Our housesitting toolkit: 10 useful items we take to every housesit
After spending over a year and a half on our housesitting adventures, we’ve become very skilled in packing all our things into cubes (more on those in a bit), unpacking them at a new housesit, re-packing them, unpacking them at the next place… We realised recently that there are certain items that are always top of our packing list, because they have become so essential to us while on the road! We wanted to put together a list of our top items to share with you all, in the hope that you’ll find them useful too!
As a quick disclaimer: We are not sponsored by any brands mentioned in this post, and any gifts were from friends and colleagues, not the brands themselves. We like what we like. Throughout this post we’ll add in a few links to the specific items we mention, as we think it might be helpful for you to check them out for yourselves, but by all means shop local and have a hunt around to find what works best for you! Okay, here we go:
1: Packing cubes
These have been a total game changer since Chris suggested we invest in them around 10 months into our travels. A packing cube is essentially a small bag that can be used for clothes, to save from travelling with a huge suitcase, and can extend but retains its small cube shape. Using a packing cube for clothing, combined with the Marie Kondo folding method, has saved us so much space! For our first ever housesit we packed a HUGE suitcase, which took up most (if not all) the space in the boot of our car! We had absolutely rammed the case with clothes too, half of which we didn’t end up wearing! When you have less space to pack clothes, not only does it save you from carrying a heavy bag / taking up space in the car, it also means that you really think about what clothes you’ll need. At the end of the day, we have access to a washing machine at every housesit we visit so can always wash clothes, but we’re also cosy creatures – we tend to wear the same favourites items over and over!
We have packing cubes by Peak Design, which came as part of a Kickerstarter campaign with their 45L travel bag. We love them – they’re designed to fit perfectly into the size of the bag even when they’re extended. The set is quite pricey (we managed to buy it at a discount during the Kickstarter!) but you can buy the packing cubes separately. Alternatively there are many reasonably priced packing cubes out there that could work just as well – a quick Google search returns hundreds of results of different designs, sizes and styles. We just happened to need a good travel backpack at the time of the Peak Design Kickstarter, and it came with packing cubes which we wanted to try out! Win!
2: Lint roller
This is another absolute must for petsitting! A rollable, sticky brush that takes fur off of clothes in seconds – which is great for two people who almost exclusively wear black and grey! When you’re done you can tear off the fur-covered sheet to reveal a new one underneath, ready for next time. We had a couple of these lying around at the beginning of our travels – leftover freebies from a job Suze had previously worked in London – though there are many available online. Some housesits we arrive at in fresh new clothes and within minutes we’re completely covered in a layer of fur! A lint roller is especially useful when you’re sitting a cuddly cat that likes to sit on your lap all day, or for curly-haired dogs like Labradoodles whose fur just manages to get everywhere! A quick roll over your clothes with the lint roller and you’re ready to head out, without everyone thinking you’re wearing a top made of fur.
Since the start of our travels we’ve found lint rollers really useful, though we’ve been thinking over the past few months that they’re not the most environmentally friendly – the handles are made of plastic, and the sheets of paper can’t be recycled due to their sticky and glossy surface. We’ve resolved to invest in a plastic-free lint roller once we’ve used up the paper for the ones we had lying around – instead of letting them go to waste, unused. If you’re not sure if you want to invest in one, and you’re looking for eco-friendly ways to remove fur from clothing, we’ve heard that rubber gloves, nylon tights, and paper tape can work just as well!
3: Our personal digital recipe ‘book’
This was something we created on a whim at the beginning of our travels, and some days we can’t believe what a great idea it was. We both LOVE cooking and creating our meals entirely from scratch each day – housesitting full-time has given us the luxury of having the time to do this, which we love. Before we set off on our travels, we had an entire bookcase crammed with a variety of cookery books containing our favourite dishes and go-to meals. We realised it would be impractical to travel with a box full of these heavy books, so we did some research and downloaded an app for our phones called Scanner Pro. The app allows you to scan pages of books right into your phone, straighten them out or crop them, and store them as digital pages. We pored over our favourite cookery books, scanning our most-loved meals into the app, and created a digital recipe PDF file which we use at each housesit. We both have the file saved across our devices, so we can easily prepare meals together without craning over the same recipe book. The beauty of using it while housesitting is that we can always add to it too – each house we sit has a plethora of new cookery books we can look through and scan new recipes from, so we’re always expanding our PDF file and trying out new meals!
