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Family House Sitting. Yes or No?

I’m going to say what I really feel  (surprised, right?) and that is, long term family house sitting as part of family travel, isn’t for us. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you, plenty of families house sit with kids, find good house sits, and enjoy it. But for us, as long term family travellers house sitting doesn’t really work. It’s not our style of travel.

Mostly. I’m not saying we’ll never do it again, we’ve done it three times so far when we’ve been stationary in London, not when we’ve been actively travelling. Generally house sitting as a family is too hard to organise, too restrictive and too stressful for me and I’ll look at every other option before going for house sitting.

Now, last time I mentioned in public that I don’t much like house sitting, somebody had a go at me. I can’t remember exactly what he said and have no idea who he was, but, quite frankly, I don’t care what you think, dude. I don’t like it much and I’m sticking with my opinion. So here goes with the post.

Family House Sitting. The pros and cons of house sitting for families and is this a good accomodation choice for family travel. We don't think so.

If You’re New, What is House Sitting?

I didn’t know house sitting existed until a few years ago and it’s quite likely, if you’re new to the travel scene, that you won’t know either. So what is house sitting?

People who own houses sometimes go away, travelling, for business or on holiday and need someone to look after their pets, gardens, or just their houses. Sometimes they even need people to help run a business while they are away. If they don’t have friends or neighbours to help, and don’t want to pay a local professional pet or house sitter, they will turn to the house sitting agencies to find volunteers. These volunteers are people who will gladly stay in their houses for free as part of their own travels or chosen cheaper lifestyle.

The house sitters normally work for free, but some owners are prepared to pay. Some owners will throw in use of their cars if the property is remote. Beware, if travelling internationally to house sit, immigration can get narky about it. They sometimes see it as employment in their country even if no money changes hands. It’s best not to mention house sitting at immigration.

This is a pretty sweet deal to some people and various lifestyle travellers save thousands of dollars in hotel payments by travelling around the world staying in other people’s houses. That’s great for them and I’m glad they enjoy it, some of my best friends are involved in family house sitting. Some even make businesses out of it, they set up blogs and facebook pages selling courses on how to be great house sitters and score the best sits.

House sitting is  a big industry these days and highly competitive. Most travel bloggers will post affiliate links to the house sitting agency websites, they make commission on new sign ups.

All of our good house sits have been offered to us by readers, we’ve had no success with Trusted Housesitters because I just don’t have the time or energy to put into it when I can book a hotel or apartment in minutes through our favourite, Agoda.

Why We Don’t Like Family House Sitting

We’re actually looking for house sitters for our house in Romania, so I can’t say we’re not involved in the house sitting scene, we are.  We also house sit in London occasionally when chef is working, it’s OK and we love cats, but to do it while we’re travelling would be difficult.

We are cat people, we have an indoor cat and are well used to the realities or cat litter, cat toys – you need to play with younger, indoor cats in particular and the bad smell of cat food and cat poop. You need to honestly be able to care for a cat and know what to do in the process. Outdoor cats are arguable easier, but keeping a happy indoor cat is quite demanding.

To sit a dog, similar, you need to be able to handle dog poop and cope with other pet emergencies.

I’m also not going to say we are never going to house sit again, we might, and readers often contact us asking us to sit while they go on holiday.

  • You have to pay to join the agencies. If you don’t find a sit, that’s money down the drain.
  • Finding good house sits is hard, it’s competetive and very time consuming.
  • Family house sitting gigs are much harder to find again, most people want singles or couples.
  • I’m wary of other people’s dogs around my kids. ( A friend’s teenager was bitten by a dog they were sitting requiring a hospital visit and stitches)
  • The amount of time it takes to trawl through the house sitting agency emails, looking for sits, is more than I’m prepared to put in. Finding a house sit has to be high on your priority list.
  • House sitting makes me feel like a free-loader.
  • You are tied to other people’s dates, you lose your freedom and spontaneity.
  • No room cleaning, fresh towels or any other hotel type service. Normal house work is something I don’t want while travelling. I don’t have the time.
  • House sits are normally in residential areas, far from where we, as travellers or tourists want to be.
  • I hate the expression “live like a local” I probably should clarify that, see the end of the post.
  • I enjoy being around other travellers in hotels or guest houses, house sitting is too isolating.
  • I’d rather eat out, so having a kitchen to cook in isn’t an advantage. I can stay home for that.
  • Time and place restrictions go with house sitting. I like my freedom too much to be tied down.
  • I constantly stress about my kids breaking or marking something ( it’s never happened thankfully)
  • I’m over slow travel, I get bored.
  • Being in other people’s houses feels weird to me, not even as a guest when they’re there.
  • The clean up job at the end of a house sit, to leave the whole place immaculate and stocked with food, is massive. As a clean freak and perfectionist, this part is hell for me. Hiring a cleaner would help somewhat.

So generally I just find family house sitting far too stress-y, too time consuming and too restrictive. I’m not the only one, some other family travellers feel the same, but most seem to love house sitting. That’s fine!

Family house sitting. Is t a good choice for families.

When Does Family House Sitting Work?

The only time I consider family house sitting is in the ultra-expensive destinations, for medium-long term stays, not really as part of “travel” where we’re constantly moving with little time or inclination to plan ahead.

London when Chef is working, that’s basically it.

But I can see how it would work well in most cities in the more expensive parts of the world. In cheaper countries, where we can find a guest house or hotel from upwards of $10 per night, it’s not worth it to me at all.

