I’ve mentioned before that my parents are my travel inspiration, and after their recent gallivant around the world for almost two years, that’s definitely still the case. So how did they manage to travel endlessly for such a long time?
In one word – Housesitting.
Well, and coming to stay with me, but mostly, housesitting!
Table of Contents
What is housesitting?
Housesitting is a partnership between people who are going on holiday and for whatever reason would like someone to stay at their house to look after it, and people who are travelling and looking for somewhere to stay but are interested in something a little different than just booking a hotel.
Often a homeowner is looking for a housesitter because they have pets they would like to be looked after in their home environment, rather than putting them in a kennel. They may just want their pets to be happy at home, or they could have special medical conditions that require a bit more care. However, not every housesit involves pets. Sometimes a homeowner would just like someone to look after the house, especially if they’re away long-term. There may be some light gardening duties or maintenance involved.
Reasons to try housesitting in Europe
Housesitting seems to have really taken off lately, with more and more people realising it is a viable option for when they travel. But why might someone choose to be a housesitter in Europe?
Save on accommodation costs
This is the most obvious benefit of housesitting. By staying in someone’s house, you’re saving on accommodation, and sometimes significantly if it’s a long stay. This means you can holiday for much longer.
There are house-sits available in all sorts of destinations year round. You may be able to secure accommodation through a house-sit in the height of holiday season in Europe when the savings would be huge. Essentially, this is what my parents did. They booked themselves into housesitting positions in Europe throughout the summer, to save as much as possible to travel around Europe more in the offseason.
Spend time with animals
Are you one of those people who can’t help but want to pat a cat or dog when you see it? That misses animals when you haven’t spent time with them in a while? Housesitting often means you get to spend a lot of time with animals. Most homeowners get you to look after their dogs or cats, but there are also horses, chickens, rabbits, turtles, fish, basically anything you can have as a pet!
If you’re travelling and missing your own animals, or can’t have them because you’re travelling, then this is a great compromise! My parents really fell in love with many of the dogs they looked after, so much so that they missed them after leaving, and have even been back to housesit at the same places again!
See a different side of the country
While there can be house-sits available in major cities and tourist destinations, you can also broaden your travel experience by staying in some places you might never have considered without housesitting. Get a taste of real life wherever you’re travelling, and visit an area you would never have thought of.
Relax in a home environment
Bouncing from one form of accommodation to another when you’re travelling can get tiring, and sometimes it’s nice to just feel more at home, well, in someone’s home! You’ll have access to a kitchen and quite often wifi which may not be freely available in other types of accommodation.
Firstly you’ll be able to glean a bit of local knowledge from your hosts, but then you can also get to know the locals around you too, especially if you’re in a smaller place. When my parents were housesitting in Europe they were able to join in with all sorts of activities. In France, they were invited to the local village dinners and rugby matches. In the UK, they joined in with some of the local dog walking groups and were invited to local village parties. These things would never happen if you were just a tourist.
How to find long-term housesitting jobs in Europe
There are several different platforms for finding housesitting jobs in Europe. Join a platform that is reliable, and has systems in place for both the house sitter and the homeowner.
Nomador is a platform for finding housesitting jobs that started out in Europe and still has a focus there. Founder Mariannig Ferrari started the organisation after personally facing the dilemma of who would look after her pets while she was on holiday.
The Nomador housesitting system was built to be as available as possible, so the first option for both homeowners is to list their property for free, and housesitters can apply for up to 3 listings for free too. The next level up is a “Confidence Option” at $89USD per year that allows homeowners to directly contact housesitters they like the look of, and limit their listing to paid housesitters only, and for housesitters to be able to apply for an unlimited amount of listings.
Tips for getting housesitting jobs abroad
Work hard on your profile
Your profile is really a reflection of you. You should take time to make sure that your personality comes across, and why you would make a great housesitter. Be completely honest and open. If you prefer to only housesit with dogs or cats then say so.
When you first start out you may not have housesitting references, but you can use personal references from reliable people that you know. Once you’ve built up some references by housesitting it’ll be much easier, so just stick with it!
Do more than email and message
A face to face talk with owners on Skype or something similar at application time is a great way to put a face to the emails or voice and place everyone at ease. My parents organised their first UK house-sits from New Zealand, well in advance of when they would be arriving.
