Last updated on November 10th, 2019
This is a collaborative post with contributions from five different families who travel with kids, house sitting and/or world-schooling as they go:
- Family No 1 – William Swenson, Let’s Adventure Some More
- Family No 2 – Bryony, Coasting Australia
- Family No 3 – Alyson Long, World Travel Family (talks about the negatives of family house sitting)
- Family No 4 – Suewan, RTW Families
- Family No 5 – Deborah Walsh
There are so many resources and options available to encourage and support families who travel, that consequently it’s becoming easier and easier to experience medium to longer term travel all around the world.
And, as more and more families realize that it’s possible to travel and educate, or “world-school” their kids, so they are also realizing the benefits of combining family travel with house sitting to create an all year round dream lifestyle!
How can house sitting help with family travel?
Well, let’s face it, we all know that traveling with kids can be a little stressful, and tiring, especially in cramped hotels or Airbnb rentals. House sitting, on the other hand, provides time and space to settle into, and maintain routines, at least for a while.
Many home owners have children or grand kids themselves, so are happy to have kids in their homes. You’ll find it easy to settle into a child-friendly home with the added advantage of kid-friendly pets to keep you all entertained.
For most though, the over-riding benefit is the saving made on the cost of accommodation. Over a year this can run into tens of thousands. This alone means your family should easily be able to extend any travel adventures beyond that of a standard vacation.
Eating out with kids isn’t cheap these days either, especially if you want quality food. The added ability to be able to cook in a fully equipped kitchen can create further savings and make for more manageable mealtimes.
If one or both parents are working remotely, there’s usually plenty of space to set up a quieter work area, where WiFi is generally better than in hotels, and usually provided free of charge for the duration of the house sit.
House Sitting With Kids Doesn’t Work For Everyone
Long term house sitting as a family isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Well for starters, you’ll have to work to the schedule of the home and pet owners. This means your time isn’t your own in the same way it would be if you were renting a long term Airbnb, for instance. Pet routines may take priority over schooling and travel adventures.
Organization also takes time … finding sits, making applications, dealing with correspondence, finding cheap flights and arranging visas… all of this can eat into your family travel time. And remember, you are in someone else’s home… for some families this is just too stressful – the constant worry of breakages or damage.
It’s important to see family house sitting from all perspectives. While it can save you a ton of money on accommodation, you must consider the responsibilities associated with it and consider first, how this will impact (or not) your travels.
How easy is it to get family friendly house sit jobs?
Contrary to what many people think, it really isn’t too much more difficult to secure sits as a family than as a couple or single person… if you know the best approach to take.
Be reassured that many home and pet owners don’t have a problem with responsible families coming to stay. In fact, if the pets are used to having children around, they are likely to be happier and less disturbed when kids are around to help with care, exercise and play.
There will always be sits where the preference is for a couple or even a single person, but if you take a look at TrustedHousesitters for instance, you’ll see a high proportion of home owners have the family friend filter checked.
But even if a sit isn’t marked as family friendly, don’t let this deter you from applying. Many home owners just haven’t considered that families like to house sit, and they might easily be persuaded.
- You’ll need to create a profile and you should spend some quality time on this. Use great family portraits, and really think about how your family can add to the assignment. Imagine having a family come to look after your home and pets – what would you want to know?
- When you’re applying for sits, be confident about your kids and your family status. Tell the home owner how good the children are with pets, how much they are benefiting from their travel experiences, how responsible they are, and so on.
- And if starting out, look for some local sits first where you can take the kids to meet the home owners and their pets.
- Think confidently and creatively, and you’ll discover that opportunities aren’t so difficult to find!
Family House Sitting from the Parent’s Perspective
To help you decide whether family house sitting could work for you, we’ve asked five different travel families to give you their experiences of family house sitting.
We’ve highlighted the pros and the cons of house sitting as a family by talking with parents who love their house sitting travel lifestyle, but also with one mum who explains succinctly why it doesn’t work for her family.
