How Aussie's are staying 5-star for free this Christmas

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
This chalet might look like a million bucks, but it costs far, far less. Photo: Trusted Housesitters

How much would you expect this slice of Christmas magic to set you back?

Hundreds? Maybe a couple of thousands?

It turns out this property, a chalet in Vermont, and hundreds of others like it are available for zero dollars, and zero cents and could be your Christmas dream come true.

No, it’s not a marketing scam, or complicated competition, it’s petsitting and it’s revolutionising travel and accommodation this Christmas.

It might be time to consider trying petsitting the next time you travel, or visit family over Chrissie, as it’s proving to be an economical, and exciting option for future accommodation.

For those forking out accommodation costs over the break, or cramming into your parent’s spare room and dreaming of space, the emerging option could cut your accommodation cost to... well, zero, and if you’re an animal person, the service rendered might even be a bonus.

Five-star staycation for free

Madolline has tapped into the service which lets her travel, or just unwind, without paying a cent. photo: Supplied/ Madolline Gourley

Madolline Gourley is spending this Christmas on a luxury staycation in her hometown of Brisbane.

A highrise apartment block just a stone’s throw from the CBD complete with pool, gym and airconditioning in this sweltering heat, Madolline will also be able to spend Christmas with loved ones while enjoying a well-deserved break.

How much is she paying?


Madolline is a petsitting enthusiast, who has previously opened up about how looking after others’ furry friend’s lets her travel the world for a fraction of the cost of most travellers.

She says Christmas petsitting is an untapped resource is more ways than one.

“I think if I was to get (this apartment) as an Airbnb or something it would be a couple of hundred a night,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Housesitting in that sense is good because I don’t have to pay to stay in an amazing property like that.”

A system owner’s and travellers both benefit from

Organised through a variety of online sites like Trusted Housesitters, Mind my House and Aussie House Sitters the system is a simple one; she will stay in an owners house free of charge in return for keeping an eye on, in her case, an owner’s cat.

In return, the owner will save thousands on the cost of boarding their cat, or in the case of a dog forking out big bucks for a kennel service.

Madolline has managed to spend Christmas in far-flung locations for free, in exchange for keeping some furry friends company. Photo: Madolline Gourley

She says while for many, including her, the idea of housesitting is ideal for travel, it can also be a great option come Christmas time when you travel home for the holidays.

“I still see my family but I don’t have to be with my family the whole time,” she says, in one sentence summing up what is perhaps every adult’s dream Christmas arrangement, and it’s one many are beginning to get involved in.

A popular way of doing Christmas

This cottage in Divonne les Bains, France is one fo the options available free of rent in exchange for pet sitting. Photo: Trusted Housesitters

Trusted Housesitters says they have noticed an almost 30% jump in house sits over the Christmas as more and more people pick up on the opportunity.

And for those of us chasing a white Christmas, it can be one hell of a way to spend Christmas away.

The website includes properties that will have any of us raised on the complex contradiction that was American Christmas specials watched through the haze of a 40-degree Australian summer, dreaming of the white Christmas we never had.

This sweet French cottage right on the French-Swiss border in Divonnes les Bains is yours in exchange for looking after possibly the most adorable puppy we’ve ever clapped eyes on, Cappy.

Cappy the dog will be your responsibility if you want to spend Christmas in his adorable home. Photo: Trusted Housesitters

What’s involved?

Madolline says the reality of pet sitting depends on each pet, but of course, will cut into your holiday and has to be a major factor in your planning.

She says she sticks with cats who are relatively low-maintenance, but that dogs call for a more active role from the sitter.

With that said, in exchange of Christmas at that place, we can all probably agree it’s a fair trade for free board.

Other glorious gems for the winter-minded come Christmas time can be found in the US, where Madolline herself has spent two Christmases.

Madolline has used the service every Christmas for three years, and even got a white Christmas in Boulder. Photo: Madolline Gourley

“Probably the two best sits I’ve done have been the Christmas ones,” Madolline says of the experiences of what she calls an ‘authentic’ Christmas.

“(House sitting) internationally, particularly in places where it snows is a great way to experience an ‘authentic’ Christmas,” she says explaining she got to cosy up over a white Christmas in Boulder last year in an idyllic property that would have set her back thousands at that time of the year.

So for those reading, while they contemplate three night’s sleeping on a brother’s couch, or the exorbitant pricing of the local Bed and Breakfast, or the hundreds you’ve already forked out for that Airbnb, it might be time to shake up the way you're doing Christmas.

Madolline records her adventures on her personal blog: One Cat at a Time.

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