Family’s trick to travelling for ‘free’
It's something most families would struggle to do financially - jet off on holiday for three months of every year.
But photographers Steve Tognazzini, 32, and Keshia Gesundheit, 30, have developed a clever routine that allows them to do just that with their three young children in tow.
They've turned their home in Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast into a "holiday-funding investment". The money they make renting it out through Airbnb each year covers the cost of their annual overseas adventure.
The young family - including Willow, 3, Humphrey, 2 and four-week-old baby Rudy - are off to Italy for five weeks later this year, where Steve and Keshia plan to marry. The money they earned renting out their property last Christmas will pay for all their flights, accommodation, and car hire for their whole trip.
"Basically we rent our home out for three months and holiday for three months … we always do the Christmas period, from around December 20 to February 1," explains Steve.
"We charge about $500 a night at that peak time. Our families are in Melbourne so we tend to head down there to stay with them during that time."
Last summer the house was booked for 37 of the available 40 days and they made over $10,000 during that period (in previous years they have made around the $12,000 mark).
"We only just opened bookings for the Christmas period this year and we've just booked out five nights, which is $2500 already," he says.
The family loves spending time in Bali where they live quite cheaply, and they like to travel there each winter, using the money that they made over Christmas.
While they are in Bali for winter, they rent their home again.
"We don't get as much over June, July, August as the rates are lower, but what we get from that might pay for a month in Europe around September or October," says Steve.
They have been doing this routine for three years. As well as Bali they have been to Fiji, France and the Maldives. They also spent two weeks in Tassie driving around and camping.
"You can get a camp site for $10 a night while we are making $200 a night renting our place out," he says.
Steve got the idea of using their home to generate holiday funds when he started shooting properties for Airbnb a number of years ago.
"Essentially I had been taking photos for them for the last eight years and it was when I started working for them that I decided this was 100 per cent what we needed to do," he recalls.
"After five or six years we bought our first place and when we did buy it, we had in mind the end goal of living in the property and renting it over holidays and going to see family in Melbourne".
They even designed their renovation with Airbnb in mind.
"After photographing so many properties you know what a trendy townhouse is going to look like and what is going to rent well," he says.
"So many of them have that typical IKEA package kitchen and all look the same. When we were designing it we kept thinking 'would we rent this place if we were travelling here?'"
Steve and Keshia have made a pact that every dollar they earn from their home goes towards a holiday, even though sometimes it's tempting to use the money for their business or other everyday expenses. This way they make sure they enjoy quality time away together as a family.
"We have a photography business together and I am very good at feeling guilty about spending money on travel," says Steve.
"But the money we earn through renting our home out goes straight into a separate holiday account. That way we don't touch it. Then when we book accommodation or flights for a trip, it just comes out of that account."
As the pair have their hands full with a business and three young children, they made the decision to outsource the cleaning and management of the property to Hometime, Airbnb's leading property management service.
"They talk to the clients when we are away," explains Steve.
"They essentially host it and organise the cleaners and things like that. They have a photo of every aspect of the house so we can monitor any wear and tear. If a stain or any damage happens we can see that it wasn't there before. Taking care of the place is really important to us as it's our family home so we put a lot of effort into it. If someone damages something we want to make sure they're accountable for it."
He says it was a bit of an adjustment, having strangers stay in their home.
"It can be a bit unsettling at first … We did have big conversations about it before we started," Steve says.
"You kind of go 'you know what? People are on holiday … they are probably going to have sex in the bed. Who knows what people are going to do on the couch. You have to weigh that up".
Despite the fact Hometime takes a cut of 16 per cent, the couple believes it's well worth it, and using the company makes the transition easier.
"They make sure the plants are watered and things like that, and they can look after any problems during someone's stay if you're elsewhere and you can't do it yourself," Steve says.
"They provide sheets and doona covers so it's not your linen being used. Once we get back from holiday we get a proper bond clean done on the house before we come back into it so we make sure it looks like our home again before the family walks in. That's really important to us."