4: Beeswax wraps and silicone food bags
While we’re on the subject of food, these two things have been great for travelling while being conscious of our environmental impact. Beeswax wraps act like clingfilm, which previously we used to cover leftover food, but they are zero waste and work just as well. All you need to do is place the wrap over the container, press it down to cover the sides, and the warmth from your hands moulds the wrap into shape of the container! If the wraps get dirty, you just wash them with cool water and a little soap and hang them up to dry. We have the Bee’s Wrap set which comes with three different sizes to use. They’re light and pack flat, so they’re easy to take on our travels as they just fit down the side of our food bag.
Silicone food bags have also been a great investment – it’s no secret that Suze is incredibly snacky, and on long hikes Chris would pack snacks into the backpack to make sure we had food to keep us going at all times!! At the start of our travels we would use ordinary plastic ziplock bags to carry trail mix and other treats. After a while we realised we wanted to take this unnecessary use of plastic out of our routine too, so we invested in a Stasher reusable silicone sandwich bag. It works an absolute treat – it’s spacious for maximum snack storage, it’s light so it slips into our food bag with the beeswax wrap, and when it gets dirty it’s easy to clean as it’s dishwasher safe!
5: Re-usable water bottles and hot drinks cups
From food, onto drink! In an effort to drink more water, and do our bit to cut down on plastic usage, we both invested in a glass drinking bottle to use on the road. Chris has the Retap 500ml bottle by Green Tulip Ethical Living, while Suze has a 500ml Kikki K glass bottle. The only things we’d say to watch out for is, obviously, they’re made of glass so make sure you handle with care when on the move! Suze hand-sewed an insulated protective cover for both of our water bottles to keep them safe when travelling and keep the water cool, though there is an option to buy a sleeve for the Retap bottle at extra cost. If we’re out on a hike and don’t fancy risking bringing our glass bottles with us, we also have two sizes of Klean Kanteens which Chris was given by his company while working in London. They’re easy to clean, light to carry, and are made from sustainably harvested bamboo, stainless steel and food-grade silicone. Attach a carabiner to the top and they can easily clip onto a backpack!
As for hot drinks, we both invested in a Stojo – Chris bought the larger 16oz cup while Suze opted for the 12oz. Made from silicone, dishwasher safe, collapsible and reusable, these cups have been on many a walk with us and have been filled with lots of hot chocolates from local cafes! We love how easy they are to travel with.
6: Collapsible dog water bowl
Most dogsits we’ve been to have one of these if the owners know that their dog likes to walk for miles, though we talked for a while about buying one for ourselves that we could take from sit to sit. While on a hike on a quiet forest trail in Cornwall, we came across one that had been discarded in the car park. Faced with a deserted area with nobody to claim it, we called it serendipity and took it for our travels! There are so many of this style of bowl out there, we’re not sure if ours was a brand, but there are so many online from as little as £1.50 that would be perfectly good to use. Lightweight and collapsible, it’s a must-have – especially on hot, summer days. Ours was sadly chewed up by an over-friendly dog in a park in Hove, but we still use it as a shallow dish! Unfortunately we just can’t pop it open any more without water leaking out of the sides!! When it really becomes unusable, we’ve already got our eyes on this eco-friendly bowl from Beco!
7: Foldable pocket blanket
Sometimes when we’re exploring a new place, we’ll come across a perfect spot to just sit and take in the sights. Last summer we bought ourselves the Matador Pocket Blanket to take on picnics and hikes. It folds out into a lightweight blanket big enough for two, with pegs tucked into pockets in each corner to hold it down, and it has folding guide lines sewn into the fabric for easy re-packing! When folded away it fits into the palm of your hand which makes it perfect for hiking and exploring. We’ve had many doggies joining us for a rest on our Matador blanket!