If you particularly need to rent an apartment or house for the style of living they provide, house sitting may suit you down to the ground. In that scenario I’d far rather pay to rent somewhere ( as we did in London for 8 months), but if time to stay was short I’d start looking at the house sitting options. We’ve recently had more success with AirBnb in London, finding apartments for month long stays at around half standard hotel costs, similar prices to standard renting.

The “Live Like a Local” Thing

This is why the above expression makes zero sense to me.

We live in a village in rural Romania. We live in a traditional, 100 year home, with no heating other than a wood stove, we chop our own wood, we have temperamental water that freezes in winter and runs dry in summer, we have seasonal mud and very limited facilities. We shop at the farmers markets and in our nearest small supermarket. We mix with our neighbors, help them out, attend church and family events and struggle to get by in their language.

So do we ” Live Like The Locals?”

Hell no!

We don’t work in the fields to grow crops, we don’t spend all summer building hay stacks for winter, we don’t fatten and then slaughter our own pigs for a Christmas feast, our kids don’t go to the local school. We’re not reliant on local health care and we have a car, not a horse.

Of course we don’t live like the locals! We live among them, we love them and we love this village, but we will never live like them. We will never fully understand their customs and traditions, we will never dress like them or have their sense of community or belonging, we don’t have their faith in the church.

That “live like a local” expression really bugs me.  ” Live where the locals live” would be better.

So that’s my take on family house sitting. A ten minute response to a friend’s post on long term house sits this morning. I just felt a need to clarify. Any questions? Want to pick a fight? The comments section is all yours . Just have fun, your way, whatever that may be.

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Monday 2nd of July 2018

A lot of this applies to AirBnb! We have a 1 year old and a 3 year old so we like to have use of a kitchen to feed fussy children. In some places we've booked an AirBnb as the only affordable option but I just feel stressed the whole time we're there. Every mess or spillage is a nightmare and don't get me started on having other peoples possessions within reach of my children.

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 2nd of July 2018

I actually think of Airbnb as being like a hotel and wouldn't behave or expect any difference in service. I was really shocked recently to be asked to make the beds and take the trash out after an Airbnb stay. Buy yeah...we rarely use Airbnb, hotels and guest houses work out better for us, even hostels sometimes, but they tend to be more expensive with kids we find.


Monday 2nd of July 2018

We house-sat as a family for a year travelling in Australia (where accommodation is upwards of $200 a night for us!) and, while it worked for us at the time - it took me years to stop having stress-nightmares about the final cleanup when moving on! Or about the animals - because can someone just admit it - animals that require a housesitter are usually the worst-behaved, least-trained, emotionally damaged pets out there!?! I mean there were some delightful pets that didn't "need" us anymore than to have us feed/clean up after them...but most of them were such nightmares! We had to leave one sit early because the animals (too many of them) were just awful - we stayed in a nearby caravan park so I could still return to feed them. (Housesitting while travelling means you can't pre-view and meet beforehand to check it out - you often accept a position from the next state!) I still do it occasionally for holidays if I'm asked - but I don't want to long-term travel that way again! Ok rant over, thanks!

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 2nd of July 2018

Thanks for sharing Penny. We only sit for 2 cats we know well in London. I don't think I'd do dogs and I'm a clean freak so messy animals...nooooo.

Liz Deacle

Monday 2nd of July 2018

Loved this post as we are currently in France housesitting two big dogs and a cat. I know what you mean about the pressure, I prefer Couchsurfing - as you know, Couchsurfing let’s you stay with other people who are always other travellers, but without the pressure of making sure the dog doesn’t choke and die on the piece of toast that your son has just fed it. That being said, you have to be sociable, so that’s also hard sometimes. Personally, I can’t stand hotels, I don’t mind hostels but hotels? Nah... I think as I get older the more I want to rough it. Which is a bit strange and weird and I’m still not sure what that’s all about. Anyway, fab post, and if you ever want to housesit for me in New Zealand, feel free. The house could do with a bloody good clean... x

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 2nd of July 2018

OMG I LOVE hotels! But probably not the hotels people imagine when they think hotel. The cute little guest houses of Asia are heaven to me. Your swanky chain hotels like your Novotels and Marriotts....well they're OK now and then for a buffet breakfast, but I prefer somewhere with character and somebody else to wash sheets and make beds for me. I have a job and kids and I travel, I have no time for domestic drudgery....or dog poo.


Sunday 1st of July 2018

Great honest post Alyson. I always appreciate someone telling it like it is. I'm a single guy from New Zealand and I've traveled around my country specifically for house sits, as well as done quite a few in my home town. All my sits have been with pets, but I still find them lonely and isolating. It's very different to travelling because suburbia is far less dynamic. That's ok if you need a break or a quiet place to work, but it's not really sustainable for the adventurous soul in the long term. I've also found most agencies including TH to be quite apathetic and unhelpful, whereas specialist services like WS are good because their members go the extra mile.


Tuesday 13th of December 2016

I'm from Canada & have a 7 & 10 year old. I'm currently trying to convince my husband to do a year of traveling through Europe before deciding where to settle down. I remember once hearing about house sitting and really appreciate this honest link! I don't think I would want to spend too much time in any one place but think this could be an option.


Tuesday 13th of December 2016

Hi Vanessa, I don't enjoy house sitting much, but we're looking forward to seeing 2 cats we've become very fond of again. A big part of travel for me is being around other travellers and staying in guest houses, ordering local food rather than having to cook and clean. It's just not much fun. But some people love it and it helps them save money. I'd really rather pay my own way, it feels better to me. But that's just something deep in me, something my mother put there I think. ;)