- I love traveling and seeing new places, but my bank account is less keen.
- This year, I’ve started pet sitting to get free vacation accommodation.
- This makes traveling so much more affordable and brings the bonus of company on solo trips.
I have always loved traveling, but my bank account has other opinions.
Since COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed, I’ve wanted to get back into adventuring and lean into my wanderlust. But my dreams of ticking off every destination on my travel bucket list started to fade when I started working out the costs.
But this year, I’ve discovered a life hack to get free accommodation wherever I go, making my adventures much more affordable.
Instead of paying top dollar for a hotel or Airbnb or sleeping in a hostel room with multiple strangers, I stay at people’s homes and look after their beloved pets through TrustedHousesitters.
It’s a win-win for all parties involved. I get a free place to stay on the proviso. I care for their pets, and they get their house and fur baby looked after.
You still have to pay for your travel, so it’s not a free trip, but it’s a way to save hundreds of dollars or even thousands, as it’s possible to housesit for months at a time.
In October, I spent a week in idyllic Vienna looking after 18-month-old Molly, the perfect companion for a solo trip – even if there was a bit of a language barrier.
When I saw the ad to look after Molly, I simply applied for the trip through the Trusted Housesitters app and was invited to have a zoom call with her owners, who live in a suburb of the Austrian capital, Vienna.
We spoke about what she needs, if I have any experience with nervous dogs and rescues and how I’d be able to look after their home. We quickly agreed that we’d be a good fit for each other, so I booked my tickets to Vienna that night.
This meant that I had to incorporate pet-related chores into my vacation time. Molly needed two walks a day, so I needed to structure my sightseeing plans accordingly.
But she was happy being on her own for up to four hours, so I could go out and explore while she was content snuggling on the sofa. This worked well as Vienna is a small city, so it was easy to see a lot in a four-hour window.
Coming back to her very excited wagging tail and impressive jumps only added to the adventure.
In truth, if you want a responsibility-free vacation, this isn’t for you. But, I was happy having more downtime than I usually enjoy in the form of either cuddling with Molly or taking her for walks.
I’ll head off to Munich, Germany, in January to cat-sit. Feline friends might be a better option for people who want less time-intensive responsibilities on their vacation.
The final bonus to this “travel hack” is how you can meet great people across the globe. The family I was sitting for left the day after I arrived, and so we enjoyed an evening playing card games and chatting with each other before their vacation began. You make friends — furry and otherwise — and get to travel in a way that doesn’t hurt your bank account. A great solution to expensive wanderlust, in my opinion.
A great travel hack – but you have to be careful
As a British citizen, I can petsit in Europe with few restrictions. Post-Brexit, we can stay in a European Union country for 30 days out of every 90. But you must check what restrictions may be in place for you.
Earlier this year, an Australian woman said she turned back at the US border when she arrived in the country to pet sit with TrustedHousitters, Insider’s Ryan Hogg reported.
When she got to Los Angeles, border officials started interrogating her about her trip and asking several questions about her house-sitting arrangements, she told Insider.
When she told them how long she’d been house-sitting, where she’d be doing it, and how she found such opportunities, she was turned away and sent back to Australia.
While US Customs and Border Patrol couldn’t comment on Gourley’s specific case, a spokesperson advised that house-sitting breached visa guidelines.
“Under the Visa Waiver Program, nonimmigrant foreign nationals visiting the United States as tourists (visitors for pleasure), engaging in unauthorized employment is not allowed,” the spokesperson told Insider. “For example, working as a house-and-animal sitter in exchange for room and board,” they said.
However, a spokesperson for Trusted Housesitters said they didn’t know why the Australian citizen had been deported because officials had not given any explanation for their decision, and added that “petsitting with TrustedHousesitters doesn’t contravene immigration guidelines.”