Popular housesits can go FAST. Check regularly (even daily) for new house-sits in your desired areas, and be quick about getting an application in when you like the sound of one. In popular locations owners can get inundated with applications so if you are one of the first you stand a better chance. Nomador allows you to set up an alert to get an email notification when a house-sit that matches your preferences is listed, so you don’t miss out on opportunities.
Flexibility is key
My parents actually built their holidays around the housesit rather than try and find housesitting jobs that fell in between specific dates. They would allow for several days between housesitting for travel and to be a “normal” tourist wherever they liked. You may need to be flexible with the location as well as the timeframe. This also meant they could take housesits they were comfortable with, not just those that fit for a free place to stay.
But don’t be so flexible you take a housesit that makes you uncomfortable! When you’re searching, filter the results based on what kind of housesit you’re willing to take, for example, with or without animals.
Apply in advance
If you’re able, apply as far in advance as possible. This gives you plenty of time to sort travel arrangements and get discounted fares if necessary. My parents bought a car in the UK and drove it around Europe to give them more flexibility through having their own transport, but you would need to check insurance first or see what works for you.
How to be a great housesitter
Respect the house
You’re staying in someone’s home, rather than a hotel, and you should treat it as such. Owners love to be able to return home to a clean and tidy house and happy pets. Keep things clean and tidy. Check with the owner whether you can help out with mowing the lawn or other small tasks.
Supply your own food and replace what you use of the owners
Some owners may offer you some food, especially if it is perishable, however, as a general rule you should bring your own food and replace anything that you use. The hosts are gracious enough to supply you with accommodation but they should not feed you. It’s a nice gesture to have some food basics available on their return, like milk and bread. If they are returning later in the day see if they need a meal. Having something simple available can be greatly appreciated by some owners who arrive back home after a long days travel.
Some pets have specific diets and medical needs. Often these needs have been discovered by the owners the hard way so it’s important you stick to the requirements for each pet carefully. Make sure you find out all of this information before you accept the house-sit so that both you and the owners are comfortable with you being able to care for any pets. If there’s no information on the listing, ask what you need to know about the property or care of the pets before you accept a position.
Check with the owners how much communication they would like while they’re away. Some may want a daily update, others may only require contact if there is a problem or something important happens. Most appreciate a text update every now and again with perhaps some photos attached.
Deal with issues
Don’t delay if you have concerns regarding the animal’s health. You should make sure you have the instructions for local vets that know the animals, or emergency contacts. This applies to the property too! If a leak appears, or something stops working, know what to do and who to contact.
Go with the flow
A great housesitter will have the ability to be flexible and have an open mind about change. You will experience a wide variety of living conditions, pets, and surroundings, so just go with the flow and enjoy the experience.
Don’t think you need to stay at home with the pets all the time. Take the pets to local parks and villages, and even the pub!
Mistakes to avoid when you’re housesitting
When you’re starting out as a housesitter it can be a little nerve-wracking, but just remember that flexibility and adaptability are crucial.
Don’t try to adhere to a strict time frame
If possible try and arrive a day before the owners leave, or early in the day, so you have plenty of time to go over everything. Any pets will also see you interacting with their owner and be more comfortable with you.
There is nothing worse than being held up on the day of arrival and the owners are getting worried and wondering where you are. Going away on holiday and leaving the pets behind can be very stressful for the owners and it makes for a better experience for all if you are there in plenty of time. If the owners are arriving back late at night arrange to stay that night if possible and leave the next day.
Don’t isolate yourself
Introduce yourself to the neighbours and join in with the local events. You have the opportunity to meet some great people and get involved in wonderful experiences. Even if you don’t speak the local language it is amazing what you can achieve and the experiences you will have by joining in.
Your Housesitter checklist
- Create a great profile
- Have an open mind about location
- Be flexible with time frames
- Talk to the owner on Skype or video messaging if possible
- Have a good understanding of what the owner requires of you before you accept
- Allow plenty of time to arrive
- Write down instructions if you need to, although most owners will supply a good checklist and you can use checklists from housesitting platforms too
- Have a way to contact the owners in an emergency, and local services
- Get involved in local life
- Keep good references for future use
Housesitting is not only a great way to save on accommodation and travel for longer, but it’s a way to enrich your travel experiences. Have you ever thought about trying it?
Special thanks to my parents for their help with this post! My Mum posts all about their adventures on her Instagram.
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