Easiest. Hack. Ever.
A woman who’s house-sitting while traveling shares what it’s like.

How 5 People Volunteered To Housesit For A Free Weekend Stay

Travelers share their experiences watching homes in NYC, Scotland, and Germany.

Choosing a dreamy place to stay during your travels can transform any getaway into the vacation of a lifetime, but oftentimes, those wanderlust bookings might be too pricey to justify the splurge. While everyone else might be debating hotels versus rentals, however, some travelers say that housesitting is the best way to experience one-of-a-kind accommodations — for free. Whether they’re simply watching gorgeous homes all over the world or taking on simple tasks like caring for pets, in-the-know tourists and digital nomads have hacked no-cost lodging — and, in some cases, earned some extra money for their adventures.

In addition, some housesitting situations come with a car and food provided, granting travelers the freedom to get out and explore their new home away from home in a budget-friendly way. In these as-told-tos below, five volunteers share how they regularly find free stays in one-of-a-kind homes, from a historic castle in Scotland to a multi-million-dollar penthouse in Manhattan with incredible views. These dream destinations can end up being a great weekend getaway option for anyone looking for something more.

Editor’s Note: Housesitting on a tourist visa is considered illegal in some countries. Before you decide to housesit abroad, make sure you look into the country’s laws and travel with the right visa for your stay.

We Traveled To Munich For Oktoberfest

Nomads and Pawpads

Our housesitting journey started by accident in 2020. At the time, my girlfriend, Jori, and I were both working 9-to-5 jobs and feeling unfulfilled, so we wanted to find an alternative way to support ourselves that would allow us to travel abroad cheaply. When Jori stumbled upon a blog post about house site exchanges, we knew this could be exactly what we’d been searching for.

Today, we find our housesits through different pet-sitting websites and word-of-mouth recommendations. We have friends and family members who reach out to us for our services, but we also use Rover, House Sitters America, and TrustedHousesitters. Virtually every service provider requires a subscription fee, which is well worth it. The cost of a full-year membership on a housesit exchange platform is equivalent to spending a single night in an Airbnb, and we often receive other benefits that save us money beyond accommodations, such as the use of the owner’s car, kayaks, food in the house, bikes, etc.

Our coolest housesit is a tie between homes in Vienna, Austria, and Munich, Germany. We watched the owners’ cats for both, which was pretty low maintenance. Vienna was an incredible exchange, partly because of the location. The tram, which has access to all of the best sites in the city, was right outside our door. On the other hand, our Munich trip coincided with the start of Oktoberfest. Not only did we have the opportunity to attend this bucket list event where we got to wear authentic Lederhosen and Dirndl, but we were also given permission to drive the homeowners' car, giving us even more freedom to explore the Bavarian Alps and even visit Neuschwanstein Castle.

When we went into the Bavarian Alps, we rented electric bikes, did a self-guided tour around Lake Forggensee, and enjoyed some German beer. Another amazing thing we did was walk through Nymphenburg Palace. The grounds are open to the public, and it has a stunning garden and infinity ponds throughout. It’s a great place to grab some gelato and take an evening stroll. We look back at those photos and still can't believe that we were there.

Today, we housesit full-time and have completed 25 exchanges in 13 countries around the world. We’ve saved approximately $20,000 by housesitting and stayed in countless multi-million-dollar homes with pools including a floating home on Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. Housesitting gives us amazing comforts and cool opportunities, so we will likely always vacation this way. —Austin, 28, and Jori, 24

I Stayed In A New York City Penthouse Apartment For Free

I housesat in 2010, before Airbnb was around. I was trying to move to New York, and luckily, a friend of a friend needed a cat sitter. I was tasked with caring for a 20-pound cat who lived in an Upper West Side penthouse apartment for a month, and was also paid $200. Since I was new to New York, I had no idea how special it was to be able to stay in a fancy apartment like that for a whole month.

The apartment had a private deck with a view of Manhattan, which was the best part. While housesitting, I was able to get out and explore different New York City neighborhoods, which helped me to decide if I wanted to move there — which I eventually did. I went to some Upright Citizens Brigade comedy shows, which later inspired me to start taking classes there. The apartment owners maintained their cleaning team while they were away, so all I had to do was feed the cat and clean its litter.

