5 Tips for Becoming Successful House Sitters

Perhaps you’ve noticed…

I’ve become more than a wee bit obsessed with the idea of becoming traveling house sitters.  I saw this one yesterday.

4 year dog, Marzipan and 30’s era house need sitting Jan 24 to Feb 3

We are retired couple who like travel but our sweet 26 pound Corgi, Marzi, would rather stay home. She is well trained and very friendly.  Marzi needs walk in the park facing house housesit2 every day. Longer walks are appreciated every few days. Keep the house secure when you are gone. Water a few house plants. Keep the fur off the rugs with a Roomba.

House has high-speed wireless. We are walking distance to DC metro and surrounded by premier shopping, restaurants and services. Our house sits in civil war era neighborhood,very safe,facing community park and 45 mile paved trail for walking and bicycling. Ideal site for outdoor types, you can drive to countryside in 30 minutes to mountain trails and rivers. Ideal for city types, 15 minutes on metro to theaters, free museums like Smithsonian and city festivals, ethnic neighborhoods.


At this point, hubs is quietly humoring me, but experience says he’ll climb enthusiastically on board, once I’ve done the homework and put a plan in place.   I’m working on it.  Here’s the plan so far.

How to Become a Successful House Sitter in 5 Easy (or not) Steps ~

1.  Do Your Research.  –   Hang out on the online sites like Trusted Housesitters, HouseCarers and Caretaker Gazette.  Read the House Sitter blogs.   A fellow-essayist in Mark Chimsky’s book 65 Things To Do When You Retire: Travel, is a house-sitting expert.  Teresa Roberts wrote a very informative book, Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter.  I’ve read it twice and learned a great deal.

2.  Set Your Parameters. –  What are your must haves for a great house sitting destination?   France, England, Portugal, Italy, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain and Uruguay are at the top of my list.  I would be interested in both big cities and rural small towns as long as there is something fun, unique and interesting going on.  When we travel, hubs and I are looking for cultural events and activities, friendly people, good food, history and places to take great log walks.  Conveniently located to public transportation and airport/train station is a plus.  Weather?  Well, if life were perfect, I would always find house sits in warm destinations with brilliant blue skies and temps in the high 70’s, but I’ll flex on that one.

3.  Know Your Limitations. –  Everyone is different in their skills, experience and willingness to get their hands dirty.  Maybe a horse or two would be your dream, but you are allergic to cats.  Are you handy or do you need a written diagram to work the lights?  Hubs and I fall somewhere in the middle.  We’d be comfortable with cats and a dog or two.  Yes, even chickens.  Horses, cows, pigs, goats?  Not so much.  So the postings I’ve seen for “small holdings” probably aren’t for us.  And, trust me, nobody in this duo is going to be climbing on the roof or under the house if things go wrong.  We need homeowners who provide phone numbers and a who to call list.  Water the garden?  No problem!  Trim the trees or mow the back 40?  No way!

3.  Polish Your Profile. –  Once you have signed up with one (or more) of the house sitting sights, the first order of business is creating a killer profile.

Your online profile is your ticket to house sitting success.  There are lots of energetic, experienced 60-something retirees out there who want your perfect house sitting job too. Spend the time to create a profile that jumps off the screen, highlights your skills, experience, trustworthiness, and  Once again, it all comes down to marketing.  Check out the competition.  How are others selling themselves?  Check all the boxes – get the police clearance, provide lots of references, make the video, use your personal experience as a homeowner, successful business person, pet lover, parent and community activist.  They all count.   If you are serious, set up your own house sitting business website and link it to your profile.  That’s what Teresa did.  Check out her website housesit-pro for ideas.

4.  Be persistent.  Be Honest.  Be Flexible. –  Respond quickly.  It is a numbers game and it pays to be at the front of the line.  Sell yourself, your skills and why you are the best choice to walk Charley the Bulldog or Suzy the Smoodle.  People want to know (honestly) that you will love and care for their beloved pet almost as much as they do.  Anybody can bring in the mail.  And finally, be as flexible as possible.  You’ve always wanted to see Paris in the Springtime, but why not consider a two week house sit over Christmas?   The house sitting veterans will tell you that usually finding the first sit is the hardest, but hang in there.

What about you?  Does house sitting sound interesting?  Have you done any house sitting and have experiences to share?  Are you looking for a house sitter?  If so, I’d love to connect and share ideas.

See you on the road!  I just might be the one walking to two Great Danes with the big smile on my face.



House Sitting ~ 5 reasons why it might just be the perfect retirement option

I know.  Technically speaking, house sitting is a job.  And if you are anything at all like my  husband – JOB is a four letter word.  He’s retired and he’s loving every minute of it.  Thank you very much.

