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.
Two years ago, 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 $119 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/SRzujtLP – using this link will also give you 20% off the membership fee in the first year). 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, I have done two more assignments, both also in Italy, and I have returned twice to one of them (two dogs and a cat in the beautiful city of Vicenza near Venice ).
I think it’s not exaggerated to say that all my assignments so far went extremely well: lovely, welcoming hosts, adorable, well-behaved furry friends, and all that in great locations.
I always arrive one or two nights in advance to get familiar with the household and the animals’ routines, see my hosts off, and then spend the following days taking walks and playing with the dogs and cats, feeding them on schedule, and sightseeing. At the end, I stay another night after my hosts have returned.
I have been diligently scanning most new assignments for two and a half months and found: 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, and hosts in the countryside also sometimes ask that you have a car.
In all, the idea of house sitting is convincing: hang in great locations with animals and save money along the way.
However, it does come with strings attached. Make a plan of when to be where, build a strong profile, and if you are using house sitting as a cost-saving measure, calculate dilgently so that you do not end up spending the savings on transport.