How To Save Money When You Travel – 10 Tips For House Sitting
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Guest post by Kirsty Carter
Want to travel more or slash your living costs while staying in beautiful homes and caring for adorable pets? House sitting might just be ideal for you. House sitting is an arrangement between home owners and the sitters, under which accommodation is exchanged for care of the home and pets. Housesitting can be paid or unpaid; in rural areas, cities or beaches; and in apartments or lavish houses. People housesit to save money on travel and living expenses and to enjoy a slower, more relaxed travel experience away from hotels and busy tours. Here are our top 10 tips for house sitting:
Make Friends, Not Just Photobooks
The most important difference between housesitting and other forms of travel is the relationships between people and pets. You’re not just going to a hotel or Airbnb, checking out the sights, and getting a plane to the next destination. You’ll be going to someone else’s home and looking after their beloved furry friends.
Don’t get me wrong – the destinations are important. We go only to places that appeal to us. We’ve been housesitting in the UK, Spain, Egypt, the US, Slovakia, Vietnam, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. Locations have included beachside, city and countryside, including one with its own trout stream in which the dogs cooled off.
We think people who love animals are the best. We’ve sat for artists, doctors, authors, musicians, teachers, house painters, plumbers and electricians. What they have in common is a love of their furry friends and appreciation for those who care for them.
So make sure those furry friends are your top priority when sitting. But what does that mean?
Relationships With Pets Matter
Many pets will miss their humans the first few days they are away. It’s important to make sure you spend that first day or two with them so they get to know you are safe and will care for them. Most pets will let you know how they feel without much ambiguity.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers seem to adore anyone who’ll feed them and take them for walks. Other dogs might take a while to warm up. Some will run away when you attempt to pat them so it’s important to just let them come to you. With cats, who knows? We looked after a beautiful Tonkinese who spent days hiding and hissed whenever we approached or fed him. Then all of a sudden he jumped on Lawrie’s lap and started purring. And that was that!
Most dogs are a lot of fun. They love to chase balls, jump into the water, go for walks and cuddle up to their humans. One of the best ways to see the neighborhood is to let them show you around. We meet people all the time who recognize the dogs we are looking after and say hello to us. As an added bonus, when people find out we are house sitters they’re usually very interested and often take our number.
If cats are your thing, there is nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a cuddly cat and watching a movie or reading a book.
Tips For House Sitting – Find Sits The Right Way
Finding good housesits is the first step. Would you book a hotel or other accommodation that had no reviews or reputation? Probably not.
That’s why we use housesitting websites to get most of our housesits. We also find sits through social media, and relatives and friends. But we find hosts who use websites have a good understanding of their responsibilities and obligations to the sitter.
Housesitting websites include lots of good information and help you get the best out of a sit. They provide a platform for other sitters to review hosts, advice on caring for animals and homes, help if something goes wrong, and set standard agreements between sitter and host.
Some sitters are concerned about the joining fee for housesitting websites. But the cost is negligible when you weigh it against the cost of accommodation. Annual fees vary between USD$36-95. According to tripsavvy.com, a moderately priced New York City hotel room starts at just under 300 USD a night. An average hotel room in Sydney will set you back 175 USD a night.
You do the math!
Tips For House Sitting- Trust Your Instincts
Sometimes you’ll find a sit in a place you’d really love to visit but maybe you’re not too sure about the host, their home or pets. If it doesn’t feel right, it might not be for you.
There are lots of reasons we have refused sits. One of the most common is that we were uncomfortable with a host’s attitude, that they appeared to regard us as servants. Others include a disorderly or dirty home, too much garden work to be done, and an unwillingness to answer questions or show us their home. Housesitting should be a mutually beneficial experience for hosts and sitters.
We do not take housesits where we have not had an opportunity to meet the host online or in person. We ask questions and for a tour of the home. When you first meet a host consider it a two-way interview to assess each other’s suitability.
Unlike other forms of travel, housesitting allows you to relax in one place for longer. With all the comforts of home, you can just chill out and binge watch Netflix all day if you want. There’s always time to see the sights tomorrow.
When you do get out to do the tourist thing, your host will have lots of great local knowledge about the best restaurants, beaches, walking trails, pubs, restaurants, and historic sights. And they’ll often give you local tips you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
In Brill, in the Cotswolds in the UK, we ate from the traveling fish and chip van that parked in the local square once a week. About as English as you can get!
Keep Your Host Informed
Unlike other forms of travel, your plans are closely dependent on the plans of hosts and vice-versa. Hosts usually go away for important reasons – a family wedding, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, a reunion with friends. Leaving their home and pets in someone else’s care is a major and, sometimes, anxiety-inducing decision.
So, once we commit, we fulfil our obligations. We turn up on time and we stay in touch. If the sit is a long time in the future we drop our hosts a line every few months to let them know we are still coming.
Make sure you exchange written travel plans with your hosts, including flight, train or car arrival times. Confirm plans close to the sit start date and let them know any changes.
Keep your host informed. Ask what kind and frequency of communication they want and stick to it. Some people want to see pictures of their pets daily and others don’t want to hear from us the whole time they are away, even if their pet is injured.
Be Organized, Give Yourself Plenty Of Time
Your host can’t go away if you don’t show up, so make sure you are well organized and give yourself plenty of time. We like to arrive early in the area. We stay a night or two with our host before they leave (or at an Airbnb if they don’t have room).
There are several advantages to this:
- There’s plenty of time to get to know the host, the pets, and their routines.
- It leaves the owner feeling much more comfortable about your stay.
- And, should weather, accidents, delayed flights, or any other disaster interfere with your travel plans, you have a window to still arrive before the host leaves.
But if your plans do go awry what do you do?
Always, but ALWAYS, Have a Plan B
We’ve heard some very sad stories of house sitters being left stranded when their housesits were canceled during the COVID-19 epidemic. With no home to go to and months of housesits suddenly unavailable, many were in very difficult positions.
We always have a plan B. During COVID, that meant taking a three-month rental property in the heart of Brisbane, Australia, where we happened to be when the pandemic hit.
But if you don’t have the luxury of being able to rent a property at short notice, consider how you will manage if the sit falls through. Friends, relatives, camper vans, hostels, and cheap Airbnbs might be your fallback.
Tips For House Sitting – Moving On
Leaving a housesit is not like leaving a hotel. The home must be left clean and tidy, the sheets washed and animals fed and walked. If we have to leave before the host arrives home we always check if they have a plan B for any delays. Usually, a neighbor or friend pops in to make sure the pets are okay.
We also always leave a meal, as many people have traveled a long way to get home and the last thing they want to do is cook. We have found that most hosts appreciate this gesture enormously.
About the Author
Kirsty Carter and Lawrie Masterson from Housesitting Travellers are a retired couple from Melbourne, Australia. After selling or giving away anything that wouldn’t fit into two suitcases, they have been traveling the world housesitting since August 2018. They have looked after homes and pets everywhere from Cairo to Rotterdam, the US, and Australia’s Sunshine Coast. They love dogs, cats, and even hamsters, but draw the line at snakes. Check them out on Instagram and Facebook.
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