How To Travel The World For Free Accommodation: A Beginners Guide To Housesitting

How To Travel The World For Free Accommodation: A Beginners Guide To Housesitting

When I first signed up for trusted house sitters I sent 15 applications out around California telling them how much I charged per day for my housesitting services. I got two replies – one saying that they didn’t understand why I was mentioning fees since that wasn’t the point of the website to which I didn’t reply to. And another – about two months later, asking if I could dog sit, but for FREE. What?! I was very naive at that point of what the point of the website was. I clearly didn’t understand how it worked. I was also on a different site for house and pet sitting called which sets you up with paid animal/ house sits. This free thing wasn’t making sense to me. Why would I do it for free??

I discovered in the depths of the internet one day. It took me a while, but after figuring out how to use it, I will admit it is such an incredible source while traveling. I could only hope I would be chosen these days to housesit for free.

I paid $120 in 2016 to try out this trusted house sitter thing and I wasted every penny as I never used the site. I was just back from an eleven-month solo travel trip, and I was looking to make some money. At the time I was refusing to go back into accounting, which is what I went to school for at UCSB and basically all I knew how to do at that point.  So in searches of making money any way besides going back to a desk with spreadsheets I thought I would try housesitting. House and pet sitting seemed like an easy way to make a little side cash. I didn’t research enough to understand that it was a free exchange situation. How the heck can you get rich housesitting if you don’t get paid to do it?!?! Well, now that I know, I will tell you. 

Fast forward to 2018. I never used the website. I was on their subscriber’s email list and they never let me forget about them. I met my boyfriend, Guy in Costa Rica in November 2018, and he came out to California to visit me in December 2018. We wanted to get away for Christmas, and I told him about the site, his first time hearing about it. We split the cost of the yearly fee. We paid $49.50 USD each after the coupon discount. We were wary at first, like I’m sure most people are, but hell at this point, after using it all of 2019, they could charge $300/ year and I would still sign up (don’t tell them that). This type of website and service is absolutely perfect for digital nomad types like ourselves and can easily fit into a “regular” travelers’ agenda as well.

We applied for a housesit in San Fransisco over Christmas and new years. It was about seven days maybe ten. The apartment we stayed was on Gough Street; right in the middle of town, above some restaurants and even above an awesome speakeasy. The location was perfect and you couldn’t have had a better one from a hotel in my opinion. I think we looked up the apartment on Zillow and it said it was a $3500 USD / month for this small one-bedroom apartment. If we would have rented on Airbnb it would have easily cost us $200 or more per night to stay there. The place was small but perfect for 1-2 people. We had no references yet and zero verification since it was our first time using the site, so we felt very lucky that they chose us – turned out they didn’t have many options and we seemed good enough. 

We were there watching over their beloved cat, Nicolas. We couldn’t believe what a great deal we got just to feed this cat twice a day, clean out its litter box and stay in a very cute and comfortable apartment in San Francisco, for free! It was also their first time using trusted house sitters as usually they have a neighbor watch Nicholas but the neighbor was also out of town. They were very nice people and we got along straight away when we met. We did not meet prior to the housesit, we just showed up, ready to go.

The housesit went great. Which lead to our first great review. We loved the independence the cat had which allowed us to also explore the city while we were on vacation from work and home. The only thing that was less that par was the parking situation in the city – but we did handle that too within the first afternoon – which we were also very lucky to grab a spot that didn’t have a meter. 

Fast forward two months and now I am dreaming of traveling and working remotely long term with Guy. He was already working remotely and we just needed to get my boss on board which eventually we were able to do. You can read about how I transitioned my in house job to a remote job, here.

When people talk about manifesting and dream lives, I always dreamed of this current situation I have now: working remotely and being able to travel the world on my own terms – I had no idea what I would be doing or how I would do it, but I always knew it was what I wanted, and so did all of my friends and family. I had notes I wrote in my phone that listed out what my “perfect day” would be. It was incredible to find that in my phone recently to see my dreams over five years ago now coming true and almost to a T. And yes, waking up without an alarm and being able to lie in bed until 11am writing for my blog (although I pictured it as more successful than it is, still working on that one 🙂 or doing work was on that list along with other things that allowed me to live a happy and stress-free life doing what I wanted. I hated being at work at 9:00 am. I hated waiting until 5:00 pm I hated having two days to live on the weekend. None of that was meant for me, and I knew it didn’t have to be.

