What happened:

There I was, innocently and casually perusing the petsit website, when I spotted it:  A five-night catsit in Santa Rosa, California, the heart of Sonoma Valley Wine Country. Suddenly gripped by the possibility of a fabulous travel experience, I feverishly read through the homeowners’ profile looking for red flags.

🚩🚩Princess is a very demanding and emotional cat with anxiety issues and her therapist says we’re to cater to her every whim.  She requires an experienced cat whisperer who will stay at home most of the time.  If you insist on exploring the area, we ask that you do so between the hours of 8-9am and/or 2-3pm, which is when Princess likes her “alone” time.  Four times per day – at precisely 10:00 am, 12:30pm, 3:25pm, and 6:10pm – she requires organic catnip muddled with Perrier to be hand-administered with a spoon while Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is playing at a volume of not more than “3.” At night, Princess will need to sleep near or on your head, and at least twice overnight will require human-assisted play sessions with her Zippy Mouse lasting not more than 30 minutes each.

Not seeing any, I rushed downstairs to consult with the husband.  The location was perfect.  The dates were perfect.  Their condo (with hot tub!) looked nice. The length of the sit was ideal.  Max the Cat seemed adorable.  The humans seemed reasonable and sane, and they boasted pages of glowing reviews from past sitters.

Our neighbors’ cats, whom we’re feeding this weekend and who won’t sit still long enough to get a good photo.

I tapped out a quick introductory message to accompany our application and within the hour I received a promising reply requesting a phone call.  Later that afternoon we hit if off with Max’s humans (aka “his staff”) and got the sit!

Our neighbors often leave us wine for taking care of their cats, making it puuurrrrfect training for a Wine Country catsit.

What happened next:

Well aware of the revenge travel that’s taking place right now (and being seized by the urge myself), I knew this last minute-ish trip would not be easy to plan.  I spent the next 48 hours frantically trying to find pre- and post-sit accommodations.  The first obstacle was trying to find a one-night hotel room for the eve of the sit.  The second obstacle was trying to find a reasonably priced hotel room on the coast over a busy, high-season weekend in a post-pandemic travel world. (Hint: such a thing, I now know, does not exist)

What I learned:

I don’t know if “two night minimum” is a wine country standard, but that requirement was everywhere I looked—hotels, inns, B&Bs, AirBnBs, VRBOs.  In the end, I simply got lucky.  A lovely bed & breakfast in the town of Napa had one room that was booked solid through a Friday, then booked solid again starting two days later on a Sunday, with a lonely little Saturday night in between, free (not “free” as in free, of course—far from it—but rather “free” as in available) and up for grabs.

I grabbed it with both hands.

As for the coast, once I abandoned the “reasonably priced” expectation, things got a little easier and I found a lovely room with views of Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

California coast photo which may or may not resemble the place we’ll be visiting. Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

And then . . .

At work, I breathlessly related our exciting new petsit plans to one of my travel-loving colleagues, who then dutifully informed me of a recent, dire-sounding Forbes article warning about the current state of affairs in the car rental world.  That gist of the article — ominously titled A Car Rental Apocalypse Is Coming — is that the pandemic messed with the car rental agencies, and renters are now paying the price.

I ran home that afternoon, did my best travel architecting, and came up with an 11-day (sedan) rental that is fully double the cost of the 9-day (small SUV) rental we had for our Palm Springs trip less than two months ago.  To be exact, we paid $450 for the SoCal rental, which I booked in early March, and are now—less than three months later—paying $900 (!) for two extra days in a less expensive vehicle in Wine Country.

Plus, I prepaid this time, which supposedly saved me $100.

What else I learned:

I knew this already, but sometimes even I forget: it pays to be loyal to an airline, but not unwaveringly loyal.  We’re Delta® people for the most part, but at double the price of flying Sun Country® to San Francisco, we chose the latter.  Sky Miles™ be damned.  I’ll take my savings here and now, thank you very much.

The final word:

Some of the costs on this trip are eye-popping by our usual travel standards, and I haven’t even mentioned wine-tasting fees, but five nights of free accommodation (cuddly cat included) helps assuage any guilt I might (or might not) feel.  Further, I got the husband to agree to leave his bike at home (win!) and to fly to California (versus six days of driving round-trip – win!).  And as you know, not having summer travel plans was just about killing me.  I’m no longer being killed, and instead, have that pre-travel spring in my step.

And that, fellow travel lovers, is priceless.


