House Sitting With Kids: 15 Essential House Sitting Tips
If you're looking for a way to explore the world with your family while also keeping costs down, house sitting with kids might just be the perfect solution. As a traveling family, we’ve relied on house sitting many times during our travels. And we always love sharing our house sitting tips and house sitting advice to anyone who might be interested in doing that type of travel for themselves.
House sitting can be a fun way for families to experience new places, meet interesting people along the way, and save money. But I’m sure you might be wondering if house sitting can work for you and whether you can be a house sitting family. Fortunately, in most cases, the answer is “Yes!”
In this blog post I’ll share 15 useful house sitting tips specifically tailored to families so that your next house sitting with kids gig goes off without a hitch. Read this house sitting guide to find out how you can house sitting to create lasting travel memories with your family.
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House sitting FAQ: What is house sitting?
House sitting is when homeowners invite someone to come take care of their home while they go on a trip out of town. If the homeowner has a pet, the house sitter is often responsible for taking care of the pet as well.
In some cases, the host will pay house sitters to watch their homes and care for their pets. But generally, house sitting is a non-monetary exchange: free accommodation in exchange for taking care of a pet and a house. House sitting is a great example of the sharing economy, a socio-economic system where human, physical, or intellectual resources are shared.
Learn more about house sitting with these house sitting guides:
Why you should start house sitting with kids
While the stereotypical image of a house sitter is a 20-something backpacker, house sitters actually come from various ages and backgrounds. In fact, many traveling families use house sitting as a way to save money when they travel, especially on accommodations.
Family house sitting is a great way to experience the local culture and travel like a local. You’re literally staying in a local’s home at no extra cost to you! The experience also introduces you to places you might not have considered before. When we were traveling in England, we never would have thought about traveling to Birmingham had we not had a family pet sitting gig in that city.
One other reason to house sit, especially for families who do long term travel, is that it gives your kids an opportunity to experience having a pet. Our kids loved all the pets we had during our house sitting experiences. And the experience really made our travels more interesting.
Best places to find a house sitting with kids opportunity
If you’re curious about how to find house sitting opportunities for your family, there are several house sitting websites that you can use. These sites can help enable you to do house sitting long term during your travels.
Our family personally uses Trusted Housesitters. This house sitting platform offers house sitting opportunities all around the world, though most of the house sit opportunities are found in North America and the United Kingdom, which is where we’ve mainly used it.
Trusted Housesitters site uses a three-tiered membership plan. The basic membership, which gives you unlimited house sits, free background checks, and free phone calls with vets during pet sits costs $119 per year. The next level up, which costs $169 per year, adds instant alerts for saved searches, dedicated member support, and liability protection. And the highest tier, which costs $259 per year, adds sit cancellation insurance and global airport passes.
Sign up using my referral link and get a 25% discount off your membership.
Other house sitting platforms to use include Mind My House, Nomador, and HouseCarers. Of course, you can also find house sitting gigs through personal connections. We've done this in the US and in France. Before you go on a trip, ask your friends if they know anyone needing a house sitter in the destination you want to travel to.
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Important considerations for house sitting for families
Before jumping feet first into my house sitting tips, there are a few things to consider. House sitting with kids is not always a good fit for every family. So you want to make sure that this is something that’s right for you.
First, understand your family’s level of comfort with animals. If someone has a fear of animals, or is highly allergic to certain animals, then house sitting might not be for you. My cat sitting tips for family members who are allergic to cats are to pack plenty of Benadryl and ask the host if they have an air filter in their home.
Additionally, understand your family’s limitations when it comes to caring for another person’s home and belongings. If you have curious toddlers, for example, house sitting might not be the right fit for your family at the moment.
Finally, understand your threshold for level of responsibility. Some house sitting gigs can be simple and relatively hands off, like one we had in Portland, where we essentially just needed to feed a cat and change her litter box twice a day. Others can be quite burdensome, involving multiple animals, multiple feedings, medication, and house chores. One of the most important tips for house sitting is to know what that line is for your family, so that you know when to say yes to an opportunity and when to say no.
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Our top house sitting tips for families
In general, our house sitting with kids experiences were some of our most memorable travel experiences. Now I want to help other families enjoy the benefits of house sitting too!
