Everything You Need to Know About Pet Sitting While Traveling

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Last Updated on: 6th June 2024, 06:04 am

Are you a long-term or full-time traveler looking for a way to lower your travel costs? Are you a pet lover? If so, pet sitting while traveling may be just what you’re looking for.

Steve and I joined TrustedHousesitters in the spring of 2023 and began pet sitting in early 2024. We have found the TrustedHousesitters’ website easy to use and have had some good experiences with our sits.

Despite that, it didn’t work out quite as we’d hoped. After six sits, we feel we didn’t get what we wanted from it.

Read on to learn what pet sitting involves, its pros and cons, and how our sits worked out.

All money is in U.S. dollars.

Why We Started Pet Sitting

As retired full-time travelers, we keep a sharp eye on our budget. We balance time in expensive places with time in less expensive places. It turns out we prefer the expensive places; after all, they are expensive for a reason.

Pet sitting seemed like the perfect way to keep our wallets happy when traveling in expensive places. For a little of our time and a bit of work, we could save a bundle on lodging and spend time with cats and dogs.

We envisioned well-appointed apartments in the world’s most exciting cities. We would be sitting primarily for cats, so we’d have plenty of time to enjoy the cosmopolitan delights.

The reality didn’t quite match the vision.

The Petsitting Process

Getting started with pet sitting

We chose TrustedHousesitters, the leading pet-sitting platform. Even though the name is TrustedHousesitters, virtually every listing is for pet sitting.

As a sitter, you post a profile of yourself, including photos of you interacting with pets. You also provide references and pay the annual fee. Membership fees start at $129 a year. TrustedHousesitters then runs a background check on you. If all goes well, you are ready to book your first sit.

Finding sits

Finding sits to apply for can be a lot of work. You have to comb through many listings, but the sort buttons make this easier. Most listings have plenty of detail, which helps you narrow down your list.

The next step is to apply for a sit by sending a short message introducing yourself. We used a form letter and made the appropriate changes.

All of this except the application message is similar to finding other lodgings. What makes pet sitting a little more time consuming is that you often have to wait days (and sometimes longer) before you know if the homeowner is interested. Homeowners can accept up to five applications for each sit, so they may not decide until they have received and reviewed five applications. You may spend hours searching for and applying to sits, only to be rejected for all of them.

This happened to us in the U.K. Our first three sits (two in the U.S. and one in the U.K.) were slam dunks. We felt invincible. Then we started looking for places in London and were passed over for several. Not only is it hard not to take it personally, but those rejections represent hours and hours of our time.

If the homeowner chooses you, he will send an offer with the relevant dates. You can then agree to sit.

Before we agreed to any sits, we arranged a video call with the homeowner to get a feel for each other and discuss the sit in more detail.

Before the sit

You don’t have to do much before the sit, but the homeowner may want to meet with you before the sit starts. He will show you around the house, and you’ll meet the pets. This is a good time to address any last-minute questions.

We met with every pet and pet parent before the sit started. These visits always took a few hours.

We stayed in a hotel for at least one night before every sit. Sometimes, we stayed for two nights if we were traveling a long distance to allow for delays. We always booked a hotel for the night the sit ended since we couldn’t count on the pet parents getting home early enough for us to get to another location. All the people we sat for invited us to stay with them the night before they left and the night they came home, but we weren’t comfortable with that.

During the sit

Besides the typical pet care duties, many pet parents request regular photos and updates about their pets. Steve was a rock star at doing this, never missing a chance to share a cute photo or video of the pets.

After the sit

As with Airbnb, the homeowner and the sitter review each other. Unfortunately, TrustedHousesitters’ reviews are not as detailed as Airbnb’s.

If you get good reviews as a sitter, you may find people requesting your services. We had a few requests, but they didn’t fit in with our plans.

TrustedHousesitters’ guidelines

Below are TrustedHousesitters’ guidelines for sitters and pet parents.

The guide for sitters

The guide for pet parents

For international sits

If you are going to a foreign country to pet sit, there is the possibility that the customs officer could consider this a job. If so, you would need a work permit. Without one, you could be denied entry.

According to TrustedHousesitters, this has not been a widespread problem; however, there have been some cases. Here is TrustedHousesitters’ Advice for International Housesitting. There are also letters you can present to customs for the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia.

My advice: Don’t mention anything about pet sitting. If asked what you will be doing, you are sightseeing. If asked where you are staying, you are staying with friends. Be sure to have the homeowner’s name and address available.

The Pros and Cons of Pet Sitting While Traveling

The pros

Free accommodations.

More room than in a hotel and better equipped than Airbnbs.

Exposure to places you may not have considered. Steve and I enjoyed our time in Bury St. Edmunds, and it’s unlikely we would have otherwise discovered it.

Meeting nice people. Everyone we sat for was friendly and welcoming. It was obvious they cared about our comfort and were grateful for the care we gave their pets.

