House Sitting is all the rage right now with travel bloggers and digital nomads who, like us, are trying to balance their penchant for wanderlust with wanting a few creature comforts. If you haven’t heard of house sitting yet, don’t worry—while it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon, it seems only recently that the craze has really caught on. Before we get into our experience of house sitting in the South of France, here is a quick explanation to get everyone on the same page:
What Is House Sitting:
Everyone loves a good vacation, right?! So do homeowners, and while they are away, they need trusted individuals to take care of their belongings and furry friends. In exchange for offering a bit of TLC and keeping things in order, you get free accommodation.
House sitting gigs can be found all around the world for all sorts of time frames, ranging from a few days to many months. If you’re a traveler with a flexible itinerary, then house sitting can be great as you not only get free accommodation, you also get to live like a local, enjoy the comforts of a home-away-from-home, and (often) take care of adorable pets.
House sitting isn’t for everyone. After all it is a job, which requires you to be respectful and responsible over another person’s possessions. You’ll have to follow certain house rules and routines that might limit your ability to go out and explore the surrounding region. And you never know what crazy mishaps might happen, which you’ll have to be prepared to deal with. But for the right person, house sitting is an amazing way to stay in incredible places for free.
House Sitting in the South of France
France actually wasn’t our first time house sitting; we also did it in Costa Rica last year. But we haven’t really talked about either experience, so we wanted to give you a quick inside look to what it’s really like to house sit.
We had two different house sitting gigs in France. The first one was in an adorable town called Azille, a short drive outside the popular tourist destination Carcassonne. We were watching over a house in the center of town with the sweetest pup we have ever met: Ralph.
Seriously though, Ralph had a temperament like we have never seen before. From the moment we first sat down on the couch, Ralph was there, in our laps, staring up at us with his lovable puppy eyes. And for the next ten days, that’s where Ralph pretty much stayed.
There were a few other tasks like watering the flowers and putting food out for the cat, but our primary job was to watch over Ralph, which we were more than happy to do. In exchange, we had the house as well as a car to use. Most of our days consisted of walking Ralph through the surrounding vineyards and taking day trips to nearby Carcassonne, Minerve or any of the hundreds of family-owned wineries in the area. It was kind of like heaven.
We were also very lucky that our visit to Azille corresponded with the town’s annual feria, five days of music, food, drinking, dancing and bull running. When there was live Sevillana dancing and fresh paella, it took a second to remember if we were in France or southern Spain!
Unfortunately we lost most of our good photos from this house sit as they were still on Dan’s camera when it was stolen in Paris. But you get the idea from these iPhone photos.
So that was our first house sit in France. The only downside was having to say goodbye to Ralph as we really did become quite attached to him by the end of our stay!
After Azille we spent a week in Paris before our next house sitting gig began. This time we were headed to the other south of France, a short drive outside of Bordeaux.
This time we were tasked with watching Buster, Rosie and Stevie Wonder (a blind cat). The house and garden were stunning, surrounded by vineyards and not much else. Luckily the home owners were also kind enough to let us use their car, allowing us to hop into town to go to the supermarket or drive around the French countryside.
Because we were watching two large dogs this time, it wasn’t as easy to have them sit on our lap and go for day trips. This meant we spent most of our time actually at the house, doing a bit of writing, playing with the dogs and enjoying the spectacular scenery. Of course, we did make it to Bordeaux our last day for a few wine tastings. There was no way we could get that close to the iconic wine region and not sample a glass or two.
So what was it really like to house sit for a month in the South of France?
You can probably tell by now that we thought it was pretty amazing. The first house sitting job allowed us an inside look at village life, with the unique experience of taking part in feria and using our time to go on a few day trips with Ralph. The second house sitting job was an ultimate retreat. Surrounded by nothing but French countryside and with three loveable pets to keep us company, it was rejuvenating and relaxing. (Not to mention the house was seriously beautiful.)
As we mentioned before, house sitting isn’t for everyone. Not everyone would be entertained by going for long walks through vineyards and feeling confined to staying at home all day long. But for us, working house sitting into our travels is a welcome relief. We already have our next gig set for New Years Eve in NYC. That should be a bit different from the South of France…
How to House Sit:
There are a variety of websites out there that match potential house sitters with homeowners. Typically these websites have a small annual fee attached, but the initial price tag is worth it for the long-term savings. We use the following two sites:
TrustedHousesitters: Annual Fee: $89.88. This is the largest and fastest growing site. As a result, you’re competing with a lot of other eligible sitters for the same job. (Jobs are often filled within the same day of posting.) But there are also many, many more jobs available, giving you a bit more flexibility in location and dates.
