White Island, NZ. Looking into the crater of a live volcano

23rd May 2016

Welcome to Part 2 of the recent holiday to New Zealand with my lovely other half, Ms MM. Last time we looked at ways to reduce the cost of travelling to your destination and renting a car, which does make travel so much easier, especially when travelling any distance is required.

As well as getting to, and getting around, I had a look at cost-effective ways to stay in touch and protecting yourself from potential financial ruin in the event of injury or sickness.

Let’s now look at one of the newer alternatives to traditional hotel and motel accommodation.



A few posts back, I suggested some ways you could make a little extra money on the side. Otherwise known as a side-hustle in the FIRE community.

airbnb logoOne of these suggestions is to consider using your unused, or junk-filled, spare room to host paying guests through Airbnb.

Now I have to admit, I hadn’t actually tried this sort of accommodation before or even know anyone else doing it so I decided that we were going to give Airbnb a go while we travelled in New Zealand.

We stayed with several different hosts, each was different, but they all provided us with an overwhelmingly positive experience.

So I had a bit of a chat with a couple of our hosts to find out more about their motivation to become an Airbnb host and what they can share with anyone considering this as a side-hustle.


The first was Rachel and Alan at Mt Maunganui. They r_entranceprovide a self-contained unit with its own entrance, very modern décor and tasteful furnishings. We felt spoilt with the extra little touches like the Nespresso coffee, home-made cakes, top quality linen, and bottled water in the fridge.

Our first impressions were that if this is what Airbnb can offer, and for such a reasonable price (NZ$84 a night), why would we want to stay in a motel.


The obvious question first, how long have you been an Airbnb host?

Since January 2016, so around 5 months. When we first set it up we had no response for a while so we played around with the ad and our pricing and then started getting bookings.


r_bedroomBefore doing this did you previously had hospitality experience?

No, none at all.


Where did you get the idea to become an Airbnb host?

Our niece travelled to the USA and stayed in a number of Airbnb places and loved it. Her mother suggested it to us as we have the self-contained unit which was empty most of the time. Seemed like a good way to make some extra dollars from something we otherwise hardly used.


Is there a typical guest choosing your place?

No not really. We get kiwis, overseas visitors, young, old. A mix of everyone really.


Your place rates really highly on Airbnb. What’s your secret to getting consistently great reviews?

I think giving a little extra surprises our guests. The coffee maker, cakes in the fridge. Under promise and over deliver is what we strive for.


Do you work full-time as well? How does hosting fit in with your work, and how does it affect your own lifestyle?

Yes, we both work full time so it can be a bit of a handful when we have guests checking out in the morning and new ones arriving later on. Occasionally I have to come home at lunchtime to make up the room  which takes about an hour. The only thing we have really noticed is the amount of washing that needs to be done.


What are the key plusses and minuses of being a host?

No real minuses except sometimes having to stay up late if guests are arriving late at night. We can leave the key out for them (in a locked key box) but prefer to personally meet them on arrival.

Plenty of plusses though. Meeting different people. Some prefer to be left alone and others are happy to have a beer and a chat.


Have you got any tips for someone considering being a host or just starting out?

Go the extra mile. As we said, under promise and over deliver.


Where there any additional costs when becoming a host, i.e. insurance, set-up, fees?

We did upgrade our washing machine to cope with the extra workload. We purchased quality towels and linen too but there wasn’t a huge expense setting up.

In terms of our home insurance, we notified our insurer who noted on our policy that we were operating a bed and breakfast service but it didn’t affect our premium.


What do you recommend your guests do while visiting Mt Maunganui?

Plenty to see and do around this region. Vineyards, climb the Mount, beaches, White Island trip (Ms MM and I did this. Walk on an active volcanic island right up to the crater’s edge. Highly recommended)


Our next stay was in Rotorua with Judy. The accommodation here was a bit different. Judy has a large, modern home with views to the lake. She has two j_bedroomrooms, one with two single beds, and one with a king-size bed, which she offers on a room-by-room basis for NZ$81 per night. We took the king-bed room and her other guest was a French guy who was travelling through New Zealand on his way to begin work in Queenstown.

At Judy’s we shared the living area and bathroom with our fellow guest but this was never any hassle.

