House Sitting or Airbnb: Which One Is Better?

house sitting airbnb

House sitting or Airbnb? Which one is the one for you? No matter if you're a long term traveller or a short term traveller, I can help you choose between the two. For two years Tanbay and I travelled the world rent-free thanks to house sitting, but after a while the responsibilities and the (occasional) limitations of house sitting made us consider other options. We stayed with Airbnb as first timers, liked it and soon realised why not have the advantages of all, and explore even more accommodation options. Thus, by our fifth (and final) year of travel together we'd hit the perfect balance of sometimes house sitting, sometimes using Airbnb, sometimes working with hotels and sometimes staying with friends - the best of all worlds. Put simply, I know the ins and outs of both house sitting and Airbnb and I'm going to go through them now. (If you're already ready, jump to the bottom for discounts for Airbnb and house sitting.)

airbnb house sitting

1. House Sitting and Airbnb Similarities

First things first, what even is house sitting and Airbnb and how are they similar? House sitting: receive free accommodation in return for looking after the pets and home of people on holiday - people get a free pet sitter, you get free accommodation. Airbnb: rent a room or even a whole apartment - locals get extra cash, you get a local experience. Both house sitting and Airbnb are alternative forms of accommodation for you to try whilst you travel the world (instead of hotels or hostels). Here are some of the ways they are similar:

Home Comforts

Both house sitting and Airbnb give you a lot of home comforts for free that hotels/hostels either don't offer/charge through the nose for/or offer substandard versions. The most prevalent examples are privacy, a full working kitchen, and access to a washing machine:

  • privacy: with house sitting especially, you get the whole room, whole kitchen, whole bathroom, and, well, whole house to yourself. Airbnb depends a little on whether you rent just the room or the whole place, but in my experience even when you rent just the room you get privacy in the kitchen (and of course in the bathroom)! Privacy is generally pretty unheard of in hostels.
  • full working kitchen: although hotels with your own private kitchen are a thing (we worked with a few hotels with private kitchens in Bangkok), hotels with kitchens are definitely not the norm. Whilst hostels often come with kitchen access, they're normally the kind of kitchens you don't want to use (one of the exceptions being the Abraham Hostel in Israel). With Airbnb and house sitting you get a kitchen that is actually used (and more importantly respected) by real live humans. Aka a kitchen you can actually use.

Meeting the Locals

Another great thing about both house sitting and Airbnb is the opportunity to meet those real live humans who actually live in the country you visit. I think travelling halfway across the world to not connect with the locals that live there is pointless - people are what make travel real. But, I appreciate that it can sometimes be hard to make friends abroad. With house sitting and Airbnb at the very least, you have a true insight into how people actually live and at best, you have new best friends in your new country.

house sitting airbnb

Quirkier Forms of Accommodation

In the age of showing off on Instagram, having your accommodation double up as something you can take jealousy-inducing photos is a definite bonus. Try Airbnb for huts that open up onto the beach, and house sitting for mansions with pools and saunas. [Already convinced? Get your trusted house sitters discount code here]

airbnb discount code

Worldwide availability

Airbnb is popular all over the planet. House sitting less so but it's definitely a growing movement. We house sat in places like Australia, Finland and Thailand. And have seen hundreds of house sits available in places like South Africa, Singapore, Costa Rica and UAE.

2. House Sitting and Airbnb Differences

But enough about how house sitting and Airbnb are similar. Their differences will be more helpful to you in choosing which one you prefer.

Price of accommodation

House sitting wins hands down when it comes to price. We found our 30 house sits through the website Trusted Housesitters. They charge $100 for a whole year of membership which is absolutely nothing when you compare it to how much you'd spend a week on hotels or even hostels. We house sat for two whole years straight, every single day which amounts to $0.27 a day for accommodation, which is nothing. But, to make it even less, scroll to the bottom of this post for a trusted house sitters discount code.

