When we posted our year long travel budget, we were delighted to beat our target of travelling on £15/$25 each per day. However, despite seeking out the best deal on a cheap hostel wherever we went, it was clear where more money could have been saved - our accommodation costs comprised 36% of our overall spend.
We decided to speak with seasoned long-term travellers who find accommodation in a different way to us in order to save money or have a unique travel experience. This week we caught up with Laura and Tambay - the duo behind Travelling Weasels - to find out more about house sitting.
Which countries have you house sat in?
The UK, Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, Finland and Portugal.
What’s the fanciest or coolest place you’ve looked after?
It's a tough choice between the vineyard in Italy or the apartment with a pool and tennis courts in the Gold Coast (Australia).
How long after signing up did it take for you to get your first assignment? Did you have a few rejections?
It actually took us quite a while, probably about a month, but we didn't put 100% into it - I (Laura) was studying for my final exams at university. Once we got a police check and filled out our profile properly it was a lot quicker.
What are your tips for making your profile stand out to owners when you first get started and don’t have any references or experience?
We would suggest getting experience and references first. We house sat for my dad's ex and looked after my aunt's dog. Then we knew we could house sit and they gave us references.
Do you plan your trips around pre-arranged house sitting assignments? If not, do you find it easy to find opportunities while you’re on the road?
Yes, if the house sits aren't straight after one another (which they usually were in Australia) we look at a map and say 'hey what's vaguely in-between those two places that we can visit'. For example: Between a German and English house sit we visited Paris, between a Finnish and German house sit we visited Estonia and in the next couple of months we're house sitting in Portugal, Netherlands and Italy so in between we're going to Brussels and Rome.
Living rent-free is obviously the big draw for house-sitters. What else attracts you to it?
It's pretty much the ideal lifestyle for us - we love being around each other and relaxing at home. It has also given us the chance to work on our own businesses - our blog and our books.
We also completely love animals too, especially dogs, so it's nice to have that kind of companionship 'on the road'. We love travelling too of course and it's so nice to have a proper base after a day of sightseeing. We also think that we truly get to experience the country and the way the people in those countries actually live - rather than just staying in a hotel.
Have you had any disasters with owners, properties or pets?
Thankfully no! But we always Skype with the home owners before we agree to a house sit - we find that's been invaluable in weeding out any potential problems before-hand.
People are obviously placing a lot of faith and trust in you. How much communication do you have with the owners before and during the house sit?
It goes both ways. We often fly to a country and trust that they're not going to lure us to their houses to kill us ;) or pretend that we've broken something and sue us.
We find that it's a mutually beneficial system that requires trust on both sides. We always Skype with the owners before-hand. We keep them updated when they're away - how much depends on the owners.
Is there anything you specify to house owners before agreeing to the opportunity?
We always check they have unlimited, preferably fast, internet. We also ask too that they come to some kind of agreement with their vets - i.e. if we do need to go the vets they're in credit with the vet or the vet knows that they will pay later.
We know some house sitters agree to pay for the vet bills and get paid back by the home owners later but we can imagine that that would be a bit tricky, especially if it's thousands of pounds!
Do you ever feel like the responsibility of looking after the house curtails your ability to experience a town/place as a tourist?
We do think house sitting curtails our ability to be a tourist, but that's definitely a good thing. We don't want to be tourists! We like that house sitting gives us a more 'authentic' view of the country.
A lot of the things we like to do on in a new place - walking on the beach, hiking etc, are often more enjoyably with the dogs anyway which is great.
We never feel comfortable leaving dogs alone for too long, so we arrange to do any really long sightseeing days when the owners are back/before they leave.
It seems like a fantastic option for budget travellers. Could you afford to travel as much if house sitting wasn’t an option?
Definitely not and I don't think we would be travelling long term if it wasn't for house sitting - we are very grateful for it
Which house sitting website do you use?