How to Travel the World by House Sitting
Accommodations form the bulk of most travelers’ budgets, and with the general cost of everything increasing, it can be difficult to find somewhere for a decent price, especially if you’re traveling to a country that has a strong economy. What if I told you there was a way of traveling the world where you could stay in apartments, and even houses, practically for free? A couple of years ago, I got into the world of house sitting, and since then, I have completed 16 house sits in different countries, saving myself hundreds of dollars on accommodation. If you want to do the same, here’s a guide on how to travel the world by house sitting.
What Is House Sitting?
Some of you may be asking, ‘what is house sitting?’ For those who are confused, house sitting is when you look after someone’s property and, in most cases, their pets when they are away from home. In exchange, you get free accommodation. While you are on a sit, your main responsibilities are keeping the home clean and tidy, feeding and playing with pets, and general household jobs such as picking up the mail, watering plants, and answering the phone and taking messages. Some house sits may require basic gardening and other tasks; this is something that you will negotiate with the homeowner.
How Do I Find House Sits?
There are a number of house sitting websites which advertise different opportunities, but there are three big players that have a monopoly on the market. The main, and considered to be the best site is TrustedHouseSitters, which displays thousands of sits all over the world. The other two are Nomador, which usually displays around 1,000 sits, and MindMyHouse, which generally has around 300 sits available. I use TrustedHouseSitters and MindMyHouse; I’m not keen on Nomador’s user interface and I’ve never found good house sits for myself on there.
How Do I Secure a House Sit?
Applying for house sits is pretty much like applying for a job: you send the homeowner a letter of application outlining your experience and why you’d like to apply for the house sit. If you’re new to house sitting, it might seem quite daunting putting down your experience, or lack thereof. The trick is to include any experience that could be related to house sitting. Have you ever looked after your friends or family’s pets or houses, even if only for a short time? Have you worked with animals? Had your own pets? Any experience you can draw on from your life, you can use in your application. I used the fact that I’d volunteered in hostels, which meant that I was used to keeping places clean and tidy, as well as my experience with my pets and the couple of weekends I looked after friends’ pets and apartments. On the back of this, I managed to secure my first house sit, and once you’ve got one, it becomes easier to get others.
Of course, like with any job application, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the first house sit that you apply for, or even the applications you subsequently make, especially if you’re applying for sits in popular cities. I must have applied for at least one hundred house sits and have been accepted on less than a quarter of them. So be prepared to be knocked back for a few. But perseverance is key, and if you keep applying, you’ll eventually get offered one.
Do I Have to Pay Anything?
The house sitting websites do have subscription costs which you need to pay before you can apply for any sits. The prices are as follows:
- TrustedHouseSitters – $119 per year;
- MindMyHouse – $20 per year;
- Nomador – $89 per year. (N.B. Nomador does have an option where you can apply for three house sits for free before paying, although it’s difficult to secure house sits as you won’t be classed as a verified member.)
What Are the Benefits of House Sitting?
For me, one of the many great things about house sitting is that I get my own place to stay when I’m traveling. Of course, sometimes I enjoy staying in hostels so I can meet other travelers, but if I’m staying somewhere for a significant amount of time, it’s much nicer to have a home where I can relax in alone in the lounge, cook in a kitchen and sleep in my own bedroom. Having a kitchen is another major benefit of house sitting; cooking is a great way to cut down on travel costs even further. But the best thing for me is that I can travel for longer. House sits range from a couple of days to a few months, even a year, and it has allowed me to stay in places much longer than I would normally have if I’d been paying to stay in regular tourist accommodation.
What Isn’t Included
There are lots of things that aren’t included when you house sit. You will need to sort out your travel arrangements to and from the sit, any travel insurance that you need, and have enough money to fund your stay.
Is It Worth the Cost?
You do have to pay subscriptions on the house sitting websites, but I think these costs are worth it, especially when you compare them with the prices of equivalent accommodation. In my first year of house sitting, I paid for two house sitting subscriptions, TrustedHouseSitters for $119 and MindMyHouse for $20. Here’s what I got for each subscription:
- MindMyHouse: six weeks in an apartment in Seoul, two and a half months in a house in Oslo; one-week in an apartment in Copenhagen.
- TrustedHouseSitters: two and a half weeks in a house in Kampot, Cambodia, one-week in an apartment in Hamburg, two-and-a-half-weeks in an apartment in Zurich, three-weeks in an apartment in Fribourg, six-weeks in an apartment in Bucharest.
If you tally it, I got more than four months’ free accommodation in three of the world’s most expensive countries for just $20, and nearly four months’ accommodation for a further $119 in four different countries. That’s far cheaper than if I’d booked accommodation through any of the usual methods. So, although paying for a subscription might not seem attractive, it’s given me the chance to stay in places for extended periods, which I may not have been able to afford otherwise.
House sitting is a great way of traveling the world; it allows you to experience a city or town like a local, gives you a place of your own to live, and you get to have animal company while you’re away. But, of course, the best thing about house sitting is being able to cut back massively on your accommodation costs, meaning you can travel for longer or have more money to spend on your vacation.
Ali Jennings is a freelance writer, house sitter and teacher currently residing in the UK. She has travelled to many countries across Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Since starting writing in 2013, she has contributed to a number of travel and news websites and is currently working on her first book. When she is not writing and teaching, she enjoys tabletop gaming, ice hockey, photography, and learning languages.