A few years ago, I would have been ecstatic to spend five days abroad, and we just recently returned from a five-month trip. That blows my mind. While it wasn’t all constant adventure and explorations, house sitting in Europe allowed us to plan a long-term trip with plenty of downtime to do all those real-life tasks you have to do as an adult – like catch up on Netflix, get a haircut, and reply to work emails. However, there was still plenty of whirlwind travel craziness between our sits and unique local experiences during.
After it was all said and done, we visited 12 countries – Ireland, Great Britain, Spain, Morocco, Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Italy. Although we only house sat in six cities, had we not done that, our five-month journey would have been much shorter.
Why Pursue House Sitting in Europe?
If you’ve never heard of house sitting, I guess the real first question is why would we want to live in someone else’s house? For us, it is a comfortable way to travel that allows us to live like a local for an extended period of time, spend time with animals (since most homeowners have pets), and save a ton of money by not paying for lodging, being able to cook our own meals, and often times even having a vehicle to use for exploring.
While there are many house sitting websites out there, we use TrustedHousesitters to trade our house sitting services for a free place to base our explorations in a destination we’re interested in visiting. From house sitting in Europe to hundreds of other international house sitting opportunities, we love how easy it is to use and all the wanderlust being a member inspires. It’s a win win win situation – for us, the homeowners, and the pets who get to be spoiled with love while their parents are away.
Our decision to pursue a long-term house sitting trip to Europe came about because we saw a five-week opportunity in Scotland beginning in September. We decided then that if we got it, we would try to stay in Europe through Christmas and maybe even through my birthday in February. At the very least, we’d make it until late November when the Christmas markets in Germany opened – an experience I’d dreamt of since hearing my grandma (‘Omi’) share about the holidays of her childhood.
How We Set Up Our European Sits
Once we were accepted for the Scotland sit, we immediately started planning our Eurotrip – well, as much as you can when you have no idea where you’ll end up for most of it.
From locking in the Scotland sit to our departure date, we had less than two months. And for most of that time, we were house sitting in Hawaii … not exactly ideal when you are planning five months of cold-weather travel and need to go shopping. But a little prioritization went a long way.
Filling the Gaps
Our number one goal was to lock in as many house sits as we could before leaving the U.S. Now TrustedHousesitters has a handy app where we can save our searches, but at the time, there was a lot of obsessive checking of their site.
Once a sit is locked in, we use a shared Google calendar to keep track of how many days we have filled and what gaps we still have.
Although we sent in dozens of applications, had multiple calls, and were in the top five for many homeowners – including a house sit near Vatican City and on a private island in Greece – it took about a month to lock in our second Europe house sit.
We were in the airport for a short between-sit trip to Maui when I got the message and I told Buddy with tears of pure joy streaming down my face that we’d be spending Christmas in Munich with a puppy. Locking that in meant locking in a trip I had dreamed of since I was a little girl – Christmas in Germany. It all felt so unreal. And although we still had a ton to figure out, I was sure it would all come together.
And it did.
Tying It All Together
Before we left the U.S., we had our initial flights and most of our first three months of house sits planned. Of course, the two weeks we were stateside before leaving were spent frantically buying everything we’d need and seeing as many family and friends as we could before taking off. Then, while at our five-week Scotland house sit, we booked plane and train and bus tickets for our upcoming between-sit trips in Spain and locked in another sit to fill our gap before Christmas. Then in Spain, we booked our between-sit adventures before our third sit – in rural France. And so on …
Since this was our first trip to Europe, we have to admit that our plans got a little crazy. Our self-control went out the window when we realized we were a quick, cheap trip from so many places we wanted to see. So, we logically tried to see as many as possible.
And while it could have been done in a much more strategic, less haphazard way, it ended up being amazing and exhausting and rewarding in so many ways. Plus, we had the pleasure of meeting so many furry friends along the way.
A few important notes:
- We had been told that immigration may want to see proof that we were indeed leaving the country upon entrance, so we made sure to at least have our ticket out of a country booked before we got there. Although we were never asked, it was good motivation to prioritize planning.
- We also never wanted to book our in-between trips too soon in case a last-minute sit came along. However, we did purposefully leave a few weeks open to explore without any responsibilities!