Our hope is that this will help you decide whether house sitting with your children could be part of your travel lifestyle or not.
Family No 1 – Let’s Adventure Some More
In 2017, Jessica and William Swenson were living in their home in California with their three children, Vesper, Theo and Ezra. When their circumstances changed quite dramatically, they decided to set off on their travels. William tells their story and explains how house sitting has helped turn things around for them.
In the last two years our world has been turned upside down. Or you might say that we have finally discovered for ourselves that Walt Disney was right when he told us that it’s a small world, after all.
Two years ago our greatest travel plans consisted of a long-shot hope that we might be able to swing five to six weeks in Europe.
Then reality slapped us upside the head to remind us of two of the very most important life lessons:
- we are all mortal, and
- nobody is promised tomorrow
After coming to terms with several deaths in the family, including a very beloved mother, a fire was kindled in our hearts and we started really dreaming about seeing the world.
Fast forward and we are now nine months and 17 countries into a planned one-year worldwide adventure that I like to call our “Epic Field Trip”.
We already home-schooled our three children (8, 6.5, and 5), so our transition was surprisingly smooth for school and family life while traveling.
They learned so much more seeing the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and Victoria Falls than they could possibly have merely reading about it or watching videos.
While already possessing confident attitudes, they have grown to be more world-aware and more comfortable with the unknown. In fact our five year old now tells us that she wants to live near her new good friend, Tiia, who is Finnish and doesn’t speak English.
And no, we don’t speak a lick of Finnish. This would not have happened even six months ago, and yet to her it’s just how the world is. At least now that is how she sees it. Wide, massive, and intimidating and yet simultaneously approachable and within her humble reach.
After renting our house out and budgeting around some rental income, some inheritance, and our savings, the single most important factor that made this trip possible was by house sitting for other people whilst they took holidays of their own.
The fact that we could stretch our finances so much farther along our journey has made all the difference in the world. This allowed us the best of both worlds: seeing new and amazing places and yet living day-to-day like a local.
We even get to keep our sanity by having routines and responsibilities because we are in homes and not hotel rooms. When dates don’t work out we can rely on AirBnB or hotel rooms to bridge the gap, but the bulk of our time is spent living and not merely traveling. Our new normal is surprisingly like life back home, just in a new setting with new pets in a new town every few weeks.
Our biggest adventure thus far was in rural France, where we trudged through mud and muck to care for 80 animals including dogs, cats, horses, chicken, ducks, geese, sheep, and llamas!
After performing morning duties we rolled right into school and the rest of our day. And despite feeling exhausted, and wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into, we all have fond memories of our two weeks on the farm. We learned so much, and made fantastic new friends in the process.
According to our children the worst parts of our travels consist of the long lines at the airports (especially security and Passport Control), picking up lots of poop, and wearing their backpacks for too long.
On the other hand their favorite parts have been caring for so many different types of animals, seeing new places, and living in a camper van in New Zealand.
This is not the life we imagined for ourselves when we married, and it’s not likely to be a permanent lifestyle change. However, we have found great joy and a lifetime of fantastic memories together as a family of five living around the world.
We made drastic changes and sacrifices to make it happen, but looking back it is clear that we wouldn’t have traded this opportunity for anything in the world.
Family No 2 – Coasting Australia
Next we hear from Bryony of Coasting Australia. Her family of four are traveling around Australia on an epic road trip in a bus – together with their Kelpie cross, Bobby.
We were sitting at home one night after a long day at work. Our boys were just 1 and 3, and we were both back at work full time, juggling our rosters and day-care to make sure they were well cared for. My hubby suddenly said “let’s go traveling” and I thought he’d had too much wine! I made a few excuses – kids, mortgage, money etc., but after a few days I was still thinking about what he’d said.
We met when we were both traveling Australia – me from the UK and him from Sydney – and we both love the travel lifestyle, but despite this we had found ourselves settling down and finding our comfort zone.
