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Want to Save Money Next Time You Travel? Consider a Pet- or House-sitting Gig

While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, signing up to do some pet- or house-sitting at your destination is the ultimate travel hack for those who don’t mind a little extra responsibility. After all, the promise of a free place to stay in your dream location is hard to beat, right? Here’s how pet- and house-sitting while traveling works, why it’s so great, and a few things to note before accepting your first sit.  

Photo by Adam Griffith

How It Works

Operating on the same reviews-based, background-checked trust economy as apps like Uber and Airbnb, house- and pet-sitting platforms make it possible for pet parents and homeowners to link up safely with caretakers and do an exchange. Travelers get a free place to stay and homeowners get free care of their home and pets while they’re away.

The process goes like this:

  • A pet parent or homeowner has plans to travel and wants their pets to stay home safely or wants a trustworthy caretaker to water plants and bring in mail and packages while they’re away. 
  • They put up a listing on one of the housesitting platforms, sharing information about their travel dates, the location of their home, its amenities, their pets and their needs, and any other sitter expectations. 
  • A sitter looking to travel to their area sees the listing and applies. 
  • The pet parent or homeowner checks out the reviews and references on the sitter’s profile and then reaches out for a video or phone interview. 
  • If all goes well, they can take advantage of free care for their pet and home while they’re away and the sitter has a free place to stay for their upcoming trip. 
  • There are a variety of platforms and apps designed to match sitters with pet parents and homeowners. Start your search on platforms like TrustedHousesittersHouse Sitters AmericaMindMyHouse, and HouseCarers. You can also join Facebook Groups dedicated to house- and pet-sitting gigs in the destinations you want to visit. Some platforms require a membership fee that can range anywhere from $50 to $300 annually; others, such as Rover, facilitate paid pet-sitting opportunities and will take a portion of your earnings after the sit concludes. 
Photo by Paul Hanaoka

The Benefits

Free place to stay

Wherever in the world you want to travel, there is likely a pet or home that needs someone to look after it. The beauty of pet- and house-sitting lies in the way both parties’ needs are met: The sitter gets a free place to stay, the owners rest easy knowing their pets and home are taken care of, and both get to save money in the process. 

Live like a local anywhere you want

Pet- and house-sitting inherently means you’re staying in a local’s home, living as they do. You shop at their grocery store, frequent their parks and neighborhood haunts, and get the insider scoop on their city straight from a reliable source. If it’s a destination where you don’t know anyone, this access and information is priceless.  

Access to a kitchen, possibly a vehicle, and a space all your own

House-sitting comes with perks, usually in the form of a fully stocked kitchen, sometimes a bicycle or car for you to use, and maybe even an airport pickup and drop-off at the start and end of your stay. Nothing, however, beats the feeling of being at home (away from home) that you’ll get from watching over someone’s place and pets. 

New friends, furry and otherwise

There’s a sense of quick connection that results from the intimate act of looking after a host’s pets, plants, and home while they’re away. Oftentimes, when all has gone well, you’ll leave a sitting gig feeling like a new friendship has been forged—one you could pick up again if and when you’re ever back in town. 

Guaranteed company if traveling solo

For those traveling solo, it’s nice to have a purring cat curled up in your lap or a dog whose tail wags just because you walk in the door. And when you’re far from home and alone, even by choice, those little things only a pet can deliver can make it less lonely and help you feel like you belong. 

Photo by Roberto Nickson

Things to Keep in Mind

  • As a sitter, the priority will always be the pet and/or the house in your care—not your sightseeing plans. Dogs will need to be walked, repairmen or cleaners might stop by on a specific day and time, and plants may need watering.  
  • Be prepared for plans to change or fall through at the last second. Though it happens rarely, it can happen, so it’s a good idea to have a backup plan or good trip insurance that will reimburse you for flights and anything else you might have booked. 
  • There is the possibility that something may go wrong during your sit. It’s a good idea to run through those possible scenarios with your host to make sure you know what to do if the pet needs emergency vet attention, you get locked out of the house, there’s a fire, or some other unfortunate mishap occurs. 
  • As you’ll be staying in a stranger’s home, do your due diligence to ensure your safety. Some tips to consider: Google the host’s full name before accepting a sit; only book sits through platforms that do background checks on all hosts; schedule a video call or an in-person meet-and-greet with the pet and hosts first, if possible; and get a sense for the safety of the area you’ll be staying in and the personality of the pet in your care. 
  • If using pet- and house-sitting platforms like TrustedHousesitters and Rover, your five-star ratings and glowing references are your key to unlocking endless sitting gigs all over the world. In many cases, it’s your ratings and reviews that will get your foot in the door and build trust with the host right away. To ensure a five-star review, simple courtesies like regular updates, a clean house upon the host’s return, and respect for the rules go a long way. 
  • Don’t take on more than you can handle. If watching five dogs and three cats is too much for you, or you’ve never been around farm animals before—caring for horses, goats, and chickens isn’t unheard of—don’t apply for those gigs. Or, if you do, be sure to be honest and upfront with the host so they know to walk you through everything you’ll need to know in advance. 
  • Be mindful that some countries treat pet- and house-sitting as work, even when unpaid. This may require you to enter the country on a different visa than a typical tourist visa. Also, be aware of the number of days you’re allowed to stay in a country, and never accept a sit for dates that extend beyond that amount of time. 

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