“How to” of Budget Travel

Want to travel, but your budget will not allow for expensive hotels and restaurants? Don’t let that stop you from seeing the world! These are the three strategies that I use to fulfill my dreams of travel. Check them out! They will work for you also.

 

House and Pet Sitting:

1. Locating Positions

There are several websites that provide information on available house and pet sitting opportunities. All require a registration fee, ranging from $20 to $50. Some of the most popular are Mind My House, Trusted House Sitters, Luxury House Sitting, and House Carers. The following are the ones I have used successfully.

House Carers (www.housecarers.com)

This is the website with which I have had the most success. It allows me to add up to fourteen pictures to my profile and provide as many references as I wish to display. Although house sitting opportunities from throughout the world are listed, the number from Australia and New Zealand are extremely numerous. Using House Carers, I was able to successfully locate and secure two of my favorite house sitting positions, in Quebec City, Canada and Sent, Switzerland.

Trusted Housesitters (www.trustedhousesitters.com)

This website is very popular with home owners from the United Kingdom. I especially like it because of its app that notifies me when a position becomes open. When I am traveling, it notifies me instantly when home owners post their positions. Then, as a member, I have twenty-four hours to contact the home owner before the advertisement is listed on the web. Since more and more people are becoming interested in house sitting, this service is extremely valuable for those wishing to sit.

2 . Preparation and Patience

Most things that are worthwhile take time. House and pet sitting are no different. Design a concise and well-written profile that tells of your prior house sitting experiences, stressing why you would be the best sitter that the home owner could possibly select. Post references from people for whom you have sat. If you do not have references, ask to house or pet sit for your friends and/or family members. Then post the references you receive from them. Those references that describe the excellent services you have provided, will strengthen your profile.

After each house sitting experience, ask the home owner to write a reference letter. Then request his or her permission to post it on your profile. Post pictures of you with pets. Photographic presentation is as important as verbal presentation, for it provides the home and pet owner with a method of visualizing their beloved pet(s) being cared for by you. Finally, contact your local police department to request a criminal background check. The cost is approximately $20 and requires only that you submit fingerprints. Remember that you are being trusted with valuable homes, furnishings, and (at times) cars, not to mention pets that are essentially family members.

Understand that often you may submit ten or more requests to sit before being contacted by one home owner. House sitting is competitive. However, if each of the above steps has been completed, you will become successful. I have been house sitting for one year and have had wonderful results. Remain confident that you will be contacted, because your profile, your pictures, and your references are the very best. Home owners will see that they are, indeed, fortunate to have your services.

3. Identifying Your Niche

Home owners seeking to locate trustworthy house sitters have distinct needs. Some require very active individuals capable of caring for large farm animal. Others invite you to  live on house boats or in other unique places. Often owners seek individuals who are very experienced at gardening or in making simple home repairs. Still others require the skills necessary to live “off the grid.” Positions are available in both rural and urban areas.

Assess your limitations. Would you be comfortable caring for five cats in Spain? Would you feel that you could successfully maneuver two exuberant golden retrievers on their daily walks? Do you have the knowledge of how to care for a pool for four months? Have you ever spent weeks in an environment where you would be expected to shovel snow and navigate icy streets as I did in Quebec City? Above all, be careful to assess your skills and comfort level before accepting a position. Be cautious. Determine your capabilities and wait for the perfect fit. By doing so, you prevent failure and invite success which will then be rewarded with a wonderful reference and maybe even a referral.

4. Flexibility

If your dream is to spend six months in Greece wandering among the ancient ruins, do not turn down the opportunity to sit in places like Costa Rica, Spain, or Australia. It has been my experience that some of the places I least would have chosen to sit, have provided me with the most amazing experiences. Also, as a beginning house sitter, you need references. The more references you can post on your house sitting profile, the better your chances of eventually getting to Greece! The more flexible one is in both time and location, the greater opportunities he or she will find.