It was when I noticed just how fast the boys were growing, as well as how much time we were spending away from them, that I decided we needed that change in our lives. The hardest part of the journey was definitely making that first decision, but once it was set in our minds there was no stopping us!
As our boys are so young, we didn’t have to worry too much about a time limit. One thing we did do was wait until our youngest was 2 years old. He is a lively character and I couldn’t have imagined trying to keep him under control on the road at a younger age!
This actually worked really well for us as it gave us a whole year to save up for our trip. It meant we had some savings to keep us going, even though we were also planning to do some work along the way, whenever we found something we could do.
Our plan is to travel for as long as we can. We will be heading to the UK after we’ve finished our lap of Australia, so by this point we’ll have to think about schooling – but I’m not too worried at the moment.
After dinner recently, our 4 year old came up to me to ask if he could watch some TV and to let me know that we were able to watch it as the pictures were being sent by satellite. He seems to pick up and retain an incredible amount of information (as I’m sure all 4 year olds do!) and one of the great benefits of being on the road is that we are always having new experiences to satisfy his ever curious mind.
I do realise that I’ll get to a point where his educational needs will outweigh my academic skills, but I figure that we can worry about that when we get there!
One of the main things I do think he would enjoy from a traditional school setting would be organised sport. He loves playing cricket, soccer, rugby and any other sport with a ball, and it would be great to enrol him into something like this. But for now he’s just as happy kicking a soccer ball around a field with mum, dad, brother and our dog Bobby!
I honestly can’t even remember how we discovered house sitting. I think I’d heard of it when my parents visited a few years ago and we were looking for somewhere for them to stay. I think the idea had always been in the back of my mind, but I’d never considered it something a travelling family could do.
We live in a converted Toyota Coaster bus and have been on the road for over a year now. House sitting gives us a few little luxuries every now and then – Netflix, bathtubs and a washing machine!
We’ve completed four different house sits now and they’ve all been great. I’m writing this from a property in Victoria near Ballarat. The boys call it “The Farm” as we have to look after 2 horses, chickens, a cat and 3 dogs. This is the second rural property we’ve looked after and it’s been a great way to introduce the boys to farm life and show them where things grow and where food comes from. Our first sit had 15 goats, 5 cows and 5 sheep!
The boys are still at a great age for making instant friends. When we stop at a playground they will run up to other kids and ask them to play. They are also still young enough to be happy in our company, which is another great benefit of traveling while they are young!
We are now planning the rest of our Australia trip around house sits and road trips – staying at free camps in-between – and know that this will make our budget stretch out much longer. We also love the way that at a house sit you can really get a proper feel for a place – you get the insider tips from the home owners and get to spend a bit longer in destinations to see past the tourist attractions.
It is sometimes a bit challenging to find house sits that are happy to welcome kids, which I totally understand. If you’ve got a fine china collection on display around your house, have nervous pets or live in an exclusive apartment block, then we’re definitely not the house sitters for you!
But the families who have welcomed us into their homes have all been lovely – and house sitting has added a whole extra dimension to our trip that we hadn’t expected!
You can follow this family’s travels at CoastingAustralia.com
Family No 3 – World Travel Family
Family travel can be stressful at the best of times, so it’s important to consider whether longer term travel, the added responsibilities of house and pet sitting, combined with home schooling, is something that will, in reality, work for you.
Travel Blogger, Alyson Long of World Travel Family, is very honest about why it doesn’t work for her family, and she provides valuable feedback for anyone considering the family house sitting lifestyle.
We are full time, long term travelers and have been on the road over 5 years now. We discovered early on in our journey that house sitting just wasn’t our jam, both for personal reasons and through the practicalities of the kind of travel we do. I normally offend every house sitter when I give these reasons in public, but I’ve been asked to contribute here, so today I’ll share.
We travel, in part, for the total freedom it brings. Being tied to somebody else’s (the home owner’s) schedule doesn’t positively contribute to that freedom. We like to keep our spontaneity and options open. The time it takes to search for a sit and the uncertainties of being accepted are also too much of a time suck. I can book a hotel, guest house or apartment in moments, a house sit can take forever to arrange.
