House sitting is a great way to keep your accommodation costs down, but more importantly, it also offers other benefits which can make the world of difference when travelling with a baby.
Both house sitters and house swappers find themselves with far more space than they’d have in a hotel room, better facilities (including for cooking and washing), and let’s face it, the price can’t be beaten.
But before you go off registering willy nilly on house sitting websites (which, aside from spreading the words to friends and family in the places you’re trying to visit, is the best way to get a house sitting gig), remember one thing: Unless you are staying at the home of friends or family while they are away, most house sitting offers come up because the owner needs someone to mind their pets.
Sure, very occasionally a person will just want mail collected and plants watered, but often, those folks will sublet their home instead through a site like Airbnb (another good accommodation option to consider with a baby). But mostly, it’s those with pets – especially high maintenance pets – who are often desperate for responsible house sitters.
3 things to consider before you agree to pet sit as part of your house sitting arrangement:
1. What type of pets are you comfortable at looking after?
2. What type of pets are you comfortable having around your baby?
Some cats are overly clingy and will want to incessantly rub up against your bub – that may or may not bother you. Some dogs are fabulous with kids (especially if their owners have a number of small children themselves), but others are more unpredictable – you need to be comfortable with the choice you make and find out in advance from the owners how their pet is around small babies.
3. What daily needs will the pet have?
If it’s a cat that just needs feeding every day, and the kitty litter is kept in a laundry which you can close (kitty litter and babies are a dangerous combination), maybe that’s a win for you. But if the dog needs walking twice a day, and you’re planning on being out a lot, or are so tired managing your newborn you can’t imagine having extra energy to look after a pet, it’s probably not going to work out.
In our opinion, pet sitting tends to work best for parents of babies and under 1s if the housesitters very used to pets, and there is more than one adult around to keep pets and babies apart when needed.
Don’t get us wrong, for older kids, pet sitting can be a great addition to your holiday experience, but things can be a little more complicated with babies. (In large part this is because you’ll likely be sleep deprived, regardless of your location, and have little spare energy for too many additional responsbilities).
4 tips for finding a house sit:
1. Spread the word to family and friends.
This is by far the best way of finding a house sit. After all, if people know you, they don’t have to worry about trusting their home with a stranger. This trust often extends to friends of friends. Keep reminding people periodically you’re keen to house sit – they’ll forget, and say afterwards, “Oh, you could have stayed here while we were in Bali.” (Darn.)
2. Join some websites.
We recommend joining one or two sites. (Babies Who Travel founder Sue has recently joined TrustedHousesitters – which is pretty popular in our neck of the woods. She’ll report back over time about how she finds it – or ask in the comments if you want an update!) As a general rule, expect to invest a couple of hours getting your listing up and running and uploading a nice photo of you and your family. Don’t skimp on the bit where you tell potential clients about your own experience with pets. This will really be a clincher for many people.
3. Plan in advance where possible.
Be aware: many experienced house sitters will line up sitters a long way in advance (up to a year). And there’ll always be more demand for your services in school holidays and peak holiday periods.
4. Realise people may be happier having you stay now, with a baby, vs later, with a toddler.
It stands to reason: before six months of age, most babies aren’t even crawling, so the chance of them damaging someone’s house is pretty low. Toddlers, on the other hand, have a bad reputation, making some potential housesitting clients (or house swapping options) less keen until your child moves past the tricky toddler years. Of course, if the family you’re aiming to sit for (or swap with) has young children, they’ll probably be completely relaxed, and actually very happy for a family to stay.