During the first several months we discussed traveling full-time, we were looking into buying a fifth wheel RV. We both have jobs that require talking to people online or on the phone, and we couldn't quite wrap our brains around how that would work in the small space of an RV with two loud boys. There are tons of resources online for families that live in RV's, but not a lot of information about permanently living in rentals so I didn't really know if it was something that would work. The first step was to find out if it was even affordable though, so I sat down one night and e-mailed dozens of hosts on Airbnb and VRBO to see if they could work with our budget of $1700 a month (including taxes and fees). This is definitely more than our mortgage payment was, but we don't have to worry about utilities, maintenance, repairs, yard work, etc.... and the locations are 1000 times cooler of course. So far, we've booked the places we're staying until November. Weather you're considering full-time or just looking to find a good deal on a vacation, here is what I've found out:
- If you ask for a deal, you might be surprised to find out how many people are willing to work with you. Some may laugh in your face, but some are more than happy to lower their prices. They don't have to pay multiple cleaning fees for longer stays, and if they aren't going to be booked the entire month anyway, they may benefit by having you there the entire time verses renters for a weekend or two.
- Don't forget about the taxes and fees. Each rental has different charges for taxes and fees. I've seen anything from $100-$600 and there's no way to know until you get the final quote. Make sure you keep this in mind when looking for a good deal, and especially when negotiating prices.
- We've booked half of our rentals with VRBO and half with Airbnb. I'm not sure which one is better, but I'm starting to lean more towards Airbnb because most of their rentals have monthly prices and discounts. Many VRBO rentals only show their nightly rates. I've come across many rentals on Airbnb that give up to 60% off their price if you stay the entire month, and I've been able to negotiate prices even lower than that.
- Prices can more than double during peak seasons. If you want to travel cheap, go during the off-season.
- When finding a place to stay, I start by entering our must-haves to filter through as many places as possible: must have wifi, washer and dryer, and 2-3 bedrooms. Then I enter the price range up to $100 a night or $2500 a month. Sometimes this pulls up 100 houses, my last search in Colorado brought up 2. It really depends on the popularity and prices of the location. We couldn't find anywhere outside of Glacier National Park even close to our price range, but we had hundreds in the state of Washington to choose from. I don't spend too much time closely checking out each house. Instead, I write a standard e-mail explaining who we are, what we're doing, our monthly budget, and ask if that's something they would be willing to accommodate. Copy, paste, and send to several hosts. Once we find out how many (if any) people are willing to work with us, then we go through and decide which place would be the best to stay.
Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there! I have had the hardest time finding information from anyone who has traveled this way. I know people do it, but it seems much less common than an RV. At first it may sound more expensive than an RV, but unless you're boondocking and don't need hook-ups, RV parks are not cheap. Sometimes up to $700-$800 a month for good ones. And once you add the cost of the RV, a truck, and the gas to haul it all around, we actually found this worked better for our living situation, and our budget.