The internet in homes is much better than in many hotels and Airbnbs.

The biggie – the pets. Every pet we have sat for was a joy. Molly, the East Sheen cockapoo, even slept on our bed.

a man standing next to a dog
Steve and Aspen

The cons

Most of the listings are in suburban and rural areas without many attractions.

If the situation is less than ideal, you are tied down because there is a pet that needs care. You can’t walk away like you could in a hotel or Airbnb. TrustedHousesitters will back you up if the situation is dreadful; otherwise, you have to grin and bear it.

Applying for sits can be time consuming as described above.

You may incur hotel costs before and after the sit.

You do not have complete freedom since pets are depending on you. We have tried to find sits with only cats so we have more freedom, but we have not been successful.

This may not bother others, but Steve and I try to keep our moving to a minimum. We prefer to stay in one place for four weeks. You do not have that control with pet sitting, although you can search for specific durations.

From the time we started our first England sit until we left the country 86 days later, we moved 12 times. That’s once a week!

The Reality of Staying in Someone Else’s Home

People’s houses have more room, better internet, more towels, and more cooking tools than Airbnbs. They are also full of the owner’s possessions and may be cluttered or dirty.

Steve has mild OCD that hits him hardest in the kitchen, although any clutter can worsen it. We couldn’t do much about the clutter, and Steve spent far too much time cleaning kitchens. In one house, the clutter was so bad that we had to pile things on the owners’ bed and return them to their locations before they arrived home.

The other issue was room for our clothes, food, and toiletries. Some homeowners did a good job making room for us, but others weren’t so considerate. At a minimum, pet sitters staying long term need shelves or drawers for their clothes, a place to hang clothes, a place for toiletries, and a place for their food in a cabinet and the refrigerator.

Make Sure You do This One Thing

One of the most important things you should do is be sure you understand the dates and times of the sit. Pet parents sometimes use the day before they travel as the start date because they want to meet you and review details the day before they leave.

On our second sit, that is what the homeowner did. We planned to arrive in town two days early to allow for delays. After we arrived, we found out the sit started a day later, so we spent three nights at a hotel instead of two.

You may find the same situation at the end of a sit if the homeowner is arriving home late and assumes you will stay over that night.

Knowing exactly when they are leaving and returning is critical to avoiding mix ups. Get flight info and details before the sit starts.

Was It Worth It?

Overall, yes.

We got to meet some wonderful people and pets. We haven’t had pets for the last six years, so it was an excellent opportunity to spend time with some. It was kind of like being a grandparent. We had the fun, then got to give them back.

We also saved a boatload of bucks (see below).

How much did we save?

To determine how much we saved by pet sitting, I multiplied the number of nights we pet sat by the average cost of accommodations per night. I then subtracted the hotel costs before and after the sits and the annual fee for TrustedHousesitters.

I came up with two numbers: the first uses the average Airbnb nightly cost in central London for a net savings of $12,700, and the second uses the average price of a hotel near the pet-sitting locations for a savings of $7,300.

We pet sat for 82 nights. Using the higher accommodation costs, we saved an average of $155 per night. We saved an average of $89 per night using the lower accommodation costs.

Either way, that’s some major moolah.

Will we continue to pet sit?

Our first three sits were positive experiences. Our sit in Asheville not only filled some free time, but we got to see a city neither of us had been to. The Tonawanda sit was a boon as we got to spend three weeks in our hometown with low accommodation costs. Our third sit, in Bury St. Edmunds, allowed us to see a fascinating part of England.

The last three sits led us to the decision that we won’t continue pet sitting right now, although we may revisit it in the future. These sits left us marking time since there was little to do near the homes. Central London was an hour or so away from all three of them. Two of the dogs could be left for several hours, and one couldn’t be left at all. For us, it wasn’t worth the travel time it would take to get into the city, and we had already seen many London sights in between sits. For other people, the savings may well be worth the inconvenience.

Even though Steve and I aren’t going to continue pet sitting, we still recommend TrustedHousesitters.

Our Pet-Sitting Experiences

Booking our first few sits

We initially planned to book sits in Western Europe, but one of the first sits that caught our eyes was in Tonawanda, New York. I grew up there, and Steve grew up in the adjacent village of Kenmore. When we saw this sit, we knew it was a great opportunity to visit family still in that area.

We had time to fill between Christmas in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Buffalo sit in February. We found a sit that was between the two in Asheville, North Carolina.

After that, we booked one in Bury St. Edmunds, England, and three in London, England.

Our sit experiences

Our six sits all had one thing in common: pleasant homeowners who were easy to work with and communicated well. All the duties were similar: feeding the pets, cleaning up after them, and walking the dogs. The number of walks and the time of day varied.

