Late for sit due to cancelled flights

Long story short I am going to be several hours late for a sit because the airlines had multiple issues including cancelling my first flight and losing my luggage, which they forced me to check because of no more room in the overhead bins(ridiculous), then making me late to my new flight and then again forcing me to reschedule. I can tell the pet owners are upset and want to cancel but they feel obligated to have me. I feel like a failure and I’m feeling like I shouldnt apply for sits anymore because this is so stressful. Happened to anyone else and how did everything go with the pet owners? Thanks:(


I know that many sitters leave a cushion of time, maybe even a day, to make sure that they arrive at a sit in time. In other words, they arrive 12-24 hours before the sit starts. I haven’t done that because I mainly sit cats where timing isn’t as important.

If timing is critical, then planning on delays is a good idea. As for being forced to check baggage - that’s pretty common when overhead bins are full (flight attendants can’t manufacture overhead space), so I wouldn’t call it “ridiculous”, though it is inconvenient.

I am a homeowner here also and would probably be frustrated with a sitter who was arriving late, if timing was critical. However, I would also have a backup plan (e.g. a friend to check on the animals) in case this happened. I have cats, so timing isn’t as important.

To redeem yourself with the HOs, make sure you do an especially good job with the pets, apologize for the delays, and send them lots of updates.

Good luck with the sit.


Oh wow is it really normal for sitters to get a hotel or airbnb for the night prior to the sit!? I didnt realize that was something a lot of sitters do. I have a couple friends who also sit and they’ve never had to do that or even been asked but I’ll definitely check for the future. I even discussed all my flight details with the HO beforehand and she was happy with our plan.
My flight was supposed to arrive ~10hrs prior to the 6pm deadline but the airline has set me back so that im arriving right at 6pm. I guess technically it’s on time but I originally told the HO I’d be there by 2pm. I just hope this doesnt leave a lasting poor impression because I’m a great sitter and I’m very responsible. I just had the worst luck today. Thanks everyone.


A delay of 10 hours is really unlucky. I thought it was less than that.

I might have overreached when I said “many” sitters arrive a day early, but I’ve certainly seen people mention this on this forum.

Hi Sarah,

I have not had your experience, but I just wanted to say I’m sorry you had to go thru that with the airline. It does sound like a very frustrating set of dominoes.

I do not think you are a failure.

I’m a new sitter (on TH), but I think your 10-h window was sufficiently responsible. HOs should have emergency/backup plans, and I would be somewhat familiar with those from the HO’s Welcome Guide. For example, in a sit I’m familiar with, hopefully one of the HO’s neighbors, their brother, or their other brother could have filled in for me until I got there. I might also offer to compensate that person for their time (e.g., standard pet-sitting rate). Or the dogs I’m sitting for now are fine being alone for several hours.

From your background of managing a veterinary hospital, you clearly must be very responsible. And that kind of pet experience is invaluable. I think future HOs will recognize that regardless.

As for how it’ll go with HOs, each person is unique, and I think that’s especially true for how we respond to unplanned events. Unfortunately, travel can be stressful for many, which exacerbates things. Just take a deep breath, do what you can, and really, that’s all we can do.

If you miscommunicated with the HOs (I wasn’t sure), just own up to it. There’s a book on the 5 apology languages by Jennifer Thomas and Gary Chapman; when in doubt, I apologize in all 5. (Expressing Regret. Accepting Responsibility. Genuinely Repenting. Making Restitution. Requesting Forgiveness)

While you should focus on this sit and see how awesome of a turnaround you can make it, don’t forget that it’s not the end of the world. The “mindset” theory says that no matter what, your brain will learn from these challenges and you’ll be an even better sitter after today!


Hi, @sarahmarye - The pet owners might be upset, but I bet they don’t want to cancel. Arriving four hours later than you told them, due to airline issues, is not going be the biggest thing on their minds by the time your sit is finished. Just apologize, say that you’ve learned to leave a bigger time cushion in the future, and do a stellar job on your sit.

Personally, if I have to fly to a sit, I plan on two nights at a hotel or airbnb before the sit begins. There’s just no telling what can happen with flying. It’s a circus. Storms, equipment problems, staffing shortages, strikes, airline errors …


I’m sorry for your stressful situation. I hope you are just misreading the HO’s response because being a few hours late due to no fault of your own is not acceptable reason for them to cancel. As an HO if this happened to me I’d like to think I’d be understanding and make it work. And yes, they should have a back-up plan, because life is unpredictable. They’d be doing themselves a disservice cancelling anyway. They may be stressed and overreacting, or perhaps (hopefully) you are projecting a bit because you feel like you failed. You have not failed! You are going to do great, you just need to keep going and take super good care of those critters and home. I hope the rest of your day is smoother than the start :slight_smile:


Not sure about compensating, no money should be changing hands with sits via THS


Sometimes life gets in the way of our best laid plans! Because of a volcano spewing ash, we were 2 days late once. In stead of spending a day together, our HO was flying to the US as we were flying to France. They hid a key at their house, a neighbor fed their animals evening meals and put them inside. We arrived about midnight, treats in hand because the dogs didn’t know us. On the return, the homeowners were delayed a day, while we had to leave. Again, the neighbor cared for the dogs in the evening until the HO arrived home. We finally met HO 3 months later and are still good friends! It will work out.


I’m not too sure I would be at all happy with someone turning up late, and by that I mean a day or so not just a couple of hours. delays do happen of course but that should be factored in. Airlines are usually on time, within a couple of hours anyway, so it would have to be something really extraordinary that I would accept as an excuse. If someone can’t organise themselves to arrive , more or less, at the agreed time; I’m not sure I would feel confident about them looking after my pets!! You say several hours late! That encompasses anything from a couple of hours to perhaps. a dozen! If that is the case then it would seem that both you and the H.O. were being overly optimistic in your arrival time. It would be ridiculous to state I will arrive at —O/c when the merest upset will delay you by an hour or so. There has to be a ‘cushion’ of time as it is an absurdity to expect to arrive on the hour! I always ask that people arrive at least one full day in advance.


