How to Travel for Less – Free Accommodation Through Housesitting

Things we get asked all the time:

“How do you travel so much?” Specifically, “How can you afford to travel so much?

While not all of these questions are pertinent to this article, there’s one thing in particular that has helped us tremendously: hospitality networks. 

 This is Marta, pretending to be comfortable and warm in the snow. 

This is Marta, pretending to be comfortable and warm in the snow. 

Workaway is one that we’ve mentioned before; it’s helped us visit and experience places we otherwise wouldn’t have. The other key network we’ve been able to tap into was housesitting.

If you’ve never heard of housesitting, or if you’re vaguely familiar with the term – we’d like to give you a rundown of what it is, whether it’s right for you, and how you can get started on some housesitting of your own (and be an all-star at it).

Oh and throughout the post, you’ll find photos of our housesitting experience, with captions or anecdotes to accompany them.

 We stayed in Otford, a town near Sevenoaks in England. We found it to be a lovely, quiet town with nice people, adorable dogs, and nights darker than a Stephen King novel (see any street lights in this photo?)

We stayed in Otford, a town near Sevenoaks in England. We found it to be a lovely, quiet town with nice people, adorable dogs, and nights darker than a Stephen King novel (see any street lights in this photo?)

 

What is Housesitting?

Housesitting entails taking care of someone’s home, belongings, and pet(s) while they’re away, typically on vacation. It’s a mutual agreement between the homeowners and the housesitters that is beneficial both ways. Those housesitting get to live somewhere for free, while those leaving on vacation get to travel worry-free. And, most importantly, that their cute pets are happy and cared for while they’re away.

In short, free accommodation in exchange for caring for someone’s home and pet.

The idea is simple, and relies on a simple principle: trust. So how do you become a trusted housesitter? We’ll get to that part soon enough.

 We would walk Lilly, the homeowners’ dog, to the park everyday. During our short trek to the park, we learned where different things were: where Lilly liked to stop to smell other doggies’ pee, where she liked to cross the road, and where the slightly-murderous cat and pitbull lived (it was around here). 

We would walk Lilly, the homeowners’ dog, to the park everyday. During our short trek to the park, we learned where different things were: where Lilly liked to stop to smell other doggies’ pee, where she liked to cross the road, and where the slightly-murderous cat and pitbull lived (it was around here). 

 

Is Housesitting for You?

While the idea of housesitting is admittedly awesome, it isn’t for everyone. Particularly, it usually means that as a traveler, you have to be relatively stationary for a period of time. Unlike being a tenant at a hotel or AirBnB, where you’ve paid for your stay and have the freedom to stay as much or as little as you want in the property, housesitting may limit the amount of time (hours/days) that you can stay outside of the premises. There are several reasons for this: a pet that needs walking/feeding, a garden that needs watering, a pool that needs cleaning, or any combination of these.

You just have to be around to do these things. That’s all.  

This is one of the major caveats to house sitting – if you’re ok with that, and you’re reasonably responsible, and you love pets, housesitting is an incredible way to save money while traveling. And, you may even get an inside look at a neighborhood that you’ve never even heard of.

 A neighborhood no one’s ever heard of. 

A neighborhood no one’s ever heard of. 

Whether you’re looking for 3 months, a week, or just a weekend of free accommodation, housesitting is one of the best ways go about doing that.

Well…

Not “absolutely free.”

 

How Can You Become a Housesitter?

Trust. You need to establish trust.

But... it’s difficult to establish trust with someone you’ve never met, right?

To bridge the gap between total stranger and entrusted house sitter, there are a ton of platforms available on the internet that will allow both parties (housesitter and homeowner) to set up respective profiles filled with biographical/persuasive information and photos. And, of course, all of these websites have annual fees associated to them.

 This is Lilly, diligently working on being a good girl. (We miss her!)

This is Lilly, diligently working on being a good girl. (We miss her!)

What are some of the most popular platforms, and how much do they cost?

  • Trusted Housesitters: $119 annual fee; most popular and known platform (our discount link brings it down to $95!)