No job.  No money.  No problem.

Yep, that’s his current philosophy.  And it’s been working out for him so far.  Of course, his other half is still bringing home the bacon, as they say.  And right now, his bacon is organic, peppered, and fresh from the farmers market.  But someday very soon all of that is going to change because this old girl is going to retire too, and then the cash flow is going to become a cash trickle.

And that’s why I see some kind of work in my retirement future.  And, truth be told, I’m really okay with that.  I’m not sure what I’d become if I didn’t have something going on to keep me busy most of the time.  Something that challenges both brain and body.  If I can get paid (in cash or in kind) for said work and if it’s interesting and on my terms.  Well, count me in.

That’s why house sitting makes perfect sense as a retirement option for traveling gypsy wannabe’s like hubs and I.

It would give us the ability to pack up our backpacks, grab our rollies, and travel the world – one house sitting job at a time.   And do it on a limited retirement budget.  And maybe we’d have enough money left over for some really good bacon every now and then.

I’ve been pondering this idea for a while now.  I  signed up on the Trusted Housesitter site as both “looking for a house sitter” and “looking for house sitting opportunities” back in August.  We were down to the wire on finding a sitter for our cat, Mr. Ricky.  I received several interesting offers, but found a wonderful sitter close to home.   Now, each morning I get the most enticing email from Andy Peck of Trusted HouseSitters with a list of the latest house sitting opportunities.  And yes, every morning I open this email and thoroughly read each house sitting offer – and I dream…

Here are a couple from this morning’s post ~

smoodle Pet sitter needed for my Schmoodle for three and a half weeks in Underwood, Australia

I am looking for a dog lover to mind Kobe my beautiful boy Schmoodle. I would prefer someone who loves dogs as he is my baby and someone that doesn’t have a problem with him sleeping on the end of the bed. He is a non-shedding dog.

All I ask is that you leave my house as you found it. Must love animals. My main priorty is for you to look after Kobe and throw his ball for him when he wants to play. Would prefer someone that does housesitting as their way of living.  I have a three bedroom house at Underwood close to shops and transport.

HouseSitFrance Pet sitter needed for lovely springer spaniel, fluffy cat and chickens in Fontaine-Chalendray, France

We are a family looking for someone to feed and walk Rollo once a day, and feed minky the cat. Both are really easy going. Rollo cannot be tired out and the walks are lovely here! He is patient though and will wait for his walk if you need a lie in or its raining! The chickens will also need feeding and watering, and of course you can collect and eat their lovely eggs.  wifi. lovely walks and bike rides direct from house, local swimming lake 10 mins. 1 hour to the sea. 40 minutes cognac.1 hr 20 La Rochelle. bikes and kayaks an be borrowed. huge woodland garden.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it?

So, if you are like us, and have been looking for ways to travel more in your retirement, and not break the bank to do it, you might want to look into house sitting.

I found this list on the Trusted HouseSitters website and I couldn’t agree more.

5 Reasons House Sitting Makes the Perfect Retirement

1.  You save money on accommodations.  The most obvious benefit of house sitting is the money you will same on hotel stays or holiday rentals.  For those on a fixed retirement income this can be a huge advantage.  

2.  Travel for longer –  As you no longer have to pay for somewhere to stay, you can spend more time exploring a new location and really get a feel for an area that you might have had to rush through otherwise.

3.  Discover new areas –  By being flexible with where you house sit, you can discover fantastic locations that you wouldn’t have though about visiting otherwise.

4.  Meet new people – Many house sitters say that they have made lifelong friends on their assignments as friends.  Walking the dog in a local park is a great way to meet people and make new friends.

5.  Live like a local –  House sitting allows you to really experience an area in a way that you might not when staying in a hotel.   Shopping in the corner market or the weekly farmer’s markets, using local transportation, meeting your neighbors at local gatherings.  All enrich your live like a local experience.

And, just in case you were wondering – I have chicken sitting experience from a home exchange we did last year.  Dog, cat, chickens, French countryside – I think I can handle that.

Let the house sitting adventures begin!


Lookin’ for a Quickie? ~ as in quick overnight escape


Wheeler Oregon

Wheeler Oregon

A great adventure can be found anywhere.  

One of my favorite things to do is throw our PJ’s and toothbrushes into a bag, jump in the car and head out to see what we can find no further than two hours and a tank of gas away from home.  We’ll head out early on a Saturday morning and be back in time for dinner on Sunday night.  Easy, (relatively) cheap and always entertaining. My new goal is to plan at least one of these little “quickie getaways” every month.

Gas prices in Oregon have dropped 40 cents/gallon.  It’s time to hit the road again!

