Things I like: vacations and pets. Things I don't like: paying for stuff. What to do?
I have plenty of experiences with dogs, like those that can benefit from articles such as spot and tango review,––wrangling my own and taking care of others' pets. It wasn't until recently, however, that I found I could spend time with animals and travel.
Turns out one of the easiest ways to get a free stay is to offer to pet sit in lieu of payment. Likewise, one of the best ways to get a free pet sitter is to offer a homestay. This works with plain ol' housesitting as well... but that doesn't involve pets.
Travel and Tails is one such site. It connects pet sitters with pet-owners based on destination. Membership is free, which is a huge bonus. Sites like Mind My House or TrustedHousesitters are also good resources for pet sitting gigs. But they require a yearly fee for membership.
These sites follow the social format of agencies like Airbnb. Users can search locally for potential pet sitters or by desired vacation destination for pets in need of sitting. The more flexible you are with travel dates and destinations, the easier it will be to find a place to stay for free. Pet sitter profiles also come with a built-in rating system and space for references.
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So let's say I want to go to San Francisco. I can create a free profile on Travel and Tails. I enter my info, experience with pets and references from past sitting endeavors. Then I search my desired destination and range of dates.
Some dude (let's call him Sebastian) lives in San Francisco and owns a golden retriever. Sebastian is going out of town for a few days that coincide with my trip. The site hooks us up. He gets a free pet sitter while he's gone; I get to watch his dog and have a place to stay.
It's all about finding what works for you. Paid sites can be a turn off for the most hardened of budget travelers (*ahem* me). A free site may lack accountability and expertise. If you plan to pet sit and travel often, consider taking a course or two. Yes, even if you have prior experience with pets. Having some credentials can increase your chances of selection, especially on free sites.
Remember: it's in everyone's best interest to be honest about experience with different kinds of animals. Just because a hedgehog owner has a particularly nice apartment in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal doesn't mean I'm suddenly an expert. No matter how badly I want to visit Montréal and how cute I think hedgehogs are.
Finally, keep in mind that the more high maintenance the pet in question, the more vacation time you'll spend caring for it. A needy capybara (is there any other kind?) is gonna require a lot more work than a Gila monster. So I might need to cut that day-long outing out. Oops.