Family housesitting, for those unfamiliar with this lifestyle, may seem a challenge to negotiate in any season let alone at the height of the Summer season. Not so! We find that many homeowners are actually happy to welcome families. There are many advantages not least of which is the children’s adoration and care for the pets. In this blog you will hear from Deborah East who tells of her family housesitting experience one August in Spain. She offers top tips for other families, and explains the benefits for all concerned!
How we began our family housesitting adventure …
We love to holiday in the summer holidays as a family. As we all know the cost of holiday accommodation in the school holidays is off the radar, silly money, to the
point that a lot of families can’t afford to have that special quality time together. This year I started to think about housesitting…
I’d heard about housesitting and petsitting in the past. However, I didn’t really understand what it was all about so I started a search on the subject, found Housesitmatch.com and looked at the website.
I have to say the site was very informative. More to the point it made me excited about the fact that this could be an opportunity for my family to get away in the Summer. We really wanted some time together, preferably with the bonus of sunshine!
My search on the site led me to a property in Alicante, Spain. It looked lovely from the photos, a huge villa with pool and most importantly the assignment dates worked for UK school summer holidays. Bingo! After submitting my profile and application I waited to hear from the home owner. It didn’t take long and before I knew it I had booked four flights to Alicante and was looking forward to the start of our adventure.
First steps towards our family housesitting holiday
So the first thing I would say is check with the homeowner exactly what time you are required to be at the property, in my excitement I book the cheapest flights I could find and found myself in Alicante at 9.30am. Leaving from the outskirts of London you can image what time we needed to get up (!).
It turned out that it wasn’t necessary to be there quite that early, so we all felt super shattered and it wasn’t the best start to our holiday. In hindsight
what I should have done was contact the home owner after I had been accepted and preferably via Skype in order to have an intro and be really clear about what time we need to be at the property.
TOP TIP –
Start communicating with your homeowner as soon as you can. Ensure a thorough understanding of your brief from arrival time to pet routines!
On arrive and picking up our hire car the property was only 10 minutes away from the airport, what bliss! We usually have to drive over an hour on any of our other holidays so this was a real treat. I’d obtained the homeowners address before we left the UK and had tapped into Google Maps so that I knew I had a chance of finding it easily. Being the control freak that I am, I would also recommend that you print a map/directions in case your technology fails and if you have a longer drive to negotiate.
TOP TIP –
Remember to bring your car charger as your mobile battery might be down after the flight or journey.
Our homeowners were called Sally and Paul, they were waiting for us on their veranda and had laid out a welcome buffet for us. It was such a nice surprise and lovely treat as we were all starving! After a chat and a bit of a rest Sally then whizzed me around in her air conditioned (essential!) car and pointed out the location of the vets’, beach and supermarkets which came in handy over our 10 days family holiday housesitting.
My partner Stefan stayed with Paul who gave him a tour of the property and went through a very comprehensive list of how to operate and maintain the pool and general security for the villa and property. The girls jumped in the pool and had the time of their lives.
The middle bit…
Over the coming days we slipped into a routine and very quickly were feeding the dogs, planning our days out and chilling out. The pets were very easy to look after and only needed regular watering, feeding and loving. Iit was far too hot to walk the dogs this August.
Luck was with us as the property was only a 20 min drive to various beaches, some sandy, some with rocks, some with a clear sea others filled with seaweed, we soon worked out what worked for us. The beach on the east coast, frequented by the Spanish, proved perfect for us. It had a beach cafe, a loo and a lovely warm and clear sea. We couldn’t have asked for more!
In the other direction was a town called Elche, the old town was super, lots of colonial buildings and squares that had the most marvellous ice cream cafe’s. We visited the botanical gardens and found out that the region had more palm trees than anywhere else in Europe.
The weather in August was seriously hot. So what we should have done is got into the Spanish routine of getting up early and having a siesta. However, the reality was a lie-in and a lazy brunch, Consequently when we finally headed out the sun was searingly hot so the factor 50 was never far from reach. Some days we didn’t leave the villa, the girls enjoyed the swimming pool and we relaxed by the pool.
There was an outside kitchen so each evening we had a family barbi and all sat down together for dinner, something that we only get to do once a week at home due to work commitments and all the running around that children entail.
Housesitting with children
We gave the girls jobs because they needed to take part in the housesitting duties. They took it in turns to feed the dogs and cats each morning, along with the responsibility of ensuring that the dogs’ bowls were topped up with iced water.
Each evening they put the dogs to bed and gave them a bedtime biscuit treat. This was their routine so we worked to maintain it in the homeowners’ absence. The girls didn’t moan about having to do these chores as they enjoyed doing them. And they knew this was our role while we were staying in the villa on our housesitting holiday.
Our girls are desperate to have a dog back home, however, it isn’t practical for us with work commitments. So the priviledge of looking after Willow and Alfie gave them an opportunity to look after a dog each, even if only for the 10 days that we were there. It gave them an understanding of the responsibility and the joy of caring for pets.
The end of the housesit
At the end of our stay it was very important to us to leave the property just as we had found it. It didn’t take long. We vacuumed through the whole property, washed the bedding and beach towels that were provided for us. We wiped surfaces, and replaced fridge foods we had used. It was a common courtesy and our pleasure to do this for the owners. We left the homeowners a bottle of sparkling wine. It was their anniversary.
Watch Deborah’s interview with Lamia Walker – Founder of HouseSitMatch
- Always check with your home owner exactly what time you are expected to arrive and depart. Book flights accordingly, allowing for any delays.
- Make sure you have Google Map directions, a map printed out and a car charger.
- Check with your home owner how much contact they would like during your stay. I had presumed the owners would like a daily photo of the pets. However, this wasn’t the case and they were happy with a text now and then.
- Make sure the home owner tells you where the nearest chemist is and what time they open. Unfortunately, our girls had ear infections so it was essential to obtain Calpol quickly. Luckily Sally and Paul were very quick to communicate with us so that helped us a great deal.
- When buying items (at time of writing this blog) use the Euro not Pound option on a payment/card reader. You get a better conversion rate for your money.
Would we do a housesit again?
A definite YES!
It was a win/win for all parties. As housesitters we enjoyed a super holiday, our children were very happy with their environment. Whatismore, the homeowners could go and have a relaxing break without stressing about their pets and property.
We found Housesit Match a super company to work with due to the personal service that was provided. As a result, we felt looked after throughout our housesitting journey.