A while back, on one of our quickie escapes, Hubs and I explored the quaint and charming village of Wheeler, Oregon.   Wheeler is tiny (pop. 414).  It’s an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from Portland and sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on Nehalem Bay.   In the early 1900’s Wheeler was a bustling railroad depot.  Trains delivered lumber and seafood from the bay into Portland.  Today tourism is the main industry.  Bustling?  Not so much.  It’s not much more than a dot on the map along US Highway 101, but whether you stop for lunch, some serious antiquing, or an overnight stay like we did, Wheeler is definitely worth your time.

Old Wheeler Hotel

Old Wheeler Hotel

We checked into the Old Wheeler Hotel – an eight room beauty with stunning views of the bay.

Lovely historical details like an old bellhop uniform display

Lovely historical details like an old bellhop uniform display

Like the town itself, the Old Wheeler Hotel is a tiny gem.  Full of charm, it’s complete with creaky wooden floors, well appointed rooms, lots of light, comfortable beds, quality linens and interesting antiques.  Many rooms have private baths, but a few have a bath “down the hall”.  Not to worry, they provide fluffy robes and the bathroom is “all yours” while you are there.   These folks are all about service and special touches. WheelerHotelDoorsign

At the end of the hall on the second floor is a common room with comfy couches, a small kitchen area,  a spectacular view, lots of board games and a large library of DVD’s.  If you hang out for a while, you are sure to meet some very interesting people.  We brought our own wine and cocktail snacks and enjoyed a sunset happy hour in the lounge.  That’s where we met the “ghost chasers”.  Adventure?  You betcha!

the "lounge" perfect for cocktail hour, breakfast or board games.

the “lounge” perfect for cocktail hour, breakfast or board games.

When we checked in, we were advised that the room I had originally reserved was not available and we were upgraded to another room.  Same spectacular view, but larger and with a spa tub.  We also noticed a lot of unusual activity for such a tiny hotel, but didn’t think much of it until we starting chatting with some folks over cocktails in the common room.  Turns out we had decided to spend the night at the Wheeler on the same weekend as a well-known paranormal investigation team was filming.  Yes, they had earlier tested the rooms for “activity” and our original room seemed a likely candidate for spirits.  We were spending the night in what had once been the Rinehart Hospital and, of course, not everyone left through the front door.  According to the investigation crew, the building was humming with interesting paranormal energy.   Nothing visited us during the night.  Perhaps the snoring from one particular side of the bed kept them at bay.

the spa room

the spa room

Twenty-Four Hours in Wheeler ~

This is a sleepy little place.  You park your car and walk.  Less than 10 minutes in any direction and you’ve covered it.  We still found plenty to entertain ourselves.  We wandered through two large antique stores and ogled beautiful art and handmade craft treasures at lovely little stories like Trillium.  Across the street from the hotel is a small marina offering boat and kayak rentals.  What a great way to explore Nahalem Bay.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time on this trip.

the "main drag" in Wheeler

the “main drag” in Wheeler

There were so many great photo ops. Thank goodness I had my camera.   Across the bay is a wildlife viewing area where, if you are lucky, you will spot blue heron, eagles and herds of elks that routinely inhabit the landscape.  We just missed a herd of elk!  Or…maybe they say that to all the visitors.

morning view from our room

morning view from our room

I’m not always a fan of small town food, but we discovered an absolutely delightful and delicious restaurant called the Rising Star Cafe where we managed to slide into the last available table for a gourmet dinner.   Great food. great people. Great wine. Great fun!  There is also a fun pub and a quaint cafe within a half block of the hotel.

Wheeler is well located for exploring the North Oregon Coast.  It is a gorgeous 30 mile drive from the Tillamook Cheese Factory to the art galleries of Cannon Beach   Wheeler lies right in the middle.

We loved our overnight in Wheeler.  Sometimes great things really do come in small packages.

See you on the road!




Going with the Group ~ Yes, it’s still adventure travel!

I never tired of views like this.

I never tired of views like this.

First things first.  I am not now, and probably never will be, a tour bus kind of traveler.  I’m way too independent and not really a very good group participant. I am not one of those lucky people who meets up with a bunch of strangers and leaves a few hours later with five new BFF’s.  I’m more of a go-it-aloner.  And I’m really good with that.

I am pretty sure, however, that if I had not stumbled on the website for Marly Tours last year, there’s a 99% chance that my boots would not have gathered all that dust walking the Camino de Santiago.

So, why the change of heart?   In my opinion, Marly provided just the level of support to give us the confidence we needed to step a tiny bit beyond our comfort zone.   And, for the most part, we weren’t part of the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” mentality of a larger tour.  We had a lot of freedom and a little more piece of mind.  We were able to dip our toes into the water of adventure travel without fear of falling off the bank.