We have money, as a travel blogger I earn as we travel, so I’d rather spend the cash and be exactly where I want to be in a paid relationship with an accommodation provider. It just feels better to me. I don’t want to clean other people’s homes nor be responsible for them when the alternative is paid lodging. In a hotel you are the customer, you can get your room cleaned, your towels washed and complain about bad wi-fi until they fix it.
I love animals, sure, but when we had pets we were very particular about hygiene and I’m not very keen on animals in the house nor on furniture. I’d really struggle in a less that spotlessly clean home, I’m a clean freak with a medical background. It’s just the way I am.
So my home rules about pets and the owner’s home rules about pets probably wouldn’t align. Not a problem in normal life, but for house sitting, yes it is.
Yet again, I’d rather pay for a hotel. I think I’m a perfectionist too, so I’d feel that I needed to be perfect in everything, I’d stress that I hadn’t kept the house as clean as I could or that I could have done more with the garden even after giving that home my absolute all. I’d rather not have to worry about that.
I like meeting other travelers too, I love that backpacker vibe. We socialize a lot in the guest houses, hotels and hostels of Asia and being isolated in a house spoils that.
We found this in Vietnam recently while renting a house in a residential area for 6 months, I felt disconnected from the world by walls and fences, public spaces are far more my thing. We weren’t too far from town and could walk in to use local shops and restaurants, but being well away from the main tourist hub would be hugely problematic.
The majority of our travel is in Asia and we prefer adventure travel and getting to know a country in depth by visiting multiple places. Being tied to one spot in a house sit doesn’t help us with this personally nor professionally.
Asia is cheap. We can find good lodging for under $50 a night. To me that is $50 very well spent on being exactly where we want to be, in walking distance of the places we want to be. Also we travel fast, we tour countries, trek and climb mountains. House sitting just doesn’t work with that.
So it’s a big old mix of various reasons but the bottom line is that house sitting just doesn’t make me feel good.
There are exceptions, we have 2 cats we sit for every summer in London but it’s a private arrangement with friends, we know the owners and love their cats. Also, of course, London is super expensive and that sit is worth a lot of money to us.
In London though, we’re not really traveling, we’re just going home for a while to see friends and hang out in our favourite city. We are Londoners, so this arrangement makes sense for us, but generally when we are traveling, no, house sitting does not work for the kind of travel we enjoy.
Despite house sitting not being an option, Alyson’s website is full of invaluable information for anyone considering world travel as a family: WorldTravelFamily.com
Family No 4 – RTW Families
Suewan of RTWFamilies gives her thoughts on house sitting and world schooling.
We were prompted to start traveling and house sitting after we lost a close friend very suddenly. He was in his early thirties and it was a real shock. We realized that as cliché as it sounds, life is short.
Our daughter was in primary school and both of us were working full-time. Life was so busy, but not in a way where we got to spend time with each other. We didn’t want to miss out on our daughter growing up and we wanted to maximize our time together.
After giving this some thought, we realized that traveling would be cheaper than living in the UK and we could actually afford for me to quit my job.
We set out to travel for a year but fell in love with the freedom and ended up away for two years. We’ve just recently returned to the UK to touch base with friends and family and for Dan to see his colleagues – he works remotely for a company in Bristol. The plan is to continue on our adventure for as long as we can whilst all three of us are still enjoying it.
We do a mixture of things for our daughter’s education as part of a world-schooling program whilst we travel. She has an online math tutor. She joins local classes and workshops as we move around. This is possible because we travel relatively slowly, spending between 1-2 months in each place. We use a lot of online resources like Khan Academy and BBC Bitesize. And we still carry quite a few workbooks around with us.
We have learnt to be flexible with our world schooling. Each day can look very different depending on where we are. Our daughter has learnt so much more than she ever could have in school. She knows how to convert currency, she has learnt key phrases in multiple languages, she has so much more knowledge now about different cultures and people… this list would be very long if I told you everything she’s learnt!
