I’m often asked where I stay while traveling since I hop around so much. My top choices for accommodation as a long-term traveler are house sitting and Airbnb.
I love house sitting. With house sitting, I get a free place to stay in a new city and awesome pets to keep me company. I enjoy meeting people and the relationship that you build with homeowners from all around the world. Some of us still keep in touch.
House sitting has allowed me to travel longer and even (gasp) save money while living abroad. And have I mentioned the pets? Because animals are just the greatest.
Is there anyone who doesn’t want to cuddle dogs and cats while talking to them in baby voices for hours on end?
There are times when house sitting works out flawlessly – dates line up perfectly, the house is in an awesome place, and the homeowner and I connect like long-lost soul mates.
But sometimes, house sitting can be a tricky beast. Sometimes there aren’t any listings available in the places I want to go, or the dates don’t work, or it’s some remote log cabin with thirteen dogs and no running water.
So what do I do? Do I pack it up and go home? Naw.
I love Airbnb. It is awesome for long-term travelers because you get your own space and homey touches like a kitchen. As of 2017, Airbnb had over 4 million listings all over the world, so you are bound to find something awesome wherever your travels take you.
And it doesn’t hurt that Airbnb often works out to be less expensive than hotels and hostels because many properties have marvelous weekly and monthly discounts (long-term travelers everywhere start applauding and weeping with joy.)
House sitting and Airbnb have been my main means of accommodation since I started traveling full-time.
Well, with the exception of that time my sister and I decided to stay in a 12 bunk hostel with the guy who ate chips in bed all night.
Both house sitting and Airbnb offer an awesome opportunity for long-term travelers to settle in, have a routine, and feel at home in a foreign country. To decide which one is right for you, consider your travel style and priorities while on the road.
Round 1: Cost
To me, this one is a no-brainer. After you pay the annual membership fee with a house sitting site (I prefer TrustedHousesitters, which costs about $120/year), house sitting is free.
You stay in someone’s house for free in exchange for watching their pets and keeping an eye on things. The financial expenditure for both house sitter and the homeowner is zero.
While Airbnb’s can be more budget-friendly than hotels, they still cost some money. If you’re traveling on a tight budget or are just competitively thrifty like me, no money is better than some money.
Choose house sitting if you want free accommodation.
Choose Airbnb if you want zero household responsibilities and don’t mind paying for accommodation.
Round 2: Control over Location
With an Airbnb, you can book your accommodation in a very specific part of a city or region. With house sitting, you get a more general location.
For example, with Airbnb, you can choose your specific arrondissement of Paris. With house sitting, you might land a sit in the general vicinity of Paris (and if you do, I’m super jealous… Paris sits, even ones outside of city center, are quite competitive!)
Occasionally you’ll find a house sit in the middle of the action in the city center, but more often they are in quieter residential areas. You might have to use public transportation to get into the city center.
Choose house sitting if you don’t care exactly where in a city you stay. You are open to many neighborhoods and areas.
Choose Airbnb if you want to stay in a specific neighborhood and be closer to the main attractions.
Round 3: Exposure to Unique Locations
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a house sit. You must consider
- The dates of the house sit
- The length of the sit
- The number and type of pets (four chickens in England, anyone?)
- The remoteness of the home
- The amount of gardening or extra home maintenance work required
- The location/country of the house sit
So there’s a good chance you’ll find a sit that checks many boxes but is located in an area you’ve never considered visiting. Depending on your travel style, this can be awesome or annoying.
Usually, I see this as a huge perk. I’ve ended up staying in places that I would never think to type into Airbnb’s search bar. I totally would have missed these lovely places were it not for house sitting.
That being said, you have to be flexible and open to anything. You might arrive at a sit and learn the location isn’t what you expected.
You might discover that you have an hour walk both ways to the nearest grocery store in an icy Scottish winter. So pack your open mind and a sense of humor.
With Airbnb, you can be more selective with your location.
Choose house sitting if you want to go somewhere new and are open to a wide variety of locations.
Choose Airbnb if you have a specific city or place in mind that you want to visit.
Round 4: Quality of Accommodation
With Airbnb, you get what you pay for. If you spend more, you could have an epic villa looking over the sea in the Caribbean somewhere. If you’re a budget traveler like me, your Airbnb budget will probably be somewhere in the “studio outside city center” range.
For budget travelers, the accommodations you can score with house sitting are often much nicer. Usually, they involve a whole house or apartment (and importantly, a kitchen).
House sits occasionally come with the use of a car or bike. You have your own bathroom and space the way you might not get in a shared Airbnb situation.
Choose house sitting if you are a budget traveler who wants to get nice homey comforts without the price tag.
Choose Airbnb if you aren’t traveling on a strict budget and can afford to grab a nicer place.
Round 5: Responsibilities
Since you pay for an Airbnb, you are a guest and can expect to be treated as such. The linens will be changed, complimentary coffee and tea are often provided, and at the end of your stay, you won’t need to worry about washing the sheets and towels.
In a house sit, you have responsibilities. You care for the house and are expected to clean it yourself at the end of your stay. Most importantly, you are responsible for looking after the homeowner’s pets.
You should like pets. The pets should be the best part of the house sitting experience and if you’re not a huge animal fan, house sitting probably isn’t for you.
If you’re house sitting, expect to stay in the home every night. Expect to complete household tasks for the homeowner like taking out the trash on a set day, receiving packages, mowing, and taking care of a pool if there is one.
The responsibilities vary from sit to sit. It’s important to talk to your host before committing so you both understand those expectations. Make sure to ask your host these thirty questions before committing to make sure you’re on the same page.
Choose house sitting if you love pets and don’t mind caring for a home while experiencing a new place.
Choose Airbnb if you want to go pure vacation mode and don’t want household or pet responsibilities.
Round 6: Flexibility
When you travel as a house sitter, you have to coordinate with another person. The homeowner’s travel dates become your travel dates.
You should expect to arrive a day before the homeowner leaves to get oriented and receive home/pet care instructions. Ultimately, the more flexible you are, the better house sits you can land.
If you have super strict travel dates, finding a house sit could be difficult. With Airbnb, you can choose your travel dates like you would with a hotel.
Choose house sitting if the dates and places you’re traveling are flexible
Choose Airbnb if you have specific travel dates
Both house sitting and Airbnb hold a special place in my heart. They have allowed me to travel far and wide this past year, and for that, I am so thankful.
Depending on what you are looking for as a traveler, both can lead to rewarding and unique experiences.
Choose house sitting if…
- You have flexible travel dates
- You are open to traveling to locations that you haven’t heard of before
- You don’t mind caring for someone else’s home and pets while traveling
- You want to stretch your travel budget as far as possible
Choose Airbnb if…
- You have specific dates you need to travel
- You have specific places you really want to visit
- You prefer to not to care for a home and pets while traveling
- You have some wiggle room in your budget
Have you tried house sitting or Airbnb? Which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!