Housesitting: The Ultimate in Budget Family Travel

We’re back with another inspiring story of how one family has made the decision to follow their dreams through affordable travel. Holly from A Bookerful Life is visiting today to share her family’s story of fun and adventure, all for a fraction of the price!

Holly, take it away!

One beautiful afternoon last summer, Dan, Isla, and I stopped into a small cafe (Taste Deli) to pick up some lunch in the small town of Warminster, England. The incredibly kind owners asked us what brought us to their town and were surprised to hear that we were there to take care of a cat. Yes, that’s right, we flew all the way to England from Canada to care for a cat… When we began researching how we could travel the globe on a tight budget, we were thrilled to discover the connection between housesitting and budget family travel.

Young girl and cat at housesitting gig
Isla and Mini, one of the kitties we cared for

The Benefits of Housesitting and Budget Family Travel

To find housesitting positions, we exclusively used the service TrustedHousesitters. (Note: If you use the link to sign up for memberships, we both save on our membership fee! Yay!) Housesitting can open up so many possibilities for travel. All it takes is a little bit of effort, a small membership fee, and a willingness to take on the responsibility of someone else’s home and possibly pets.

TrustedHousesiters has 1000’s of housesitting positions all over the globe. Although we have found that the majority of listings are for the UK and Australia. That being said, there are numerous opportunities everywhere and because the site is so user friendly, you are free to look globally or choose exactly where you are interested in visiting. There are other housesitting sites available, but as we have yet to try them, we cannot comment on their use.

Why we loved housesitting:

Young girl playing at park in Lindfield, UK
Isla playing at one of our favorite parks in Lindfield, UK

Local Immersion And The Road Less Traveled

Housesitting gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves into a culture different from our own. We were able to stay in small towns in England, which we never would have even considered or knew existed if it weren’t for finding housesitting positions there. We enjoyed the local playgrounds and parks, ate at lovely little English pubs, conversed with friendly local residents, attended community music festivals and markets, and Isla played with the local children.

Historic buildings lining the streets of Lindfield, UK
Beautiful historical buildings lining the streets of Lindfield, UK

Caring For Pets Of Course!

Cats! We were able to spend time with and care for cats again. After losing our beloved cat to renal failure when I was nine months pregnant, we have greatly missed having a kitty companion around. We are not ready yet to commit to welcoming a pet into our home, so being able to give love and attention to other people’s pets while they were on vacation was fantastic for all of us.

Feeding the ducks and swans at a local park in Warminster, UK

The Comforts of Home

The comforts of home, even if it is someone else’s. This means you can cook for yourself (saving money), have lots of space, watch TV (if that’s your thing!), free wifi, grocery delivery (amazing!), and have nice cozy beds to sleep in. We were a little selective when considering which housesitting positions to apply for. For example, we chose to apply for homes that were quiet, walkable, had good public transit options, and had at least two bedrooms. A huge bonus for us was that the homeowner’s had children of their own. This meant Isla had toys to play with, books to read, we stayed in kid friendly homes, and even had a trampoline at one place. While this was not a must have for us, it was an awesome perk.

Father and daughter on walking trail behind housesitting "home"
Walking trail behind our “home”

Significant Travel Budget Savings

To quote Steve Miller, “Go on, take the money and run.” Seriously, what an incredible way to travel and not spend a dime on accommodation. A significant portion of any travel budget is designated for accommodation. By eliminating this cost, the budget can be stretched to travel for longer periods, travel more often, or to spend more on attractions or food costs. If you are lucky enough to get a position in a major tourist hub like London, Rome, Paris, etc. this could offer incredible savings for your budget.

Young girl with umbrella, waiting at bus stop
Isla waiting patiently in the rain for the bus in England.

Opportunities For Exploration Abound!

Housesitting let us explore nearby tourist attractions so easily. Another thing we were selective with when choosing positions to apply for was to consider what other sites were nearby. The towns we stayed in were not generally known for being tourist towns, yet within less than an hour train ride away were attractions like Bath, Bristol, Salisbury, Lewes, and Brighton. If we had decided to rent a car, day trips to areas not accessed by rail would also have been easily accessible.

 

View from the top of Lewes Castle
View from the top of Lewes Castle
Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach
Dan and Isla at the Roman Baths
Dan and Isla at the Roman Baths
Mother and daughter at Salisbury Cathedral
Holly and Isla at Salisbury Catherdral

Getting Started With Housesitting For Budget Family Travel

As you can see, housesitting can be an amazing way to travel the globe while saving a significant amount on your travel budget. TrustedHousesitters is an easy and secure platform to list your home on or to look for housesitting positions for your family. There are options to choose to housesit only, meaning no pets, or to care for a whole menagerie of pets, including farm animals. It’s up to you to select if you only want to care for cats or just dogs as well. With Isla being only two years old and unaccustomed to being around large dogs, we have decided to only search for positions without dogs or only very tiny ones.

The process of becoming registered is quite easy but the more time you put into creating a desirable profile, chances are that you will be selected for more positions. It can often take applying to many positions (+15) before being selected, especially if applying for homes in very desirable locations.