Fast forward three months and we were living in Bali and had applied to a few housesits but didn’t get them. We blamed our lack of verification on the website and started getting serious asking for references from friends and past bosses, and emailing up support wondering why my email wouldn’t get verified instead of ignoring it any longer – when you initially sign up they have you simply verify your email address, the email never showed up in my inbox no matter how many times I clicked “send me the email” and we just let it go.

Once we were verified, we continued to apply for housesits. And suddenly we had a phone interview here and a skype interview there. I remember being more nervous for these interviews than I had been walking into actual job interviews in the past for accounting positions. We started to get accepted and it seems now we can apply and I already know which ones we will get, and which ones I am applying to out of seeing a dream housesit. What I mean by a “dream” housesit is, some of these housesits have over 50 applicants, the houses are like mansions, and they are meant for a serious housesitter who’s been doing it for years with fifty reviews – and I apply just out of wishing and hoping and dreaming we could be picked, because, you never know! I know I send in a good application (as I have been told) but in a group of 50, we don’t stick out quite yet because we only have a few housesits under our belt… but I know the more sits we do, and more good reviews we have, we will start to get into that category, and that is the ultimate goal, to be able to “handpick” where we want to go just by sending out our application.

We do a damn good job, and we know it. We treat the housesits as our job and traveling and exploring the area is our third job. Obviously, our main jobs are our first job, but they come after the aminal(s) are fed, or whatever is being needed to be done.

We fall in love with the pets and it’s hard to leave them every time. We have a lot of dogs that we watch over. Dogs require much more work than cats do with walks sometimes up to 4 times a day! And feeding 2-3 times a day. There’s getting up early and making sure everyone is fed and walked and peed and pooped. Sometimes there are sleepless nights and sometimes there are cuddle nights in with the animals. I love playing Aunt Sarah to these dogs while their owners are away. Some of these dogs, we literally still think about wondering how they are doing, we love them that much.

While in Bali, once we knew we would be going to New Zealand for up to a year, we (ahem, I) started applying to dog sits. Lots of them. I spent hours every day searching through the filters and looking for dog sits that we would want to do. It’s not a short process if you are doing it correctly and thoroughly and it’s not for every type of traveler. We are lucky enough to travel long term, on no terms, and can stay as long as we want, or pop over to another country for a housesit for x weeks if we find a good one. Having that freedom is definitely a perk in this whole process. However, a regular traveler is 100% able to use this website to their advantage too.

Ok, my story is done, back to what you came here for, how to travel for free using housesitting!

There are quite a few housesitting websites you can sign up for. Some cost more than others and some might even be free. We stuck with the first one that I stumbled across, and after some research, to me, it was the most well-known site with the best group of people. If you are interested in signing up, please do so here! You get a 25% discount, and I get a free month of usage from the website – win win!

Step 1: Sign up.

The website doesn’t really allow you to search around for housesits in great depth without being a member. To be able to search for all the amazingness, you need to become a member. You sign up for a yearly fee, by clicking this link, you automatically get 25% off your membership. If you use this site even for 2/365 days, this fee is worth it. Hopefully once you use it once, you will become addicted to “free” travel and use it more and more.

Part of me wants to be selfish and not tell others about this site, because frankly the more people who sign up to be housesitters equals more competition for us when we are sending applications, but this is just too good not to share! It is truly one of our favorite ways to travel. Even with a kiddo on the way, we 100% plan to use this site again in the future as a family.

Step 2: Create a profile that sticks out.

Like most sites, they walk you through step by step for what you need to fill out here. I’ve learned that the more information you put the better. The more you type about yourself, the better a future host can see your personality in your writing and see what type of person you are, and if you can provide what they will need while they are away.

People who work remotely may have a slight advantage, as you will be at home a lot of the time with the animals and not just on a travel vacation to see a new area. The hosts 100% understand that is why you are there, to travel and be on vacation, but they want to know you won’t be leaving their home left alone for too long at a time, and that you will 100% be staying the night like you said you would.

