Most families look for ways to cut costs on a family trip. House sitting is an ideal way for families to enjoy a vacation without having to pay for hotels or even RV campgrounds. Your family simply “moves in” to another family’s home and makes sure the house is occupied when the owners leave. Simply subscribe to a reputable house sitting website, and you’ll have the whole world available to you!
Check Out the Opportunities
Would your family enjoy a trip to Washington DC? How about planning a vacation close to Walt Disney World? Or…let’s really dream big…what about staying at a chateau in France for free? Those three house sitting opportunities all came up within the last month. And yes, all three owners said they would be delighted to have children stay in their homes.
Here’s how a recent house sitting ad ran: “We live in a charming four-bedroom house built in the 1800s, located in the Cotswold’s. It has a thatched roof, large garden and is located in a village that has two bakeries, pubs and anything else you need. We’re looking for a couple, with or without children, to stay in our home and water our garden for ten days. The village is within driving distance of many attractions and great walking trails. Our car is available for you to use if you can prove a clean driving record.”
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
Many House Sitting Options
Interested? That’s simply one of 35 or so ads that come up on a daily basis if you subscribe to any one of several house sitting websites. My husband and I have participated in six house sitting opportunities ranging from a condo in Orlando to a huge manor house in England to a one bedroom casita in a Spanish village with 500 people.
Some house sit positions involve living in the owner’s actual home. In many cases though, the ad will read, “Looking for a couple or family to stay in our two bedroom guesthouse adjacent to our house. Guesthouse includes all furnishings, cable TV, cozy fireplace and laundry room.” On occasion, owners offer a large RV for the house sitters to enjoy.
We’re often asked, “You mean you go and live in a stranger’s house while they leave?” The answer is “Yes!”
At first it seemed a bit awkward to be in someone’s house and use their stove, washing machine and sleep in one of their beds. Now, within 30 minutes, we are settled in!
House Sitting: Short or Long Term?
House sits vary from a few days to more than a year. For family trips, a shorter commitment obviously works well. One family enjoyed an eight-day housesit in San Diego. They stayed in a three bedroom house on the beach, close to SeaWorld and LEGOLAND.
Let’s emphasize they stayed for free! The owners simply wanted “a presence” on their property and didn’t mind that the family took day trips. Some families, after trying a house sit for a family vacation, use the experience for a new lifestyle. One homeschool family took a five-month house sitting position in Costa Rica. The position required them to simply feed two outdoor cats. For that rough job, they lived rent free, which included cable and internet at no cost.
Dogs, Cats and Turtles!
In many cases, homeowners want someone to stay in their home to look after their beloved pets. The ad will clearly describe the pets such as, “We have two Springer Spaniels that love people and love walks even more. We’d like the house sitters to take the dogs on a two-mile hike every day. The dogs are used to sleeping on our bed, so hopefully the house sitters will be open to that sleeping arrangement.”
Often there is an adorable picture of the pets, usually sprawled on the couch or wearing a goofy Halloween costume. It’s up to you to decide what level of pet care you want to apply for.
One ad read, “Our cat needs a shot every day and this requires two adults to administer.” I didn’t even think about applying to that one! In fact, since I’m not a cat person, I automatically eliminated any ad mentioning cat care. Give me a St. Bernard anytime!
Our next house sit, in Portugal, involves taking care of two donkeys named Salt and Pepper, an African parrot and several Portuguese Water Dogs. (Although since we are in Portugal, I assume they are just called “Water Dogs”.) On the other hand, our two-month house sit in England didn’t involve any pets at all. Again, the ads clearly define the pet responsibilities, so you can decide if that house sit is for you. In some cases, the owners don’t mind if you bring your own pet to the housesit!
Finding the Perfect House Sit Match
The process to apply for a house sitting position is much like creating a dating profile and going on a site like Match.com. (Not that I’ve ever applied on a matchmaking site!)
After reading an ad for a house sit that interests you, simply hit “reply” on the website and send an email, stating why you should be selected to take care of the owner’s house. In one case, I responded to an ad and within five minutes got a reply that said, “We’d love to have you house sit for us! You and your husband sound perfect! Can you be here by May 9th?” In most cases though, you’ll get an email telling you they’ve found another applicant, or that you’ve been shortlisted. In that case, you wait a day or two until the home owner lets you know if you were selected.
Where Do I Apply?
Google “House Sit” and you’ll come across numerous websites with additional information. My two favorite sites are:
Simply register and pay a nominal fee to get access to daily new house sitting opportunities. I admit, I check the site several times a day, looking for that next perfect house sitting position.
Right now we’re getting ready to house sit in a French town 20 minutes from Geneva, followed by a village in Bavaria. As empty nesters, we have the luxury of time and can look for long-term house sit positions. For the average family looking to save money on a one or two-week vacation, house sitting could be just the solution!