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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.