skiing with kids

Winters in the Alps and Using Airbnb to Rent out your Home

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We are back again with our 3rd case study in our TRAVEL MORE series.  This series aims to show you strategies families are using to realize their travel dreams, with their kids.  So far in the series we have talked to a digital nomad family and a family that uses travel hacking to travel for less.

This week’s family really caught my interest because they use a multitude of approaches to travel more and create the lifestyle they want.

Where we come from in Canada, many snow birds hide from the snow in the southern USA.  But this English family heads for the snow each winter and spends half the year skiing in the French Alps, with their children.  Doesn’t that sound incredible?  But that is not the only travel they do in a year.  They also Airbnb their home in England during summer holidays so that they can travel.

Meet the Family Freestylers The Family Freestylers

Mags, Scott, Minnie and Bo are a family of four with a love for adventure and the great outdoors. They spend Winters in the Alps skiing and snowboarding and Summers at home, on the beautiful wild coast of North Devon on the South West of England. They share their stories and travels at The Family Freestylers.

They consider themselves to be a normal working class family that prioritizes adventure and travel to make their dreams come true. They love staying in unusual places, exploring new lands and trying out new experiences. They genuinely believe that through travel and meeting people from all walks of life, living abroad and occasionally going against the grain, that they can teach their kids invaluable lessons while also living life to the fullest.

1. Tell us a little bit about your family and your history with travel.

 

We are a family of 4. We have two girls, aged 7 and 9. We live on the beautiful coast of North Devon and spend the Winter in the French Alps skiing. We also rent our home out on Airbnb during the 6 week summer holidays which enables us to travel.

Travel has always been a passion of ours. Both myself and my husband travelled extensively before having kids. Since having kids, we’d done a lot of European road trips but didn’t take them long haul until they were 3 and 6 when we spent 9 weeks in Australia and NZ. It was this trip that was the turning point for us – it was so easy with the girls and we had such an amazing time that we began to realise longer term travel was what we wanted as a family.

Living in a tourist area in Devon we knew that Airbnb was in high demand during the summer school holidays so we took the plunge & rented our house out during the Summer holidays so we could travel AND make money! We’ve now done this for the last 3 years every 6 weeks during the school holidays. Last year we spent a month in Sri Lanka, the year before we went on a European road trip, driving all the way to Portugal.Devon UK Airbnb

2. We love using Airbnbs when we travel, but have never rented out our house. How hard is it to Airbnb out your house for your summer holidays?  How do you manage the logistics of it all.

The first time you rent your own house out on Airbnb is the hardest! Getting the house ready can be daunting and take a long time the first time round. Sifting through your belongings and de-cluttering takes a lot of time! But it gets easier. We now find it cathartic to have a big clear out before packing up – and you have the bonus that your house is clutter free (ish) for the remaining time.

During your first rental it’s natural to worry about anything that could possibly go wrong! (are they looking after your house? What if they steal something? What if something breaks down?) plus it can feel uncomfortable to think that strangers are in your house. But once you’ve airbnbed your house out a few times the logistics get easier and easier. The Airbnb website is very user friendly, and once you have a few reviews, it’s not too difficult to get bookings.

To read more about renting your house out on Airbnb read my post on how to get started renting your house on Airbnb.  Sri Lanka backpacking

3. Any tips for families wanting to try renting their house on Airbnb?

  • Be upfront with your insurance. We pay extra to have paying guests in our home and just inform the insurance company of the dates.
  • Get good photos for your airbnb profile and include LOTS of information on your home and the local area.
  • Make sure you’ve got a good, reliable tradesmen to call if something goes wrong.
  • A good housekeeper is worth their weight in gold.
  • Never buy white towels and linen – always dark
  • Buy lots of clear plastic clip boxes (we love Really Useful boxes – they’re expensive but worth it) to store your stuff in – it’s easy to see what’s where which is so helpful when packing/unpacking.

The biggest tip though is to START PREPARING EARLY. Create a countdown calendar a few weeks before you depart and schedule all your jobs week by week to relieve stress the last few days before you leave. Remember you’ll be packing up the family as well for your 6 week holiday so it’s not just the house you need to pack up.

You can read more about Airbnb tips in my post 10 Airbnb Do’s and Don’ts.rent your house on Airbnb

4. I also love that you spend your winters in the Alps and rent out your house on a 6-month lease. Is it difficult to find good tenants?

We always use a local estate agent to find tenants, using a tenant introduction scheme. The estate agent then takes care of marketing the property, checking potential tenant references & processing credit checks etc. We pay a one off fee for this service. It means we get quality tenants which is so important when we’re overseas. We can then manage the property 100% remotely. This is not difficult to do if you have solid local tradesmen that you can call in emergencies.

5. The kids go to school in both the UK and the Alps. How do they feel about having two schools?  Have you had any problems with taking them out of school in the UK? skiing with kids Alps

We had a little resistance from the school and other parents initially in the UK. It was commented that the girls would never catch up on the new demanding curriculum in English and Maths. We had to de-role them completely which meant we took a risk that they wouldn’t get back into the same school which was worrying at the time but a risk we were ultimately happy to take.