To do that, I’ve compiled a list of house sitting tips for families to help them navigate how to find house sitting gigs and what to do once they have them. My hope is that your family will use these house and pet sitting tips to make great memories house sitting with kids.
1. Cast a wide net to find house sitting with kids opportunities
One of my first house sitting tips is to cast a wide net. House sitting can get pretty competitive. And most pet owners prefer having solo travelers as house sitters rather than a full family. This means you want to start off with a large selection of potential house sits rather than a narrow pool.
When we were house sitting with kids throughout England, we applied to about fifty house sits. Of those fifty, we received only five invitations to house sit from pet owners.
Cast as wide a net as possible, and apply to as many house sitting opportunities as you can.
2. Don’t take rejection personally
Since house sitting can get competitive, you’ll likely experience rejection more than a few times. So my next set of house sitting tips is to not take rejection personally.
Pet and home owners for destinations that are perceived as desirable are often inundated with applications and have to sift through all that. Just focus on making your house sitting with kids application as appealing and fitting to the owner as possible. And if they reject you, move on to the next application
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3. Be flexible with your travel plans
If you’re planning on house sitting with kids during your travels, make sure to have some flexibility. There may not be house sitting opportunities during the exact dates you want to travel, or in the exact destination that you want.
One of my house sitting tips is to be open to adjusting the dates of your travel, depending on pet owners’ needs. Or be willing to go to places you wouldn’t expect.
We had one of our most memorable house sitting gigs watching two dogs in a small village outside of Salisbury, England. It wasn’t initially on our radar, but we absolutely loved it!
4. Understand your house sitting duties
Once you accept a house sitting gig, make sure that you’re aware of any other house sitting duties you’ll be expected to complete. Do you need to take out garbage? Are there medications the pets need? Will you be expected to water plants?
Understanding your house sitting expectations can also help you plan your days for exploration as well. One of our past house sitting with kids experiences required us to water the garden as well take care of their dog. Since it was summer, the plants and yard needed a lot of watering. It took us almost two hours to do this, each day, which didn’t really give us much room for sightseeing!
On the other hand, we’ve had house sitting with kids experiences that were really low key. It all depends on the pets and the owners. One of my top house sitting tips is to understand expectations ahead of time.
5. Have good references
Another one of my house sitting tips is that you present yourself as someone trustworthy. Pet sitting sites like Trusted Housesitters are built on trust. That means that testimonials and reviews are like gold!
If you’re new to house sitting with kids, ask friends you trust to write testimonials of how trustworthy and responsible you are. And once you’ve had a few house sitting gigs under your belt, you can ask them to write references for you.
6. Include a lot of pictures of your kids with pets
Good pictures go a long way in showing pet owners who you are as a family. Another one of my house sitting tips is to include in your house sitting website profile pictures of you and your kids with pets like dogs and cats.
Our Trusted Housesitters profile has pictures of our kids walking dogs we’ve taken care of. And it has pictures of our kids with bunnies and other animals. This shows potential house sitting hosts that our kids are comfortable with animals.
7. Show how responsible your children are
On the subject of photos, be sure to also include photos of how responsible your children are with animals. This can be photos of them walking a dog, feeding pets, or grooming pets.
Pet owners are often wary of accepting families as housesitters because they’re not sure if the kids will behave. Find ways to assure them that your kids are responsible and will take care of their pet and their home.
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8. Personalize each house sitting application
Just like any job application, you want to personalize your house sitting applications. Rather than send a generic message as you’re applying for a house sitting with kids opportunity, give the pet owners a short description of who you are and what you do. You want to build trust right off the bat.
Another set of house sitting tips around the topic of personalizing your message is to describe how you and your family would be the perfect choice to take care of their pet. You don’t have to write a whole dissertation, just a sentence or two is sufficient. Again, it’s all about building trust.
9. Meet the pet ahead of time
Another one of my house sitting tips is to arrange to meet the pet ahead of time whenever possible. This gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the pet, and for the pet to get used to you.
