New Retirement Travel Option: House Sitting

How to Travel More in Early Retirement with House Sitting

New Retirement Travel Option: House Sitting

In 2017 we ended our careers and sold our home in Sydney, deciding we wanted to travel more in early retirement.

We really enjoyed our travel vacations, but we wanted more than the four weeks of holidays that we were restricted to each year in our working lives.

There had to be a better way to travel the world and see the things that we wanted to in retirement, in an affordable way that didn’t involve too many back-packer budget hostels!

A work colleague provided the answer to our travel dilemma. He mentioned how house sitting could enable us to travel long term, while also reducing our costs by providing a place to stay in exchange for pet care. After some research into the various house sitting websites, we joined Aussie House Sitters and began the process of looking for pet sits locally in New South Wales, Australia.

And just that we became house sitters!

In March 2018 we were on holiday in northern New South Wales when we saw a post for a pet sit in Ballina for four weeks from mid-December 2018. We were staying nearby at the time, so we arranged to meet with the home owner. Over a cup of tea we made a new friend, met the adorable Romeo, and confirmed our first house sit.

A few weeks later a two week pet sit for October, again near Ballina, was posted. We quickly applied for this house sit too and offered to visit the home owner – that had worked well for us on our first sit, so we thought it would be good to continue in the same way.

We visited the home owner in her beautiful property in the rolling hills of the hinterland behind Byron Bay. As we gazed at the distant macadamia farms, we secured our second house sit in Australia! Two house sitting jobs already secured and we were now keen to plan our overseas travels and organise some international house sits in Europe.

Continuing to secure sits while travelling

In May we did fly to Europe and traveled around the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. We were away for nearly five months.

The great thing about the house sitting websites is that they can be viewed anywhere and applications can be made online for any of the pet sits.

While we couldn’t always visit the homeowners in these cases, we could still arrange a video or telephone chat to build the trust and reassurance between us.

Another benefit of house sitting websites is that homeowners can view our profile and contact us directly.

Whilst travelling in Spain, we were contacted by a homeowner asking if we could sit for her two dogs in North Turramurra in Sydney. As we knew the area well and the dates worked for our later return home, we accepted the offer. A further house sit assignment was confirmed for September in Corindi Beach near Coffs Harbour, which would be our first ever house sit.

We flew back to Australia from our European travels knowing that we had confirmed 11 weeks of pet sits!

The importance of a good profile when new to house sitting

It was a surprise how easy it had been to apply for these house sits and to be accepted for them, especially as we were totally new to pet sitting. One of the reasons we believe we had such good success was that we had written a strong house sit profile with some good photos.

It’s strange that some sitters do not bother to load photos on their profiles, as it really is key to getting accepted. In a similar manner, we do not apply for any house sits where the owners have not taken the time to include photos.

Meet our first house sit pet, Lucy!

Our time in Europe meant we hadn’t met our first house sit owner before arriving at the handover, so this was really quite an unusual feeling. But this first handover went well and after a chat and a walk along the beach the owner left in a taxi (off to work interstate for three weeks) and we were left with a home to look after and Lucy, her super cute dog.

We loved our twice a day walks with Lucy. She lived near the beach and loved running along the sand, dipping into the ocean and rock pools. She also enjoyed a journey in the car, so we took her up and down the coast with us as we explored the area.

On her return the owner wrote our first house sitting review on AussieHouseSitters which she ended with:

“I’d to give them a 1 star rating so that I can keep them to myself!”

Luckily for us she did give us 5 stars and it felt we had reached a real milestone.

Our first “farm sit” with 60 acres of land

When we were in North Turramurra, Sydney, a pet sit on steroids was advertised!

This house sit was in the stunning Upper Hunter Valley, looking after 28 horses, 12 cattle (2 of which were pregnant) and a beautiful Mastiff cross dog with the best name, “T Bone”. We contacted the owner explaining that we had no horse or cattle experience. He asked us if we knew how to look after a swimming pool – indeed we did, and we got the job.

