Family House Sitting. Yes or No?

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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 house sitting with kids. 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 family house sitting 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.

Family House Sitting

This post is about house sitting with kids, family house sitting. Does family house sitting work? Is it a good idea? Can you house sit with kids? Yes you can house sit with kids, but it’s less than ideal as part of a family travel lifestyle.

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?

House sitting is often listed under options on how to travel for free. It works like this. 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 family lifestyle.

House Sitting – Do House Sitters Get Paid?

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.

House Sitting With Kids – Negatives

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 competitive and very time-consuming.
  • Family house sitting gigs (house sitting with kids) 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 housework 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 cleanup 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 house sitting with kids far too stressful, 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.

Family House Sitting When Does it 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.

House Sitting to “Live Like a Local”

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?”


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 house sitting with kids. 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? Do you love house sitting? The comments section is all yours. Just have fun, your way, whatever that may be.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

19 thoughts on “Family House Sitting. Yes or No?”

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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. 😉

  6. I don’t know if Housesitting would work for us either. Especially with kids as it would be stressfull to make sure they didn’t break or move anything.

  7. We brought the kids to the UK in May and we are currently in our 5th house sit. For us it has been an amazing way to travel. We have met some wonderful new friends and stayed in some amazing houses. For our family it has been great to (as you say) live ‘where the locals live’. Without house sitting we couldn’t have afforded to do this trip and travelling with kids it is ideal to have space and family surroundings and important things like big kitchen tables to do school work at. So far we have always found something in the house that we can leave cleaner than it was when we arrived (so far it has been showers and ovens) and when you are only staying 2 or 3 weeks it has been no problem keeping the house clean and tidy during our stay. You are right about the time involved in finding the sits, but for us it is well worth it. I have been very surprised with how comfortable I have felt being in someone else’s house as generally I don’t enjoy staying with other people. I think it is wonderful that our children are learning at a young age that most people are basically good and friendly and generous – especially with the intolerance that we are seeing around the world so much at the moment. It is a great lesson for them to be learning and hopefully we are teaching them to be generous and thoughtful in return. If it wasn’t for the opportunities that house sitting has given us, we would still be stuck at home.

    • Sounds like you really have house sitting nailed @ Melissa. Where are you from? See, I don’t find house sitting “travel” it’s just kinda..staying for a bit. Travel for me is something different, faster, more involved with street life and other travellers. But it’s different for everyone and your opportunities sound awesome

  8. Would the same comment go on house-exchange ? We did house-exchanges in Oz, NZ, Brazil, Namibia, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore and we loved it – we really enjoyed living AMONG the locals (not LIKE them, are you crazy!!), having bbq with the neighbours, shopping in their shops … we enjoyed having heaps of space for the five of us at no cost. We did do car-exchange (not paying the rental of the car meant 4 more weeks of travel). I LOVE being in someone else’s house – makes me feel like playing with a doll-house. I hate packing, so I enjoy going back to the same place several nights at an end. And I got heaps of good ideas for the decoration of our house in France! And – I don’t much enjoy hotel-rooms. So when we grew out of the house-exchanging (the cleaning-bit wore us out, and we had one unhappy experience), we started renting houses when we traveled. Next november is our first trip as empty-nesters (to Sri Lanka) – we’re going to re-try hotels (Villa Tempelberg for one!). I’ll let you know how it goes, maybe it’ll reconcile me with conventional travel… who knows!

    • You know Talitha, Chef said today that he was getting tired of London again. We left in 2008 because it was just too hard, but we’ve relished every return since. I don’t know what’s changed. Everything has a season. Do what you feel like doing. Right now I’m enjoying somebody else’s home but when I have to leave and clean it from top to bottom I’ll guarantee that I hate it. They have a cleaner, but still I’ll feel pressure to leave it immaculate. Right now we’re OK with house sitting, because ….kittehs!!! but next week, who knows. Follow your heart.

  9. Definitely agree. I am paranoid enough taking my children to a hotel let alone to another’s house on the other side of the world. I kind of feel the whole world has less tolerance of children. I wouldn’t be able to relax and would constantly worry about them being to noisy or breaking something.

    • It’s actually usually me that breaks something! The kids are fine really, but I can’t help but worry and of course if an accident does happen I’ll cop the blame for bad parenting or something .

  10. Good post and love your honesty!

    It’s definitely not for everyone or all families and I’m with you on only doing it when places are prohibitively expensive anyway. I really want to go to Spain soon and I’ve been getting emails about house sits there – but really, it’s not that expensive a destination, so not worth it for me so doubt we’ll bother applying. Maybe for a period in the bigger cities though 🙂

    I’m not sure how I’d have felt doing it with younger kids than mine as well – when we first started it the youngest was 10?

    Thanks for linking to my post 😀

    • Yeah, I’d forgotten how painful the application process is.. I must have sent off 20 over the last frew weeks and not had even 1 reply. It’s really not worth getting your hopes up over I don’t think and I just don’t have the time.


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