Christmas with Wilma

Or How to Vacation for Free.

The plan was to splurge on 3 days in a posh downtown San Francisco hotel for the holiday weekend and fill our time ticking off a list of the classic tourist sites like skating in Union Square and walking the Golden Gate Bridge.


Then Wilma called.


Want to come stay with me for Christmas?


Actually her owner texted a friend who then texted us. Want to dog sit for the week instead? After some discussion pro and con, we said yes.

With the change up in plans, we ended up having an awesome time staying in a nice townhouse apartment right near Delores Park in the Mission District. It gave us a chance to spend time in the western part of the city which we don’t normally visit when we take Caltrain to San Francisco.




House sitting is one way to vacation for free or low cost. The thing to keep in mind is that it usually requires taking care of pets.

We walked Wilma three times each day and played fetch in the park to keep her activity level up while her family was away. The walks helped us to explore the neighborhood – It wouldn’t occur to me to spend time in Delores Park. But it is amazing the amount of people that do! Every day! At all times of the day!


We loved playing fetch in Delores Park

I also joined the line for Tartine Bakery just to experience why all the fuss. For me, the delicious pastries, bread and quiche were worth the wait when it is just around the corner, not so much if it would require a big detour then a long wait.


It really was delicious

The flip side was not being able to say no to walks early in the morning and just before bedtime. But we got to see the City awaken each morning with the park’s gorgeous vista. And after dark, Tom and Jerry’s Christmas display was amazing!


How We’ve Found Housesits

We’ve done two other of what I would call “professional” pet sitting stays (for a stranger) via AirBnB – one in Manhattan and the other in Kailua, on the island of Oahu. For each of these we paid a reduced price vs a freebie or actually getting paid. Both were great experiences for us in really desirable locations.


Another sweet dog and a sweet gig

Another popular option is to join a housesitting network. What is interesting is that joining a network is just like applying for free lance work. A solid resume and referrals are the way to sell yourself to the “best” owners. Most gigs will require animal care and may be in isolated locations but people are able to live for extended periods of time all over the world within these networks or simply arrange for free vacation housing in a variety of locations.


For us, it’s not the right time to pursue housesitting for all our trips. But, it definitely is one way to vacation (or live) for free.

Have you ever pursued housesitting?


Watch for my follow-up post on all the fun things we did during our Christmas with Wilma.