This actually turned out to be a very easy sit. The horses and cattle were self-sufficient, we just needed to walk around the farm and check that there was water in the various troughs, and that none of the animals looked ill. T Bone would join us on our walks around the farm – he really loved exploring the land.

House sit reviews

We always give 100% on each  house sit that we take, ensuring we look after the home and the pets as if they were our own. It’s really important to keep in contact with the owners while they’re away. This can be done by sending daily photos of the pets, and we have our own trademark of messaging these images along with humorous comments. All or our home owners have loved this!

It’s been pleasing to see what has been written about us in the reviews that we’ve received. We have been described as “great friendly guys”, “simply the best”, “super nice, friendly, clean and trustworthy” and “charming and interesting gentlemen”!

It makes our hard work seem worthwhile.

Adapting to constant change

It now feels quite normal to us to arrive in a new location to look after a home and the pets that live there. It can feel a bit staying in an AirBnB accommodation, except that house sitting comes with a couple of bonuses – pets are included, and there’s no payment for accommodation.

To reduce the amount of  travelling required, we prefer house and pet sits that are at least two weeks long. This enables us to live locals and to really get to experience a place in a slower manner. It provides the longer travel experiences we had longed for without having to dash to see everything within just a few days.

Summer overseas in England

Our overseas house sitting adventures have now begun, and so we’ve also joined the international house sitting site, Trusted House Sitters.

Our first confirmed sit through this site was not as “international” as we had hoped for!

It was in East Ballina, in northern New South Wales, 7km from where we were at the time. We messaged the owner and she wrote back to suggest we pop over for coffee to meet everyone, including their Labrador, which we did.

Since joining Trusted House Sitters we have confirmed four house sitting jobs, one in Australia and 3 in the UK. We’ll be house sitting in Devon for three weeks, a further two weeks in Banstead, and then ten days in Cambridge. We used Skype to talk to the owners in Devon who were absolutely lovely, and confirmed our other sits through the messaging system on the platform website.

Feeling grateful for our lifestyle choice

We feel really fortunate to have found all of our pet sits to date. It does take a bit of work looking for and applying for house sits, but it is well worth it. We have met some wonderful people on this journey, stayed in some beautiful homes and looked after some very cute pets. The hardest part is always saying goodbye to the pets that have become part of our lives.

We have really loved spending time with all of the pets that we have sat for – each has their own personality and identity. There is so much more enjoyment in taking a four legged friend for a walk along the river or beach than completing spreadsheets or attending sales meetings as we did in previous lives!

So far our early retirement has been full of amazing travel experiences and we know that we are only just at the beginning of our house sitting journey. We are excited about what might come next!

Ian Gledhill is a qualified accountant and worked in the TV and music industries for 30 years in the UK and Australia.

His partner Lloyd was a retail sales director in the UK and a general manager in Australia. They now travel between the northern and southern hemispheres enjoying summer in both.

You can follow them on and Instagram @ThePetSitBoys

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Retirement Travel..

New Retirement Travel Option: House Sitting

Recent press releases highlighting the travels of retiree house sitters are showing that becoming a senior is not a ticket to boredom, or a sedentary lifestyle. Retirees from around the world are finding to be the key that opens the door to unique, authentic and free travel to destinations that they had once only dreamed about.

Unfortunately, many retirees do not have the liberty of spending their retirement egg on pleasure items or excursions, such as traveling. Many individuals and couples who live on a fixed income have found that their funds usually only cover the basics of living.

After a lifetime of raising families, running businesses and being everything to everyone, retirees are finding there is a way to travel and experience the world on their terms. is allowing them to connect with home owners who are in need of house sitters.

In exchange for a valuable service, retirees are able to enter into new worlds, that would otherwise be closed to them.

Tom and Judy from Southern Illinois, have a Housesitting Sea Change and Life Change. Talking to Ian White founder of

Now Seasoned Housesitters Tom and Judy, from Southern Illinois, are glad they discovered Housesitting as a way of seeing the world in a different light. See Tom and Judy's housesitter profile

Jim and Thelma McSkimming are retirees from New Zealand

This retired couple has only been with HouseCarers for a year. They report that they would not be able to travel to all the places they dreamed of–if it were not for becoming house sitters. The McSkimmings have found that house sitting is the key that enables them to experience different cultures on a new level.