If you are newly-minted adventurers like hubs and I, a first-time-single traveler, or even well-seasoned world travelers who are ready to take it a little easier, the Marly approach might be just what you are looking for.  As the designated family travel agent and tour guide, I can honestly say that once I had the basics in place – air reservations, hotels in Madrid, post-Camino itinerary, I didn’t have to worry about anything.  I actually got to relax and enjoy the entire trip.  Since this was the first two week vacation I have taken in 20 years, it was a gift to sit back, settle in, and enjoy the journey.  Marly had my back.

There are a variety of ways people choose to experience the Camino. caminomarlywalkers Some load up their backpacks and head out from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, hike over the Pyrenees and walk across Spain stopping at a variety of albergues that are set up just for Pilgrims to eat, sleep, shower and sometimes do laundry.  Albergues come in all sizes and with varying levels of comfort.  All require the ability to exist in close quarters with strangers and most require the ability to sleep nose to nose with people you’ve never met, many of whom snore.  Not my cup of tea!  So, while I had the Camino on my bucket list, if that was the only way to walk The Way, it probably wasn’t going to happen.   A lot of folks go the Albergue route and love it.  I am in awe of those folks and still believe that they get a much richer experience and the true understanding of the spirit of the Camino.

Typical albergue on the camino

Typical albergue on the camino

Some people do the Camino as vacation allows.  Walking a few weeks each year.  A few  even choose to do the Camino on horseback.  This can make for very interesting walking along some of the narrow dirt paths.  Between the cows and the horses, we called it poop camino on more than one occasion.  Some people bike the Camino.  This is becoming more popular and almost dangerous at times as flocks of bright yellow spandex sneek up from behind and whizz by on narrow roads and paths causing walkers to jump back into the unknown of the tall grass and bushes.   Some walkers choose to make their own route, stay in either small B&B’s or Albergues and have their backpacks/bags transported from place to place.

By deciding to go with Marly Tours for our first long walking experience, here’s what we chose:

1.  A small group of no more than fourteen.  Usually with a mix of ages and nationalities, Ours was all over 45 and from North America.  Side note:  There was a lovely Canadian couple, Ange and Laura, in our group.  When we introduced ourselves, Laura and I found out that we had gone to the same elementary school (Ionview) and high school (Winston Churchill) at the same time.  It is a very small world.

2.  A small but comfortable support van with a driver and a tour guide/spiritual guide/cheerleader/medic who were there when we needed them but gave us plenty of space if we didn’t.

A friendly smile, a high five, a hug and a bottle of cold water.  Support just when we needed it.  Perfecto!

A friendly smile, a high five, a hug and a bottle of cold water. Support just when we needed it. Perfecto!

3.  Lots of first hand and interesting information about the Camino, the history of the churches and buildings we passed each day and points of interest along the route.  Much of this information we would probably not have learned if we were on our own, weighed down by packs, worrying about where we were going to sleep that night.

4.  The knowledge that if we needed them, Victor and Jose Luis were only a phone call away and it was OK to ride in the bus if you had to.  We didn’t.  But it was good to know that if one of us fell or fell ill, we didn’t have to limp for miles and miles to get to civilization.

Calling Dr. Jose Luis!

Calling Dr. Jose Luis!

We passed many people with problems, but one young woman truly touched my heart. Hubs and I were in the last half of a very long, very hot, uphill walk to Monte de Gozo and I spotted her up ahead.  She was shuffling so slowly, using her walking stick, bent over from the weight of her pack, that she was barely moving.  When we came alongside, I could see the pain on her face and in her eyes.  I stopped to ask if I could help her in any way.  She was French but spoke some English.  Tendonitis she said.  She asked how far to the next stop and we talked a bit.  She thanked me for stopping and said she didn’t need help.  I wanted to call Victor to come and give her a short ride on the bus, but it was her Camino, not mine, and she had to walk it – every painful, shuffling step.

5.  We had charming private rooms in absolutely stunning old homes (with lots of history of their own) that have been converted into posadas.  Warm showers, free flowing wine, tasty traditional food, a good night’s sleep and breakfast were waiting for us at every stop.  The evening ritual included getting to know our fellow Pilgrims, swapping tales of the road and Jose Luis tenderly taking care of blisters.  Our bags were waiting for us when we arrived.  A couple of us enjoyed a massage.  Two of our posadas had pools and one even did our laundry.  Washed and line dried. caminomarlytourshotel caminomarlyhotel1 Looking back, I’m glad we went this route.  I know we’ll do it again.

