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Use House Sitting to Travel on a Budget

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Photo: Josep Suria (Shutterstock)

With Airbnb’s ridiculous fees these days, most travelers are eager for some kind of alternative for their next homestay. The most underrated option, so long as you’re willing to earn your keep, is house sitting. But how do you go about finding someone who needs a house-sitter at your dream destination? Here’s what you need to know about securing a gig as a house sitter so you can get free lodging when you travel.

How does house sitting work?

It’d be fabulous if we all had wealthy friends who trusted us to stay in their fancy lake houses for free. Until then, your best bet is turning to trusted sites that allow you to choose a vacation destination, and then match you with someone who needs a house-sitter during that time. The deal is that for your free lodging, the homeowner gets a free home and pet sitter.

That pet part is not something to gloss over: Most house sits involve pet sitting. If you’re unwilling or unable to care for animals, your choices for finding a house are much slimmer.

The top site for this exchange (aka, the house-sitting equivalent of Airbnb) seems to be Trusted Housesitters. There’s an option to create a free account at first, but to actually start sitting, you need to purchase a plan ranging from $129 to $259 per year. The most popular option costs $169 a year and comes with unlimited house-sits worldwide, a free background check (required), alerts for your ideal sits, insurance, and extra support when you’re there.

Limitations to house sitting

Compared to simply booking an Airbnb or hotel room, for house sitting, you need a profile that gets you selected for the gig. After you send an application for a listing, the pet parent or homeowner will review your profile and character references. They’ll then schedule a video or phone call interview to talk more about the sit and get to know you better. It’s part travel hack, part side-hustle—which means it might feel like applying for a job.

Even after you are chosen by a homeowner, house sitting is far less reliable than booking a more traditional form of lodging. Your travel plans need to be catered to the dates in a listing, and your vacation must revolve around your home and pet care duties. This might mean changing plans to care for a sick pet, or being prepared for a host to suddenly cancel on you.

Tips to get a house-sitting gig

Create a profile that stands out from the pack and lets your personality shine through with plenty of pictures, personable details, and sitter verifications. It’s sort of like trying to get swipes on a dating app—so easy, right?

Reviews and references are also your best friend. If you’ve ever helped out friends with their home or pets in the past, call them up for a quick quote.

As mentioned above, house sitting is something of a misnomer, considering how many listing are primarily looking for pet sitters as well. Any experience with animals that you can highlight will help you stand out as a potential sitter.

Don’t give up if you don’t get any takers right away. Often it takes that first bite (and a solid testimonial after the fact) for future ones to start rolling in.

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