House-sitting guide for van-dwellers

We’re not talking about getting someone to watch your van for you. 😉

If you love travel and animals, have you considered house sitting? We’ve recently taken on more house-sitting assignments as a way to shake up van living. (As if van living weren’t exciting enough!)

House sitting is a staple in the full-time traveler’s diet: it’s a way to earn free accommodation while traveling someplace new. There are also some special considerations and upsides for van-dwellers.

How House-Sitting Assignments Work

House sitting is a work-for-accommodation arrangement. Some people charge a fee, but we don’t since we’d rather treat it like an exchange. We get to visit someplace new and stay for free in exchange for providing some TLC to some furry friends. It feels good knowing we’re enabling other people to travel.

You come to a mutual understanding with the homeowner about what’s expected before making any travel arrangements. Assignments might involve animal care, garden maintenance, or other tasks like collecting mail, composting, or greeting maintenance workers.



Keeping the dogs exercised!



Feeding chickens in the morning and collecting their eggs


Finding House Sits

To find house-sitting assignments, you could put the word out among your friends and family around the country and accept/reject assignments as desired. You can also house-sit for other animal and travel lovers through sites like Trusted Housesitters. For an annual fee, to weed out the people who aren’t serious, you can browse and apply for house-sitting assignments around the world. (Sign up using this link for 20% off your membership.)

Why House Sitting is Great for Van-Dwellers

  • Live like a local: You can visit a new place for an extended period of time; this can be hard to do while van-dwelling, especially in urban areas
    • You can also do things like purchase a bundle of fitness classes, which saves money and is easier when you’re in one place
  • Free stay: Free accommodations are a huge money-saver
  • Friends: You get to make new friends (the homeowners and the animals)
  • Break it up: You get a break from the van, which might help if you need to have any van maintenance work done, if it’s a too hot/cold time of year, or if you’re working on something where it’d help to have consistent electricity and Wi-Fi
  • Road trip: The road trip to and from your house-sitting assignment can be taken slow, allowing you to see even more places


Utah Rocks

A side trip around Utah after a house-sitting assignment


Resume Gap

Meeting up with fellow van-dwellers from The Resume Gap; they were passing through a town where we were house sitting so we met for lunch!


The Cons for Van-Dwellers

  • Restlessness: Being in one place for a long time can make your nomad blood restless
  • Chores: Maintaining a household is filled with rote chores, which might be why you decided on van living in the first place
  • Life indoors: Even if you’re taking dogs on walks and to the park, you’re spending less time outdoors
  • Bad habits: It’s easy to fall into old, lazy habits (“Want to just stay in and watch Netflix?”)



House sitting can still allow for day trips; we enjoy finding smaller places to go hike


Tips Specifically for Van-Dwellers

  • Know your van story. Every blog post about house-sitting says it’s crucial to create a thorough profile and get character references. That’s true. But you also need to articulate why you’re living the van life in a way that inspires trust. Remember, people are trusting a stranger to take care of their home and best furry friends; talk about why you love to travel, how well you care for your van, and why house-sitting is a good complement to your van-living lifestyle. i.e., Don’t say, “I live in a van because I hate any form of responsibility and because it allows me to do drugs with a view of the beach.”
  • Play up your van as an asset. Access to transportation can be a big deal, especially if you’re in an area where a car is necessary and public transportation is non-existent. If you have your own transportation, that makes you more attractive than another applicant who is trying to negotiate use of the homeowner’s vehicle.
  • Prepare to make your van pet-friendly. The other reason having your van makes you an attractive applicant is you can easily take pets to a park or the vet as needed. If transporting animals might be part of your duties, think about how you’ll handle it. For example, you might lay a tarp over your sleeping area.
  • Inquire about parking. When you’re traveling with your home on wheels, you’ll want a safe place to park it while you’re house-sitting. In smaller cities and rural areas, this likely won’t be an issue. But if you’re house-sitting in a major urban area, perhaps one that requires parking permits for street parking, it could cause a big headache.
  • Think about how long you want to be out of your van. You know what we’re talking about: when you’ve been out of your van for too long, you start to miss it. Non-van-dwellers might think you’re crazy, saying things like, “You must want to sleep on a real bed,” or, “It must be hard cooking with only two burners.” House-dwelling certainly has its conveniences, but van-dwelling has magic and excitement.



We became fast friends with this little guy!


We hope you find this helpful. House sitting is another great way to travel affordably, spend time with animals, and mix up your van travels. If you have any other tips, post them below!


  7 comments for “House-sitting guide for van-dwellers

  1. 2016-05-31 at 4:14 pm

    Great tips! We’re definitely interested in looking for housesitting gigs in the future. Did you have many rejections (or non-responses) trying to find your first match on Trusted Housesitters?

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-05-31 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks! When we first started on Trusted Housesitters, we were still traveling with our late best dog friend, Holly, so we definitely got a lot of rejections then. I can understand why people wouldn’t want another pet in their home when we’re supposed to be caring for their own pets. When we started again post-Holly, we never got any non-responses, but definitely got some rejections. Sometimes the job would fill quickly, sometimes they’d want someone with more advanced gardening knowledge, etc. I think the key is to just be persistent. There are a lot of people on there! But we always mention that we have our own transportation and that really helps. Good luck! 🙂

  2. Tina
    2016-05-31 at 8:53 pm


    Glad to hear how this is going for you both! This sounds like a good way to break things up, plus all the free WiFi and showers! 🙂

    I’m still in my house but have been doing this for about 5 years now in my general area of Walnut Creek. I don’t charge but people do pay me which is nice for some extra income. Like your tips on how things are going with living in a van and getting pet sitting gigs.

    I can’t remember what site I started with, the membership was $50 for one year. But then after that I’ve gotten new clients just from word of mouth. Later when I travel I’ll have some references built up to give. I’ll check out the website you are using, think it’s a great way when traveling. And even if you are not paid it’s great to enjoy some of the advantages of a home and save money on camping expenses. Funny about house work! It’s a lot easier in a van.

    Sounds like a lot of fun with hiking and traveling for the rest of the year 🙂

    I popped over to The Resume Gap, enjoy reading their journey. Sounds like Mini Vans are becoming the “hip” thing.

    Take care, really look forward to each of your updates and enjoy your posts.


    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-05-31 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Tina: Thanks for such a thoughtful note! Yes, all the free Wi-Fi and showers are definitely a perk that cannot be understated. Really smart that you’re building up house-sitting references for when you try to get some assignments out of town — it’s a great, relaxed way to get to travel affordably. Thanks so much for following along!

  3. Liz
    2016-06-19 at 1:17 pm

    Hi, I was wondering how practical it would be to do this with kids? I have a seat alhambra, a 4 year old and 7 month old and we’re used to camping! I’ve just been out measuring the car there!

    • Liz
      2016-06-19 at 1:17 pm

      Oh, and we’re in Ireland!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-06-19 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Liz! Are you talking about house-sitting or van-dwelling? Or both? There’s a blog by a couple with two small children that you should check out: They travel in South America, but maybe they will have some helpful inspiration and information. As for house-sitting, some house-sitting assignments are open to families — it just varies based on the assignment. Best of luck! 🙂

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