Jim and Thelma McSkimming reports they do not desire to travel as “tourists,” and quick visits to some popular areas does not satisfy them. The McSkimmings truly relish immersing themselves into new areas and they enjoy house sitting.

House sitting lets them become mock citizens in various countries and gives them an authentic experience.

The  McSkimmings had five months to allot for house sitting in the UK, and were thrilled when they were able to find five house sits. “We stayed in a beautiful 200 year-old stone cottage, which was previously a flour mill, in South Wales.

We minded pigs, geese, miniature Dexter cattle and two adorable Border Collies,” the McSkimmings report. They have also recently had a stay in a Rectory in County Cork, Ireland, where they made friends with an African parrot they were minding. Many house sits involve the care taking of pets.

The McSkimmings report that this is a one of the highlights of their stays and it fulfills their love of animals.

The wonderful experience of house sitting is echoed by Brenda Marie Batty. Ms. Batty is a retiree from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Ms. Batty has been a house sitter since 1999. She has visited seven different countries, and reports that her favorite house sits are in Greece, France and Italy. “House sitting gives me the opportunity to travel further afield for a longer period of time–to places I otherwise could not afford to stay in on my retired budget.”

the McSkimmings, Ms. Batty truly enjoys sinking into the culture and lifestyle of the various areas that she visits. She has found that each country has welcomed her with open arms. On a recent house sit in Greece, she truly felt one with her neighbors.

“I even got into white washing steps and walls in Greece . . . I joined in with the island folk who were all in preparation for Easter's arrival. I really felt a local then! It was lots of fun, too.

I enjoy travel on this level, meeting new people and becoming part of their communities.”

House sitters are in high demand around the world. Retirees who register as house sitters are among the first sitters looked at by home owners. Home owners know that life experience cannot be replicated. Home owners have confidence in seniors and trust them to watch over and care for their home, possessions and pets. 

Many times senior house sitters are asked to come back for return stays. Ms. Batty has had numerous repeat visits.

Chances are great that the McSkimmings will also be asked for a repeat stay–as this is their first year and they are just now getting their feet wet and making acquaintances with home owners. Both the McSkimmings and Ms.

Batty report that home owners are warm and welcoming. Friendships are easily forged and many home owners keep up with “their” house sitters year round. 

Both the McSkimmings and Ms. Batty report that maturity, flexibility and a love for animals are essential to being a good house sitter.

However, to make the proper connection with prospective home owners registering with a reputable house sitting site is key. HouseCarers is sitting pretty on top as “the” place to make safe connections. Ms.

Batty doesn't hide her enthusiasm or appreciation of Ian White and “Two thumbs up for HouseCarers!”

Becoming a house sitter is a fairly easy process

You can visit on the Internet and for a price that is less than an evening meal out, you can register as a house sitter for an entire year. You will be given 30 full lines to describe yourself.

You can list multiple locations where you are available to house sit, along with the dates you are available. You can even use the sample ad that is listed on the site to guide you in writing your personal information.

The information you enter is instantly available to prospective home owners who are seeking out a house sitter. At any time you can go in and update your profile, change your destination areas or dates, and all of it is free of charge.

When house sits become available in your chosen areas, you will receive notification via email. You will also be notified when you have messages from prospective homeowners in your chosen areas.

Your identity and personal information are kept confidential and it is only revealed to a home owner when you are comfortable.

Becoming a house sitter will save you thousands of dollars on travel and accommodations. By making yourself available to a home owner as a house sitter, you are giving them an invaluable service. Home owners can leave their residence knowing they are leaving it in capable hands.

House sitters may be asked to perform routine things such as pet care, gardening, or even scheduling a home repair if the need arises. You may be asked to forward mail, relay phone messages or take a pet to a scheduled vet visit. House sits range in duration. Some may be for a week, while others may be for a month, or more.

The requirements are minimal when you compare it to what you receive.