MindMyHouse: Annual Fee: $20. This site is smaller with most jobs in North America, Mexico, Costa Rica and Europe. If you’re not sure if house sitting is right for you, the small fee makes this a great starter option, but based on our success rate, you’ll definitely want to sign up for TrustedHousesitters if you are serious about finding a job.
If you’re looking for more resources on how to best fill out your profile, apply for jobs, and correspond with homeowners, then consider the following resources:
Hecktic Travels has an eBook that gives the secrets behind their extreme housesitting success.
Globetrotter Girls also has an ultimate guide to house sitting, as well as a ton of resources on her blog.
So what do you think? Have you ever house sat before? Does this sound like a resource you would like to add to your travel hacking arsenal?
Trusted Housesitters is an affiliate link. We recommend them because we used them personally to housesit in France.
that dog is adorable!!! I would pay someone to loan me their dog for a few days. I’m not sure I would go for housesitting or not, I feel like I’ve heard people prefer couples over single people for those gigs? Is there any validity in that? Still your time in france sounds amazing
Rebekah recently posted…Xiahe: Exploring a Tibetan Monastary
We have noticed in some applications that the homeowners will explicitly state they would like a “couple” or “seniors” or something like that. But that by no means counts out singles. As long as you are a responsible adult (and it certainly helps to have a blog that shows your whole life story so the homeowners can get to know you before they know you) then there is a housesitting gig out there somewhere that is the right fit for you. It’s free to look through the listings so it’s a good idea to look and see what’s out there before you commit to signing up.
Do you ever get paid as well to house sit?
We haven’t been payed to housesit, but we have met people along our travels who have. (One person got gorgeous accommodation and a couple hundred a week or something absurd). These gigs are getting tougher, if not impossible, to find though as more and more people are willing to do it on exchange. I imagine that these paid gigs travel by word of mouth though and you likely won’t find them on any of the websites.
My mum lived in a small village near Carcassonne for a while, so I know that area a bit, and it must have been a lovely place to housesit! Zab and I recently did our first housesit in Stockholm and loved it; we’ll definitely ben trying to do it again. By the way, that totally sucks Dan got his camera stolen in Paris (boo)!
Sam recently posted…UK Stereotypes: Expectations and Reality
How cool! We loved the south of France to wind down after a chaotic couple of months of travel. Stockholm is an awesome city though. I bet housesitting there was a blast!
Housesitting has been amazing for us too, what we really loved, apart from getting to know better the places we stayed and live like the locals do, it was having some furry cute friends to look after, we really miss having pets.
Franca recently posted…Why We Carry Coffee Whilst We Travel (+ Win An Aeropress!)
We love having pets to look after as well! Provides a nice routine in contrast to our hectic travel lifestyle.
Interesting, I’ve never tried housesitting but that sounds like a great way to travel slowly and live like a local. Is there any type of references needed on these websites? Or a feedback system for homeowners to leave online (like Airbnb) for housesitters?
Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted…Falling in love, or failing to love, Paris
Your personal blog may be one of the best references you have! When we apply to a housesitting gig we always suggest people read our about us page to learn more. People can automatically upload references to your housesitting profile and the more the merrier. Family, friends, babysitting gigs or previous pet sitting experience will all help you to look better in the eyes of a homeowner. :-)
What a dream. Thank you so much for sharing this! We have been thinking about trying house sitting sometime in the future after we finish teaching in Korea. You two are so inspirational and we love following your travels!
Stephanie recently posted…Train Travels… Suncheon Bay
You are very welcome Stephanie! Housesitting is a very unique way to travel. Hope you get the chance to try it out :-)
We have done a few home exchanges, but never a house sit. I think it is something we will look into in the future. Sorry about your camera being stolen. What a nightmare.
Rhonda Albom recently posted…Two On the Water World Record Attempts in Auckland – WW
Unfortunately we don’t have a home to exchange, but house swaps totally make sense for those who do have a home and want to try living in a new location for a bit. Thanks for sharing your experience Rhonda :-)
A Cruising Couple recently posted…House Sitting in the South of France – What It Was Really Like
The last time we visited the south of France, we camped. Which we loved. But we’ll definitely consider the house-sitting option. Especially as we find the local hotels prohibitively expensive.
Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Hotel Madrid
France can get quite expensive quickly. We loved being able to hunker down and live like locals for a bit.
Well, house sitting may or may not be for everyone, but its benefits are no secret. It is definitely a great way to immerse in the local vibe and enjoy few perks for free. I hope to explore this option someday.
Renuka recently posted…That’s How I Discovered Darjeeling
There are definitely responsibilities that aren’t to be taken lightly, but for us and many others the benefits are fantastic.
I would housesit for a SECOND feria and an adorable dog! Informative article!
Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted…Rainy Days in Oviedo
Experiencing the culture in the South of France was something we never would have done without housesitting. And we never would have met Ralphie!
We’re super into house sitting and it’s actually all thanks to you guys. We first read about it on your blog when you started last year and have ended up house sitting in Costa Rica (not that we’re copying you or anything haha!) The south of France looks lovely, so does Ralph, and so do those large glasses of wine! The bull running not so much :/
Have you got any more house sits lined up for this year? Have you found it easier finding house sits in France compared to Central America? We’ve found that there’s a super high demand for house sitters in Costa Rica especially.
Charlie recently posted…Why Quepos is the Ideal Place to House Sit for Travellers
Costa Rica is a very popular spot for housesitting, as is France. It tends to be wherever expats have set up and want someone to look after their house while they take an extended vacation. We suggest getting signed up to get email notifications (which you can sort by country) so if you see one you like, you can get your application in first. Glad to hear that we convinced you to housesit :D
These look like some amazing housesits!! And the dog was adorable, too.
Valen-This Way Paradise recently posted…Why I Thought Marrakech Was Hell On Earth (And 8 Reasons Why You Should Still Go)
Nice post, Casey. We haven’t tried house sitting yet, but it’s definitely something that we’re thinking about doing in the (near) future. I like that you added those links at the end, too. Super-useful! :-)
Bram recently posted…Top 10 Travel Photography Blogs
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I’m sold. Although I”m not sure how good I’d be as I’m not used to taking care of animals.
Penny SAdler recently posted…Luxury Adventure In Big Sky Country: The Ranch at Rock Creek
We LOVE housesitting! In fact, we’re doing it right now, and I’ve got the sweetest Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pup cuddling next to my leg. <3 Housesitting is amazing; we've done it twice here in Australia. Which site have you had the most luck with, out of curiosity? I also love your idea of using your blog as a great reference to show people who you are. Smart! :)
Thanks for sharing the pluses and minuses of house sitting. Beautiful photos!
Well, first of all, that puppy is seriously cute! You know, we haven’t tried house sitting, but I think it would be a great option for us, as we like longer stays, and love animals.
Micki recently posted…Sri-Lanka: Magic and Majesty at the Esala Perahera
house sitting?? ummm never thought of that before, but after reading your post and realizing how much you both had, i would definitely love to house sit :) lovely post :)
Gabi@TheNomadicFamily recently posted…10 Year Old Children Today- Modern Parenting Failure #231
Great post! We haven’t tried house sitting but I was wondering how much exploring/travelling you actually get to do when you are responsible for someone else’s home. Sounds like you need to pick a house sit in a place that has a lot of interesting places that are accessible on a day trip.
Rhonda @ Travel? Yes Please! recently posted…Photo of the Week: Tomb of Sainte-Geneviève
Good to hear the inside scoop!
Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted…See Boston By a Fun Harbor Cruise… With Brunch!
I’ve never house sit before because I honestly don’t know where to even start. It’s great to hear that you’ve had lots of success so I’ll be bookmarking your advice! :)
Wow, these sound like perfect situations! Great pets, lovely settings AND use of a car! That definitely sounds like it’s worth the annual fees of those websites. Will be interested to hear how your NYC gig goes.
Heather recently posted…Sigulda, Latvia: Medieval Castles Amid Autumn Leaves
I have been house sitting in CA on & off for a few years but would love an international assignment. Love your blog and information. My blog is still under construction-mostly sharing my personal travels in Europe. http://scribblesandsmiles.blogspot.com/
Christie Semmens recently posted…Cinque Terre “The Five Lands” – In One Day
Thanks so much for sharing! Housesitting is a great way to travel – good luck on getting your first international assignment!
I’m sold. We will have to try house sitting in our gap year travel. We will be having tons of time to slow travel and live like locals.
How do you chose or get chosen? in your opinion what is the best site?
Couplertw recently posted…Daytrip to Bratislava
That’s awesome! Yes house sitting is perfect for a gap year when you have time to slow down :) Everyone has their own favorite. We’ve gotten all our gigs off of Mind My House and Trusted Housesitters :) The best way to get chosen is to fill out your profile as extensively as possible, link back to your blog, and then ask all your friends and family to write you references – even if it’s just character references. Best of luck!
Some good friends of mine have done some housesitting recently, and I thought that it would be the perfect position for me. I am 68 and live alone. Traveling to many places is more than I want to do; hence, situating myself in a less than hectic style of traveling seems perfect.
Ralph was a lovely dog! Such affectionate dogs make house sitting a very simple job and I am sure you would have enjoyed greater freedom sitting him. But it must have been a dream job for you in the beautiful south of France in between beautiful wineries.
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