HI @sarahmarye
No - it is not normal for sitters to get a hotel or airbnb for the night prior to the sit.
We have done countless long haul sittings and each time the HO has invited us to arrive the night before and have dinner and stay the night with them. This allows for any delays.
We find out what their flight timings are, then search for our flights to fit in with theirs, which includes the overnight stay with them. The sittings have all worked smoothly with less stress.
I would recommend that you do this in future.


Absolutely agree with this @Itchyfeet - No way is it standard for me at least to factor in paying for an hotel or airbnb prior to this type of sit. I am, however, open to considering this option if the HO is willing to meet the expense of this.


We completely avoid flying to sits these days, it’s just impossible to be 100% reliable with this mode of transport right now. If we should choose to fly in the future we would still make sure that we can still make it even if the flight should get cancelled (so overseas sits are out of the question for us right now). Still: I think the HOs should also have a backup plan for you being delayed. It’s just not realistic to accept a sitter who they know will be flying and expect 100% reliability. The very least they can do is to invite the sitter to stay the night before the sit and even then it’s good to have a backup plan already in place for more substantial delays.


My sits are international, so the potential stress of things going wrong with flights weighs heavy on my mind. For this reason, I plan everything incredibly carefully and always arrange a place to stay the night before the sit, whether it’s an Airbnb, hotel, or with friends.

I will not countenance being a late arriving/unreliable sitter! :smile:


@sarahmarye This is an interesting one and we will likely all have different approaches. For us, I can say without fail all our international sits involving long flights (over 8 hours or overnight) have involved a pre-sit stay with the pet parents or owners. Our international sits are generally longer sits (2m+) so we’ve had a lot to go through and we find bonding with owners (and pets) before really helps for communications and dealing with any home problems throughout longer sits. And makes for great international friendships too :slight_smile: So we’d generally arrive with plenty of time to spare (an overnight stay), send all our flight details to the owners and make sure there was a backup plan for delays… which we fortunately never experienced. But we have had several fast runs through US airports to meet onward flights!!

More recently though, even before the pandemic, when in central and north America, we became more and more aware at airports of delayed flights, short transfers resulting in missed flights, and less certainty about arrival time, so we started booking earlier flights and staying over in a hostel or cheap hotel the night of arrival, to allow for any delays.

Something we discovered from this was that it was preferable for us after a long day of travel. It gave us an opportunity to freshen up, get a good nights sleep and be far more sociable and focused on all the instructions being passed on during the handover. Of course you have to have the budget for this and I know some don’t, but this is now our preferred option. Like Pips, I hate stressing about a potential late arrival so it’s helped on many fronts!!

As always, I think talking these situations through with the homeowners enables the topic to be aired and any concerns / backup plans / alternatives to be organized in advance.

Please don’t feel like a failure … house sitting is an ever evolving journey of discovery (I say that still after a decade) with continual learnings from different outcomes. I hope your travel luck has improved and you have the best of sits!!


Hi Sarahmarye, sorry your travelling plans have caused such stress… As a HO we always post our dates such that sitters arrive the day before we leave, (they stay in the house with us, in the room they will be using while we’re away) Your post has certainly flagged up possible issues to me and I think that if I had sitters travelling internationally and coming straight to us I would suggest that they travelled 2 days before to cover such eventualities…… if their travel plans did not involve delays this would give them a free day to explore the area and have a bit of a chill………


Like Vanessa, we always try to factor in 24 hours between arriving and arriving at the sit if it’s a long flight. I can’t sleep on aeroplanes so when I arrive transatlantic I’m tired, narkie and not fit for pleasantries. A good nights sleep, a huge breakfast and I’m ready to face (almost) anything. It also stops us worrying about being late.


So many different thoughts about this! As a sitter I always factor in extra time when travelling a distance especially if flights and public transport is involved. That generally means arriving in the area the day before and staying in a hotel if needed. I just factor that in as one of the costs of house/petsitting. On many sits the homeowner has put me/us up the night before they’ve left though which is always helpful but not all owners have the space or are comfortable doing this


We have had 2 flights (one international, one domestic) with mechanical issues where they did not leave till a day later. Due to this I always allow extra time for major delays before a sit is to start.
We often stay the night before the sit with the home owners but sometimes people don’t have the space (small apartment) and in that case we pay for accommodation as even when driving it is usually a long drive (7-12 hours) so lots of potential for delays.
The exception would be if we are cat sitting and they are used to being on their own or have a neighbour drop by and we often arrive after the home owners have left.


Hi @sarahmarye , I’m so sorry you’re having such a stressful travel experience. They’re the worst!! I’ll admit I’m brand new to THS (signed up as both a sitter and HO) so I don’t yet have firsthand experience, but to be honest I think this is completely understandable. The HOs presumably knew you needed to fly in, so there’s a level of acceptable risk there on both sides (vs. then choosing someone local). I agree with what others have said about HOs factoring in a buffer day or so depending on length of sit, etc, but I certainly don’t think that’s your responsibility to do at a cost to you unless agreed upon in advance.

I’m definitely taking note to make sure I share and/or get flight/travel information ahead of time so everyone is on the same page, and I think as long as you’re updating them as you go it there’s nothing more you can do and they should recognize it.

Perhaps the HOs will be frustrated, but it should be at the circumstances or airlines, not you, especially given you left a 10 hour delay. I wouldn’t worry — I imagine all will work out! Please let us know how it goes and if the sit is enjoyable once you arrive!

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