There are a lot of hosts using the site for the first time, and like anyone, they are a bit nervous to allow a stranger to take care of their home and beloved pet -the more friendly you appear on your profile, the better your chances are of getting chosen.

You want to include:

1. A bit about your personal background. Where you grew up, if you had any pets yourself – what they were. Also, it’s good to add in how long you have been using trusted house sitters.

2. What you do for a job.

3. A few of your favorite hobbies.

4. Any previous housesitting or petsitting experience that you have.

Photos are also an important factor as this can be their very “first impression” of seeing who you are. You want a professional type of photo. I don’t mean a strict headshot, but a nice and composed photo of you and your partner, if you have one, that you will be housesitting with. No photos with groups of friends. Hopefully, this is obvious, but no crazy party photos or anything like that. Photos of you with any of your animals or animals from a previous housesit is a nice touch. Travel photos are also okay.

Step 3: Search for housesits.

This is the fun part. You can search for housesits anywhere in the world, or by a certain country, or even a town that you want to visit specifically. Even in your home country. If you have restricted travel dates, you can filter for your specific dates. You can filter by animals that you love or don’t love. You can filter by if the housesit has a car included in the sit or not, because, yes, some of them even have a free “rental” car included. Go crazy with the filters, or don’t. The fewer filters the more sits that will show up in your search. You can also filter for long term or short term, or again, just search them all and see what you get!

Step 4: Write a successful housesitters application:

Now that you have your profile set up, you’ve searched out destinations that you want to visit and live in for free and have found a few housesits that you know you would be perfect for, it’s time to write an application to apply for the sit.

Make sure you have read through every bit of their profile and when you apply, you need to cater your message to that profile, specific owner and specific animal as best you can so it doesn’t look like you are just copying and pasting a general application to everyone. Once you apply to a few, you will see that having a general skeleton application, will help save you a little bit of time. But no application will be the same.

I can spend up to 2 hours on any one application. I reread it over and over and make sure there is not a single grammar error. I make sure that I say “he” or “she” in all the proper places, and that I mention something about the profile/ human or dog in my response. I have a little structure I follow that I think helps organize the application.

I give an about me section and what we’ve been up to and why I think we’d be perfect for the sit. I mention keeping the house clean and that we will be home most of the day due to the nature of our work, therefore not leaving the animals alone for too long. I really go into detail as this is a sort of first impression/resume that you are sending. In my opinion, the more information the better. These people are probably weary in the first place about lending their home and childlike fur babies to strangers. Let your personality shine through in your application if you are applying. And only apply if you are certain you are available for the dates they requested. I’ve been told that my lengthier and detailed applications are what have gotten us the “job” in the past. 

Even though you aren’t getting paid for these housesits, you are saving money you would otherwise be spending to stay in accommodation. However, it’s not all a free ride, you do have a job to do. If you were savvy enough you could probably live in housesits year-round if you wanted to all over the world. It’s a genius concept of a website and I wish we would have thought of it!

Step 5: If you are lucky: The Interview.

Now you’ve sent your application (or 10 applications) and you wait for responses. Most everyone will respond to be courteous, and usually hosts receive a lot of applications, so it can take them a few days to filter through and narrow it down to a few they want to interview.

Say you get into the final few and they want to discuss the “job” with you. Not every single housesit host will want to do an interview with you, but in my opinion, if they don’t suggest it, you should. You don’t want to be stuck in a catfish situation where you are stuck housesitting something you won’t be happy with. It’s nice to know that the host is well-spoken and lives in a nice neighborhood and keeps their house clean before you get there (if those things are important to you). It’s nice to meet the pet via facetime as well to try to see how they act. You don’t want to be in charge of a naughty dog or cat, that will just ruin your experience!

Depending on if your interview is over the phone or via facetime or skype, you want to dress the part. Take a shower, do your hair, wear something decent even if it’s from the waist up. This is what will make or break you for getting the housesit. It’s a legit interview. You are also interviewing them. Be ready with a few questions to ask.