Each morning, Judy created the most amazing breakfast of cooked and cold dishes, fruits, cereals and fresh coffee. The breakfast menu changes with what’s in season and what her guests would enjoy based on where they come from.


So Judy, how long have you been an Airbnb host?

Nearly two years. I started in May 2014.


Before doing this did you previously had hospitality experience?

No, but I have worked in a café and customer service business’ before.


Where did you get the idea to become an Airbnb host?

It started when I was providing home-stay visits for tourists on tour packages. There was a company that would set up locals to have a visitor stay for a night and experience ‘living with a local’. I enjoyed doing this but it was a bit infrequent so I looked at how I could get more guests especially during the off-peak times.

I discovered Airbnb in a search and it was so easy to sign up and manage. From signing-up to my first booking was only a few days.


Is there a typical guest choosing your place?

I get all sorts from young backpackers to people over 70, and from all over the world.


Your place rates really highly on Airbnb. What’s your secret to getting consistently great reviews?

Well, my breakfasts always seem to be the highlight. That’s always mentioned in the reviews. But apart from that, I think it’s the welcoming, friendly, easy going environment that people like. It feels like a home rather than just a place to stay.


Do you work full-time as well? How does hosting fit in with your work, and how does it affect your own lifestyle?

I’m retired so this is my job. It’s never been a problem fitting in with my day to day life. I have my family come and visit, and my grandkids come over and everyone fits in together. Some guests enjoy the family atmosphere and others are happy to relax in their room.


Give me your best and worst Airbnb experience?

Probably the worst experience was a couple who stayed who thought it was alright to have an hour-long shower in the morning. They only finished when the hot water ran out. I did point it out to them how inconsiderate this was but they didn’t seem to see it as a problem. I chose not to give them a review at all.


Have you got any tips for someone considering being a host or just starting out?

Be upfront about what you’re offering in your ad. You don’t want guests turning up expecting something different to what they thought they were booking.

Listen to the feedback your guests give and be open to adjusting what you deliver (within reason) if it improves your guest’s experience.

Airbnb offer many tips on delivering a great guest experience so take on board what they suggest. Remember, they have been in this business a lot longer than you.

Use Airbnb referrals to increase your revenue and get free nights when you want to travel. Airbnb will pay you a fee for any new hosts or guests you bring on board.

And finally, having wi-fi internet access is a must these days.


What do you recommend your guests do while visiting Rotorua?

I always ask them what they may already be aware of and what their interests as well as offering suggestions from previous guests’ experiences.


Thanks to Rachel and Allen, and Judy for sharing their host experiences with us, and for providing such an excellent standard of accommodation.

All of our hosts were more than happy to share a drink and have a chat with us, which makes this type of accommodation so attractive compared to a hotel or motel, especially if travelling alone.

Of course, sharing your living space isn’t going to suit everyone but if you are friendly and outgoing, and love meeting people from all over the world, this can become quite a good money earner.

One of our hosts told me how much they have earned from being a host and although I won’t tell you exactly how much, I will say, it’s a pretty good income.

If you’re planning a trip away in the near future, or want to give Airbnb hosting a go, please do click on this link. It’ll give you a AU$28 credit if you’re a guest, and AU$110 if you become a host. Oh, and I’ll get a little credit for next time I go away as well.

Have you stayed in any Airbnb, or similar, accommodation? Or, are you already a host? I’d love to hear your experiences so please do share them in the comments.

Yes, there’s a ton of other ways to travel cheaply, reduce your spending, and still have a great time but I’m not going to cover them here as this is about my trip. What I do recommend is research the b’jesus out of where you’re going before you go. Check out the forums where others share their war stories and hints and tips on your intended destination and avoid the traps that lie in wait for the uneducated and the unwary. It may well save you a small fortune.


My 8 top things to love about New Zealand

And so to conclude this Tale of The Frugal Traveller, here’s the top 8 things I love about New Zealand. If you haven’t been there before, put it on your list of places to go. It’s compact, unique, friendly, unspoilt, and you’ll love it (and I’m not getting paid a cent to tell you this).


  1. Fush n chups – I’ve never actually heard anyone in New Zealand pronounce it thus way, but apparently we do. You can’t beat the quality of the fish served up at virtually any suburban takeaway shop, and at such reasonable prices. Then, take your fush n chups to the nearest beach and enjoy, straight from the paper with a beautiful NZ craft beer………which leads to…..