House sitting opens the door up to experiences you could not pay for, even if you had the funds to do so

House sitting is enabling individuals to live in seaside beach homes, English country cottages or castles, ski lodges in the snow capped mountains, and even ranches or farms in the country.

Can you think of any other service you could give to someone that would allow you to sample grapes from a working vineyard, pick Dutch tulips, or eat authentic cuisine straight from their native homelands with no monetary investment on your end? This can all be yours, and more, as a house sitter.

You simply cannot put a price on the services that a house sitter provides. Home owners are not comfortable leaving their homes empty when they have to travel for an extended time. House sitters are the number one crime deterrent. Criminals can bypass most alarm systems with ease. However, criminals and would be thieves will avoid a home if someone is in residence.

Besides providing the much needed security that a home owner desires, house sitters can also save a home owner much worry over their homes “physical” safety. If a pipe bursts, most home owners would not know until they returned to a deluge of water, and tens of thousands of dollars in repair work.

If a fire starts, a home owner could possibly return to find their home a smoking pile of rubble and ashes.

By having a house sitter onsite, a home owner can leave knowing that if an emergency arises, there is a sitter onsite who can tackle a burst pipe, call the fire department, or handle a weather emergency.

If you are interested in traveling the world Jim and Thelma McSkimming or Brenda Marie Batty, you should register with These house sitters have found that retirement doesn't mean an end to an exciting life.

If anything, their senior years are bringing them unique and fulfilling experiences. The McSkimming and Ms. Batty have found a way to take hold of their dreams and do all the things they have longed to do.

With the support of their family they are globe trotting without making a dent in their retirement funds, and they are enjoying every minute of it.

Copyright © 2005, Ian White ,

Author Ian White is founder of House Sitting Directory.

Visit Housecarers House sitting directory today! Registration is free for homeowners (and they'll never have to rely on cousin Eddie again.)

This artice may be reprinted intact (no changes), with author resouce box and active link as shown.

Related Web site focusing on Retirees
House Sitting for Seniors and over 50's / Discount for over 50s
Articles on all the practical aspects of housesitting for both home owners and housesitters over 50, along with free SeniorSitters membership benefits.

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How to Become a House Sitter & Get House Sitting Jobs in 2021

New Retirement Travel Option: House Sitting

Updated: 11/19/20 | November 19th, 2020

In recent years, house sitting has become one of the best ways to travel long-term on a budget. In exchange for watching someone’s house (and pets) you get a free place to stay, allowing you to travel long-term without paying for accommodation. I’ve never done it so I invited Dalene and Pete from Hecktic Travels to share their tips and advice on the topic as they are avid house sitters

As I write this, I’m sitting in a comfortable leather recliner in front of three large bay windows. In my view are tall pines covered in healthy green moss, as well as shimmering water from a nearby lake. An old, chubby gray cat — the king of this log cabin — warms my feet.

This is my home for three months, and my husband and I are living here for free. We pay no rent or utilities, and we have a vehicle at our disposal.

We are house-sitting.

We travel around the world taking care of pets and homes while their owners are off on their own travels. Not only does it keep our costs extremely low but it also gives us an intimate experience in a new locale and complete immersion in the neighborhood.

The majority of our last three years traveling have been spent house-sitting, saving us well over $30,000 USD in accommodation costs and affording us an incredible set of travel experiences we might never have enjoyed otherwise.

But this way of travel isn’t just for long-term nomads us; opportunities are available for all types of travelers. House-sitting jobs range from weekends to years in length; our shortest house-sit was nine days and our longest was six months.

In short, no matter how long you are traveling for you can find a house-sitting gig that works for you. Here’s everything you need to know to get started!

Why Become a House Sitter

The benefits don’t stop at the savings on accommodations! The worldwide house-sitting community is full of -minded travelers and adorable pets. We’ve made lifelong friends with eight dogs, nine cats, four chickens, and sixteen humans (homeowners). It is by far our preferred method of traveling for many reasons:

We can travel at a slow pace
Spending only a few days in every city on the prescribed tourist trail may seem a great way to see the world, but taking on a house-sitting job will give you an entirely different experience and allow you to catch your breath while on the road. Try actually unpacking for once, making your own coffee in the morning just the way you it, and cuddling up with pets at the end of the day. It’s being at home, while away.

