If you travel regularly, you’ll know that housing is one of the most considerable costs associated with moving around regularly. This could be anywhere from 30% to 40% of your average travel budget, depending on the kind of traveling you do. But what if I told you that you could travel to one of the most expensive countries and practically eliminate this expense?
Well, that’s what we just did! From mid-April to the end of August (4 months), we lived in the UK while spending a grand total of $83 on rent. And we did that through a website called Trusted Housesitters.
If you’re not familiar with housesitting, it’s basically an arrangement in which you stay and care for someone’s pets while they’re away on holidays, and in exchange you live in their home. It’s a straight-up win-win situation. Furthermore, if you’re like us and adore pets but aren’t ready to settle down with any yet, it’s a great way to enjoy them and still get to travel.
Where to Find Housesits
There are many housesitting platforms out there, however, TrustedHousesitters has been our go-to because of the sheer number of sits available. While it has become more competitive over the years, we’ve had no trouble lining up sits consistently, even last minute.
It’s also possible to travel as a family – I did this with my family growing up and spent considerable time in England, Ireland, Costa Rica, and the US and we were a family of 6.
You can get 25% off of your Trusted Housesitters subscription by using our link here.
There are numerous other platforms available, such as MindMyHouse, Nomador, and MindaHome, however, I haven’t used any of these myself.
How to Find the Right Sit
The UK is easily one of the very best places to housesit. New sits are added every single day, in practically every part of England. Scotland and Wales, unfortunately, don’t have as many year-round but you can still find some gems on occasion.
Transportation is a big factor to consider with budget travel as well. Getting around England is not as cheap as somewhere like Morocco or Spain, especially if you mean to rent a car. Some of the most beautiful sits are often rural and require you to have a car – others, the homeowners will allow you to use their car. If you don’t get lucky with the latter, always make sure your sit is accessible by public transport.
Our Criteria When Choosing a Sit
We were pretty low maintenance when we were looking. Given that we work a LOT every week, our main criteria was good wifi and walking distance to a supermarket. Everything from there was just a bonus. We also didn’t want to overcommit to farm animals at this time until our work schedules are less hectic, so we decided to stick with just dogs and cats.
Our first stop was in a little village outside of Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Securing this sit while we were in the US was all we needed to commit to basically the full year abroad. These were the only plans we had by the time we arrived in London in March, even though our sit began mid-April.
The assignment was three very low-maintenance cats who needed the basics: food every morning, fresh water, and cleaning the litterbox. Two of the three were very shy, and one demanded attention incessantly. They were all 3 great, and it was a house of surprisingly big, entertaining personalities!
This was our first time to Oxfordshire, and it felt like walking through a painting wherever we went. The village we were in was called Ewelme, and it consisted of many houses, a pub, a primary school, and a village shop. Everyone we met was exceedingly open and friendly, and overall we had a lovely time. We were also only a short bus away from Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, and Reading, and given that the cats were fine alone most of the day we ventured out on a few day trips while there.
Our sit here was actually for an American family who had recently relocated. We had never heard of Kenilworth before, let alone the famous Kenilworth Castle that was within walking distance to the house.
Elon was the pup we were caring for, and when I say pup I mean a gigantic doodle mix that turned heads everywhere we went. I’ve met very few dogs that were that large. He had a funny personality who mostly was very chill throughout the day but deceptively mischievous if you left him alone with a door accidentally opened. He was a very intelligent dog, and we noted many times that he had very human eyes – you just kinda felt like he knew what was up at all times. He was great, however, and we had a lot of fun exploring on the many walks in Kenilworth with him every day!
Long Eaton, Derbyshire
When looking at new sits, I came across one nearby with two beautiful black labs, one of which was about the cutest puppy I’ve ever set eyes on. It was priority #1 to get to spend time with these two and have a puppy in the mix.
Our sit here was for a little over two weeks and was an equally positive experience. The dogs were both characters: Harley was a striking black lab and extremely intelligent – she had a mind of her own but was a sweetheart once she realized you were her friend. Bruce, the puppy, just made me melt every time. He was high-energy and always (I repeat, ALWAYS) ready to play, cuddle, run, and do anything and everything until he wore himself out.
Sadly we didn’t get to do too much exploring on this due to our schedules, but we got along great with the host and her dad and hope to catch up with them again at some point soon according to their insistence that we visit again!
On this trip, visiting Scotland was a huge goal for me, as it would be for any Outlander fan. I’ve also seen some incredible travel photography from Scotland that I desperately wanted to take part of!
So, when this 7-week sit for two dogs appeared, we jumped on it and did our best to secure it. And wow I’m glad we did! While all of our experiences were very positive this year, this sit was hands down our favorite for several reasons.
Number one was undoubtedly the dogs. These two were the absolute best in every way and since leaving we remark at least twice a week to each other how much we miss them. Riley was just the perfect little pal of a terrier – he was shamelessly confident in demanding pets and cuddles 24/7 and he was so damn cute we fell for it every time. Finn was equally as in need of attention, but somewhat more timid when asking for it. He was everybody’s best friend, but for some reason cautious of every inanimate object he met with – his favorite spot on the sofa included. But overall we would have taken these two home with us if we could have. They were just delightful to be around.
