You’ve heard about pet–sitting, but what about house–sitting to save money while traveling? Dalene and Peter Heck are one Canadian couple who did just that: five years ago, they sold everything for the sake of travel, and started a website, Hecktic Travels, about how they saved over $30,000 in accommodations costs by house–sitting their way around the world.
The basic idea is reciprocity: keep an eye on someone's home while they're away, and you get to stay in it for free. It's a win–win since the owners get the peace of mind in knowing their houses (and sometimes pets) are safe, and you get to take the price of accommodations out of your vacation budget. (You'll also save money on food, since your lodgings now include a kitchen.) Jobs can last anywhere from two weeks to six months and give new meaning to the term culture immersion.
"The best part about the whole experience has been the ability to really dig in to a destination and get to understand the culture. We get to know people and visit places that regular tourists never would," said Dalene Heck.
A number of websites, such as TrustedHousesitters.com, House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, Mind My House among others, provide listings for a fee (ranging from $20 to $60 depending on the membership), but consider this an investment. The couple recommends creating an account on multiple websites to increase your chances of being chosen for a coveted house–sit job.
Planning ahead is the key, since it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully flesh out the details of a contract. House–sitting hopefuls from the U.S. should remember to check Visa requirements for countries they plan to apply for, Dalene warns. "In 28 countries of Europe, Americans are only allowed 90 days total at a time, so the dream of bouncing around from house–sit to house–sit indefinitely isn't really an option there."
How did they find out about this underground travel trend? During a trip to Ecuador in 2009, the two met an elderly American couple who had been house–sitting around the world for a whopping 16 years! They inspired Dalene and Peter to apply for their first gig in British Columbia, Canada, and shortly afterward, the couple took on a six–month long stint in Roatan, Honduras. Over the last three years, they've also been house–sitters in Ireland, Belgium, England, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.
For more details about house–sitting contracts, the best ways to find opportunities, and tips on how to be a good house–sitter, purchase the couple's e–book, "How to Become a House–Sitter and See The World" for $19.99 on their website.