend on doing the rest of the Golden circle, as it headed back towards Reykjavik and we were heading East.

We saw some things that were absolutely awesome and all created by the Earth. We didn’t spend anything except money on gas, which is reasonably priced. Our first tank of fuel had a 15% discount anyway, so even cheaper!