  1. Buying booze at the supermarket – Coming from Australia, especially Queensland, where the purchasing of liquor can only be done at an approved selling facility, and after taking out a bank loan to afford it, buying relatively cheap, quality booze while doing your weekly shop just seems so……civilised. Which leads me to……..


  1. The wine – yes, yes, Australia may produce some of the best cheap reds, but if you want something with a little more sophistication, or a drop of something white, New Zealand have so much good stuff, at seriously reasonable prices. It would be so easy to become a wino, albeit, a classy wino, living there. Yes, once upon a time, NZ did have wine available in a cardboard box but I reckon those days are truly over.


  1. The scenery – New Zealand is a fairly compact country. Small but perfectly formed perhaps. In saying that, it can take longer than anticipated to travel any distance because NZ roads have…..well, corners and hills, and most roads are single lane rather than multilane highways. In saying that, it gives you more time to enjoy the scenery which can change dramatically hour by hour. Beaches, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, steaming mud pools, green hills, trout-filled rivers, lakes, glaciers, geysers, Hobbits, and sheep. You’ve all seen the photos, and the scenery in the movies, and yes, it really does look like that.


  1. The All Blacks – No, not just a Rugby team. The Rugby team. More than just a national sports team, the ABs are an institution and you will find that many a red-blooded young fellow (and many young, red-blooded gals as well) will aspire to one day pull on the black jersey. How does such a small country consistently beat the world in this sport? Well, have a look at any photo of a new NZ baby, posted on Facebook by a proud father, and see what junior is wearing.


  1. The food – Besides fush n chups, there’s’ the seafood, mussels, oysters, and more fush. Pavlova, kiwifruit, feijoas (look them up), lamb, wild pork and venison, you name it, it’s in abundance and so fresh. And having such cultural diversity, the range of ethnic dishes available is huge. I love Asian food and love nothing more than sitting in a cheap and cheerful Asian food joint, looking around and I’m almost the only European in there. That says to me it’s good food cos they don’t eat rubbish.


  1. The movies – NZ doesn’t produce many movies but by jeeze, when they do, they’re good!! NZ will never become another Hollywood and why would it when half of Hollywood comes to NZ on a regular basis. Even Bollywood has made a number of movies in New Zealand. Don’t just think of “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit”, and “Avatar” (yes, made in NZ), but more local productions like “Boy”, everyone’s fave “Once Were Warriors” bro, and the latest which I’m hanging out for, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. Yup, you can keep your Hollywood blockbusters and give me NZ quality viewing any day.


  1. The people – Friendly is term you’ll most often hear describing New Zealanders and it doesn’t really matter whether they’re living there or anywhere else in the world. Except when you start knocking their food, their wine, their movies or their accent (fush n chups?? Really!!!), then they’re likely to want to give you a slap ‘round the ears with their jandal. But if you don’t offend them, you’ll find kiwis to be about some of the friendliest folks on the planet. Brings a tear to my eyes. 

DISCLAIMER: Although I do live in Brisbane, I am a Kiwi so I have to admit I may be a little biased in some of my points. If you go there, you’ll understand why. It’s choice bro!!


Have you got any clever tips for keeping costs down while travelling? Have any of my suggestions been helpful for an upcoming trip? Join the conversation and share them with us in the comments.

19 thoughts on “Tales from The Frugal Traveller – Part 2”

  1. We rent unused lake cabins every once in awhile in Minnesota – always works out and the places are nice and usually much cheaper than an actual resort

    Love that you took the time to interview the hosts and post about it!

    1. Thanks AE. Log cabins in the wilderness sounds great. In Oz and NZ people rent holiday homes that aren’t being used by their owners in the off-season. Ms MM and I usually go camping in the State parks here. Great facilities and cheap-as. Just go off-season and not on public holidays to avoid the hordes that tend to flock there.

      Yeah, the Airbnb experience is highly recommended by us. Our hosts were all really nice people and am sure are typical of Airbnb hosts.

  2. Thanks for sharing – good to hear you’ve had good experiences with Air BnB, as you say why would you stay in a hotel? Those prices are very good too.
    I loved NZ, the scenery was a stand out for me. Hopefully get back there in the not too distant future.

