For anyone looking to save money on their next vacation accommodation without spending part of their week working as they might with programs like WorkAway, house sitting is an interesting alternative.
House sitting programs have you guard your hosts’ house and, more importantly, in most cases, their animals while the owners are on vacation.
Last December I signed up for trustedhousesitters.com. Though I am still very much in love with WorkAway exchanges, I felt like a quiet Christmas and having a bit more time to write.
The sign-up fee is higher than with any of the exchange sites (WorkAway, etc.) — it’s €93 for one year — and is due for both: hosts and prospective sitters. They run a rewards program, in which every paid sign-up generated gives you one month for free (my link is https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/VlPAyJVL). Plus, there are special deals a few times a year letting you save up to 25% on the sign-up fee.
A quick Google search will give you links to at least half a dozen more house sitting websites in the market: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=house+sitting.
I chose Trusted Housesitters for two reasons: their size (more than 50,000 members in 137 countries) and their focus on animal care (they’re even sponsored by the RSPCA).
It took me less than a week to secure my first assignment: ten days in Italy with a dog and a cat.
Finding a host so quickly was certainly helped by my profile and my previous experience. I asked some of the people I had previously housesat for, friends of friends and WorkAway hosts, for reference letters; the TH website makes that very easy. Also, in contrast to some exchange sites, age is actually an advantage here, as it signals more responsibility.
Since Christmas I have done another assignment, again in Italy, this time with two dogs and a cat over a long weekend in the beautiful city of Vicenza.
I think it’s not exaggerated to say that both assignments went extremely well: lovely, welcoming hosts, adorable, well-behaved furry friends, and all that in great locations.
Both times I arrived one or two nights in advance to get familiar with the household and the animals’ routines, saw my hosts off, spent the following days taking walks and playing with the dogs and cats, feeding them on schedule, and sightseeing, and at the end I stayed another night after my hosts had returned.
I have been diligently scanning most new assignments in the past two and a half months. At least 50% of them were in the UK, another 40% in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That leaves a paltry 10% in other countries (mostly France, Spain, and Italy — where the English speaking expat community is quite strong). So, you aren’t quite as free in choosing a location.
Most assignments are short: a weekend up to a week. It is therefore not really a cost-cutting option since you will be spending more money on moving around. Unless, of course, you specialize in a UK city, like London and its surroundings.
The most interesting locations go extremely quickly — within hours — and hosts with many applications often won’t get back to you to let you know they’re not interested.
Many assignments outside the UK are in the countryside. Some hosts will offer to pick you up from the train/bus and go shopping with you; in rare cases, you might have a car at your disposal.
The percentage of hosts specifically looking for couples only is higher than on WorkAway.
In all, the idea of house sitting is convincing: hang in great locations with animals. However, it does come with strings attached. I have another 9.5 months in my contract to see if I will be able to find sits to my conditions.