#1 Aspen in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Aspen was the perfect dog for our inaugural pet sit. We cared for her for eleven nights in a modern three-story home overlooking woods. We were only a ten-minute drive to downtown Asheville and a twenty-five-minute drive to the Biltmore Estate.

The best part of the sit was how sweet Aspen was. She would lie on the sofa with her head in my lap while Steve and I watched television or I read.

a dog sleeping in a dog bed with stuffed animals
Aspen and friends

The homeowners left us ground passes to the Biltmore Estate, which saved us quite a bit of money.

There was one glitch. The day we expected the homeowners back, they sent a message saying that the weather would be good for flying the next day. Whoops! The end date in the listing was wrong. Steve and I had already booked a hotel room in town as we were flying out the next day, but the hosts reimbursed us for that, and we spent the extra night with Aspen.

#2 Baer and Nikki in Tonawanda, New York, USA

This seventeen-night sit was perfect for us because it allowed us to spend time with family and even have our daughters join us for a week. We stayed in a comfortable one-story house close to shopping. The house was filled with colorful art.

Although he was thirteen years old, Baer the terrier was energetic. He even got the zoomies almost every day. The cat, Nikki, preferred to keep to herself, although she did climb into my lap once. Unfortunately, I scared her away when I yelped as she climbed up my chest.

a cat sitting on a chair and a dog looking up
Nikki and Baer

The homeowner is in the catering business and had the refrigerator filled with tasty treats. He also left us a gift card to a local restaurant.

We had one issue. We expected the homeowner to return late one evening only to find out that he had changed his plans but he didn’t tell us as he assumed we were staying that night. We had booked a hotel room for that night. We stayed at the hotel, then returned to the house the next morning to ensure Baer was let out and both pets were fed before we headed to the airport.

After this experience and the one with Aspen’s owners, we realized we had to be more diligent about getting dates and times down.

#3 Angus and Mollie in Bury St. Edmunds, England

Steve and I spent sixteen fun-filled days with Angus, a six-year-old cocker spaniel, and Mollie, a ten-year-old Jack Russel terrier. We stayed in a charming two-story house that was clean and comfortable. These homeowners did a great job of clearing room for our belongings. There was a grocery store nearby, and we were a fifteen-minute walk to the town center.

Both dogs were well-behaved and super-lovable. The best part was the daily cuddles we had with Angus, and also a few from Mollie, who would jump in if Angus relinquished his spot.

a collage of dogs and a man
Clockwise from upper left: Steve with Angus, Molly with her favorite ball, and Mollie and Angus in the wrong beds

We had never heard of Bury St. Edmunds, a town of 35,000 people. Even though it’s small, there is a lot to see there. The people in town are some of the friendliest we’ve ever met.

#4 Molly in East Sheen, London, England

Molly, a six-year-old cockapoo, was the most affectionate of the dogs we sat, and that’s saying something. We also took care of two guinea pigs named Hazel and Maple. We stayed in a three-story house.

Besides being intelligent and loving, Molly was the best walker.

a dog lying on a bed
Molly, the super snuggler

There were a few parks in the area, but besides Kew Gardens, no major sights were nearby.

#5 Simba in Redhill, England

Simba, a four-year-old Husky German Shepard mix, gave us a run for our money. He was sweet and well-behaved but was too strong for Steve to control on walks. I didn’t even try. Being young, he wanted to play a lot but didn’t understand the concept of dropping a ball so we could throw it again. And tug-a-wars with him were a losing battle.

a collage of a dog lying on the ground with a toy
Simba with his coveted toys

Redhill is a town south of London with very little to do. We had to take a bus to get groceries. But the most challenging part was the house. It was a small terraced house, just thirteen feet wide but three stories tall. It was very cluttered, with several layers of outerwear hanging in the hall, which left no room for our jackets. The disarray continued throughout the house. We spent the first day cleaning, which is not what we signed up for.

#6 Poppy in Brockley, London, England

By the time we got to Poppy’s house for a sixteen-day sit, we knew it was our last. Even so, we made sure we fulfilled our commitment. The house was our second terraced house, but bigger and cleaner than the previous one.

Poppy is an intelligent Cockapoo who dislikes other dogs, skateboards, and bikes. Except for this and her overly-keen watchdog senses, she was well behaved, settling down when told and willingly going into her crate at bedtime.

a dog lying on a couch with a ball
Sweet Poppy in her favorite spot

We knew when we took this sit that Poppy couldn’t be left home alone, but she could ride on trains. We agreed to take turns going out if the dog couldn’t come with us.

More About Life on the Road

Find out about living the dream in “The Surprising Truth About Full-Time Travel and “12 Full-Time Travel Questions Answered.”

Until Next Time

Have you tried pet sitting while traveling? If so, drop a comment below. Steve and I would love to hear about your experience. If you are considering it, maybe this post will help you decide.

Happy traveling,
Linda

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