House Sitting Travel Hack: How to find accommodation for Free

| August 26, 2013 | 15 Comments

International travel is something that many people aspire to incorporate into their schedule. However, paying for accommodation while visiting a foreign country can often take a huge chunk of your available travel fund and ignite that age old debate of whether to travel within budget or embrace a credit card blow out.

How to find accommodation for free

How to find accommodation for Free

Like most travellers we are always on the lookout for ways to stretch every cent we spend and we have found a superb way to do just that when looking for accommodation abroad.

Two years ago we embarked on a period of travel, one of undefined length and very loose itinerary. While researching how we were going to make our money stretch the entire width of the globe we stumbled upon the concept of house sitting, and since then we’ve looked after 14 properties in 6 different countries.

The best part of it all is that the experience has cost us almost nothing.

What Is House Sitting?

Before you skip to the comments section and quiz me as to exactly how we’ve managed to live almost entirely rent free for the last two years let me explain how to find accommodation for free.

For those unaware of the concept house sitting is essentially an exchange of services. Individuals, couples or families register as house sitters and offer their services to home owners in need of property and/or animal care for an agreed period of time.

How to find free accommodation

Looking after pets can be a big part of house sitting assignments.

House sitters take on the role of the home owner and offer a caretaking service ensuring the property, and any furry compadres, are maintained in line with any requirements laid out prior to their stay.

Who Can Become A House Sitter?

The answer is simple. Anyone.

It is because each assignment is unique that there are no restrictions in place regarding who can become a sitter. We’ve met people from all walks of life who house sit, families, retirees and even nomads like ourselves. Old, young, rich or poor there are no prerequisites, if you believe you are a suitable applicant then you’re free to apply.

Why Should I Become A House Sitter?

Aside from the financial savings to be achieved house sitting offers travellers the chance to walk a mile in the shoes of a local, to sample local life and cultures. While hotels can be convenient for layovers, house sitting offers the chance to really connect with the locations you visit.

How to find accommodation for free

At each property we’ve cared for we’ve been introduced to the owners friends and neighbours. We’ve been welcomed into the community, invited out to dinner and drinks, to play golf, to join a patchwork class, taken to the skies in light aircraft and into the rich waters of the Coral Sea.

What Are The Assignments Like?

Each assignment is unique and all your responsibilities will be detailed by the home owner and agreed before you begin.

Our first assignment was in an eco-house on the side of a mango plantation in Costa Rica. We were tasked with maintaining a constant presence in the house and caring for the owner’s cat. While we were a little nervous after accepting the opportunity this was soon replaced with bubbling excitement. We began counting down the days until we were able to experience local life in the small town of Liberia and immerse ourselves in the culture of Pura Vida.

House sitting guide for travel

There are so many great assignments on offer and it’s really easy to get a little over excited at the thought of caring for a remote island home or for a troop of alpacas in the New Zealand countryside….

Yes, funnily enough our last assignment was to care for a troop of alpacas in the volcanic heart of New Zealand’s North Island. While every house sitting assignment has offered us plenty of new experiences our time as alpaca herders was rather memorable!

We were charged with caring for a stunning hill top home with views out over the South Pacific. The property boasted a hot tub on the deck, fresh fruit in the orchard and some furry lawn mowers in the surrounding paddocks! Learning to make fresh lemonade was a real highlight and I’m pretty sure I developed an addiction during our stay!

Caring for alpacas, How to find accommodation for free travel

When applying for assignments it’s really important that you ensure you’re 100% happy with the home owner’s requirements. While we often look upon more challenging responsibilities as a chance to learn a new skill, it is vital that you feel comfortable with all aspects of the opportunity before accepting.

By following this simple rule we’ve always had a superb experience at every assignment and have expanded our CV of life skills rather significantly!

What Factors Do I Need To Consider?

Logistics // We can all lose the capacity for rational thought when offered a dream house sitting assignment however don’t forget to consider how you will get yourself to and from the property. Account for airfares, vehicle hire and visa costs when considering assignments abroad.

Safety // Ensure that you read up on travel safety tips applicable to the location in which you’ll be house sitting. It is likely that you will not be subject to any risks the like of which you would not already encounter at home, however when travelling abroad it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with local protocols.

Payment // Decide if you would like to receive payment for your house sitting services. We choose not to charge as we believe this will make our application more appealing and the trade-off of accommodation / property care is more than adequate. Be aware that you will need to apply for the relevant employment visa if charging for your services abroad.

How to find accommodation in New Zealand house sitting

Relaxing in New Zealand while on a house sitting assignment

How Do I Become A House Sitter?

There are a number of websites that connect house sitters and home owners and when we first left the UK we signed up to every, and any one we came across. In hindsight this probably wasn’t a great idea as we found some offered more location specific assignments and others had a poor user interface.

When our subscriptions were up for annual review we actually continued using just one service We found that they had the most comprehensive portfolio and most importantly, we seemed to have the best response rate when applying for assignments.

Signing up to any service is simple. Essentially you’re creating an online CV that details your hobbies and interests along with exactly why and where you are looking to house sit. We have found it is best to make your profile as informative as possible and upload some up to date photographs along with any references you may have.

How Do I Secure Assignments?