Housesitting is an incredible way to see a new city, and I would definitely do it again. It's like getting a home away from home, and I think the best part is that you can really live like a person in that city or place. You don't feel like a guest. I think housesitting is the way of the future for travelers. —Jane, 37

I Took In The Views From A Magical Castle In Scotland

Lou Crane

I found out about housesitting for free while traveling and working remotely as a digital nomad earlier this year. I was trying to work out how I could come back to the U.K. to attend weddings without having to rent or invade my friends’ or families’ houses. That’s when I stumbled across Trusted Housesitters. I paid about £100 (or $131) for access to the app for a year, and it's 100% been worth it. I have easily saved myself thousands of pounds in rent and rental fees by moving around the country like this, and luckily, my job is very supportive of my nomadic lifestyle.

My absolute favorite place I’ve visited so far was in a remote part of Scotland, on a country estate where the owner gave us keys to their “castle.” On the roof of the castle, there were views across the countryside as far as the eye could see. I was there for a week, pet-sitting for four greyhounds. It felt like a holiday, and being in the middle of nowhere was very rejuvenating. It was so magical.

Although I am not paid to housesit or pet-sit, I’m still on a full-time salary and end up saving a lot. However, you do have to take into account that your main priority is looking after the pets. You also have to be flexible on location, because you're not necessarily going to find the perfect stay in the exact place on the exact dates that you want. If you can accept going somewhere a bit off the beaten track, and can accommodate other people’s schedules (and animals), then it’s totally worth it. —Lou, 28

I’ve Saved Thousands Housesitting In Places Like Argentina, Ireland, & France

I first heard about housesitting on social media a few years ago, and signed up for a service. Luckily, I managed to find a discount code, so it cost less than $100. I was hesitant at first, but I have now saved thousands of dollars in accommodations.

Housesitting means you often get to stay in properties you may not otherwise be able to afford, as many of the homeowners have really large, beautiful homes. My first few housesits were close to home near London, where I used to live. Now, I’ve been housesitting full-time since February 2023, and I'm currently spending three months in Argentina with my boyfriend. We managed to find a wonderful housesit in Buenos Aires, taking care of two adorable Shiba Inus. The house is a gorgeous luxury duplex with a wraparound balcony and views of the city skyline. It’s the perfect place to be at sunset.

Housesitting really helps us keep costs down, and I’ve housesat in Ireland, France, Spain, Kyrgyzstan, and Argentina, too. The one thing worth keeping in mind when deciding whether this is the right lifestyle for you is that you won't have complete freedom when caring for someone's pets. I can't go out for the whole day or book a spontaneous overnight trip. —Sabina, 29

I Made Money While Living In A Townhouse In London

I’ve been informally housesitting since about 2017. I was frequently asked to look after my friend’s parents’ large country home or another friend’s farmhouse to manage the property and animals when they had to travel. One day, I was chatting with my dog sitter, and she mentioned that she rents her flat on Airbnb and then goes away to housesit for people in far-flung places — to farms in California or remote cottages in Scotland.

She recommended I check out Trusted Housesitters, and she gave me a referral discount. I probably pay around £120 (or $164) per year to housesit for others and have others housesit for me. I’m also a regular housesitter for a family with a house frequently used for filming in West London. Getting to stay in a big family double townhouse with all the bells and whistles included can be a real treat. In nice homes, I’m able to host large dinner parties, and I have my choice of which widescreen to luxuriate in front while watching Apple TV. Some homes I’ve watched have even had a tap for sparkling water.

Back when I was writing a book, I used to spend £300 (or $383) each weekend on accommodation outside of London for inspiration, so housesitting has saved me a significant amount of money as well. Some owners are really kind and even insist on filling the fridge with food before my arrival. I can also make money while “living” elsewhere by being an Airbnb superhost, and listing my place in central London. I regularly housesat for a couple in North London, so I would always put my flat on Airbnb while I was there. It enables me to maximize my revenue.

I absolutely think housesitting is worth it, but it depends on what kind of break you are looking for. I always prefer to be in a homey environment when I travel somewhere. I’m learning to choose listings that are convenient for me, not just because someone needs a housesitter. If cleanliness is paramount for you or you want to stay out late or go away on long day trips, I’d say a hotel or Airbnb is the better choice. —Leah, 36

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to include a disclaimer about housesitting with a tourist visa.