Reduce Travel Costs By Sitting Your Pets With TrustedHousesitters

Would you pay to live in a stranger’s house and take care of their pet?

Since TrustedHousesitters was founded in 2010, this is the idea behind the site: for the price of an annual subscription (which starts at $129), you can request an unlimited number of “sitting houses” worldwide.

Users don’t get paid for pet sitting beyond free hosting, but membership pays off quickly, especially if you think of seats as a way around the cost of Airbnbs, hotels, or even rent. Videos showcasing some of the site’s opportunities, such as a week-long stay in a hunting lodge in scotland or one chicken and dog watching concert in the south of Franceare popular among viewers who dream of reduce travel costs.

I first signed up doing a kind of double counting with my partner, who would be traveling with me, which is common practice among the site’s more than 120,000 users.

The process of creating a profile is similar to using any social media or dating app: you can add photos, information about yourself and your pet sitting experience, and information about the humans or animals you would be traveling with. You are also invited to complete a free background check (which was approved for me in less than an hour) and encouraged to add references.

Early on, we entertained some of the more eccentric positions, like watching two senior miniature horses in Mendocino, California; caring for two turtles and 10 rabbits in Wollongong, Australia; or hang out with a dog, a cat and four sheep in a refurbished shuttle in the woods of Kalaheo, Hawaii. (Sometimes the site has homes where there are no animals to care for – tasks requested may include raking leaves or collecting mail.)

Thinking more realistically, we applied to watch two large dogs, named Bodhi and Echo, in West Seattle.

We quickly received a response from their owner, Alisa Oberg, and arranged a FaceTime call, where we discussed the two dogs’ quirks and got some insight into our responsibilities. By the end of the call, it was clear we were a good match and Oberg said she would send out the formal invite for the three-night session and provide more information.

Bodhi, left, and Echo relaxing in the garden.

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

The actual process was like babysitting, as we coordinated arrival and departure times according to our travel plans and exchanged phone numbers. Upon our arrival, Oberg and her partner, Kyle, introduced us to the two dogs and explained anything we would need to know about their care or the home. They also left us a detailed guide, with emergency numbers and step-by-step feeding and exercise instructions for each dog.

Echo, their incredibly sweet Siberian husky, was slower to warm up to us, but Bodhi, her hyper, lanky brother, immediately felt comfortable invading our space.

As questions and cute photos surfaced, Oberg was quick to respond. When it was raining and we asked about umbrellas, she even said we could borrow their raincoats for our long walks with the dogs.

Of course, big dogs can take a lot of effort to tire out, which made parts of the trip feel a little less like a vacation and more like babysitting work. We had to plan their schedules a bit, coming home between visits to make sure the animals didn’t get too restless at home alone. But the effort of taking care of Bodhi and Echo was no surprise, and considering how much money we saved on an Airbnb or hotel, it was worth more than a little planning. And for us, having dogs to cuddle on our trip was definitely an added bonus.

A black and white dog on a path strewn with leaves.

Echoed on our morning hike for coffee (and a dog treat).

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

Jori Kerr, 23, and Austin Andrews, 27, started using TrustedHousesitters in November 2021 to make international travel more affordable and accessible. Both from Oregon, they started building their profiles with local house reviews before heading overseas.

“We were turned down a lot at first because we were new to the platform, and it can be a bit competitive at first,” Kerr said.

“So once we learned that this was the right fit for us, we decided to expand to international seating,” Andrews added. “And since we had criticism and we had the [pet-sitting] credentials and with COVID restrictions easing in most countries around the world, it was more likely that we were going to be accepted.

Now Kerr and Andrews post regularly videos about their home experiencessession on their instagram and ICT Tac accounts. “Be dependable, have great communication, be flexible, be clean and tidy,” they suggest in a video where they list tips for getting great reviews.

Some animal lovers, including Danielle LaFleur, 32, and Brodin Ramsey, 30, have even started using TrustedHousesitters for year-round housing.

“We’ve seen emus, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens, but dogs are the main ones,” LaFleur said. “We did a saltwater aquarium, so whatever’s available, we’re open.”

Although LaFleur and Ramsey have technically been based in San Diego for six years, they began traveling full-time in June 2021 after their jobs both moved away. With no permanent home to maintain or rent to pay, they try to line up homes and reserve accommodations during idle times.

They now have a mail forwarding system – which allows them to use a permanent address and receive mail on the go – and even bring their own dog, chia, throughout their adventures. This prompted them to come up with a list of nearly 30 questions they ask, mostly about dog behaviors, when doing a video interview for any home.

Jumping between these different houses also ends up saving them a good amount of rent money. “We live in houses instead of a small studio in San Diego,” LeFleur said. “We just sat down in Seattle and it was literally a waterfront house with a hot tub, and you walk out the back deck, and the stairs down to the beach, and they had kayaks and boards paddle.”

They added that renting a place like that for a few weeks would probably have cost them thousands of dollars. The opportunities on TrustedHousesitters also allowed them to check a few items off their to-do list. “When we were in the Canadian Rockies, in Banff, we were there for five weeks,” Ramsey said. “Most people go to Banff for about a week max, because it’s expensive, isn’t it? And we were lucky to be there for five weeks, we hiked every trail we could find.

Grace Egan, 33, said she had only used TrustedHousesitters about five times, but each time she appreciated the warmth and friendliness that other users brought to the site.

“When I went to Chicago, I brought them some of my homemade tomato sauce, and they had baked us a loaf of sourdough bread,” she said. “It doesn’t feel as transactional as Airbnb would. It’s more like you’re getting comfortable with people and taking care of part of their family.

Kerr and Andrews, who are currently keeping their home in Portugal, said their ideal stays are usually two or three weeks as it allows them to acclimatise. They both suggested that new users get an idea of ​​which stays are right for them and which animals they feel capable of caring for.

“I think a lot of people misunderstand that they see the glamorous side of travel pet sitting and assume it’s going to be perfect and easy, and they’re just going to show up and the animal is going to be their best friend and the house is going to be super cozy,” Kerr said. “You have to be able to problem-solve and work through problems and challenges, but then be very open to the possibilities that pet sitting can bring.”

And at the end of our weekend with Bodhi and Echo, my partner and I realized that we weren’t outdoors or active enough to keep most big dogs entertained. After one last exhausting hike and another very long catch-up game, we agreed that our next session would be something much more sedentary – maybe a cat or a lizard.

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