Some of the things to consider when applying for housesitting positions are:

  1. Highlight any previous experience caring for animals of your own or through previous work experience. I held a job in a veterinary clinic and have done volunteer work as an unregistered veterinary technician so I mentioned both. We’ve also loved and cared for our own pets for many years.
  2. If you have a baby or toddler, let the owners know you are on a strict sleep schedule. For us, this means we are almost always home for nap and for an early bedtime. It’s comforting for owner’s to know that you will be in the home a fair bit with their pet.
  3. Being that we are a family, we are not partiers and are very quiet and respectful. If this is true for you too, let the owner’s know when you apply.
  4. When applying, give as much detail as you can, explaining why your family would be a good match for the position. Look at what they are asking for and if you can provide it. Explain how. Treat it as if you’re applying for a job and convince the home owner why you and your family would be the perfect fit for them.
  5. If there are any concerns you have, make sure to ask before accepting the position. For example, we confirmed that each home was non-smoking, in a safe neighborhood, quiet, and accessible with public transit since we were not bringing a car seat and not renting a car while travelling. If you have small children, also confirm that the pets are comfortable with them. You do not want the pet to be anxious around your child or for your child to be scared of the pet, or injured by them.
  6. Offer to Skype/FaceTime, etc. with the homeowner. We were asked to do this by the homeowners and were glad to. We got to know them and see the home we would be staying in and the pets that we would be caring for.
  7. Ensure that you are ready for the commitment and responsibility of minding a stranger’s home and their pets, whom they obviously care for very much. Although you are on vacation, staying in someone’s home still means keeping it clean and caring for it as if it’s your own. Are you also prepared for the rare chance that a pet becomes ill? We were obviously okay with these potential issues and they did not bother us, but we definitely recommend that you consider them before applying to any position.

Housesitting was an incredible experience for us and we highly recommend trying it. We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to housesit while travelling and will definitely consider it for many future travel holidays. If you have any tips to share about housesitting or have any questions, please comment below!

Holly, I think I can speak for all of us when I say, “Thank-you for sharing your experience with us!” Housesitting is something that has interested and intrigued me for years, but I’ve always questioned how realistic and safe it would be for a family. After reading Holly’s and other’s stories, I can’t wait to try it out. If you’re interested, please consider clicking through one of Holly’s links, as you and she will get discounts on your memberships. Supporting each other, we can reap the benefits and make travel a reality for all of us.

For more stories about families finding ways to make affordable travel work for them, click here.

Holly and Dan from A Bookerful Life

Holly Booker is a recent Master’s of Environmental Studies graduate, a full-time mom, and yoga teacher in training. She developed a desire to travel in her early 20’s and recently spent four months travelling through Europe with her husband and two year-old daughter. Her blog, bookerfullife.com, delves into everything from travelling with a toddler to wellness and environmental issues.
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24 thoughts on “Housesitting: The Ultimate in Budget Family Travel”

  1. Housesitting sounds as good as visiting relatives in many different places. The relatives aren’t there of course but everything else is. You can live, play, travel as the locals do. I love the architecture in the top picture, I’m a bit jealous of the historical buildings 🙂

    1. I agree! I love my family, but sometimes it’s nice to have a comfortable place to stay, without stressing about kids being on their best behavior or family drama 😉 We love being able to settle in like the locals!

    1. Yes, to both! I can’t wait to visit the UK for myself one of these days and I’m looking forward to trying Housesitting for myself.

  2. I have loved using Trusted House sitters as well. And am looking forward to many more adventures in house sitting 🙂

  3. Wow, I had never thought of this before! It is very smart and very cost effective. I’d love to do this to go on travels myself!

  4. I never knew about this practice! this is such a great idea! And travelling the world to care for a cat sounds wonderfully simple in these complicated times! Love the post and thank you for sharing!

  5. Thanks for sharing this post! I had no idea that this was even a thing and after reading through your experience and the reasons for doing it it makes so much sense. My boyfriend and I have tons of travel plans and this could be such a good way for us to make them happen.

  6. This sounds like such a lovely idea. You get to explore new places while also helping someone else while they are away somewhere. It looks like fun.

    1. We usually use AirBnB’s also and have loved them. I love the idea of having the same set-up without any price tag!

    1. Good! It does look awesome, doesn’t it! Make sure to click through one of the included links to get a discount on your yearly membership.

  7. Housesitting in a foreign country? Yes, Please! Your tips on the application really do sound doable. Being able to serve others, and yourself and family in this manner really is a win win situation. Sounds like a plan! =) I’ll be signing up soon! Thanks so much! 💕Xo, Evelyn, PathofPresence.com 🦋

    1. I know, right? I’d love to hear about your experiences, once you’ve signed up and been able to complete your first sits!

  8. The whole idea actually sounds more exciting than some of the usual, boring travels. I love taking care of pets and friend’s possessions and stuff like that so it’s easy for me to feel self-satisfaction from house-sitting. Thank you for the much-detailed article you’ve written here. It may mostly only be for UK and Australia but I think the whole thing will expand soon.

  9. I have looked into this before but never very much. Sounds like a fun thing to do, especially when we have a family. Thanks for all these helpful tips!

    1. It does look like fun, huh! I’m glad you found the post helpful. I hope you’ll be able to try it at some point.

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