One of the ways of minimizing the cost of a trip like this (I'm summarize them all in a post later in the year) was the idea of home swaps. Up until recently it's been very much a theoretical proposition, though one that is built in to our budget! Having looked at a number of different sites, we had been slowly coming round to the idea that it would remain theoretical. It seemed that there was no really good match out there for us, and in any case the awkwardness of our requirements would have excluded us from normal home swappers.
But we took a few pictures of the house, and signed up to homelink. I had heard them on the radio a few months back, and I liked the sound of them. It's an international group (they claim to be the biggest) but very importantly each country has its own local grouping and management. This is what makes the difference. I was able to pick up the phone and talk to Marie in Dublin and get all my questions answered before I decided to commit. Due to a minor problem with their web site (don't use Firefox) I couldn't pay online, but Marie went ahead and uploaded my profile (trusting me to ring back the next morning with my credit card details).
I hadn't even made it into the office today when a phone call came in from our first potential match in Australia. It didn't quite suit, but the important thing about homelink is that if you have the time, you can enter into correspondence with any other member and tell them in detail what you're looking for. Because we have still got 8 months to before we're off, I'm feeling a little more confident that we'll find something to fill the three gaps in our programme: Sydney, NZ North Island (tbd) and NZ South Island (also tbd).
More on this as I learn about it.