Remember that each home owner is unique. Read the ads very carefully. Is the emphasis on the home or does the home owner’s concern seem to be more about his or her pets? When applying for the position, let that be your focus. For example, if the pet is a ten year old lab with arthritis whose name is Pepsi, ask the owner if Pepsi requires medication when you first initiate contact. Inquire whether there are any special things that you can do to make Pepsi more comfortable while caring for her. Are there any danger signs that you should be aware of? By doing so, you have shown compassion, due diligence, and planning. These are very impressive attributes for one who is to be entrusted with Pepsi, who is most precious! Pet owners see immediately into your heart. Let your love for animals speak through your actions.

If you have a companion, you will find it even easier to find positions. Home owners frequently request couples. However, as can been seen by my past year’s experiences, single sitters are also much in demand.

By patiently working to locate the perfect locations to sit, you can easily spend one week to several months at a time seeing the wonderful world in which we live. For a $1,200 airline ticket, I visited Denmark, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Switzerland. With a little careful planning, I worked to have a one-day layover in Denmark so that I could take the relaxing canal tour. Then on to Wroclaw where I spent a few days sightseeing in the amazing old city center, wandering among the medieval world that still exists in the holy places of Ostrow Tumski. From there, I enjoyed a week’s stay in the Karkonoski National Park on the Czech border, volunteering in an English immersion program with Polish business men and women. After completing that assignment, I boarded the train to Krakow for tours of the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine, Old Town Krakow, Jewish Krakow, Rynek Underground, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the time of this posting, I am in the process of spending one month house sitting in the gorgeous Alps of Sent, Switzerland eating too much chocolate and cheese.

Careful scheduling results in amazing adventures and wonderful memories. Lay the foundation of your trip with one or two house sitting assignments or other volunteer positions that provide free accommodations. Then build an exciting itinerary around those positions. When you look at the possibilities, spending a little time on your profile, criminal background check, references, and pictures are absolutely worthwhile. If you want to house sit often, design a simple little blog like A Pilgrim’s Parable which will tell the story of your adventures and provide a clear view of your personality. It will allow the home owners to better assess whether or not you are the perfect sitter to fulfill their house and pet sitting needs.

 

English Immersion Programs:

Diverbo (www.diverbo.com) provides English immersion programs for both teachers and business professionals at several different venues in both Spain and Germany. Programs last from six-to-eight days and are held in rural locations, generally a national forest setting. Diverbo provides all accommodations and meals. English speakers only pay travel expenses. A very structured program, each day consists of one-to-one conversations, group conversations, and group meetings that focus on skits, songs, and games designed to allow non-native speakers to converse with native speakers in a relaxed and fun situation. Nights are spent (optional or course) in games, music and dancing, and special programs. The application process is very easy and the people with whom you will work if you should choose this route are very professional and great to work with. An added bonus is that you enjoy international travel and make many friends, not only with the citizens of Spain, Germany, or Poland, but also with Anglos from all over Europe and North America.

Angloville (www.angloville.com)  also provides very similar volunteer programs in Poland. It is not necessary to be a teacher or have a degree in English in either of the two programs. Since the task of the volunteer is simply to carry on conversations rather than teach the language, both organizations simply look for native English speakers.

 

Volunteering in State and National Parks:

The website www.volunteer.gov is  a gold mine of information for those wishing to volunteer in national parks, as well as state, and local parks. Volunteer.com also provides links for those who like to work with wildlife and in wilderness areas with organizations that seek service-oriented individuals. Prior to investigating this site, I had known that many couples who travel in their recreational vehicles serve as volunteer hosts/hostesses each summer in return for  free RV pads. However, I was unaware, as I assume most people are, that often these organizations also advertise to fill positions for volunteer docents, office workers, librarians, and other rewarding vacancies that occur annually. By careful and consistently checking this website, it is possible to locate positions that provide free accommodations. Be aware that often the housing is rustic; however, that is not always the case.