I Have 2 Pets and Went on a 3-Week Trip — Here’s the Stress-Free Hack I Used

published May 21, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
small white dog and gray cat sitting on a moroccan rug sofa in a very maximalist living room with purple walls

The excitement of booking a trip fades pretty quickly when I realize I’m going to have to find someone to watch my two beloved, but sometimes-a-handful pets: my dog, Stanley, an 11-year-old shih tzu, and Pepper, a little-too-fat indoor/outdoor gray-and-white cat. Every parent, neighbor, and friend who has ever watched my pets has done an exceptional job, but the guilt I feel asking someone for a favor increases exponentially the longer the duration of my trip.

So when my partner, Keith, and I decided to take an extended work and play trip to Mexico for almost three weeks (something I recognize as a privilege in a number of ways), the thought of asking my elderly parents or my kind friends to pet-sit just felt too much for too long.

My clingy, affection-loving pets — who normally spend literally all day with us — would need more than just check-in visits from a sitter or pet boarding facility. We knew the best fit for their mental health (and our peace of mind) would be someone who could stay with them overnight. But as a former pet- and house-sitter myself, I know it could cost hundreds of dollars for a trip that long. While our pets are worth every penny, the looming specter of a huge pet-sitting bill made me consider an unconventional option: TrustedHousesitters.

What is TrustedHousesitters?

TrustedHousesitters is a membership-based website that aims to match people looking for a pet-sitter with travelers looking for a free place to stay in exchange for pet- and house-sitting. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2010, TrustedHousesitters’ press kit reports that they currently have over 200,000 members in more than 140 countries over the world. They estimate that they’ve helped over 10 million nights of pet-sitting take place in the 12 years they’ve been operating. In order to use the service, you’ll have to sign up and purchase an annual membership and create a profile. 

How much does it cost?

While you will have to purchase an annual membership to access the site’s many housesitters, that’s the extent of the costs. You don’t actually pay the people who are coming to your home to sit — and you can get unlimited sits for that year of your membership. 

There are three different membership plans you can choose from: Pet Parent, Sitter, and Combined. And within each of those plans, there are different price points. Because Keith and I needed a sitter but weren’t interested in becoming sitters ourselves, we chose the “Pet Parent” membership plan, and the “Standard Pet Parent” type, which costs $229 a year. This middle-of-the-road tier includes unlimited pet and home care from verified sitters at no extra cost, a home and contents plan, video calls with vets, dedicated member support, and the ability to see who saves your listing.

Other Pet Parent plan types available to choose from are the most affordable “Basic Pet Parent” for $149 a year, where you get access to unlimited pet and home care from verified sitters but none of the other extras. The “Premium Pet Parent” costs $299 a year and includes everything in the “Standard,” but also comes with two global airport lounge passes, a “premium” badge on your listing, and other extras.

If you’re looking to have a bit more flexibility and do some pet- and house-sitting yourself, you can choose a combined membership plan, which has three tiers, too, ranging from $209 to $399 a year. 

I only paid $199 a year for the Standard Pet Parent plan because I signed up when there was a promotion going on, so it’s worth looking out for any upcoming deals. Whichever plan you end up choosing, you get unlimited pet and home care for your membership year. 

Is it worth it?

Only you can look at your financial situation and decide if it’s a fit, but for me and Keith, it was a no-brainer. Based on what I used to charge for sitting, using TrustedHousesitters for this three-week trip saved us at least $900. We’ve already got two more sits in the calendar, which we estimate would cost us about $750 if we were paying a “regular” house sitter. All told, we expect to save over $1,600 in pet-sitting costs this year — so far. 

Disclaimer: Since we live in the U.S., I haven’t had to deal with any potential issues around house sitting internationally. If you’re planning to use this service to stay in another country, be sure to check in on local regulations and square away any visas before booking your tickets.

Is it weird to have strangers stay in your house?

I’m not going to say I didn’t have any concerns about letting a complete stranger stay in my home, because I absolutely did. I worried they wouldn’t actually take good care of the pets. I worried they might have parties or trash the place. I worried my pets would hate sharing their home with strangers. Honestly, I even worried that the whole website was a scam. 

There were a few things that allayed my fears before completing our first sit, though. The company offers a Home and Contents plan for Standard and Premium Pet Parent members who also have an existing home insurance policy, which promises to cover against “property damage, theft, and public liability if a sitter has an accident in your home, up to $1 million USD.” The company also requires ID verification (and full background checks for U.S. sitters). Plus, you can read reviews about sitters from members who have hired them before. 

Ultimately, what made me feel the most comfortable was talking with the sitters who applied. Once you’ve narrowed down your applicants to a handful, you can set up phone calls to “meet” them on camera and chat. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable letting a stranger stay in my home with my fur babes without speaking with them first, and the first sitter I chatted with (and ultimately hired) was so kind, patient, and caring.

Maybe I’m lucky that my first sit went so well and that we found a delightful person who did an amazing job. But, I’ve got two more sits coming up, and have found wonderful-seeming folks. They haven’t completed their sits yet, but the fact that I’ve been able to chat with them and “meet” them virtually has made me feel comfortable! 

A Few Hot Tips for Using TrustedHousitters

Take good photos of your home! 

I’ve had a lot of sitters compliment me on our home’s decor, and I think that plus being located in New Orleans is why we’ve seen so many applicants. I’m not sure how well this service works in smaller cities or towns, but I think the more you put into showing off how gorgeous/fun/relaxing your home is, the more of a chance someone will want to come stay. Here’s a guide I wrote to taking better photos of your home.

Print out a version of the Welcome Guide. 

The welcome guide online is great for sitters to reference, but I made my own version with easy-to-search-through tabs and photos that explain certain aspects of the home. 

Install a smart keypad/door lock. 

While Keith and I were able to meet with our first sitter before they began their sit, in the future there may be sitters who are flying in the day of, and so we might not be able to do a key exchange before the sit begins. But we have a keypad installed on our front door that sitters can use to get into the house with directions. 

Designate some friends/neighbors that you trust. 

Another thing that made me feel more comfortable with using this service was making sure I had a backup plan in case anything went wrong. I am lucky to have friends and neighbors I can trust, and in an emergency one of them could have swooped in and taken care of things.