- While we had places we really wanted to go, many of our between-sit trips came down to where we could fly or train to for the cheapest, as well as price of lodging when we got there and closeness to our next house sit.
Our Trip Outline
Here’s a recap of how it ended up turning out. Crazy? Yes. An ongoing opportunity to practice our patience and resourcefulness? Mmhmm. Most memorable five months in our entire lives? Oh, yea!
- Ireland Road Trip: Sept. 4-9
- Inverness, Scotland House Sit: Sept. 9 to Oct. 16
- 38-day house sit for three dogs
- Read more about what we did in Inverness.
- Scotland Road Trip to Isle of Skye & Edinburgh: Oct. 17-21
- Between-Sit Southern Spain Explorations: Oct. 21-25
- Riogordo, Spain House Sit: Oct. 25 to Nov. 7
- 13-day house sit for two dogs
- Quick Amsterdam, Bruges, & Paris Explorations: Nov. 7-15
- Auxais, France House Sit: Nov. 15 to Dec. 1
- 17-day house sit for five cats
- Short Trip to Disneyland Paris: Dec. 2-4
- Christmas Market Extravaganza (mainly through Germany): Dec. 4-15
- Short Trips to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, & Austria (because trains!): Dec. 16-20
- Munich, Germany House Sit: Dec. 21-31
- 11-day house sit for one puppy.
- Side Trip to Verona: Dec. 31 to Jan. 2
- Milan, Italy House Sit: Jan 2-7
- 6-day house sit with two cats.
- Short trip to Brighton, England: Jan. 8 (1 night)
- Fun fact: This is actually where TrustedHousesitters is headquartered!
- Reigate, England House Sit: Jan. 9-14
- 6-day house sit with two cats.
- Read about our day trip to London.
- Between-Sit Trip to Hogwarts in London & Bath: Jan. 15-18
- Reigate, England Repeat House Sit: Jan. 19-30
- 12-day house sit with two cats.
- Birthday Trip to Naples & Rome: Jan. 30 to Feb.6
By the Numbers
Overall, we house sat for about 2/3 of our trip – 103 days out of 156 total. During the house sits, we had a car to use or were close to public transport, were able to cook our own meals to save money, and had fluffy pals to snuggle with! Plus, some great local tips from the homeowners and unique experiences.
Between sits, we spent a lot of money doing amazing things, took all the public transit, ate all the food, and regret nothing. Getting to nap often during our sits really allowed for us to go all out during these fun responsibility free trips!
To give a better idea of our expenses, a typical week of house sitting in Europe cost us about $350 (plus transportation to and from the sit). But a typical week not house sitting, cost us about $1,000 (plus transportation to and from our destinations – which was usually double or triple the number of places we’d visit while house sitting). Granted, we didn’t try too hard to minimize our costs – we stayed in normal hotels (no hostels or couch surfing), ate decent mid-prized food, and splurged on admission prices or tours when we felt it would be worth it.
What We’d Do Differently on Our Next Long-Term House Sitting Trip
I do have to say, we did a pretty dang good job for our first major trip abroad and managed to figure out what we needed to along the way (by the grace of God & lots of Googling). However, there are multiple things we would do differently next time we plan to go house sitting in Europe, or any other foreign countries, for an extended period.
- Less gaps between sits. Our trip was amazing, but we did end up spending more than we planned and exhausted ourselves more than a few times with the go-go-go travel. To save money and not be as tired, we’d definitely try to have less time between house sits and hold out for longer sits rather than panicking and taking shorter ones (unless they are just too awesome to pass up)! Not having to spend money on AirBnBs and/or hotels is ideal!
- Book trains earlier to save money. We love to be spontaneous, but in the future, as soon as we do know where we are going, we’ll book tickets. There are lots of discounts on the various trains when booking a month or more ahead.
- Keep exchange rates in mind. That hotel may not be as cheap as you thought once you convert it to $US. Also, beware of Switzerland if on a budget, it is as gorgeous and insanely expensive as you’ve been told.
- Learn a little of the language. There is only so much you can pick up in four hours of Duolingo on the bus or train or plane to your destination. If time allows, spend a few months working on learning at least one major European language and be sure to know the basics of the language spoken wherever you are staying for a week or more. This will come in handy, especially in the more rural areas. And brushing up on your European history wouldn’t hurt either!