I also know that I’m already looking for our next walking adventure and while we still can do it physically, I think we’ll push ourselves a little bit more next time.   I’m thinking maybe we’ll try the pre-planned but unsupported route.   Where?  Who knows, but the options are endless…

Finesterre - Once considered the end of the world by the Romans.

Finesterre – Once considered the end of the world by the Romans.

It truly is about the journey.  And for us, this one was just about perfect.

See you on the road.


Home Exchange ~ the art of settling in

Where’s the light switch?  I’m not sure.  Here?  No.  This it?  Nope, not that either.  #$#%&*!!

There is an art to settling into the home of a complete stranger.  Something as simple as finding the light switches can take on a whole new meaning if they aren’t the straightforward switches you’re used to, located in the places you would normally expect to find them.  It’s funny at first…and then…not so much.

Actually, it IS fun.  It’s just different.  And it takes at least a day to settle in and make it home.  Sleeping in a stranger’s bed, cooking with their spices and watching their TV.   Hanging your clothes in the closet right next to theirs.  It can all feel a little bit strange and uncomfortable at first.

This week hubs and I are swapping houses with Tom and Dana from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I’m writing this post in their cozy den looking out on the back garden.  I’ve set up my office here and I’m working, but I have to admit that I am often distracted by the backyard antics.  There are several bird feeders outside the windows and each one is a fly-up restaurant.  Traffic jam on feeder #2 as they push each other out of the way.   Back and forth, each getting their turn somehow.  To my friends who are “birders” – I totally get it now.  I could watch this action for hours. Sydneybirdsatfeeder

Birds Eye View

Birds Eye View

We’re staying out on the Saanich Penninsula in the middle of farm country and very close to the lovely little harbor town of Sydney.  We came on the car ferry through Victoria.  We spent the first day in Victoria, but were glad to leave the bustle, the traffic and the tourists behind and head out to find our home and explore this beautiful island.

We’re here for a week so we have plenty of time to settle in.  And we are doing just that.  The first evening we had a few moments of frustration.  After we finally figured out how to turn on some of the lights, we poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch TV.  There were five remotes and one Apple TV controller.  They left instructions for us, but we were definitely out of our limited range of ability.  We might have to watch TV all week with close captioning because we could not figure out how to make it go away.  Netflix?  Don’t even go there.

Not for the technology challenged!

Not for the technology challenged!

We needed Geek Squad, so I did the next best thing and emailed Tom for assistance.  He emailed back with just the right info.  And, he also informed me that he saw the second cable we had not yet installed for our DVD player/Apple TV and hooked it up for us.  Yea Tom!  By the next night, we were relaxing on the couch enjoying Diane Sawyer on the news without the aid of close captioning.

Keeping some sort of routine is helpful.   We found the local rec centre and set hubs up for his regular morning workout.  Day pass only $5.50.  I’m trying to stay on my Camino training schedule so I’m walking morning and evening on the steep hills right outside our door.  My glutes will thank me later.

It’s day three and we’re feeling like a couple of locals.  We know where the market is, the wine store, the shortcut into Sydney for my daily Starbucks fix and we’ve walked the Lochside Trail into town.  Hubs cooked up a delicious salmon dinner on the barbeque last night and I’ve re-kindled my childhood love of meat pies, sausage rolls and butter tarts.

BBQ salmon + veggies picked from the garden.  Doesn't get any better.

BBQ salmon + veggies picked from the garden. Doesn’t get any better.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like home…only different.  And once you get used to it, that can be a very good thing.

And the wee bunny who visited this morning was the frosting on the top of this home exchange adventure.

And the wee bunny who visited this morning was the frosting on the top of this home exchange adventure.

I am determined to master the art of photographing birds while I have this opportunity.  It’s a whole new world I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of enjoying if we hadn’t said Yes! when the note came from Dana through HomeExchange.com.

Life is good eh?




House Sitting ~ Mr. Ricky Needs a Friendly Companion

House sitting.  Last year it popped up on my radar as one more possibility for our living la vida cheapo in retirement while still traveling and having grand adventures retirement plan.  I was intrigued but it wasn’t the right time and so the idea got filed in the way-back part of my brain.  I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I need a house sitter/kitty companion when we are in Spain.  I have to admit the deadline kind of crept up on me.  It seemed so far in the future…and now, oops, it’s right in my face.  I’ve only got a few weeks to work this out.  I’ve put out distress calls for help but it’s not that easy.  People have busy lives and they don’t involve your cat.  No matter how cute he is. IMG_3901

Mr. Ricky is hubs best buddy, but apparently it is my job to find the perfect companion while we are gone.  It’s been one dead end after another.  Crunch time and I am out of brilliant ideas.