    1. Stunning scenery is the comment most made by visitors to NZ. I hope you do get back there soon and don’t forget to take note of the tips for keeping your travel costs down 😉

  3. I’ve used Airbnb once before on a long weekend trip and it worked out great. But since my wife works in the hotel industry we usually get pretty good rates on hotel rooms.

    NZ looks awesome. A NZ and Aus trip is a bucket list item for my wife and I. We’d like to take a good month to make the trip worthwhile and see everything.

    1. Hi there GS. It’s hard to pass up the convenience of checking in to a hotel but we really did find no issues with the Airbnb places we stayed at. Check one out next time you stay somewhere where you can’t get the cheap hotel accommodation.

      And do put NZ on that bucket list. It’s well worth it. My recommendation is to hire a camper (RV) and travel around in that. They tend to be a lot smaller than the big US ones so day tripping can be achieved quite easily with the advantage of having your accommodation with you wherever you go. And they’re pretty swish inside too. All the comforts of home.

      Should I be getting paid by NZ Tourism for all of this travel advice I’m handing out???

  4. Thanks for the great summary of Airbnb and NZ. We haven’t used Airbnb yet (nor will for a while – not going travelling any time soon) but I’m sure we will try it sometime.

    I really want to visit NZ one day, I’d love to go there for a month or even longer..


    1. Cheers Tristan. I’m always surprised at how many Aussies have never been to NZ considering it’s so close and reasonably priced. Do Bali and Thailand really appeal that much? I love those places too but NZ is so different to anywhere we have in Oz. It’s well worth the trip and can be done reasonably cheaply.

      My recommendation……Go just off-peak. Weather is still great and less tourists so the usual traps aren’t too crowded.

  5. New Zealand has been one of the top entries on our vacation wish list for a while. This post absolutely reinforces that desire. It looks like an absolutely beautiful place and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the people.

    1. Pack your bags and get on down there, James. You won’t regret it. And the US-NZ exchange rate is pretty favourable for you guys at the moment.

      Actually, I think I’m going to start up as a full-time NZ tourism promoter.

  6. Sounds like a great trip.

    A few years ago, we went through VRBO and rented a beautiful cabin in Durango, CO. We continue using vacation rentals rather than hotels whenever possible. We like the extra space, privacy, and being able to prepare our own meals.

    Haven’t made it to New Zealand, but it’s on our bucket list

    Thanks for the review.

    1. Thanks for your comment FS. Vacant holiday homes in fabulous locations, house swaps, couch surfing, there are so many other options out there for holiday accommodation besides the traditional hotels and motels.

      My suggestion, move the NZ trip up the bucket list to near the top. It’ll be well worth it.

      Actually, I’m looking forward to all of the stories from everyone once you’ve been there 🙂

  7. Great interviews and info on Airbnb. We’ve never used them, but have used VRBO and have, for the most part, had good luck. The last place we stayed was a 3 bedroom home in Arizona – it was fantastic and the cost was less than that of a hotel. Plus, I like staying in places with a kitchen so we can buy our own food and cook.

    1. Hi Amanda and thanks for your comment. When you say “for the most part, had good luck”, does that mean you have some stories to tell about places that haven’t measured up? If they’re good, do tell.

      I agree that having a kitchen is a good idea as eating out 3 meals a day can get pretty expensive.

      1. Yes, we did have one bad experience. We rented a cabin in the Colorado Rockies – I did my homework and read reviews, which were all good. We really loved the location and the cabin was as expected, but my daughter came running down the stairs after she went to bed the first night, screaming that something was flying in her room. Sure enough, we had a bat. We ended up all sleeping in one room, some of us on floor. I contacted the owner, he came out and said he had closed off the hole in the chimney where they came in. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the problem – we still had a bat flying 3 feet over the bed that night. Needless to say, we found another place to stay! We were disappointed since we really liked the cabin. It was still a good vacation and one we will never forget:)

    1. It’s actually on the list of things to do this weekend. It’s being advertised big-time here in Oz. I recently watched ‘Boy’ again with my Aussie GF. She loved it so I think we’re going to enjoy ‘Wilderpeople’. Looking forward to it.

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