More savings!
Not only will you save big bucks by slashing your accommodation expenses but you will also cut your food budget by cooking for yourself. Start your day with breakfast and lunch at home and pocket those savings or splurge on a big dinner! (Just make sure to schedule your outings around the pet’s schedule.)

Plus, if you’re considering a move, finding a house-sitting opportunity in your desired location will help you really get a feel for what it might be to live there.

How to Become a House Sitter

If you’ve never been house-sitting before, the best place to start is with your own connections. Query family, friends, and colleagues about opportunities.

Chances are good that someone in your network will be away from home soon. House-sit for them to learn the ropes.

With at least one good house-sitting reference under your belt, you’ll have a better shot at convincing a stranger across the world that you’re worthy of their trust.

Homeowners are looking for responsible people to help reduce their own costs (pet kennels are expensive!) and to keep their house safe and in order while they are gone.

1. Sign Up with a House Sitting Website
There are several good house-sitting websites out there to match with homeowners and find good house-sitting jobs (all have membership fees). Here are the best house sitting websites on the net:

  • (free or $89 USD annual fee) – Nomador has the highest number of house-sits in Europe and is growing worldwide. Its unique “trust profiles” help lay a foundation of trust between homeowners and house-sitters. In addition, it has an exciting “Stopovers” feature, which is similar to Couchsurfing.
  • ($129 USD annual fee) – This site is heavy on UK and European house-sits but is also gaining ground in Australia and North America.
  • ($20 USD annual fee) – Low fee to join, a good number of house-sits (primarily in North America and Europe), and a well laid-out website.
  • ($50 USD annual fee) – Plenty of good house-sits, with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, and North America, but a poor website structure makes it difficult to navigate.

When reviewing available house-sitting jobs on the above websites, choose jobs carefully according to your own desires in terms of location, timing, and other needs.

The key to finding one is flexibility in your plans: rather than searching for a house-sit in north London for the first week of August, widening your search to all of London and for a week during any time of the month will increase your chances greatly.

Once you’ve seen some house-sitting opportunities that are right up your alley, be sure to have these basics in place:

2. Create a killer house-sitting profile
This is your face to homeowners, and if it is well written and up-to-date, you may have homeowners contacting you directly rather than posting their house-sitting job. Things to include:

  • Experience: As a house-sitter or as a previous homeowner (do you know your way around basic house appliances?)
  • Pets: Exude your love for all things furry, or scaly, or slimy, if applicable. The large majority of house-sits include pet care of some kind.
  • Special skills: Do you speak foreign languages? Do you have a green thumb, or are you handy with tools? Be sure to outline those in your profile.
  • Enthusiasm: Lots and lots of enthusiasm for this newfound “career” goes a long way.

3. Write an introductory message
When applying for a specific house-sitting job, each website lets you include a message that will accompany your profile when it’s sent to the prospective homeowner. The key to a good introduction is brevity while highlighting important information — and of course, lots of enthusiasm.

Pay close attention to the listing and draft your email according to the job’s specific details.

For example, if the homeowners have a dog, make a comment on how cute he is and that Schnauzers are your favorite creatures on four legs. If they have a large yard that may need your attention, mention your agility and strength and highlight how you can easily get the work done!

Sharing relevant specifics is key — so pay attention!

4. Be speedy
When the six-week house-sit opportunity in Manhattan was posted, I applied within the first few minutes of it going live.

I had exchanged emails with the homeowner within the first hour and shared a virtual handshake over Skype within a day. Attractive house-sitting jobs go very fast.

Being one of the first to apply can greatly increase your chances of getting it.

Sign up for email alerts in your desired areas or follow along on social media to be one of the first to know what’s available.

5. Have references
The most important thing that homeowners will look at is your references.

A house-sitting arrangement between strangers requires a high level of trust, and having quality people lined up to vouch for you is important.

