Living in any city for free: using house sitting websites to travel the world on a shoe-string

When you're travelling long term you notice that most of your savings go to transport and housing while you rather spend this money on exploring the country and gaining experiences. So how can you get, for example, your living costs as low as possible? Alex shares her insights about the one thing that helped her to travel the world for cheap..

Around a year ago my partner and I decided it was time to try something new and go travelling around Australia. We gave up our flat in Bristol and put our belongings into storage at his grandparent’s house. We had a plan for the first three months, but after that, we weren’t too sure. We both work in jobs that can be done remotely so while we didn’t have a big pot of savings behind us, we knew we’d be ok as long as we could keep costs low. 

One day I stumbled across an advert for Trusted Housesitters – one of the several housesitting websites around. After giving it some research, I decided that it was worth a punt and paid the £70 sign up fee. It’s clear now with hindsight that it was £70 very well spent. We have a profile on several similar sites now, and at the close of 2016, I estimate we’d saved somewhere in the region of £3,000 on accommodation and probably £500-800 on car hire. For 2017 we already have six weeks of housesits booked for later in the year and are currently in a 5-week house sit here in Melbourne. It’s allowing us to enjoy new places on a small budget. Just imagine how much you could do if you weren’t shelling out on accommodation!?

It’s also a nice way to see the world. I sometimes dislike staying in hotels and hostels because I don’t think you have a ‘real’ experience. Get out of the city centre and into the suburbs, go to the local shops and see the authentic version of the place you’re visiting.

[title maintitle=”” subtitle=” So, what is house sitting? “]

It’s pretty much how it sounds – you house sit for people while they’re away on holiday. The bulk of the time it will also include looking after cats, dogs and other small pets. Usually, it is unpaid, but in return for living in someone’s home and looking after their pets, you have their home and occasionally their car at your disposal.

Our first experience was with a gorgeous but boisterous 18-month-old Portuguese water dog. At first, we were ecstatic! We couldn’t believe that we were living rent-free in a beautiful home in the south of England with a fun dog to play with. I felt both grown up and important but also like we’d beat the system. As the days and weeks passed, though, we learnt some important lessons. I had a heart-stopping incident when she ran away across a busy road because she’d seen a squirrel or something and realistically, I’d let her off the lead too soon. It hit me that day that she was not our dog and unless you’re completely comfortable that the surroundings are safe and you’re under control, do not take risks.

In our current house sit in Melbourne, we noticed that the little westie we’re looking after was making a strange snuffle sound. If you notice anything remotely worrying, my advice is always to check with the owner before panicking and calling the vet in. We checked with the owner and it turns out that she does it frequently and is nothing to worry about. We saved vets fees and worried owners by checking it out early on. Most of the house sitting websites have a vet line you can call which is handy.

I think of house sitting as a job. Always respect the fact that you’re living in someone else’s home. It goes without saying that you don’t break their trust. I go out of my way to keep things neat and tidy and anything we use (e.g., kitchen spray or toilet roll) I replace with like for like before the end of the house sit. The benefits of this are that you’re more likely to get a good review and good reviews = more success in future applications.

Overall, if you like animals and have the time to sit down and research the opportunities, housesitting is a great way to cut down on accommodation costs while you’re travelling. You’ll meet interesting people and pets along the way and get to see new destinations in a fresh light.

housesitting_trustedhousesitters_storyofmyworld

Ready to give it a go? Here are my tips and the best places to start your search:

My tips

Do not rely solely on housesitting to cover your travels.

  • Competition is fierce, and I would say that our success rate is 1 in 3. Sometimes housesitters cancel too. When we’re not housesitting, we usually book accommodation through Airbnb.
  • Always be honest in your profile and include a video of yourself chatting if you can.
  • Always arrange to meet the house owners and pets beforehand to ensure you’re a good fit.
  • This works both ways! We once had a potential housesit with a problematic dog. We decided we didn’t feel confident enough to handle him. It’s not worth risking yours and the dog’s safety for a few weeks of free accommodation.
  • Invest time into applying for house sits; regularly log in and apply for sits. I probably spend several hours a week looking.
  • Ask the right questions – you need contact details for the owners, neighbours, close friends, local vets and any pet registration details.

[title maintitle=”My Recommended Sites:” subtitle=””]

Trusted Housesitters – Worldwide site with lots of opportunities around the US, Australia and the UK. Regular membership is £89 a year, but you can save 20% using this link. https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/TymhUrPS

Aussie House Sitters – House sits across Australia. Lots of opportunities available. Membership is around £45 a year.

House Carers – Probably my least favourite regarding ease to use. However, plenty of US and European opportunities. Membership is around £40 a year.

Pawshake – Worldwide app for finding pet carers, more day visits and feeding than accommodation but I’ve used this in Melbourne, and it’s earned me money as a cat feeder! Free to use.

 

  1. Great piece and sound advice. In my early 20s, I often house-sat over holidays and I also got my pet fix this way. I had one family that I became a regular for and I actually got quite attached to their blind and grumpy, yet sweet geriatric dalmatian. I think it is a great way to travel!

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