The first step in securing your dream sit is to create a successful house sitter profile.

The name of the game is to showcase why you’re the perfect house sitter and give prospective home owners an insight into your character, interests and skill set.

How to house sit around the world

If you have cared for animals make sure you include it on your profile.

When Constructing your profile you should:

  • Be informative; discuss your hobbies and interests, share details of your employment history and qualifications that may assist in your role as a house sitter.
  • Discuss what motivates you to house sit.
  • Detail relevant experience
  • Illustrate your profile with photographs.
  • Detail any relevant references. If you’re new to house sitting asking your current landlord and employer to act as a referee is a great place to start.

Once you’ve signed up with a house sitting service and created your profile I highly recommend opting in for the daily email alerts that detail new assignments. In our experience submitting your application soon after the advert goes live increases your chance of securing the opportunity.

Then sit back and wait until details of your dream house sit land in your inbox. Apply for the assignments that fit with your itinerary and keep all available limbs crossed for positive replies!

House Sitting has completely transformed our experience of travel. We’ve formed some lifelong friendships, learnt an unimaginable array of new skills and lived like a local all over the world, and it’s all thanks to the opportunity to house sit.

House sitting travel hack, house sitting for free

Relaxing in Costa Rica while house sitting


In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel.  Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit.

With no time limit restricting their experience they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure.

Find them on Facebook and Twitter or catch up with their journey at their travel website Wanderlusters.

Have you ever thought about using house sitting in your travel or vacation itinerary? Share your comments with us below.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Salika Jay says:

    What a great way to save on our travels. I’ve heard about house sitting but never really tried it. Looks like it’s a good time to start.
    Salika Jay recently posted..The Amazing Cancun Underwater Museum Mexico

  2. Beth says:

    Thanks for the informative guest post!
    I’ve already wanted to get into house sitting, but have found it a bit discouraging since I am new and wouldn’t have any references.

    Maybe I’ll give it a try anyhow 🙂
    Beth recently posted..Tokyo Disney Resort: An Overview

    • Hey Beth! Don’t be discouraged because you’ve no house sitting experience, everyone has to start somewhere. Ask your current or previous employer or landlord to give you a character reference. Ask friends if they need an over night or weekend sitter to get a little experience and your first reference.

      Create an engaging profile listing your strengths and skills which you feel will enable you to offer the perfect house sitting service! Take the time to read adverts thoroughly and construct personalized inquiries.

      I’ve every faith you’ll have your first assignment soon! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!!
      Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..Travel Talk | Broken Hearts And Regrets

  3. David says:

    Nice Post! We’re just about to enter into the world of house-sitting. Seems a great way of keeping costs down to an all time low. Up until now we have mainly stuck to the places with the cheap living costs, hopefully this will open a few more doors.
    David recently posted..The Big Misunderstanding of Risk

    • We’ve spent the last two years house sitting in Australia and New Zealand. Two of the more expensive destinations to travel within. While we have tried to keep our costs to a minimum there’s no way we would have been able to sustain such a long stint down under without the assistance of house sitting assignments!

      Happy house sitting!!
      Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..Travel Talk | Broken Hearts And Regrets

  4. Is house sitting synonymous to coach surfing? It is now one of the best ways to find free accommodation when traveling to another country or region.
    Preston McGee recently posted..Micromax A240 Canvas Doodle 2 GPS

    • While both are tools which offer travelers free accommodation, I think house sitting takes an additional step into local life and provides the opportunity to sample the lifestyle of a native.

      You take on the daily responsibilities of the home owner and perhaps integrate with the community a little more then you would when couch surfing.

      Of course house sitting caters for single travelers, couples and families where as couch surfing can be limited to just one person. I’m not sure you could fit a family of 4 on a couch!
      Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..Travel Talk | Broken Hearts And Regrets

  5. This is a fantastic very informative post, replete with gorgeous, very compelling photos!
    We’ve been thinking about getting into housesitting for quite some time now and after reading your post, we think we’ll give it a shot!
    Thank you so much for the tips! 🙂
    Ligeia and Mindy recently posted..Taste of Life Vegan Restaurant in Tel Aviv

  6. I can’t believe that there’s a set-up like this to stretch out your budget to travel by finding a free accommodation in exchange with services. I do hope I can also do this one and I also like to learn how to do fresh lemonade like the one on the picture above.

  7. Robert says:

    This kind of money saving for accommodation did not even come to my mind before in my past travels, this is amazing. But i want to share from my experience, if you are going to a place for relaxing and to reduce stress from your life, then it would be better to rent a hotel because responsibilities reduce the enjoy part up to some extent.

  8. Ronny says:

    Excellent hack for affordable travel in the developed world, and getting away from tourist traps and living the local life everywhere in the world. I’m personally on housesit #2 in 2 months. There are challenges, but it’s well worth it!
    Ronny recently posted..Practical Tips for Driving in Denmark

  9. Christian says:

    House sitting is indeed a budget saver for travelers. Although security is less than booking in a hotel, one should be more cautious as to who you are dealing with specially if a place is at higher risk so do more research about the people and place. But house sitting can definitely stretches your budget and can take you further places! Thanks for sharing!
    Christian recently posted..A Complete Checklist for Successful Business Travels

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