If you have no previous house-sitting experience, consider asking the following for references: former landlords, old neighbors or bosses, or anyone who can attest to your character, reliability, and trustworthiness.

One good reference leads to another job and another good reference. And once these start to stack up, potential homeowners will be highly inclined to work with you, and subsequent house-sitting jobs will be much easier to get. While all of the house-sitting websites house references online, you should also compile them yourself and have them ready to distribute.

6. Expect an interview
If the homeowner doesn’t ask for one, I insist that you do. In the beginning, it’s easy to get overly excited about the prospect of living somewhere exotic for virtually free and forget about the finer details of the job. So use Zoom or Skype to have a (virtual) face-to-face and get a feel for each other.

Be sure to ask a lot of questions; leave nothing left unknown: Can you have guests? Can you leave the property overnight to explore a nearby area? Is there a vehicle available for your use? How is the Wi-Fi connection?

You don’t want to be blindsided with rules or surprises when you arrive. And trust your gut: we have said no to house-sitting jobs before because the vibe wasn’t right with the homeowners.

How to Be a Good House Sitter

There’s no question about it: house-sitting needs to be taken seriously. In exchange for a free place to stay, you’re being asked to take care of someone’s worldly possessions and perhaps their beloved fur (or feathered) babies.

We’ve chased dogs through muddy fields (and disposed of a half-eaten rat courtesy of said dogs).

We have spent an evening trolling through dark alleys in Harlem, looking for an escaped fat cat.

We dealt with a dead chicken by “sending it down the river” on the advice of a neighbor in Ireland.

We’ve cleaned up after torrential rain hammered our temporary Caribbean house.

Most times you’ll be able to kick back and soak up your good fortune, but there will be moments when you will have to work for it. The key to getting a repeated number of house-sits is to do an excellent job each time and stack up virtuous references.

For starters, make sure you show up! When a commitment is made, it is up to you to keep it. Homeowners make important travel plans having someone to care for their house and pets — they are counting on you!

On arrival, treat the house with the utmost respect from the start. Return it to the homeowners in as good — or better — shape as when you arrived.

Also, stick to the homeowners’ guidelines on correspondence, how to deal with mail, instructions for pets, etc.

Be prepared to deal with adverse situations ( chasing dogs through muddy fields and disposing of a dead chicken). Bad things can (and probably will) go wrong at some point. Be sure to have emergency contact info on hand, and be honest with the homeowners about anything that comes up.

Also, an important tip: if you have an international house-sitting opportunity, consider what you will tell customs officials at the border. Some may give you a hard time, considering the house-sit “work” that a local could do.

Tell them you are visiting friends, and consider even preparing a story on how you previously met each other, just in case they call to check! (I know of people who have been turned away at the border for this exact reason.



We may have had our share of difficult moments, but the incredible experiences we’ve gained by house-sitting have far outweighed them.

In exchange for chasing dogs and disposing of rats, we discovered firsthand how the Turks are the most generous and hospitable people in the world.

While cleaning up after a nasty storm in Honduras, we became close friends with a local lady and later were named the godparents of her child.

In Ireland, we freely explored the halls of the tenth-century manor we were charged with and even took our own twirl in the manor’s ballroom.

We’re always a little surprised that more people don’t know about, or take advantage of, the opportunities presented by house-sitting. Becoming a house-sitter is not just about the money-saving aspect, but the ability to live a local in a new corner of the world. Whether you’re going away for nine days or nine months, this can be a great way to do something different during your trip.

House-sitting has become our favorite way to travel — and we bet it could be yours too.

Dalene Heck and her husband Pete are behind the blog Hecktic Travels, which chronicles their journey since selling all their belongings in 2009.

They’ve recently written an e-book on house-sitting (all proceeds go to charity!) that contains even more juicy goodness, including examples of successful profiles and application letters, a three-page checklist of everything to look for in a new house-sitting job, and discount codes for their favorite house-sitting websites.

If you’re looking for other ways to travel ultra-cheap, check out these articles:

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.



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