Or not…

Trusted House Sitters popped into my brain and NOW the timing could be just right.  Originally, I was thinking it would be cool to be a house sitter and travel on the cheap, but I hadn’t thought about how I would be helping others by providing a constant, mature, honest, reliable presence in their home while they are away.  I see it from both sides now.  And it looks like a win:win.

Time to jump in and give it a go.

Yesterday I signed us up on Trusted House Sitters as sitters and as homeowners who need a sitter.  It cost me $89 for a year for the dual membership.  I filled out profiles, uploaded photos and still have to do a police check (recommended but not required) and provide references.   Then I spent way too much time cruising the site looking at how others (lots of retired couples) set up their profiles and marketed their skills and experience.  You can even add your own video!  It was very easy to get started.

Then, just to test the site, I sent off an email inquiry looking for a sitter to a couple in British Columbia who have been house sitting for several years.  Reading their profile and references, they looked like folks we could be friends with.  Within a couple of hours I had a message back from Jan and John.  They love Portland and had just finished a “kitty sit” here, BUT unfortunately they are leaving in early September for a 5 week house/kitty sitting gig in Burgundy and then a few weeks sit in Malta.   Not too shabby!

My profile went live this morning and hit the email listing for new sitting opportunities available.  Within minutes I heard from Nicole and Sebastian, a cute couple from Germany and Denmark who are currently traveling the world, working in IT, house/dog sitting in Washington, D.C. and looking for house sits on the west coast.  Cool!  A while later up popped a message from Natalia and Antwan who work for Norwegian Cruises and travel in their off time.  They are on a ship coming into Seattle in September and looking to travel on the west coast.  It’s been less than 24 hours and I’m not sure how all this even works, but I am very excited by the possibilities.

I’m hopeful we will find a match and leave Mr. Ricky in good hands.  Then, when we get back from our adventures in Spain, I’m going to spend a lot more time on Trusted House Sitters looking for opportunities where we can test drive being house sitters ourselves.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

See you on the road!





8 Great Senior Discounts

Last week in a post about retirement options in Ecuador, I commented on the many great discounts that seniors (both expat and nationals) enjoy.  My favorite was definitely the law that states seniors never have to wait in line.  While I think most of us would be risking bodily harm if we were to walk to the head of the line at the movies or the grocery store, I thought a listing of some of the best discounts that seniors can enjoy right here at home in the good old USA was definitely in order.

Who wouldn't want to save a pile of these?

Who wouldn’t want to save a pile of these?

For some strange reason, the term “senior” seems to be a moving target based on age alone.  Let’s start with 50 (which seems very young to me, but whatever) At 50 you can officially join AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.  For only $16 a year, an AARP membership is a great resource for discounts.

Ask and you just might receive.  It sounds crazy, but not every senior discount is advertised so next time you are booking a trip, making a purchase or eating out (especially at a chain restaurant) – ask “what is your senior discount?”   I’m getting bolder in my old age and I figure you won’t know the policy (or get the discount) if you don’t ask.

I did a little research and here are eight great ways to save money with a senior discount.

St Helens

Mt. St Helens in July ~ strangely beautiful and worth a visit

1.  National Parks ~ There are more than 2,000 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands in this country, and if you are age 62 or better, for a one-time $10 fee ($20 if you apply online) you can visit every one of them.   Hubs got his a few years ago and has already used it on his annual “hiking with the boys” adventures and at Mt Saint Helens when we visited last year.  In some cases there may also be additional discounts for motels, cabins, camping, boating and more within the parks.

2.  Planes, trains and automobiles ~  Airlines do offer senior discounts.  It’s best to call SWA plane and ask if you aren’t sure, but here’s what I found:  Alaska offers travelers 65 and older a 10% discount, American says it offers various discounts (best to call), Southwest offers a variety of discounts and United offers a discount to seniors 65 and older who call before booking. In my research, you have to be pro-active in seeking and asking for airline discounts.  These days they are giving nothing away.

When you’ve got the time, riding the rails can be a great way to travel.  Amtrak offers a 15% discount for travelers 62 and older.  This is generally off their lowest available fare but not always.  If you are interested in train travel in Canada and you are over 60, you can also enjoy a 10% discount on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.   Some limitations do apply – you will not get a senior discount on the Acela Express train for example.

Renting a car?  Check out these discounts – Alamo has discounts up to 25% off for AARP members, Budget Rent-A-Car offers a 10% discount for seniors 55+  and with an AARP membership you get a 15% discount.  Hertz gives AARP members a 25% discount.  National Car Rental offers a 30% discount to AARP.  Obviously if you are renting a car on your next vacation, it pays to be an AARP member and to shop around.