Our host was also very generous in allowing us the use of her car during our stay, and added us to her insurance. This gave us a lot more options for exploring and we took total advantage of it. She was also more than easygoing when my old London flatmate came up for a visit as well as my sister.
Scotland was definitely one of the highlights of our trip and we can’t wait until we go back and explore it some more. The photography opportunities are endless – and one of my photos got reposted by @visitscotland while we were there, so that was pretty cool!
This was our last stop before leaving the UK and turned out to be quite convenient given that our flights left from London.
Our sit was for a 15-year-old Yorkie named Luna who only understood Spanish (the owners were Spanish) and spent most of her day doing as she pleased…which was napping.
We spent only two weeks with Luna and once she warmed up to us after a few days was also very low-maintenance. Our work from home schedule came in handy here as we could let her outside as often as she needed. The location was also great – 5 minutes to a local train station and walking distance to everything. We also had a chance to check out Richmond Park (which is massive by the way) and explore London again with my old flatmate Oscar.
And that concludes our 4 months of living in the UK! Now, for other budget travelers, I’ll dive into a few other tips we found below.
Budget Travel Tips in the UK
We didn’t find much of the UK to be outrageously expensive. We did find that the further north in the UK you go, the cheaper things tend to be if only noticeably different. We were traveling while being very budget-conscious (hello, entrepreneur life!). This was a huge way for us to save money and focus on things like paying off debts and growing our businesses. To be completely transparent, our monthly personal expenses as a couple were an average of $700/month for food, transportation, and entertainment.
Here are a few of our tips for moving around the UK on a budget.
The UK overall has a GREAT public transportation system. It’s inexpensive, efficient, and you can get practically anywhere you need. The main forms of transportation we used were buses and trains, as flying around the country with extra luggage adds up fast.
Trains: For most long-distance travel, we used Trainline. The UK has multiple regional train lines, and unless you’re familiar with the area and travel regularly, they can be a little hard to find. Trainline can also be used internationally and is really helpful for keeping your passes all in one place.
Their app is also very user-friendly, and overall I’ve just always had a user-friendly experience with it.
We opted for trains every time we had long-distance travel because we found it was better for working days.
You can find more info about the UK’s regional train lines here.
Bus: Bus travel in the UK is also very affordable and surprisingly comfortable. We used local buses primarily and never paid more than £4 for a ticket (Scotland). On average it was £2.50 one-way, and this could include a trip up to an hour away.
You will want to have a contactless credit or debit card for these trips for ease of use, and after seeing how many international transaction fees we racked up on each of these with our US cards (hint: it was an uncomfortable amount), you’ll want to use something like Wise.
Flights: Skyscanner is our go-to for the best prices on flights. The UK has plenty of smaller airports to fly into or out of, however we’ve found the best options usually end up being London airports.
We do 99% of our cooking at home, so we spend a lot of time in the grocery store every week. Our favorite place to shop hands-down was Asda, however, you can find affordable options in places like Aldi, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend avoiding Waitrose despite the amount of wonderful delicacies they offer.
A tip on shopping in the UK is to shop seasonally. You can never go wrong with cold-weather food like potatoes (some shops sell 5kg for around 3 GBP), broccoli, leeks, carrots, apples, etc. Anything produced in the UK will be much cheaper than imported items, with the exception of foods like rice, lentils, and other pantry items from the International (mostly Indian) section of supermarkets.
While we didn’t get a chance to use this ourselves, we had several locals mention using Groupon for deals on restaurants, events, and other entertainment. Our schedule simply didn’t allow for as much entertainment as we would have liked, but Groupon does seem to have a number of great options for great prices.
Discounts on High tea for two? Classical music by candlelight? Castle tours? I haven’t done these yet but you can bet I made note of them for next time!
Remote Work Tips
The UK also boasts pretty fast internet speeds compared to most places around the world. Every housesit we had offered great wifi, but if you’re like me you work best when changing your workspace pretty frequently (or just getting out of the house). My go-to options were Costa Coffee and Cafe Nero – both have affordable food and drink options and so long as there’s plenty of seating there for customers, no one cares if you’re there all day.
I never once got a weird look or the sense that anyone was bothered that I was there for 6 hours at a time. And, when it doubt, just make sure you always have a fresh drink and buy something every hour or so.
Their wifi was also reliable in every single one I visited.
Most airports also have wifi, however, I strongly encourage you to use a VPN and stick to non-sensitive browsing. Every time I’ve logged into an account while on public airport wifi in the last year, I’ve had either my debit card used or login attempts to the accounts I used within 24 hours.
Better yet is to use your own hotspot device. We picked this one up while in Scotland and it’s been one of the best purchases of the year. All you need to do is buy a SIM card wherever you’re traveling, turn it on, and you’re good to go! You can expect to pay around 10 GBP per 7-10GB. Oh, and the battery for this lasts 8 hours and can connect up to 10 devices. 10/10 recommend.
I wrote another blog about my favorite remote work tools (especially for freelancers) which you can find here.
I hope you found this helpful! We really couldn’t recommend traveling to the UK by housesitting enough. If you haven’t ever tried housesitting, it’s also a fabulous way to meet new people and get the proper local experience. We personally plan to continue to travel this was as much as possible, especially when back in the US.
Again, if you’d like 25% off of your membership please use our referral link here.
If you try it out, please reach out and let me know how your experience has been!