Free accommodations while vacationing clearly makes travel more affordable. But for travelers on any budget, house-sitting in exchange for lodging can provide a more intimate travel experience, plus an opportunity to experience life as a local.

As a digital nomad, I started in my hometown in Canada, taking care of homes and pets for friends, then for friends of friends. In the past three years, I have stayed in Greece, England, Scotland and Wales while house-sitting, and this winter, I have committed to a three-month cat-sitting job in Cyprus.

I’ve learned a few tips to make the most of my extended travels, which may help you, too, decide to incorporate house-sitting into your travel itinerary.

Choose your platform

Online house-sitting platforms arrange for an even exchange of sitting for free accommodations, and there are at least six sites hosting international listings, with many others focusing on individual countries.

Jacquie Harnett, 54, and her partner did house-sitting vacations for four years while exploring potential retirement locations in Europe and North America. The Canadian observed that TrustedHousesitters focuses primarily on pet care, while the gigs on Nomador are typically tourist properties requiring off-season maintenance. Many platforms allow visitors to browse listings without setting up an account, so you can look before taking the membership leap.

Sites vary with respect to security and features, with annual membership fees ranging from zero to $150. Personally, I like TrustedHousesitters for its global scope and focus on pet care, and that site encourages users to provide records of conduct from the local police and other security documentation. For my own sense of security, I prefer listings from homeowners with plenty of feedback from previous sitters.

What you should expect

Sits can range from a day or two to several months, and housing may be luxury homes, apartments or even farmhouses with horses and sheep. Many gigs require pet and plant care or other types of property maintenance, but may simply require that you occupy the property and take in the mail.

Owners often connect their sitter with a relative or neighbor to call on; and this contact can be an invaluable resource. When I was cat-sitting on the Greek island of Naxos, a friend of my hosts took me on a tour of the island, showing me some secluded spots not featured on any tour bus itinerary, then treated me to lunch at her favorite taverna. More than one of my gigs has resulted in repeat jobs and even invitations to come back to visit.

Build credibility

The first feedback is the hardest to get. My first gig on TrustedHousesitters was for a woman who lived near me with whom I had mutual social media contacts; I didn’t need the accommodations, but the weekend sit got me my first positive review and led to a three-month series of sits in Britain. To build trust as a new member, include a few testimonials from people you’ve sat for, even if they are not registered members. If you’re looking for pet-sitting gigs, stock your profile gallery with photos of yourself with animals, and offer to meet face-to face.

Ruth Mitchell, 62, spent decades living and working with her husband in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The Wales natives use sitting sites both to hire sitters and to find accommodations themselves. She recommends “meeting potential sitters in person or via video call before confirming the sit, so you get a feel for the persons you choose.”

Manage expectations

House-sitting is a matter of mutual fit. You’re living in strangers’ homes for an extended period of time, so you want to be respectful of their expectations and your own.

I’d suggest thorough discussions of those expectations before the gig begins. To start, discuss with the owners your thoughts on how much time you intend to be away from the house. Also bring up your respective boundaries regarding visitors: How comfortable are your hosts with you receiving visitors in their house, and will they have friends or family checking in on you?

Other issues to consider: If you need to meet work deadlines, be sure that the property and pets don’t require too much of your time; otherwise the “free” accommodations may wind up costing you. And if property maintenance is required, do you have the skills or desire to take on the responsibility?

Ms. Harnett, the retiree, remembers that when they agreed to take care of an Italian villa, “we didn’t know that our first task would be to clear the pool of thousands of tadpoles.”

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