3.  Hotels ~  Many of the major hotel chains are catering to us older folks with reduced rates.  Here are a few good options:  Marriott offers senior discounts of 15% at more than 3,600 hotels worldwide.  You have to be 62 or older.  Best Western offers guests 55 and older and AARP members a 10% discount.  Hampton Inn & Suites offers a 10% discount but you have to book 72 hours in advance.  Hyatt Hotels generously offers seniors 62 and older a 25-50% discount.

4.  Phone Service ~  AT&T and Verizon both offer customers over 65 a senior cell phone plan.  Looks like it’s a basic 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 – a data plan would be extra.

5.  Movie Theaters ~  Pretty much everyone knows and uses the senior discounts on movie tickets.   AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark/Century Theaters offer discounts of 30-35% on tickets and refreshments.  At Regal, AARP members pay just $5.50 for a soft drink and popcorn.

6.  Restaurants ~  With all of the amazing food options we have here in Portland, we don’t eat at chain restaurants like we used to, but many of them offer senior discounts and you don’t have to eat dinner at 4:30 any more to claim them.  You simply get smaller portions (which I love) for less money.  It is sort of the kid’s meal in reverse, but as long as they don’t offer me a booster seat and a coloring book, I am OK with it.

7.  Shopping ~ Wednesday is grocery shopping day at our house and hubs is the shopper.  Why Wednesday?  Because that’s the day our favorite local grocery store, New Seasons, offers their 10% senior discount.  It adds up!  Most grocery stores offer a senior discount one day mid-week.  Many retailers do the same thing.  Ross, Kohl’s, Stein Mart and Banana Republic all offer senior discounts.  I’m waiting for Macys and Nordstrom.  Even Goodwill has a senior day.

8.  But wait…there’s more ~  Look for senior discounts at your gym, the zoo, many museums, chain hair salons like Great Clips and Super Cuts, most pharmacies and even Sea World.

So I guess there is an upside to being over 50.  Fifty sounds quite young to me these days and sixty does too.  But, hey, if somebody wants to give me a discount for making it this far, why on earth would I not take it?  Seriously though, the first time I was offered a senior discount at the movies I said “No Thank You”.  Once I got over admitting my age in public, it’s been easy.  Call me a senior, call me an honored citizen, call me grandma – but please, call me when you want to give me 25% Off.

Now it’s your turn.  What are your favorite senior discounts?  What did I miss in my list above?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Happy saving!





And the winners are ~

Cue the trumpets, drop the streamers, shoot the confetti canons because  our very first reader contest is now officially over and ladies and gentlemen, we have WINNERS!

Thank you to everyone (and oh my, there were a quite a lot of you) who left a comment or signed up to follow Just a Backpack and receive notification of new posts.  Yesterday was the last day to get your name in the hopper.   I’m not sure what a hopper is exactly, so I used a festive birthday bag and some lovely purple paper pieces to write every name on.  Then I reached in and pulled out two names.  Ta Da!  Pam Reynolds and Janis Magnuson ~ you each won a copy of 65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel.


I’ve heard from a few folks that you already purchased the book.  I hope you are enjoying it and have found some new ideas for your own retirement travel.  I already finished my copy and I am inspired all over again.

Cheers and congratulations to Pam and Janis.  I will contact you each by email to make arrangements for getting your books to you.

See you on the road ~




Living Like a Local in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Exciting news!   65 Things To Do When You Retire: Travel just ranked #1 in the category of “Specialty Travel/Senior Travel” on Amazon!

When I wrote my essay for the book, I was asked to include a short personal travel adventure.   Our six week stay in San Miguel de Allende was our first experience in living outside the United States, so it seemed like the perfect story to share ~

Beautiful San Miguel

Beautiful San Miguel

Imagine walking down 500 year old cobblestone streets each morning, greeting every person you pass with a wave, a smile, and a “beunos días”.  Actually, I had been imagining that scene for quite some time.  Thanks to a very reasonable rental through VRBO (which stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner), my husband and I made it happen.  We broke in our new travel shoes with a six-week stay in a home in San Miguel de Allende – a beautiful colonial town in central Mexico.  San Miguel was the perfect place to “dip our toes in the water” of living like locals and we dove right in.

I’m still working, but I was able to hook up my laptop and magicJack and was quickly in business.  Each morning, hubby set off to the jardín (town square) to sip a coffee, read the newspaper, and sit on a bench with the other retired gentlemen watching the world go by.  Every afternoon, we set out together, mostly on foot, to explore our surroundings.  I practiced my Spanish on shopkeepers, bus drivers, and any friendly person who stood still long enough.  One evening we walked down to the jardín for a pastry and a coffee and found ourselves dancing through town with a group of about 50 revelers led by a brass band.  How? You ask.  Well, it looked like fun.  We joined in.  Turns out we had joined a prewedding party.  We expected a quick trip around the square.  Silly gringos!  Traffic stopped.  Not one horn blared, and on we marched.  The best part?  They handed out pottery cups and at every corner filled then up with margueritas.  Back at the square we hugged the bride-to-be, wished her and the groom well, and strolled back to our house.  We had tequila on our breath and huge grins on our faces.

