House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free

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House sitting for families — it’s possible, and it can save you thousands of dollars. For some families, it’s a great option. For others, it’s a near-impossibility. Is house sitting for families something you should pursue? Read on and find out.

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free

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“How can you afford to travel for such a long time?” We get this question we get a lot, so I’ve been writing about some of the many ways families like ours get the money they need for travel. So far, we’ve talked about how to:

HOUSE SITTING FOR FAMILIES: FUNDING TRAVEL

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free jungle-house

In this post, let’s talk more about houses. No, not yours — other people’s houses. The concept of house sitting has been around for decades, but in the last few years house sitting for families has really taken off in various travel communities I’m involved in. Here’s how it works.

Someone wants to travel, but they can’t leave their house unattended for weeks or months on end. The reasons vary, but in most cases, it’s because there are pets to feed or gardens to tend to. Sometimes both. It may also deal with farm plots, farm animals or other forms of flora or fauna must be tended to.

Enter the house sitter. This person — or this family in our scenario — comes and lives in the house while the owners are away. They water the plants, feed the cat and walk the dogs. Everyone is happy (usually). Let’s break down the pros and cons of house sitting for families.

THE BENEFITS OF HOUSE SITTING FOR FAMILIES

For most people, the most significant benefits of house sitting for families are the economic ones, but let’s look at them all, shall we?

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free hundred-dollar-bills-on-a-plate

House sitting saves tons of money

House sitting is a great way to see the world because it means that your accommodation costs are almost free. It can cut other costs as well since you now have a kitchen where you can cook for yourselves instead of eating out all the time.

Interesting locations

There are opportunities to house sit all over the globe, and many of them are on beautiful properties you’d never be able to see otherwise. One of my favorite examples was explained by Epic Education Radio guest Donna Carvel (episode #46, timecode 4:44), where their first house sit was in a castle. Yes: their daughter spent one of her earliest birthdays in a castle!

Local perspectives

House sitting for families also offers other benefits similar to home swaps or renting an Airbnb apartment instead of a hotel. House sitting can feel more natural and comfortable for many people because you’re in an actual home instead of a sterile, faceless hotel room.

Like home swaps, you can also benefit from the knowledge and connections of the homeowner. In some cases, the owners of the house even introduce you to the neighbors before leaving. In episode #66 of Epic Education Radio, the North Family talked about how this happened to them and the difference it made in their stay (Listen in at timecode 19:30).

Sometimes the homeowners share inside knowledge about the area you have chosen to house sit. In some cases, you even get access to their car.

Oh, and the animals

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free dog

If your kids like dogs or cats, then they might get their fill of being responsible for the owner’s pets during your stay. After all, this is often the main reason someone hires a house sitter.

THE CHALLENGES OF HOUSE SITTING FOR FAMILIES

House sitting for families is not all wine and roses. There are challenges and specific issues that can make it a bad fit for some people. Here are a few reasons why.

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free calendar

The owner chooses the dates, not you

You usually cannot choose when to go somewhere or how long you stay. That is entirely up to the homeowner. Their house, their rules. In many cases it’s not a problem, but in many other cases, it can affect whether or not you can do it at all.

This can be especially complicated when non-EU citizens want to house sit in Europe. Because of Schengen visa rules, you may not be allowed to stay at a house sit as long as the homeowner requires.

The search is time-consuming

As more people try house sitting for families, the search for great places that accept children becomes more competitive. Just like finding cheap flights, finding the right house sit can take up lots of time and research hours.

Make yourself at home, but don’t get too comfortable

Another challenge is the fact that you are in someone else’s home, and with that responsibility comes an additional layer of making sure nothing is dirtied or broken. Sure, you deal with this in any accommodation situation, but some people cite additional pressure when it’s someone’s house and not a hotel or guesthouse.

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free remote-house

Isolation/Remote Locations

Few house sitting opportunities are smack in the middle of the coolest area of the city you’re visiting. A centrally located house sits are often the most competitive gigs of all. Instead, many of the house sitting opportunities are outside the cities or in rural or suburban areas.

This can be a great thing for some families. Oftentimes, however, it can make you feel cut off from both local people and fellow travelers.

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free cat

Again, let’s talk animals

For many of you, pets are a huge plus, but if you’re in a family with allergy problems like ours, then it can add health issues to the situation. We have never tried house sitting for this reason.

Most opportunities for house sitting for families are pet-related. My son and I have slight dog allergies, but we are both severely allergic to cats. It’s not life-and-death serious, but close enough that we both avoid cats (and everything they touch) as much as we can.

For some people, these challenges outweigh the benefits of house sitting for families. For most people, however, house sitting is a massive positive force. The money they save on accommodation makes their travel lifestyle possible, and the experiences they have in the homes and neighborhoods of their hosts and with their pets become the canvas for which their travel stories are painted.

TIPS: START HOUSE SITTING FOR FAMILIES

So now you know the pros and cons of house sitting for families and you still want to go for it. First, you need to sign up for a variety of house sitting services, such as:

Notice the fees to join these services. If you want to join, then pay these and create your profile page. Here are a few things you need to know about having an appealing profile page:

Use good images

Just like I mentioned with home swaps, make sure you have great family portraits — don’t just slap up an iPhone selfie. Make sure the pic looks great and possibly shows you in a context that exudes “responsible traveler,” “green thumb” and “good with animals.”

Interpret those as you see fit.

Write to the host

When writing a description of you and your family on your profile page, take your time. Think about what the host would want to see you and hear from you, and then write to those desires. For example, are you applying to places where pet sitting or plant care are required? If you or members of your family have previous experience with plants, animals, house sitting or travel, mention it.

Find a way to naturally mention your work experience as it relates to responsibility, organization, and security. Homeowners on these sites prize such traits.

Add relevant references

Think hard about who might be able to vouch for you. It needs to be credible: don’t have your mother or cousin give you the thumbs-up. Look to old neighbors, landlords, bosses, and other employers.

When you ask them for references, remind them that this is to house sit, and to cater to those needs specifically if possible. Have them mention your responsibility, your caring nature, your ability to get along with others (ie. neighbors) and how great you are with animals. If you’ve actually pet-sat before, get those references.

Get a police check

You might consider this optional, but being able to prove that you have no criminal record can be important to some homeowners. I would certainly feel better to have official proof that the stranger I’ve given my house keys to has no history of violence or theft.

Remember, getting a police check completed also shows that you are willing to walk the extra mile to get something done. That means something.

ANY MORE TIPS RE: HOUSE SITTING FOR FAMILIES?

Have you house sat with kids? How did you start? Where did you house sit: in your home country or abroad? What advice would you give? Give us your advice in the comments below, or contact me directly.

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free

House Sitting for Families: Funding Family Travel by Staying Rent-Free
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.
Image credits: #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10

Comments

  1. Hi Jason, my recent experience with house sitting is this- it is hard to land an international one because the owners want to meet you, meaning lots of no replies. With house swaps, it takes forever to correspond and line one up, most people have one holiday a year. And remember, they have to want to visit your hometown – in Australia it seems everyone wants to visit Sydney and that’s it. There is lots of competition for those places in New York, London, Paris and Barcelona. eg. classic tourist cities. All in all, you spend your money on the membership and waste a lot of time getting nowhere. Ideal if it works of course! The more people using those sites, the harder it gets it seems!

    • Hi Kim. Yes, the competition is growing for sure, as more people join the services. Best of luck finding future spots, and thanks for your insight. It’s important to know that it certainly is not a sure thing — especially in major destinations!

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