Travelling on a budget : Consider house swaps and dog walks - travellers find cheaper alternatives to lodging.

UK based TrustedHousesitters said its membership  figures increased 12% to 160,000 in the past quarter, led by growth in the United States.

Paris-based Nomador, a house-sitting platform, saw a 60% increase in new sitters from the last quarter of 2023, CEO Mathilde Ferrari said.

Some travelers are also turning to unlimited houseswapping. US company HomeExchange said membership levels in the first quarter increased 77% year over year to 110,000 and exchanges increased 63%.

LONDON : Lillian Smith has spent about eight of the last 12 months travelling around the world, hitting France, Morocco, Japan and South Korea. Her cost for lodgings at that time? About one night in a hotel, along with the time she spent walking dogs, watering plants and changing litter boxes.

'' I've always dreamed of travelling to Japan but didn't have the budget for hotel and Airbnbs,'' said the 30-year-old freelance designer from Mississippi. Her solution was to agree to house sit-in, walk dogs, and care for plants for people around the globe.

Economic activity has slowed in recent months, but many still yearn to quench their thirst for travel that grew out of sitting at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel rates are rising, and are now higher than before the pandemic, but travel hungry consumers are finding creative ways to save money and still vacation.

Some are taking road trips instead of flying or booking a budget hotel room. Others are more innovative - spending $100 to $250 for annual memberships to websites that connect them with people, who need simple chores done while their dwellings are vacant.

US short-term rental and hotel average daily rates are about 37% and 19% higher than in April 2019, according to short-term rental and hospitality analytics firms AirDNA and STR.

Smith said she has house sat in France, Morocco, Japan and South Korea after spending $169 on the cost of an annual membership to  TrustedHousesiiters, a platform that connects pet owners with in-home sitters.

She estimates she has saved over $11,000 in accommodations even though she still must pay for plane tickets.

''I took care of three cats and 20-plus plants while I was in Morocco, one dog in Tokyo, one dog in Kobe, and two cats in South Korea,'' said Smith.

TrustedHousesitters said its sitters rarely face immigration issues. However, a spokesman for the UK Home Office said house-sitting in the United Kingdom is considered a form of work and not permitted with tourist visa.

In other countries, rules for housesitting vary.  The US Customs and Border Protection did not respond to requests for comment.

'' As long as the homeowner is not requiring work and compensating specifically for that work, it cannot be construed as unauthorised employment under the Immigration Nationality Act'' in the United States, said New York-based Immigration Attorney, Afia Yunus.

'' Arguably even an Airbnb would require us to take out the trash and do different things as they relate to staying in the home.

The World Students Society thanks Reuters.


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