There’s no place like home. When you’re travelling, there’s no need to go without a home: you can create a comfortable environment wherever you’re staying, whether that’s a hammock, a dorm bed or a luxury hotel. But perhaps the easiest way to get that homey feeling is through housesitting — looking after someone’s home and pets while they’re away.
Housesitting is a great way to immerse yourself in a destination and live like a local, whether you’re a long-term traveller looking for a way to slow down or a short-term traveller looking for an alternative (and cheap) form of accommodation.
We first got into housesitting when we were back in New Zealand for the first time since we started traveling. We were sharing a flat with another couple, but when our friends Robyn and Chris asked us to look after their house and cats for a month, we decided that a month’s rent could go a long way on the road. Four years later, we were planning another trip home and had just started to look at places to live when our friend Glenys emailed to ask if we’d look after her house for a few weeks, right in the middle of our stay. If we said yes, we’d have to piece together accommodation for the other four or five months we planned to be in the country. We said yes.
In the end we did five housesits during that time, ranging from ten days to six weeks. We filled in the gaps by staying with Craig’s parents in their beachside apartment, which we also looked after while they were in Europe. Most of our housesits were at friends’ houses (or on one occasion, a farm) but we did join Trusted Housesitters, a website of housesitting opportunities, which furnished us with the chance to look after a small dog over Easter.
There wasn’t much call for housesitting during our year in Spain, but when summer came, we realised that housesitting would be the perfect solution for filling up the four unplanned months before our trip to Mexico. I reactivated my Trusted Housesitters account and started applying. Soon we had two sits lined up: two weeks in Berlin and five in The Middle of Nowhere, UK. We were excited: we’d have a place to stay and some temporary pets, and we could buckle down and get some work done.
We’ve had some great experiences with housesitting, it’s a great choice for travel accommodation. So, why housesit?
1. You’ll go places
Many hotels and hostels are located in the city centre, near the main attractions. This is convenient for a short break, but it means that a lot of visitors only see one side of the destination. By staying in a local person’s house, you’ll probably be in a part of the town or city that most tourists don’t visit, and you’ll see a whole different side of things.
Our housesit in Berlin was located in the outer suburbs, and our second one was in a town we’d never heard of and never would have visited if we hadn’t agreed to housesit there. But it’s great: we walked by the river every day, we attended all sorts of local events, and there were lots of charming villages to visit.
2. You can live like a local
Seeing the sights are important while travelling, but it’s also awesome to experience normal life in your destination. While housesitting, you’ll see how local people live, and you can live like them too: shop in the same supermarkets, eat in the same restaurants, watch the same TV. While in the UK, we enjoyed cooking dinner then settling in for an evening of Netflix: it’s cultural, right?
3. You get some love (and give it back)
As a child, I had a very intelligent and not very pleasant pet cat, and I was scared of dogs… I wasn’t exactly an animal lover. Craig often talked about how much he missed having a dog while travelling, and I didn’t understand. Now I do. Housesitting has brought me into contact with some truly lovely animals who express their love and excitement in hilarious ways. Plus, looking after them is good for me: I can’t give in to laziness and stay in bed until midday if the dog needs to be fed and taken out.
4. You save money
For many people, not having to pay for accommodation is the most important aspect of housesitting, and of course it’s important — the money you’re not spending on a hotel can be used for more travel! However, housesitting is about more than just saving some cash — try it yourself and see.
How to housesit?
- Get started: Ask your friends and family if they need a housesitter.
- Join a website or two. We recommend Trusted Housesitters, but there are other options out there that might be better for your geographical location.
- Make a great profile.
- Apply for lots of sits. Make sure they’re suitable for you: if you don’t like dogs, don’t apply to look after a great Dane.
- Keep in contact with homeowners during the application process and beyond.
- Make detailed notes about how to look after the house and pets.
- Look after the house better than you’d look after your own.
- Have fun!