The girls went to a private Montessori school for their first ski season and whilst this was a lovely introduction for them, they didn’t learn much French. This winter season we took the plunge and enrolled them into French state school, which was brilliant for their integration into the community and fantastic for their French.

Kids are very versatile. They seem quite happy with two schools. Last Summer they slipped back into their old school (yes we did get back in!) as if they’d never left. It was as if my oldest had never left – no holes in her education at all. With our youngest (age 6) we had to work hard on returning to get her reading and maths levels up, but it wasn’t a huge problem and by the time she left again this Winter, her reading was above average. I think the main lesson I’ve learnt is not to worry so much. The kids have surpassed my expectations starting a new foreign school and it’s never as hard as you think it’s going to be.

6. Tell us about some of your favourite trips.

We had a fantastic one month trip to Sri Lanka this Summer. Sri Lanka blew our minds – it’s such a fabulous country. It’s incredibly diverse for such a small country, so we were able to surf, see tons of culture exploring temples, and saw incredible wildlife including witnessing ‘The Gathering’, the largest natural migration of wild elephants in the world (which happens in Sri Lanka every August).

You can read more about backpacking through Sri Lanka with kids here.backpacking Sri Lanka with kids

Another favourite was a 9 week trip travelling down the East coast of Australia and a tour of New Zealand when the girls were 3 and 6. We were obviously limited in our outdoor activities because of their ages but we still managed to create some epic memories like hiking the Abel Tasman national trail, swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura and wild camping on Fraser Island.

Our 6 week European road trip, where we camped in the Dordogne, surfed on the Atlantic coast, drove across Spain and explored Portugal’s wild west coast, was also unforgettable.

7. Do you have traditional jobs or how are you able to move between two locations and take such long holidays?

Neither of us have traditional jobs. We come from a seasonal background. For years in our twenties, we worked summer seasons and winter seasons in the Alps, so have moved around and travelled a lot. We met in the Alps doing Winter seasons – my other half was a pro-rider and DJ and I was a chef. I’d work the summers on super yachts on the Med whilst he DJ’d and surfed the Atlantic coast of France.

We’ve always had jobs we can travel with. We made a conscious decision, even after finishing working seasons 10 years ago, to have jobs where we could work remotely. I can’t ever imagine only having 4-5 weeks holiday a year! It would never work for us! Now we make an income from a London property we scrimped and saved for and entirely renovated when the kids were babies and long term renting our house out in the Winters, plus the Airbnb income we make in the summer holidays. My husband is a music producer working remotely and I write our travel blog.

8. When you are in the Alps, what does a typical day look like for your family?ski family France

A typical day can start by digging out the car and driving the kids to school in -18 blizzard conditions. The girls have 3 hours at school before I’ll either pick them up for their 2 hour lunch break or they’ll eat at the school canteen where they get a 3 course waitress service meal! (French school dinners are supposed to be the best in the world – for entrée, they often have duck a la mousse (duck pate) or veal for a main!). They then have another 2 hours at school and once a week have private French lessons.

I work on my blog 4-5 hours a day and X-country ski or go out on my snowboard when the conditions are good. We live two minutes from one of the ski lifts so it’s easy to get up for a few runs to clear the head between writing.

Kids here only go to school 4 days a week so Wednesdays are free to ski. Yay! Saturday and Sunday we normally ski together.

9. How do the kids feel about your family’s travel lifestyle?

They are too young to realise that their life is not the norm! Sometimes they don’t know how lucky they are. My oldest misses her friends in the UK sometimes but they keep in touch via text, skype or even by letter!  I think the hardest part is packing up their bedrooms so regularly. I make sure we bring a lot of their toys and possessions out each Winter so that their bedrooms feel homey and still theirs. They love the fact we travel the world. In Devon we have a huge world map adorning the wall next to our dinner table. We’re always talking about what countries we’ll be visiting next.travelling with kids

10. What motivated you to choose this lifestyle? What does the future hold?

This lifestyle’s has been naturally with us since our early 20’s from working seasons. After 10 years having kids in the UK and a relatively normal life, we decided that it was a lifestyle we wanted to get back to. Life is for living and we feel we can teach our kids more about life and this beautiful world of ours and the people in it, by choosing a different lifestyle. We’ll be doing a few more ski seasons here in the Alps while the girls become fluent in French. Then we’d love to do a RTW trip for a year and another plan is to spend some time living on a sailboat. As they say in Trainspotting, CHOOSE LIFE!

Read More on Family Freestylers

Are you feeling inspired after reading that interview?  Mags’ zest for life is definitely contagious and I love how they are chasing their dreams.  To read more about this awesome, fun-loving family and their travels, visit The Family Freestylers and also make sure to connect with them on Instagram.and Facebook.

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Winter in the French AlpsRenting your home on Airbnb

 

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