This is now the second impression and probably besides your photo the first time you will have seen each other “in person”. You want to sound cheery and excited about the housesit and look well presented. You want to focus on their animals and their house and neighborhood when it comes to questions. Sure you probably chose the house in the first place because you are excited to travel to that destination, but really, this is far from a free ride. You have a huge responsibility to keep their home and animals safe and you need to let them know at this stage that that is your number one concern, and exploring the city around comes second. And it can’t just be an act, this is how you will need to treat the housesit.

The host might be interviewing a few different people also, so keeping this a professional conversation with a side of trying to find some common ground between you both is important. We found that if you can connect in some way, and have something in common, they will be more likely to choose you.

Lucky for you, you already have two huge things in common, you both love to travel, and you both love animals – If you can’t find anything else, go off of those things and you are sure to have a pleasant conversation.

Step 6: After you land the job, you need to make sure you do a good job.

If the dog has a schedule, you keep him on that schedule. Always keep in contact with the owner and keep them updated about how their animals are doing with pictures and videos. Even if it seems excessive, because sometimes it will be. Until they mention that they don’t need to be updated daily, you update daily, or you can discuss this prior to the housesit so you know what they are expecting.

Never spend the night elsewhere if you say you will be staying at the house with the animal. Don’t bring people over, and keep the house clean. It’s pretty basic, but I have heard a few horror stories from hosts about their sitters in the past. It sort of blows my mind people act the way they do sometimes.

If you want to make this your main way of traveling for free, which it can be, you cannot afford to get a single bad review with this. There are far too many other amazing housesitters out there to choose from who don’t have any bad reviews. If you want to housesit again, and I believe that you will, the trusty review system is where you need to do your absolute best to get that great review to help you land your next sit.

Step 7: When the housesit is done, write a review.

Honestly is the best policy here. You want to help any future housesitters to know exactly what they are getting themselves into in regards to the house, neighborhood, and the pets. Remember, you aren’t the only one gaining a benefit here of staying “for free” the host is also getting free pet care while they get to go on vacation which usually can be quite costly, so just as much as you need the good review, if they want to use the site again, they also need the good review.

If there was something you didn’t like about the housesit, or the pet, to stay on good terms with the host, I suggest you mention this to them first and let them know you will be writing about it in your review. Let’s be courteous humans and not blindside anyone with a bad review if we don’t need to.

Step 8: Count up all the money you just saved by living in someone’s house for free for X amount of days, weeks, or months! I mean….. pick your next housesit and repeat!

The best part about this is that this service is available all over the world. You pay one night’s accommodation in a hotel for an unlimited amount of opportunity to literally live for free.

There are a ton of sites out there that you can look up to use, but hands down, trusted housesitters is one of the best there is (in my opinion! But use and try as many as you want, go crazy!)

Housesitting might be more for a certain type of traveler. It’s not for everyone, I mean technically it is for everyone, but not everyone wants to spend their beloved two weeks per year vacation feeding someone else’s dog or cat.

You travel to these destinations on their time so you need to have a flexible schedule of when you can leave. Or like I mentioned, you can search for specific dates on the site which is helpful but if you want to go and get the absolute most out of a weekend away, adding in the responsibility of needing to feed and walk a dog a few times a day will be a real buzz kill on your vacation and you may just want to book a hotel with your credit card points to be able to travel for free (if you have them).

Some sits though, do not have any animals involved, they just require you to watch over the home and plants and whatever else they may have the need for which is all equally as important to the host and you still need to be around to do your “job”.

Pros of house and pet sitting:

You’ll likely fall in love with these animals and have a hard time leaving them. They make for great excuses to go on walks outside and make great company.

You’ll likely stay in a destination that you may not have chosen to pay to stay at, and end up really enjoying it.

You’ll likely make a new friend with the host.

You’ll likely fall in love with this website, and get addicted to traveling for free.

Con(s) – If you can even call them that.

You are taking over someone else’s schedule. Always find out how involved the housesit is before agreeing.

If you are interested in signing up for this service, please use this link, it helps me get a free month of searching for sits and is at no extra cost to you, in fact, you get a 25% off discount!

If you loved this article, please share it with someone else you think might benefit from it, as I am pretty sure, sharing is still caring.

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