Free 4-Star lodging in the west’s most scenic places! Only a modest hitch…

Seattle, with Space Needle and Elliot Bay, viewed from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill near our Seattle house-sitting assignment. Queen Anne Hill is home to wonderful restaurants and shops.

Free 4-Star lodging in the west’s most scenic places! And, your assignment has only a modest hitch…

Would you travel more frequently if you received free 4-Star lodging in beautiful places? How about two weeks in a lovely condo on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill? Or a month in Edmonds, just north of Seattle with views of Puget Sound? How about two weeks in a beautiful four bedroom house in Tucson, AZ? Other options coming up for us early next year are two weeks each in Taos, New Mexico and St. George, Utah (near Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks). Free, mind you!

Puget Sound Ferry arrives Edmonds, with Olympic Mountains in distance, from hear our second house-sitting experience.

We’ve had other offers we’ve declined (did not fit our schedule or too far to travel): Hayden, ID, Napa Valley, CA, Colorado and the East Coast.

Of course, a few caveats: these are housesitting gigs, sometimes with plants to water or pets to watch over. In return, you get comfortable lodging and cooking privileges (saving money on dining out). During the day or evening we are free to explore the highlights of the town/region we are house-sitting within! We usually arrive with our small camping trailer, and extend our vacation by traveling both prior to, and after, our arrival.

It’s one of two major benefits to our several-year membership in the Affordable Travel Club. The primary membership benefit is to travel the US, Canada or the world, contacting one of 2,700 club members in advance and arranging a night or several nights lodging during your travels.

Sun sets on the mountains east of Tucson, from the backyard of the lovely home we watched over in April.

Club members will put you up for the night, offer you (usually) a snack and a drink, and provide breakfast in the morning – you leave them a $20 gratuity ($15 for singles) as you depart. Along with the stay, you soak up local insight and make long-term friends with some of your hosts. It has several huge pluses – gaining local knowledge from your hosts, and saving $100 or more compared to a night at a Comfort Inn or similar.

We have over-nighted with 10 different ATC members in the last two years, including three Canadians. Without fail, they are lovely people with nice homes and insight they are eager to impart about their city. Conversely, we have now hosted seven ATC members passing through Stockton, including a lovely couple from England who stayed with us three nights and have invited us to lodge in their home southwest of London when we get to that country.

Judy and Ward Lowrance flank a docent while visiting and English manor, circa 1598, during their housesitting gig in England.

We learned of the club experience when we met Judy and Ward Lowrance, of Floyd, VA, three years ago on a European cruise. They raved about their membership experience and shared their many travels utilizing the ATC. About eight months after that, they invited us to split a month’s housesitting gig in Seattle with them, which we happily accepted.

The Lowrances have traveled the world utilizing their membership; currently they just finished a week’s house sitting stint in Taunton, England. Let Judy explain the trip: “We are in Taunton in Somerset — enjoying pet-sitting with a very sweet springer spaniel whose owners are members of ATC.  (The owners) have headed down to Cornwall while we’re staying in their beautiful home.  We lined up everything by emails and are happy to have this convenient place to stay while we explore places within an hour or two from Taunton”.

“The owners have given us several hints about good places to see in the area as well as tasty restaurants and pubs to try.  We take Bracken to a field where he can run and chase a ball for a while in the morning then we take off in our rental car.  The dog is happy to stay at home alone for six-hour stretches, so we come back in time to give him his supper; and we’re able to prepare our own dinners here at the owners’ house (thus saving money since we don’t need to eat out for all of our meals)”, adds Judy. The Lawrences are traveling on to Ireland and Scotland, using Airbnb for economical lodging.

The lovely home we presided over in Tuscon this spring.

The ATC offers a club bulletin board for potential house and/or pet sitters; we posted a notice as “creative/flexible house-sitters” and we get contacted about every other month for potential house-sitting assignments. When we joined, we saw the “overnight lodging when traveling” club option as the highlight – now we see house-sitting as a second major enticement. Our two Washington home-sitting gigs came with plants to water, while our stay in Tucson kept us busy watching over two energetic black labs!

Off we go, soon, to explore Taos with a two-week stay in a lovely home in the hills north of town, and an old black cat to watch over!

Ask your friends, you’ll likely find someone who has enjoyed ATC membership.  On the east-coast, the Evergreen Travel Club is very similar, with a larger membership of east-coast members.

Cocoa and Hershey, two lovable black labs, made our Tucson experience a lively one!

For more information: Affordable Travel Club, affordabletravelclub.net; Evergreen Club, evergeenclub.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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