Meeting the pet ahead of your house sitting with kids experience also gives you a chance to ask questions about the pet before you actually start your pet sit. I’m sure we’ve all heard of house sitting horror stories where a house sitting comes to watch a pet, and that pet absolutely hates them. You don’t want that to happen to you during your house sitting experience.
10. Take the job seriously
Once you’ve been accepted for a house sitting gig, remember that it’s a commitment. Take the job seriously and treat the pet as if they were your own. If there are special house sitting instructions for taking care of the pet (or the house), follow it to a T.
Request a meeting (either virtual or in-person) to go over responsibilities, expectations, and house sitting guidelines. Take notes if you need to, or create a house sitting checklist for the pet and home.
Most importantly, try and limit your outings during the sit. I know this can be challenging if your primary purpose for housesitting is to travel to new places. I mean, why go somewhere if you can’t experience it to its fullest, right? But remember, you’re there to do a job - to take care of a pet - so make sure to prioritize that job over travel experiences.
11. Request a welcome guide (and read it for the house sitting tips!)
On platforms like Trusted House sitters, there’s a welcome guide that you can request from pet owners. This is like an instruction manual, so to speak, of how to take care of the pet, how to use appliances in the house, home responsibilities, emergency numbers, and any other information needed to live in the pet owner’s home. And it often includes a house sitting contract.
Before you start your house sitting with kids experience, make sure you get a welcome guide or informational packet from the owner. And if you’ve arranged a house sitting gig outside of house sitting platforms, make sure to request an informational packet from the owners. Essentially, you want to make sure that you have all the information you need (including house sitting dos and don’ts) to take care of the pets and live in the home, without constantly texting the owners with questions during their trip.
12. Do research about the type of animals you’ll be watching
Since you’ll be taking care of a living animal during your house sitting gig, make sure to do your research about the type of animal you’ll be taking care of. Read up on how to take care of them and what to do in case of emergencies.
This is a perfect opportunity for learning with your kids while you travel. Read books about the animals together as a family. Guide your kids through online research and have them write up a list of information they’ve learned to help them during the house sitting gig.
13. Send the owners daily updates
While it’s common house sitting etiquette to avoid bothering the owners with too many questions during the house sit (who wants to be bombarded with questions on your vacation anyway?), do take time to send the owners daily updates of how their pets are doing.
When our family does housesits, I like to send pictures of their pets every few days. This way, the owners can see that their pets are happy and content. Sending daily updates also gives the pet owners peace of mind that their pets are being well taken care of.
14. Leave the house as you found it (or better)
Remember that when you’re house sitting with kids, you’re staying at someone’s home, and not at a hotel. That means you should take care of the place as if it were your own home. One of the most important house sitting tips is to leave a place better than how you found it.
Our family tries to live by this motto whenever we can. That means before we leave a house sit, we’ll do a clean up of the home and make sure things look the way they did when we arrived. While we don’t usually leave any house sitting gifts for the owners, we do like to leave a little good-bye note thanking the pet owners for letting us stay in their home.
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15. Share house sitting tips with your kids for coping with attachment
One down side to house sitting with kids is that it might be hard for your kids to say good-bye to the pets. During the last few days of a house sitting gig in the West Midlands in England, my daughter became very sad when she realized she had to say good-bye to the springer spaniels that we had been taking care of for two weeks. She had grown attached to them, and started crying thinking that she’ll never see them again.
It’s such a heartbreaking thing to see your kids experience loss. The best thing you can do as parents is to help them cope with attachment and saying good-bye. Encourage them to write out their feelings, or take pictures to help them remember the fun memories they had with the pets. It may not seem like a big deal for you, but for kids, saying good-bye to a pet can be extremely emotional.
How to use house sitting tips as part of your long term travel plans
House sitting isn’t always easy. Whether it’s finding house sitting opportunities or the responsibilities of taking care of a pet, it can sometimes be a full on job in and of itself! Hopefully my house sitting tips have set you up for success, so that you can house sit on your travels and know how to be a good house sitter too!
In my opinion, one of the greatest benefits of house sitting is that it allows you to travel affordably and go to places you might not have previously considered. In the end, house sitting is a great strategy for long term travel, and something that families should consider doing when they travel.
So what are you waiting for? Go out there and start house sitting with kids!
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