Suffice to say she is thriving in this lifestyle and her confidence has really grown. She knows that in order to make new friends she has to be bold and she has made new friends in every country we’ve been to.
She also loves trying new food and going to new places. She has written about what it’s like to be a digital nomad kid on our site. We were fortunate too that her school was incredibly supportive when we told them of our decision.
I wouldn’t say house sitting is easier than Airbnb (our other accommodation choice) because there is a big responsibility of looking after someone’s furry or feathered family. However, we have found house sitting to be a great way of staying in places which are more expensive than we can afford!
We’ve completed 6 months of house sitting in Australia and the UK – both places where the rental costs of Airbnb or any other short term let would be very high.
What we love most about house sitting is that we get to have pets around us again – we are an animal loving family and our daughter wants to be a vet, so she loves learning about how to care for different animals.
We also enjoy having a “home” that is lived in. Often we’ve found Airbnbs to be a little cold and un-homely. There is often something missing in the kitchen as it is only used for holiday makers. However, in a house sit we love that everything is fully equipped and we are able to cook easily. We’ve also found in our experience that house sits have better Wifi than Airbnbs, an important factor for us as Dan needs to work.
So far we’ve only used TrustedHousesitters and have no complaints.
Of course there are some challenges traveling full-time. There are lots of things which can be difficult, like living in each other’s pockets all the time, getting sick in countries where you don’t speak the language, navigating public transport in new places, patchy internet in some locations… there are loads of challenges of living this way.
However, we wouldn’t change it for anything – the pros far outweigh the cons!
You can read more about RTWFamilies at their blog.
Family No 5 – Deborah Walsh
Finally, single mum Deborah tells us how the move towards remote working has changed her and her family’s lives for the better.
I have always had the urge to travel far and wide, but life and work only allowed for one fly-away vacation each year for a long time. Still, as an IT Project Manager for 25 years, I was excited as the trend moved to a more mobile work force. About 5 years ago, I could see this dream of traveling more to be a real possibility and started the shift to working remotely so that I could fund my travels as well.
We were home-schooling before we started to travel full-time so there really wasn’t an adjustment from that perspective. They are both adventurous and love traveling, and I saw a broader, richer experience for them through a global education about the worlds’ diversity.
However, within a month of setting off from Canada to Australia reality set in for the girls.
We had sold our house and 90% of our belongings and we had nothing (but family) to go back to. They struggled with that for a bit until they understood, if we went back it would never be to that house, that street or even the town we had been in.That first month we also began meeting other world-schooling families at local meet-ups.
House sitting allows us to travel, explore lifestyles in different countries and communities in an authentic way, while still being homebodies. We don’t travel like tourists so the girls (and I) are immersed in local culture. While we still love to do some of the “tourist” things, we have found that the gems or best known places come from the locals.
I think one of the benefits home owners find with us is that we are “home” with their pets most of the time. We keep the same type of schedule as we did back home in Canada in that during the week I work and they do some school lessons during the day – our sight-seeing happens mostly on weekends.
We have been house sitting internationally (full-time) for almost 2 years. We have been to China, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, and the USA. This simply wouldn’t be feasible without house sitting and the 26 home owners who have trusted us with their homes and a total of 40 dogs, 15 cats, 3 birds, 25 farm animals, 5 horses and 7 other small critters.
I often get asked if it’s difficult getting house sits with kids, and for us I would say no. In 2 years we have only paid for a total of 10 weeks accommodation and some of these were planned “time-off” in places like Bali, Chiang Mai and Mexico where we were between visa runs, meeting up with friends, etc.
I am so thankful for this lifestyle and the opportunity house sitting gives my family to travel the world. We have a general plan of where we will be going in the next 2 years and then we will revisit this lifestyle as a family, but for now we are excited for the new places and adventures that await us.
You can find Deborah via her profile at TrustedHousesitters
Hopefully these stories will inspire other families to think about world travel, world or home schooling, and house sitting!