House Sitting Cancellation – Disaster or Opportunity?

It’s not often that a house sit gets cancelled but when it does, what steps can be taken to change it from a disaster to an opportunity?

The extent of the impact will depend very much on the distance that would have been involved travelling to get there, and the length of the sit. Obviously if you are travelling from the UK to Australia for a 3 month sit it will certainly throw you into a spin. This is why it is wise to only pay out an amount for airfares/travel that you can afford to lose or have a backup plan in place. Harsh as that sounds, it’s the reality of the situation. I have seen this discussed in various groups and forums and no one has ever been able to get insurance to cover the cancellation of a house sit.

I did mention in a previous post that I find cancellations are more likely with sits that are booked privately, but even with sits booked through a reputable house sitting platform cancellations can, and do, happen. People get sick, death happens, pets die, situations change for a number of reasons.

So how have I turned a cancellation from a disaster into an opportunity?

I have had some sits cancelled although, thankfully, not at the very last minute, that does make it tough. I never travel further than Europe so, as I am in Ireland, if I had to stay at home I would just have to bite the bullet and say goodbye to the money. Of course, it may be a sit in the middle of 2 others in which case I am already in the country and have that week, or weeks, to fill.

I do everything I can to find another sit

  • The first thing I do is check on Trusted House Sitters to see if there are any sits for the dates in the particular country, or within easy travelling distance.
  • Next I advertise in expat groups and buy/sell groups on Facebook.
  • I check in other house sitting groups on Facebook.
  • I contact previous homeowners to see if they feel like taking an impromptu trip
  • If nothing comes of those options I turn my thoughts to turning the situation into an opportunity.

How my cancellations worked out

Cancellation 1

My first cancellation was because one of the cats was very ill, and not expected to live, so the owners cancelled their arrangements to stay home with the cat. They did offer me accommodation for the week but I felt it was important that they have that time alone with their pet without me being under their feet.

I advertised in some expat groups and did get a sit for 4 of the days. It was close enough to my original destination not to cost a fortune getting there. However, it was for someone who had never used a house sitter before and because it was arranged so quickly I didn’t really have time to go through all the discussions and preparations that I would normally undertake. I won’t go into detail but I certainly wouldn’t be going back there again. It did however give me a bed for 4 nights.

I also took the opportunity to visit one of my previous homeowners, many of them become good friends, and we had a great time over a couple of days. I then rounded off the week with a couple of nights in a hostel. Yes, it cost me more money than I had anticipated spending but it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Cancellation 2

This was an interesting one! I had a sit booked, in England to look after a medium sized dog. While I was doing a previous sit I injured my knee and was having great difficulty doing much walking. I was becoming very worried that I would have to cancel the sit from my end when I got an email from the homeowner to say that she had injured her foot and was going to have to cancel her holiday and obviously cancel me as a sitter.

I was so relieved that it wasn’t me letting her down! On this occasion I was booked for a prior sit in Oxford, England and I did manage to get another one for part of the time in Epsom, which is fairly close.

As for the rest of the time, I had been approached by someone in Portugal about doing a sit for them on those dates. I checked the prices of flights, decided they were cheap enough and arranged to go to Portugal after the Epsom sit. I had already met the homeowners and the dog in Portugal, seen the apartment, and knew that we had covered all the necessary questions.

Unfortunately, the dog, who was a highly strung rescue dog, bit 2 people and had to be returned to the shelter. So there I was, second sit for those dates cancelled, and me with the flights booked for Portugal!

So, I turned it into an opportunity

I decided that I had no option but to give up and turn it into a little adventure and so I took myself off on a bit of a mystery tour for a week. I’ll probably write about it in more depth at some point but suffice to say it involved a couple of night buses (which cuts out accommodation costs for those nights) and some hostels. I travelled from Portugal to Spain then France, and back to Spain where I flew on to Birmingham to my next stay.

Cancellation 3

Cancellation 3 is just about to happen. To be fair, it isn’t really a cancellation, it was a week I had held over provisionally for a previous home owner and, as it is between 2 other sits in Portugal, there is no point going home, that would cost far too much money. The homeowner offered me a bed for the week in her house, she even offered to give me her room as it would be the quietest but with two teenage boys in the house, and me with chronic fatigue, I think it would be unwise of me to accept and she understands that, we have become good friends, and she knows my limitations.

I advertised, yet again in expat groups and procured a sit quite close to where I am this month. I had a good chat with the homeowner online and made the arrangements. But yet again I have had that sit cancelled as the homeowner has hurt her back and cannot go away now.

So, back I went to Trusted House Sitters to see if there was anything available and amazingly there was, and the homeowner was happy to have me, but on further investigations I was unable to travel there in time for them to leave, (it is in Spain) so that is another a non-starter.

No one can say I didn’t try.

My next thought was, as I have now started this blog, that I should head off and check out a few hostels I have been keeping on the back burner. I would then be in a position to write blog posts about them.

However someone else contacted me, just 15 minutes up the road and asked if I could do a sit. I was in the middle of negotiating that when the homeowners that I am going to later in the month contacted me and asked if I could go a few days early. Well, didn’t that work out well. I can now have 3 nights in hostels followed by the extra night on the sit in Lisbon.

It took a while but I got there in the end.
You just have to hold your nerve.

As a House Sitter you do need to be adaptable

I think being adaptable, and not easily flustered are vital attributes for a house sitter. There’s no point panicking when plans go pear-shaped it has to be a case of asking “how can the problem be solved?” Even the time I missed my flight home from Gothenburg, Sweden I didn’t panic, I just sat down and thought about it and then turned it into an adventure. I will definitely be writing about that in due course!

What about you?

Are you a house sitter with any advice to give? Or maybe you are thinking about becoming a house sitter, do you think you would deal with these situations differently?

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  1. Interesting post, we’ve had a couple of cancellations but not that many. they have both been well in advance too giving us plenty of time to find another sit or arrange a trip elsewhere. We find the most ‘unreliable’ hosts are the ones that we have sat for a couple of times previously as they tend to have rough dates and feel they can change times right at the last minute. Can be difficult especially with pre-booked trains etc.


    • That’s interesting Jonno, so it sounds like it’s a case of taking you for granted. If you’re in the UK there are so many sits, and always last minute ones, that it must be easier to get something else booked. It’s a lot more difficult out here in Portugal. I would quite like to do more in the UK though, especially around the South and Southeast but it’s so much more expensive to get around.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written post, so many twists and turns, I lost track but you adapted well. I have had a few cancellations in my pet sitting career but rarely go abroad so not usually a problem. I cancelled 3 pet sits when my car failed it’s MOT and decided to scrap it. I now use public transport to reach all my pet sits and it does make quite a difference to where I go. Many home owners desire a sitter with a car even when it isn’t really essential.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree Sheila, if you are in your home country it is not such a big issue and in the UK there are so many sits available you have more of a chance of finding a replacement. Transport cost are high though, especially if it’s last minute so that’s bound to be a big factor to consider.
    I don’t understand why homeowners so often insist on the sitter having a car, it’s a big expense for a sitter to have to rent a car that they don’t really need or want.


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