Wedding March around the streets of San Miguel

Wedding March around the streets of San Miguel

If you look for adventure, you’ll find it everywhere.  I took Zumba and yoga classes – in Spanish.  We navigated the local bus system and only got lost once, agreeing to call it a sightseeing tour instead of the trip to the Mega store we had originally planned.  We shopped at the tianguis – a weekly open-air market of stalls that sell everything from whole chickens to ladies’ lingerie.  I paid cinco pesos for two squares of toilet paper so I could use the public restroom.  We walked in Christmas posadas (Advent celebrations), and every afternoon we bought tortillas – fresh, hot and by the kilo.  My personal favorite?  Our 5:00 a.m. wake-up call every morning, courtesy of the rooftop rooster next door.  I still miss that guy.  We loved every minute of this adventure and are busy planning the next, and the one after that.

Tianguis Market sets up every Tuesday.

Tianguis Market sets up every Tuesday.

Standing in line for the pollo and tortillas for dinner.

Standing in line for the pollo and tortillas for dinner.

When my husband got caught in a corporate downsizing and unexpectedly joined the ranks of the newly retired, we didn’t see it coming and, quite frankly, were not prepared.  Like so many others, we had been playing retirement catch-up and were hoping for a few more good income years.  It knocked the wind right out of my sails, but my hubby is a guy who always sees the glass as half full, and he never missed a beat.  His backpack-and-rollie idea sparked a whole new second act for us – one that’s filled with opportunities for amazing travel adventures.

Con mucho gusto~



Somebody Pinch Me ~ I Must Be Dreaming

I am over the moon excited!

I’m clicking my heels together and doing the happy dance!

And here’s why  ~ Ta Da ~ I am a newly published author.  Yes, in a real book.  How cool is that? bookcover

I am also living proof that anything can happen if you say yes! to life’s adventures and then pick up your skirts and wade into the stream.  I know, sometimes all you get is wet feet.  But every now and then something truly wonderful and amazing happens when you reach the other side.

Last year when my hubby started talking about retirement and travel and living on a whole lot less income, I created Just a Backpack and a rollie to share ideas and information I found while searching for ways to live La Vida Cheapo in retirement, finding joy in our new lives as “elders”, going for the gusto in our second (or third) act, and laughing at our foibles and missteps as we explore this brave new world.  I am delighted that so many of you have found my blog and are not only following our adventures but are sharing your own. Thank you!  I’ve loved every minute so far.

And then…last October I received an email from Mark Chimsky of  Sellers Publishing.   Mark said that he enjoyed my blog and asked if I would be interested in submitting an essay for a new book set to publish this Spring.   Without thinking twice, I said yes, I would love toWhat do you want me to write about?  It wasn’t until the next day when I panicked.  Me?  I can’t do this.  I’ve got nothing to say.  I’m not a writer.  I just have this little blog…  But I did write an essay.  And I learned so many new things about the writing process, editing, publishing.  It was a great experience and now, with 64 others (many of whom are published authors and travel/retirement experts) I am a contributor to a great new book for boomers and anyone thinking about travel and retirement – Sixty Five Things To Do When You Retire: Travel bookindex

65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel is now at a bookstore near you.  In fact, I visited “my” book just the other day at Barnes & Noble.  There it was in the Travel section, right next to Bill Bryson.  I had to take a picture. bookintravelsection

Here’s what folks are already saying about the book:

A total of 10,000 people turn 65 each day — and many of them who retire want to make the most of travel opportunities.  65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel offers practical, inspiring advice about how to have the time of your life, whether traveling with a group, with a spouse or partner, or on your own. 

I have just started reading my copy and there is so much great information from so many unique perspectives packed into this book.   I am sure I’ll find some brilliant new ideas and inspiration for our own Backpack and Rollie adventures.

You can buy a copy at your favorite bookseller, by clicking on the link below or, if you are feeling lucky enter to win one of two copies I’m giving away.  Here’s how:  1.  Sign up on the right side bar to receive new posts direct to your inbox.  2.  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your retirement stories.  3.  Refer a friend to the blog – and leave a comment letting me know.   Winners will be drawn at random and notified at the end of March.

Now I think its time to go pop the cork on that bottle of champagne!  Thanks for sharing my big moment.  I am proud to be part of this outstanding publication.

See you on the road!


Click through to Amazon and take a closer look!  All proceeds go to cancer research.