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An elegant house on a green lawn

House-Sitting: An Alternative Accommodation Option as a Wheelchair User

When we decided to slow-travel the world as a family of 4 (my daughter was born with Spina Bifida and is a wheelchair user), we realized that we don’t have the budget to pay for accommodation and car hire for longer periods. Being from South Africa means that our currency is very weak against the Euro and Dollar, so we always need to look at more affordable ways to travel.

We explored House-Sitting as an alternative accommodation option and realized that it’s not only a good option for our tight budget but also great for accessible travel!

There are many types of House-Sits available all over the world. Some homeowners pay you to look after their home and/or pets while they are away, others don’t pay you, but you get to stay for free. Some house-sits include the use of a car, others don’t. Some sits are in small apartments in cities, others in bigger houses in the countryside. The great thing is – you can look at the options and apply for house-sits that suit your needs!

We traveled full-time for 3 years with our 2 kids and visited many different countries and cities while we worked and schooled from wherever we were. We did 22 house-sits and enjoyed each one of them! We did accessible house-sits in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Mauritius, and many states of the USA. 

A family of four smile for the camera standing on a bridge. The daughter is in a wheelchair and the younger son is in a stroller. A husband and wife stand behind their kids.
My family on our travels

We stayed in cities, on farms, and in the countryside. Some houses had pets and plants to look after, some didn’t. Our kids always had gardens to play in, each of them had their own room and most houses even had playrooms with toys. Some homes have cleaners and gardeners who come in daily and one of the houses we stayed in even had a lift, so Anika could easily reach all 3 levels! It was like being in many different homes away from home.

In France, we stayed next to the Chateaux which belongs to the winemakers in the area. They invited us over to help them make wine and plant Merlot vineyards – all in French and we only speak English and Afrikaans (one of the 11 official languages of South Africa). Thank goodness for Google Translate! 

I really think that as a wheelchair user, house-sitting is a good alternative to the “same old” traditional hotel room, if you communicate the details of your needs to the homeowner in advance to make sure the house will work for you

Here are some of the reasons I love House-Sitting:

1. Space

As a wheelchair user, you can filter through the available house-sits and apply for those with spacious rooms and bathrooms. You can also apply for houses on 1 level without stairs. Some of the homeowners will also indicate in the advert that the house and bathrooms are wheelchair friendly, and you can do a video call with them or ask for measurements or photos before you accept an assignment. We’ve stayed in HUGE houses which made it much easier for our daughter to navigate the space with her wheelchair. We also had our daughter’s supplies (diapers, catheters, bed liners, etc.) couriered to the address in advance so we didn’t have to travel with it.

2. Time

When you do a house-sit, you can usually stay for a longer period (depending on your number of leave days if you are employed) because it is for free! That means that you won’t be pressured for time, so you can stay “home” on days when the weather is bad, go out during the week instead of busy weekends, and do half-day outings if you get tired quickly. Some of our sits were up to 9 weeks in 1 house, others were a week at a time, depending on whether we wanted to spend a lot of time in one area or not.

A young girl in a wheelchair on a woodsy trail. The wheelchair has a front wheel attachment.
Time in one place gives you many opportunities to explore your surroundings

3. Comfort

You’ll stay in someone’s house, which means there will probably be comfortable mattresses, good quality furniture and appliances like washing machines and dryers, proper kitchenware and enough towels and linen!

4. Health

You can apply for house-sits where you’ll have access to their swimming pool or home gym if you need regular exercise. You can also cook home meals if you prefer to follow a specific diet. Another advantage at this stage with Covid-19, is that you’ll be less exposed!

5. Authenticity

We loved the authentic experience which came with the house-sits. We stayed in local neighborhoods and got to know the neighbors. We also made friends with the local baker, butcher, and winemakers in France – which of course came with its own perks! When you stay where the locals stay and shop where the locals shop, your travel experience enters a whole new level of authenticity!

6. Budget

Everybody doesn’t have the budget to travel regularly – especially abroad. House-sitting makes it possible to travel (short- or long-term) without paying for accommodation, car hire, electricity, water, or internet. Sometimes you just need to look after a pet or potted plant in return!

We really enjoyed the places we’ve seen, but even more than that, we love the people we’ve met, the relationships we’ve built, and the memories we’ve made as a family.

A brick house with a lot of windows.
The house we stayed at in Belgium

There are many different house-sitting websites and platforms available, but we prefer using Trusted House Sitters, Nomador, House Carers and Mind My House. After every house-sit, the homeowners write a review about you as a house-sitter, and you review them as homeowners, so the more sits you successfully complete, the better your chances get to secure sits in the future. We always recommend that you read all the homeowner’s previous reviews before accepting an offer to do a house sit for them.

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, you can find accessible ways to explore the destination here

I you aren’t looking for a slow travel opportunity, and want a more traditional accommodation, Wheel the World can help you find a hotel room that fits all of your needs here.

Don’t let space or budget get in the way of travel. There are too many places to be seen and too many new friends to be made out there! 

You can read more about our previous travel and house-sitting adventures, our life as a special needs family, and my courses for special needs moms on the links below:

 Facebook: @TheUnconventionalFamily or www.theunconventionalfamily.com

Facebook: @DivinelyDifferentBlog or www.divinely-different.com 

Facebook: @EnabledMom

Written by Annél Strydom

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