  • Mind My House: $20 annual fee

  • Nomador: Free option gives you 3 opportunities to apply for housesitting; $89 annual fee for unlimited applications

  • House Carers: Free option gives you a “spectator mode” (doesn’t allow you to apply to housesitting opportunities); $50 annual fee

  • House Sit Match: £49 (~$68) annual fee for a simpler profile; £89 (~$124) for a more complex profile

  • House Sitters UK: £20 annual fee (~$28); limited to the UK

 This is the area that neighbors the park we often visited. Occasionally, the slightly-murderous pitbull would cheetah-sprint across the entire park with its mini-monster body (it was a cute dog though, I swear), so we would all come to the back of the park to play.

This is the area that neighbors the park we often visited. Occasionally, the slightly-murderous pitbull would cheetah-sprint across the entire park with its mini-monster body (it was a cute dog though, I swear), so we would all come to the back of the park to play.

We went with Trusted Housesitters because it has more options, is more comprehensive, and as mentioned above, is the most popular platform. This makes it easy to pick and recommend, as we already know of its quality and reliability. Check it out!  

 

Tips to Becoming an All-Star Housesitter!

  1. It all starts with your profile.

    • As with any bartering or interviewing situation, try to cater your profile to the homeowner as much as possible. Would this bio make the homeowner feel safe leaving everything with me? This extends to your photo too: are you clearly visible in it, and, does it make you seem like someone responsible/likeable?  

    • References go a long way as well! So make sure to include them: previous homeowners you’ve housesat for, employers you’ve worked or, or even friends and family who can attest that you are who you say you are.  

    • Do you love pets? If so, make sure to show it through anecdotes in your bio, or even through your profile photo. This is definitely a plus!

  2. Communicate!

    • Try as best as possible to avoid misunderstandings. Get as much down in writing (questions, concerns, etc.) before your housesitting actually begins. While you can’t possibly predict every problem you might run into, it’s good to try to cover your bases ahead of time. Speaking of communication…

  3. Arrange a meeting

    • Communication via messages and email is great and all, but nothing beats an in-person meeting before your housesitting. This is a great time to introduce yourself properly, ask any questions you may have, and for the homeowners to provide any necessary details.

    • If they’ve had previous housesitters, ask them what others have forgotten or failed to do. Take note of what they say so that you can avoid the mistakes of others.

  4. Create a contact sheet

    • Some homeowners may already have all of these details written down for you, but if not, make sure to ask for contact (and emergency contact) information before your housesitting begins. If you have a general question, what number do you text/call? If something fails in the house, what neighbors can you reach out to? If you lock yourself out, who can you reach out to for help?

  5. Are there any backups?

    • Housesitting isn’t house arrest; if you need to leave once a week for any reason, or if you want to go to a particular event someday that’ll put you outside of the house for the entire day, ask the homeowner who can substitute you while you’re gone (to walk and feed the pet(s), mostly).

  6. Take care of the house

    • Try to care for the house everyday so that when the homeowners return, it’s better than they left it. Clean things after you use them, vacuum or mop occasionally, and leave things where and how you found them. And even better, if you tear through all of their spicy Doritos during Netflix night, make sure to replace them before leaving.

  7. Wash the bed sheets before departing

    • Before concluding your housesit, make sure to remove the bedsheets and pillow casings, wash them, and if time permits, make the bed again. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’ll leave a great impression on the homeowners and it’ll be one less thing for them to have to do when they come back.

  8. Early bird… Set up notifications

    • This is one tip we wish we had known! If you can set up notifications on the platform you’re using for new housesitting opportunities for areas/dates that interest you, do it! Many housesitting opportunities are snatched quickly after they’re posted – especially the good ones (i.e. popular location, great homeowners, etc.).

  9. Get to know the area

    • As you would with any other travel destination, get to know the area before you make it out there. Specifically, find out where the nearest grocery store is, the convenience store, the post office, and so forth. Then, find out if there are any events going on during the dates you’re visiting. If you do this with enough time, you’ll be able to let the homeowners know that you’ll be out on certain days and in turn, ask for a backup sitter.

Hope this article helps those of you interested in housesitting! If you have any questions, ask down below!

 Lilly, prepping to become a professional baseball player while also being the cutest dog ever. 

Lilly, prepping to become a professional baseball player while also being the cutest dog ever. 

 The snow in Otford, looking all sexy. 

The snow in Otford, looking all sexy.