Airbnb is much more expensive than house sitting, but still better value than hotels and hostels: you can find places on Airbnb for as little as $10 per night and you can be guaranteed they'll be better quality than the $10/night hostels (see above re home comforts). With Airbnb the more you pay the better the quality and the sky really is the limit, so places can go up to $1000 per night. Depends what you're looking for. Long story short, if you want the $1000 per night kind of quality of accommodation, opt for house sitting (it's basically free)! If you're choosing between Airbnb and hostels/hotels, go for Airbnb. 

The responsibility of house sitting

The upside to Airbnb is not having the responsibilities of house sitting: with house sitting you are responsible for the house and pets, in some sense it's like a job (except instead of paying you in cash, they pay you in free luxury accommodation). That means tending to the pets needs (feeding, walking, being company, administering medication, taking them to the vets in an emergency), it also means tending to the houses' needs (cleaning, tidying up after yourself, collecting the mail, watering the plants etc). Of course, the level of responsibility depends on the house itself. Some pets bring joy to your life, are impeccably behaved and are the highlight of your travels, like these:

house sitting airbnb

Other pets shit in the kitchen and sleep on your face. Some houses are clean when you arrive, have rumbas and gardeners. Other houses have notes asking you to move the oven out and clean under it and spend hours a day doing back-breaking work in the garden. Luckily, with a bit of experience and common sense, you quickly learn which house sits are a fair trade and which people are looking for free labour. And don't get me wrong, in our experience, most house sits are easy and relaxing. With Airbnb there's some responsibility too: you don't have to clean up after yourself or look after pets, but you do have to make sure the doors and windows are locked when you leave, but I guess you'd do that to look after your belongings anyway. Long story short: if you're looking to leave a place messy and not get up early to feed animals, house sitting is probably not for you, go for Airbnb.

Luxury House Sits

Back to the upsides, like I touched on earlier, house sitting is one of the only ways in the world to live like a queen for free. Tanbay and I house sit in houses with their own private beaches, with saunas, with pools, with tennis courts, with Porsches, if there's a type of luxury you want to live in, house sitting is the way to try it.

luxury house sitting

Dates and Location for Airbnb

A downside of house sitting is you exactly be flexible about dates and location. Want to be in Paris on the 5th? Go for Airbnb. But if you're not fussy about exactly when and where you're going, house sitting is perfect. In some ways that's actually an advantage, there are many places I'd never have specifically decided to go to (read: never heard of), but thanks to the fact that they were vaguely in the area we were in (read: on the same continent) we ended up going there - this is truly a way to keep off the well-beaten tourist track. But it's a way to stay on that track too, we also did many house sits in well-known areas (like London!) Long story short, with house sitting we found enough house sits on whichever continent we were in at the time to house sit back to back and live rent-free. But, if you want to be in a specific place at a specific time, go for Airbnb.


Ethically, house sitting is pretty sound. Keeping pets out of kennels is always the best path and house sitting is a way to do that. This idea of an exchange of skills/services (you can look after my pet, I can offer you luxury accommodation), is on the whole not abused by either party and is thus a nice thing that makes the world a better place. With house sitting, homeowners, house sitters and pets alike all feel like they've got a good deal.

trusted housesitters discount code

When it comes to Airbnb ethics are a bit sticker: in some cities, Airbnb is pushing residents out of the centre because landlords can charge Airbnb people more than residents. I already wrote a whole section about this and other Airbnb ethical problems in my post how to get Airbnb discounts (yes plural). So please check that out. Alternatively/additionally read up on the specific Airbnb pros/problems in the country you're travelling too.

house sitting airbnb

Wrap Up: House Sitting or Airbnb?

If you ask me for my professional advice, I'd say why chose? Why not go for both! Pick house sitting when you need some luxury when you need some pets when you want to travel for free. Pick Airbnb when you have a specific date and place when you're not in the right place for responsibility. Have you tried Airbnb or house sitting? What did you think? Also, we have made a video for beginner's to housesitting:

P.S. Here is a Trusted House Sitters discount code for our dear readers: 10% of trustedhousesitters Enjoy :)

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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