49 thoughts

      1. These days we’re using either a friend’s college-age child who has his own bun, or else a local bunny sitter who takes buns into her own house. After last summer’s disaster, we’re off that side of the petsit. We only DO petsits now.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Good you got that one before I saw it! My husband and I have done a few pet-sits and definitely prefer cats since they normally don’t require constant attention. I love the area that you’ll be visiting. Fortunately, my brother and sis-in-law live near Napa/Sonoma so we have free accommodations whenever we want. They are also members of several wine clubs so there’s that. Have a fabulous time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, you are SO lucky!! Whenever I look up wine tastings, club members (and sometimes guests) get tastings for free! If you have any winery recommendations for someone who loves spicy, earthy, complex reds, do let me know. We already have reservations at Woodenhead Winery (a friend here in MN is a member – that’s how I know about their amazing wine) and Sonoma Coast Vineyard, but I’m interested in 1-2 more in the Santa Rosa region.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, Jess. In my writing about recent travels I always think of you because I know you’re just dying to get out and travel up there. I’d say defect to Minnesota (you can stay at our house until you get on your feet) but with COVID restrictions they probably won’t let you in! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks great. I was going to offer a cycling suggestion, but am excited that you’ll get to just enjoy the area without having to think about that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I lived in CA for eight years and am NOT a fan. But, I make an exception for Napa. My aunt used to live in Santa Rosa (and later, Sebastopol), and we’ve visited Bodega Bay and the Point Reyes lighthouse. That part of Cali is beautiful. Well done…I knew you, of all people, could not resist the bite of the travel bug for long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I picked a spot in CA that is liked by even a CA-disliker! I would be very interested to know where you lived and why you’re not a fan. That would make an interesting blog post. There are actually lots of areas of California I want to visit. Not sure I’d want to live there, but visit, yes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I lived in Milpitas, a suburb of San Jose, as well as San Jose itself for eight years. I hated the traffic, the crowds, the weather (it may be a draw for a lot of people, but not me), the high cost of living, but most of all, the superficiality of everybody. Pretty sure at some point I’ve written a blog post about my experience…I’ll look for that. I am planning to write about how much Portland has gone to the dogs lately; that could be a good tie-in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My sister lived in the San Jose area for many years, too, but after she and her husband had a baby, they didn’t want to raise him there for many of the same reasons, if I remember correctly.


  4. Never done pet-sitting, but I’m aware it’s a great way to travel while getting to be in a different environment! I’ve actually never heard of “revenge travel” until you mentioned it, and I had to look up what it meant: I think it’s unwise to do this sort of thing, especially when COVID-19 is still around and it’s better not to increase the infection rate for the sake of temporary pleasure. As much as it kills me not to travel, I’m still doing my best to stay safe, and I know that my time will come to travel freely soon. I hope you enjoy your time away, but please stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you’re fully vaccinated, as we are, the CDC says it’s safe to travel, not only for us, but for those around us. Naturally we’ll still mask and socially distance when required and when it makes sense, even if not required, but the science is telling us that vaccinated folks can travel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m fully vaccinated, too. I’ve gone out within my city and just came back from a long weekend within California. But I guess I still felt very uncomfortable when I was traveling, as the crowds are crazy and not everyone was wearing masks (nor socially-distancing). I don’t know…there’s still the possibility of getting COVID, even if you’re vaccinated. I’m laying low this summer out of fear that there will be a COVID spike, and see if it’s okay to actually venture out-of-state come this fall. Baby steps!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Rebecca! I saw this in the NY Times this morning and thought it might ease your anxiety. It’s a direct quote:
        “In the case of Covid vaccines, the hope is grounded in reality. Once you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to organize your life around personal fear of Covid (unless you are immunocompromised). You can safely travel, eat in restaurants, shop in stores, visit with friends and hug your extended family. You can do it all without a mask. Many other normal activities – like riding in a car or exposing yourself to a normal flu season – present more risk. After almost 15 months of pandemic living, I know that may sound aggressive, but it’s not. It is a straightforward summary of the scientific evidence.”
        I know it can be weird to suddenly abandon all the life or death protocols, but reading stuff like this from reputable sources helps put me at ease, and I hope it does for you, too. Have a great day!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I appreciate the share! It assuaged me a bit; I’m just more concerned about going out and possibly spreading it to those who are, as mentioned, immunocompromised. And especially the elderly population, even if fully-vaccinated. Any case, we’ll have to see how this summer shapes up!


  5. Yay! I properly laughed at your intro haha. I’ve heard about the debacle with car rentals over there, sounds crazy. Our car broke down a few weeks ago and my breakdown cover provided us with a rental car – when I got there, they even upgraded us because they could! It’s like the complete opposite here, although now I think things are ramping up a lot. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely trip, so exciting to be planning things again, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice job on the upgrade! As you allude to, I’m lucky I got a car – any car – at all. Yes, it’s wonderful to be planning things again, and it’s really reassuring when reputable sources keep repeating that travel is safe for vaccinated folks. Obviously, vigilance and prudence are still warranted, but I don’t have the fear and trepidation I once did, especially travelling domestically.


  6. I’ve always wanted to visit CA wine country. Heaven knows enough of our money goes to the region. I’m happy to know you’ve got some plans made, now I await your posts. Still living vicariously when it comes to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such exciting news, I am glad to hear you are finally going away and gonna escape to California’s famous wine country. Have a great time! Can’t wait to read all about your trip. If you love being around dogs and cats then that’s a wonderful opportunity to combine a holiday with taking care of another person’s pet.

    So far, we are only able to explore Ireland. Those who are fully vaccinated can book a holiday abroad but have to have their RT-PCR COVID-19 and rapid/antigen tests done at Dublin Airport before departure. As COVID-19 tests cost from 100-200 euros per person each way many people choose to stay in Ireland due to the added costs. As much as I want to travel and finally see the world again, I’d rather keep the money for a bigger trip sometime in the future. Cheers and have a good day. Aiva

    P.S. I went through your ‘About page’ but couldn’t find your name. Is it concealed for a reason? If not, it would be nice to know your name 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Incredible!! You are going to absolutely love this trip! We visited a few years ago and fell absolutely in love with the area. If you have the time, stop and check out Muir Woods just North of San Fran. It’s amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We did! I will have to go back and check to see which vineyards we visited. There are so many great ones! Some really great Breweries too! I’ll drop a comment with some names tomorrow for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, but also no sweat if you’re too busy. We’ve booked all the winery tours already (Alexander Valley, Woodenhead, and Sonoma Coast Vineyards). Yep, that’s right. In post-COVID times, all winery tours must be booked in advance. No popping in. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

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