8: Shampoo bars and soaps
Another switch on our eco journey – we wanted to reduce our plastic usage further, and while shower gel bottles can be recycled it would be better if we didn’t have to use them at all! Along our travels we’ve spent a few nights in hotels here and there between housesits, and realised that once you open the bar of soap the hotel provides, it’s most likely going to be thrown away as they don’t keep it for the next guest. Suze has made a habit of wrapping up these once-or-twice used bars and taking them with us, and now we have a whole stash of soap to use instead of buying shower gel in plastic bottles! We keep a couple of bars of soap in a small metal tin (which was actually gifted to Suze on a birthday with soap inside, so it’s the perfect size!) and take it on our travels, so we no longer need to buy shower gel in plastic bottles.
We made the switch to shampoo bars for the same reason, though it does take a little longer to get used to! There’s definitely a transition period when you switch from traditional shampoo to a shampoo bar while your hair rebalances its natural oils and gets rid of the chemicals left behind by traditional shampoo, and we’ve read this can take up to six weeks. However, we’d rather go through the process and reduce our use of plastics! Plus, like a soap bar, a shampoo bar is easy to travel with (we bought a metal, oval-shaped tin from Lush for ours), and it’s more cost effective as the bar can last for months – think what you’d spend on shampoo and shower gel in that time! We’re trying out the lavender and tea tree shampoo bar from Friendly Soaps, which we’ve seen online and in store in many health shops across the U.K.
9: Apple TV
The second high-cost item on our list, though to be fair we had an Apple TV before we started travelling! As the Apple TV is basically a small cube it makes it the perfect size for travelling around, and means that we can plug it into any TV at the houses we sit and instantly watch Netflix or NowTV on our accounts, or watch any of the films we’ve bought in the past. A lot of the houses we sit will have a Netflix or NowTV account, though we don’t like to mess up anyone’s recommended watch list so we prefer to use our own!! There are alternatives out there such as the Amazon Fire TV stick, and by no means are we recommending everyone to go out and buy an Apple TV, but we’ve found ours useful to have all our accounts set up and ready to go when we’re at a housesit.
10: Phone tripod + remote
The last item on our list is only essential in the sense that it allows us to take cute photos more easily, but we consider it an essential nonetheless!! Last summer we bought a JOBY tripod with a remote shutter that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, so we could take photos together with our new furry friends! After six months of housesitting adventures, we had so many lovely photos of one of us holding a cat or the other walking a dog, and we wanted to capture those moments with us together. You only need to pair the Bluetooth remote shutter to your phone once, and each time after that your phone remembers the device and allows you to easily take photos! The bottom of the tripod has STRONG built-in magnets too, so you can secure it in place – we’ve wrapped it around lampposts, stuck it to railings, even hung it from a chandelier! We’re so happy to have immortalised memories of both of us together with the lovely pets we’ve sat, and we’re always finding new ways to use it to capture those great times!
We hope that you’ve found this list helpful! After putting it all into words we think the biggest takeaway from this is the fact that, while we have invested in some items specifically to improve our travel experience, most of the time we take things we already have and make them work for us. For example, our Klean Kanteens from Chris’ old job, the lint roller from Suze’s old job, the soap tin that was given as a birthday present years ago, making a PDF from the recipe books we already had and adding to it using cookbooks from houses we sit… You don’t have to go out and buy a massive travel-perfect kit of stuff – sometimes it’s just about taking what you have and using it in a way you hadn’t before! We also might not take all these items to every sit – for example if we travel to a housesit via public transport instead of our car, we only take a backpack each and reduce what to take to what we’ll really need for that sit. And it’s important to remember that although these are our travel essentials, they might not be useful for everyone! Take only what you need and your travel bag will be lighter, and your experience happier.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and what your top travel essentials are too – let us know in the comments below or chat with us on Instagram!