Travelling in Europe is not cheap. I know. We recently spent four months backpacking around the continent with our two teenage kids as part of our year-long escaping from normal life world adventure. After coming from Asia it was a bit of a shocker on the old budget. That’s why I’m so glad we spent a chunk of our time house-sitting.
It saved us a fortune, the kids got to relax and slow down and we got to drink delicious wine from the terraces of beautiful properties. Win, win.
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We first started housesitting as a family a year ago, when, we very quickly realised that we needed to find a way to pay for our travels. Without some free accommodation, our budget to travel the world would be shred and we would probably be hitching a ride back home to New Zealand within six months.
Then we discovered Housesitting.
House sitting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I have met plenty of travellers who say they can’t think of anything worse than looking after someone else’s home and pets, but I disagree. Strongly.
For the sake of being careful with the china teacups and making sure the house is cleaned thoroughly you get to save yourself an absolute fortune by house-sitting internationally – especially in expensive places like Europe.
As well as New Zealand (our home country) we found housesitting opportunities in London, France, Italy and Ireland. Some were better than others, all, except London, were for a minimum of three weeks. When you combine those housesitting experiences, we probably saved over $10,000 on accommodation.
I’ll say that again. $10,000 saving.
First things first. What is house and pet sitting and how does it all work?
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How To Become A Housesitter. The Basics.
There are lots of housesitting websites on the world wide web, but we found the best one out there to be Trusted Housesitters.
Their website interface is straightforward to use, especially for technophobes like me, you can upload videos onto your profile (big help – more on that later) and everything just seems to work. Pretty pictures, lots of information, and like I said, very easy to use. The customer service is excellent and very accessible and they have a live chat along with a free 24/7 vet helpline. Perfect if you need that extra reassurance when you are dog or cat sitting.
I’m going to use Trusted Housesitters as an example because they are the ones we use and I love them. They have saved us an absolute fortune together with providing us with experiences that we would never have otherwise had the chance to have.
How Housesitting Works.
- You are a traveller who wishes to visit a city or country.
- You like animals.
- You sign up to the website Trusted Housesitters. This will cost you approx $120 a year. Think about that. You will make that fee back on your first night’s free accommodation.
- You are a responsible human being who can be trusted. Trusted Housesitters. Get it?!
- You make a profile. On this profile, you add lots of photos and as much information about yourself as possible. Remember, people are trusting you with their home and pets, they will expect more than a few lines saying we are nice.
- You can add a video to your profile. More on this later.
- You are sent emails every day with the latest international housesitting opportunities. You start searching.
- You find you’re perfect housesit. It is in Rome, and you’ve always wanted to go to Rome. Lots of nice Italians and cheese.
- You apply by way of email through the site. (More on this later)
- The homeowner falls in love with your profile because you have listened to my advice and your profile beats everyone else’s hands down.
- The host contacts you, perhaps arranges a skype call. You have a chat and before you know it: Mama Mia! You’re on your way to Europe to housesit in Rome for two weeks!
How To Housesit Like A Pro. Make Sure Your Profile Rocks!
This is one of the reasons I preferred Trusted Housesitters to the other housesitting websites. You can do so much with your profile.
Your profile is everything on any housesitting website; it’s your one chance to shine. Make sure you cram it with as much information as possible. As well as putting lots of lovely photos up of yourself (preferably with animals) make sure you write your description with personality, meaning let your voice come through.
You are far more likely to appeal to a homeowner if they can tell that you are a real person and not just someone with a pocket thesaurus.
Make a Video!
This is what we did, and I can guarantee that this is what got us so many housesitting gigs.
I simply stood in front of my husband’s phone and walked around our home (which I had spent five hours tidying beforehand) while he filmed me showing the viewer where we lived and that we were a genuine, friendly family. I got the kids to talk to the camera while they were with our pets (we own a dog, four cats and five sheep) so that people could see we were also animal lovers.
It sounds like a big effort, but honestly, it’s worth it. And it’s fun to make the video!!
Our video was about five minutes long but remember, it doesn’t have to be anything flash, just as long as it gives the potential house owner a chance to see who you are and what you are about.
I guarantee that by going this extra mile, you will have more chances of getting the housesit that you want.
Why You Will Love Housesitting In Europe.
You’ll Save Money
Europe is mega expensive. I’m not just saying that because we came from Asia. Prior to flying to Europe, we spent three weeks in Japan which is supposedly known for its high price tag, all the same when we got to Europe, we were frightened half to death by how quickly our money disappeared.
A Home Away From Home. Albeit a Posher One
Housesitting means you can unpack your case and move in for a couple of weeks. Personally, I wouldn’t bother taking a housesit unless it was two weeks or more. We did a house sit in London for five days, and by the time we got ourselves settled and got to know the dog, it was time to go, but you may think differently.
You are more than likely going to land yourself a luxury house that you could never otherwise afford to stay in. I don’t know about your financial situation, but at the moment, ours would not stretch to a five-bedroom farmhouse in France. House sitting gave us the chance to pretend we were rich for a few months.
