Typically when someone mentions taking a trip, the mind conjures a luxurious escape to an exotic place. While Tom and I have certainly done a few of those big vacations over the years, we maximize our ability to travel by thinking outside of the box. To us, a getaway doesn’t have to include a four-star hotel, a top-rated destination or even a plane ticket. Over the years we’ve taken long-distance road trips, loaded up on fun day trips and even extended routine business trips to maximize our desire for constant adventure.
Our latest trick for traveling on the cheap may just be my favorite. Why is it our favorite? Because it involves puppies, that’s why. Or kittens or bunnies or whatever your particular pet persuasion.
We recently signed up to be pet and house sitters through TrustedHousesitters, a company that connects travelers in need of pet care and travelers in need of accommodations. We really enjoy immersing ourselves in new destinations and experiencing them like locals, so house sitting makes perfect sense for us. Plus, accommodations are usually the most expensive element of a trip. A free place to stay means extra money for activities, food and drink. It doesn’t get much better than that!
What Makes TrustedHousesitters So Awesome?
I’ll be honest, we’ve gotten a lot of funny looks when we’ve told people about our plans to use TrustedHousesitters. This definitely isn’t your traditional travel experience. If you’re put off by the idea of staying in someone else’s home, then this is definitely not for you. But if you’re a budget-conscious travel lover who has used sites like Airbnb it can really pay off to think outside of the box. Let me break down exactly why housesitting is right for us.
First off, FREE ACCOMMODATION. I can’t say it enough. You’ve got new digs to stay in, a cute new friend to play with and a whole new area to explore! There are assignments available all over the world, making it possible to stay in super-expensive places like New York City or London FOR FREE. I also highly encourage you to consider applying for destinations that may not be that high on your radar. What’s really cool about TrustedHousesitters is that you basically become part of the community you visit. Instead of staying in a touristy area, you’ll be right in the heart of wherever you’re visiting.
Our experience is the perfect example. We secured our first gig in St. Michaels, a tiny resort town on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay with a year-round population of about 1,000 people. In the 11 days we were there, we truly felt like locals. People started to recognize us on the streets and we even became “regulars” at a couple of restaurants. It was a completely different experience than we’ve had staying at inns and hotels in the area.
Another benefit of housesitting is that your assignment will often be fairly long-term, allowing more time to immerse yourself in your new surroundings. You can really take your time and see everything at a leisurely pace without trying to jam all the sights into a quick trip. You’ll also likely have full access to a kitchen and laundry, so you don’t have to worry about buying all of your meals out or paying to have your clothes washed.
All that’s asked of you during your stay is typically simple and easy tasks such as to walk the dog, or feed the cat, maybe water some plants and to keep the house in good shape. We’ll take that trade-off any day in exchange for the free stay.
How to Get Started with TrustedHousesitters
Getting started is pretty simple, just fill out a profile and pay the membership fee (keep an eye out for sales). To make your profile stand out, detail your pet and house sitting experience and ask for some references. It’s also very beneficial (although not mandatory) to pay for a background check. Once you’re fully signed up, it’s time to browse different sitting opportunities. You can find anything from a cozy stay in Colorado to an elegant beach-front condo in Mexico to an Italian villa. Most of the time, you’ll have a furry friend or two to hang out with and care for during your stay although the rare house-only sit does pop up occasionally. We’ve also spotted stays with full horse stables, chicken coops, sheep and more although they are less common. If you’re an animal-obsessed travel lover, you really need to check out TrustedHousesitters.
Landing Your First TrustedHousesitters Assignment
Full disclosure: We applied for a lot of house sits before we got our first assignment. Some sits are more popular than others, so I recommend searching for less in-demand locations to start. If you’re set on a popular location, like Spain or Italy, consider applying for an off-season or shoulder season trip to increase your chances of being selected. Our first confirmed sit, for example, was in St. Michaels, Maryland. Although St. Michaels is actually a very popular summer destination, this assignment took place in the winter which meant less competition.
The next step is applying for the assignment with a personal note to the owner. This is your chance to let your personality and experience shine. We make sure to write a customized note to each owner explaining why we want to sit for them and our experience and qualifications. You should also give them as much logistical information as you can. We made sure to mention that we would have our own car during the trip and that we were flexible about when we could arrive. We also asked if we could bring Ashton along. Additional pets and children are not suitable for every sit, so it’s important to mention things like this up front. The more transparent you can be about how you will execute the sit, the better.
Once your sit is confirmed, you’ll receive a Welcome Guide from the owner detailing instructions for the sit. The woman we worked with was very sweet and provided us everything we needed for our stay. She even baked us cookies and welcomed us to any of the food and drink in the house. We’ve chatted with dozens of homeowners over the months we’ve used the program and everyone has been very friendly. However, it’s important to remember that you’re providing them with a service as well (free pet care!) and if things don’t seem quite right in your discussions, go with your gut and choose a different housesitting assignment.
Tips for a Successful First Sit with TrustedHousesitters
So you’ve landed your first housesitting job. Now what? Here are a few quick trips to make sure you’re successful.
Be On Time and Do Everything You Agreed To Do Without Fail
This should go without saying, but if you want a good track record on TrustedHousesitters, you’ll want to start out by being punctual. Find out the owners exact needs for your arrival and departure and be sure to meet them. Most owners will have very specific feeding instructions for their pets as well as a schedule for when they might need to be walked or let outside. While you’ll definitely have time to explore your destination, you have to put these pets needs before your sightseeing agenda.
Our charge, Dolce, was as sweet as could be and a pleasure to sit. (Be warned: Attachment issues are likely to occur. I may or may not have cried when we had to leave him at the end of our 11 days.) We chose to apply for this sit based on the fact that he seemed pretty low-maintenance to ease our way into this process. Which brings me to my next point – be sure you’ll truly be comfortable spending time up close and personal with the animals you’ll be sitting. A sprawling estate on a vineyard in the South of France may seem like the dream gig, but if you’re afraid of big dogs and they’ve got three huskies be honest and realize it’s not the right fit.
Treat the Pets and Their Homes as You Would Your Own
This isn’t a luxury hotel you’re staying in, but someone’s home. Take care of it and keep it tidy. Some owners will have housekeeping or gardening requirements, so be sure you’re willing to comply with those before applying.
Be Up Front With Any Issues That May Occur
Although you would hope for everything to go perfectly during your sit, issues are bound to pop up. Be up front with the owner and let them know what is going on. They’ll feel much more comfortable knowing what’s going on, and they can help you find a solution.
Would you try housesitting in exchange for a free place to stay? Let us know in the comments!
This post is not sponsored. We purchased our own membership and only write about products and services we actually use and enjoy. This post does contain affiliate links.