Planning a budget vacation? Instead of staying in a crowded hostel or a cheap motel, you could be living it up in a French farmhouse, a bungalow in Belize, or a Manhattan penthouse—as long as you agree to watch somebody else’s pet.
As the New Zealand outlet Newshub reports, a website called TrustedHousesitters connects travelers with homeowners in over 130 countries around the globe, all of whom provide free lodging to volunteer house sitters. The majority of them need someone to take care of their pets while they’re away—meaning if you’re down for a daily trip to the dog run or don’t mind cleaning a litter box, you could stay in your dream house for nearly nothing.
Before embarking on your first trip, you’ll have to join TrustedHousesitters. The UK-based website was founded in 2010, and charges a monthly membership fee of around $10. Annual costs aside, you won’t have to pay any additional lodging fees.
Since TrustedHousesitters vets potential pet sitters, you’ll be required to fill out an online profile, describe your experience with animals, and provide documentation (ranging from references to criminal record checks) to prove you’re trustworthy. Then, you search for a homeowner who will be away during your planned vacation, and find out more about their home and animals. If you like their lodging (and their furry, feathered, or scaled friends), and the occupant likes you, it’s a match.
At the end of the day—or more fittingly, at the end of the vacation—the arrangement is “a win-win for both sides,” Andy Peck, founder of TrustedHousesitters, told The New York Times. “People want their pets to be comfortable, in their own environment,” he said. “From the sitter’s point of view, there are a lot of people who genuinely love looking after pets, especially while having a ‘staycation’ and enjoying luxury, sometimes decadent luxury, while living like a local in a fantastic place.”