Love animals? You could get a free place to stay on holiday

You could trim your accommodation costs down to nothing

How animal lovers can get free accommodation on holiday

Summer holidays are expensive. In fact, according to a new study by shopping website Give As You Live, the average British family will spend two and a half months' wages on their summer getaway this year.

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So finding ways to save a few quid here and there can be pretty attractive, whether that means taking a flight at a naff time or staying in a slightly less exotic hotel.

But if you love animals, you can seriously slash the cost of your trip away. In fact, you can trim your accommodation costs down to absolutely nothing!

Become a housesitter

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Not only will you save cash, you might make a new furry friend too

If you own your home and have pets, then holiday time can be a bit stressful. Who is going to look after the animals? Do you have family who can keep an eye on the place while you're away?

Plenty of homeowners around the world rely on housesitters, who will come in and live in their home, looking after the pets, while the owners are away. No money changes hand between the homeowner or the housesitter.

Instead, you'll both pay a membership fee to the housesitting firm that brings you together. After that, everything is free!

Where can I stay?

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There are all sorts of homes listed, from Alaska to beachside towns

There are homes all across the world crying out for housesitters, across a range of time periods.

Going through the current sitter vacancies on Trusted Housesitters, you could enjoy a month in British Columbia, Canada, a couple of weeks by the ocean in Western Australia, a month in Thailandor even a week in South Africa.

There are plenty of slots open in the UK too if you fancy trimming the cost of a staycation.

Other sites worth a look include MindMyHouse and HouseSit Match.

What about the money?

While each 'assignment' won't cost you anything as a sitter, you do have to pay an annual membership in order to be able to apply for a slot. At the moment, that comes to £89 for an annual membership at Trusted Housesitters, or about £7.40 a month.

Alternatively, you'll have to pay $20 (about £15.61) to register with, or between £35 and £75 a year with HouseSit Match.

So while the accommodation itself will be free for your trip, there will be an admin cost to take into account, though it works out an awful lot cheaper than even the most budget of hotels!

In exchange, you will be expected to look after the property and any animals that live there, so it really pays to be an animal lover. Different animals will have different needs, so bear that in mind.

Standing out from the rest

The more attractive the housesitting assignment, the more applicants there are likely to be. So you'll need to stand out from other would-be sitters if you want to be chosen.

Each site allows you to build a sitter profile, so it's a good idea to make these as comprehensive as possible. Put yourself in the owner's shoes - they are more likely to plump for a sitter who they know the most about, and who they feel they can trust.

So put up a few pictures, particularly if they are of you and your own pets. And if you can include references, whether from a landlord or your employer that can help too.

Once you have completed a few housesitting assignments, ask the owners to leave a reference on your profile too.

Do your homework

Make sure you find out all about the area well in advance

A week in a property with a pool in Australia sounds great to me, but a housesitting trip will be rather different to a traditional holiday.

Make sure you do your research on the area well in advance - does it have good transport links? Are there decent places to eat out locally? Are there things to see and do, besides look after the animals?

The big selling point of housesitting is that you get to 'live like a local' - if you are all about the luxury with your holidays, then it may not be for you.

The house swap alternative

Could you swap your house for one in the sun?

Alternatively, you could swap homes with someone for your holiday. It really is as simple as that - you list your home with a swap site like Guardian Home Exchange or HomeLink and then have a scan around the other properties that are listed.

If one catches your eye, you get in touch with the owners and see if you can arrange a swap.

Obviously it's a good idea to try to stick to people in similar circumstances - if you have a poky little one bed flat then you might struggle to organise a swap with someone who has a mansion and a pool.

But it can be a very smart way to organise some virtually free accommodation somewhere exotic.

As with housesitting sites, you will have to pay a membership fee though. With HomeLink it costs £115 for a year's membership, while Guardian Home Exchange costs £59 for a year and HomeForExchange charges $89 (about £70).

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