Trusted House Sitters/Pet Sitters

We recently joined an organization called Trusted Housesitters, a global organization that lists house sitters/pet sitters. You pay an annual fee of $119 as well as the persons seeking to be house sitters. It is a network for finding someone who wants to travel (on their own dime) to your destination and housesit/pet sit with no costs to yourself except that they are living in your house, using your utilities and using your staples to assist them in food preparation. These people are vetted and have criminal background checks. Many of them are what you would call a professional house sitter. When you look at their profiles, you see why they do this professionally: they have traveled all over the world and lived in some gorgeous homes along the way, made new friends in exotic places, and often have repeat stays in the same homes.
The largest number of members are from the UK, then USA, and Australia.
You have to post a profile of yourself, photos of your home and why you enlisted the help of the organization. This site attracts people who love to travel. When you are planning a trip, you post your dates which you want to travel and see if anyone is interested. We took our first trip, posted our dates and got 12 people who were interested. Two from Australia, one from New Zealand, one from Switzerland, one from the UK, and the rest from the United States. In one case, one was a mother who wanted to visit her son but not stay with him. (Something about not wanting to be a 24-hour babysitter.) One was a gentleman from the UK, who wasn’t available for our dates but we wanted me to save his info and let me know about our next trip. He was looking for a month long stay which is something we are planning later this year. Actually, we had two people who asked us to save their profile for future trips.
When you review the profiles of the house sitters, you see all their reviews from past “gigs” and you also see a world map that shows all the places they have house-sat. The ones who have been at this for a long time have been to places like London, Paris, Provence, Beijing, Thailand, Auckland, Sydney, Tokyo, etc. Obviously, the more reviews you have, the better the locations. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
So how did our first house-sitters do? Well, first of all, we selected a couple from Austin because we figured it would be easier to have locals since this was our first booking. They came over a week before we left and spent an hour with us. Lovely, young couple, named Nathan and Bunny. Bunny had a web-based business so she was home all the time with Sofi, the roving escape artist in our neighborhood. Nathan is a senior technician at pool company and took very good care of our pool, even giving us tips on how to improve the performance of our spa heater. The both were conscientious, thoughtful, asked smart questions about our home and I would love to hang with them any day of the week.
So, excited to have taken the leap and tried this organization. It is going to make retirement and traveling so much easier and without the outrageous kennel fees. Sofi will be so much happier and the house will not be vacant while we are exploring new places. Sitters will get to experience the beauty around Lake Travis and be close enough to Austin to enjoy the food and music scene.

If anyone is interested in joining, please consider mentioning us so we can win some points they will go toward the annual fee.


Tips about Credit Cards When Traveling Abroad

credit card graphicFirst of all, I prefer writing about fun stuff, so I will apologize right now.  This is kind of boring stuff but at the same time it is important to add to your travel planning.

There are three important things you need to do regarding your bank and your credit cards.  Don’t put them off.  Do them way ahead of time so you have one less thing to do right before you go.  Item #2 needs to be done several weeks ahead of time.

  1. Notify your bank ahead of time when you go abroad. You must call or go online and let your bank know where and when you will be traveling. It is a requirement for security purposes. If you do not do this, your bank will close your account when you try to use it in a foreign country. It is the world we live in now. This cautionary step actually is a good thing, unless of course, you didn’t inform your bank. So take care of this before you go.  Oh, and don’t forget this includes travel to Canada!
  2. Global Chip Credit Cards. Europe is ahead of us when it comes to providing better and more secure credit cards. They have a global chip in their cards which protects their customers more. Credit card companies in the US are slowly switching over to this type of credit card, however, if you are going on a trip to Europe, I highly suggest that you call at least 4-5 weeks before your trip and ask that your bank issue you this kind of card. You will keep the same credit card number; you’ll just get a new and improved one in the mail, at no charge. Usually takes up to ten days, but I suggest doing it sooner than later. Why have a bunch of loose ends to clear up at the last minute?
  3. Find out what bank fees will be charged when using your debit or credit cards in a foreign country. While you have your credit card company on the phone, find out what charges you will incur while using your card in a foreign country. Banks will charge you a fee for your cash advance at an ATM machine and also a conversion fee for individual purchases. Usually, the ATM fee is a flat fee. (In our case, it was a $5 fee.)  The conversion fee ranges from 1% to 3%.   If you have more than one credit card, you may find one card is better for ATM withdrawals and the other better for purchases.

Just know what the charges are so you aren’t surprised when you get home and start looking at your bank statement.  Keep in mind that you will always need some cash.  Restaurants and small shops sometimes don’t take credit cards.  Some places don’t take American Express because they charge higher fees to vendors than other credit cards.  Be prepared and be careful with your credit cards.