You Get to Try Different Experiences
Every house sit we did in Europe was remote, meaning that we got to explore the countryside. For us, because we were housesitting with kids, this was ideal. Loads of space to walk the dogs and lots of fresh air. My teenagers were reluctant to go and experience any of this fresh air, but they were forced up and out of bed at 8 am so that they could at least say they had seen an early sunrise in the French countryside. We are excellent parents in that way.
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Our Experience Of Housesitting in Europe
I thought I’d share with you the fabulous things we got to do as a family all because of Housesitting!
- Experienced the French winning the world cup from a farmhouse in the countryside.
- Rode horses through the Irish countryside and played at being the lady of the manor for three weeks.
- Sipped Italian wine from our very own vineyard in a small chateau in Soave.
- Visited our old hometown of Bath in the UK, reminded ourselves of why we emigrated to New Zealand ten years ago and got to show the kids around the Roman baths for free as the owner left her utility bill for us to pretend we were local.
- Got to bathe an old English Sheepdog in his very own doggy shower!
Here’s a short video that my son, Sonny made of us in France when the French won the world cup! see what you get to experience when you Housesit?!
Leave a like for FRANCE!
Housesitting With Kids.
If you are travelling with kids, then you have to realise that not all housesitters will want to book you.
I applied for a fabulous apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I could tell the guy was super keen to let me come and I worked hard at contacting him and reassuring him that my teenagers weren’t hooligans, but in the end, we didn’t get it.
And I understand that.
I don’t know how I’d feel if I owned a million dollar penthouse suite and four backpackers turned up. Never mind, we still go to see the Eiffel Tower!
Housesitting with kids can work in your favour. If the housesitting hosts that you are looking at having kids of their own, then they will often prefer to have a family staying in the house especially if they have animals that are used to having kids around.
I honestly didn’t expect to get as many housesitting opportunities as we did and I think a lot of this came down to the fact that the people we house sat for had kids of their own. There aren’t that many families doing housesitting so you will be surprised at the choice.
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The Pro’s of Housesitting
As you can tell, I am a massive fan of housesitting. Here are some reasons why I think you should be too.
- It’s free. There’s your first clue.
- You get to look after pets. Pets can be a pro or a con depending on which way you look at it. We have a dog and four cats and after being away from them for months, we were craving some animal company. Kids just don’t love you the same. If you are an animal lover like me you will see this as a massive plus.
- The housesitting host often leaves a vehicle for you to drive. Not always the case but two of our hosts did and it saved us even more money on car hire. Big win.
- You get to meet different people. It is customary to arrive at your housesitting job at least a day before the owner leaves, this way you get to meet them and their animals, learn where the hoover lives and what day to put the rubbish out. If you’re lucky, as was the case for us in Ireland, you will be shown where the stables are so you can tack up and ride the horses every morning!
- You do feel as though you are living with the locals when you housesit. It’s nothing like a hotel. You get to do the things that you would do at home, meet the neighbours, collect the milk off the doorstep experiment with your cooking skills in a nice new kitchen.
The Cons of Housesitting.
As I said, I’m a fan, but there are a few niggles that you have to deal with so know this before you sign up and skip off to the French Riviera.
- You have to clean the place before you leave; unlike a hotel where you can get up in the morning with nothing to worry about but what eggs you should have for your breakfast. I hate cleaning, and I especially hate it if I know the owner of the house is coming home to inspect the place, so this is a con I suppose.
- You have to be super careful. People are trusting you with their possessions. Thankfully, after housesitting in Europe for three months, the only thing we broke was an outside table and a candlestick. The owners were lovely about both, but you do have to be aware and try not to be cack-handed when setting the table for dinner.
- You are looking after pets. House-sitting isn’t just about looking after nice properties in Europe, it’s also a job that requires you look after animals. Sometimes you will get lucky. You will land yourself a chateau in the Swiss Alps with only a goldfish to feed. Or a cat that is feral. But mostly you will have pets to look after. If you are a pet lover, then this won’t be a problem, but you do have to consider that the dogs might need to go out for a walk before you set off to go sightseeing in Florence for the day.
- You may have to cut the grass. We did this in France, although to be fair we made our teenage son do it. We are nice like that. Seriously, if you don’t like gardening, you will have to remember to mention this when you apply. Or hire my teenage boy.
Are you a traveller but are struggling to make that move to quit the 9 to 5 regular life and get out there and do it? Come and join me and I’ll talk you through it! I will send you a newsletter when I remember and we can grow old together. What do you think? Drop your email below and let’s catch up.
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That’s all I can I can think of; in my opinion, there is no better way to get to spend time in a country for free than to house sit.
If you are thinking of ways to save money, experience living in fabulous places for free and have the adventure of a lifetime, then get your name on the Trusted Housesitters website. We are big fans of Europe, and we will be housesitting every time we go over to visit.
Let me know how you go and whether you found this article helpful. What are your thoughts on housesitting?