Disclaimer: this is wordy
Looking through this blog, you would think that all we do is hike and drink beer. While those tend to be the most highly documented activities because…well…they’re fun!, there is a lot of logistical planning that goes into this nomadic lifestyle. Here we’ll attempt to lay out how we chose living arrangements while traveling for an extended period of time and landed on a method that worked best for us.
One important thing that has really helped us stay sane throughout this whole process has been to set realistic expectations in regards to budget. We are paying more to rent than we would for our mortgage in Louisville, but we have also been able to set a budget that enables us to not only live where we want but also continue to save money while doing so. We are viewing this year as an extended vacation, and know that we are paying a premium to do what we are doing. Rather than paying for vacations every month or so, we have budgeted that money towards our monthly living expenses. It’s all about perspective and being reasonable and realistic.
We’ve tried three different arrangements:
- Extended stay hotels
- Short-term apartment rentals
We went into this year without much of a plan, assuming we’d stay for a month here, a month or two there, and move as much as we desired. All three options have pros and cons, and after trying them all out we’ve finally settled on a method that works best for us and our needs.
There are many pros to using AirBNB; we’ve used it many times on vacations and have enjoyed the feel of home it provides. When we started out, we assumed we would go this route since they are all fully furnished and typically have a stocked kitchen.
We quickly learned why they are used for week/end rentals rather than monthly leases – the price goes up quick! We work within the constraints of a budget and AirBNB/HomeAway options blew that budget to shreds. When units are rented as vacation rentals, we’ve found that the owners tend to increase the price to maximize their income. I can’t blame them, but when you’re staying somewhere for a month+, it’s not economical to spend upwards of $100/night.
Another downside for us was that, while you have your own space, you are still a guest in someone else’s home. The rentals we used were listed as “guest houses,” which were separate from the main house, but still shared either a yard or a wall. And, while the owners were nice, we often felt like we didn’t have total privacy (kind of the nosy neighbor vibe).
We actually only used this method for a week and a half, during the very first part of our trip in Santa Cruz. We stayed in one house for the first week and rented a second house for the next two weeks. The second house turned us off from renting this way. It was further outside of town than listed, smelled like smoke (even though it was listed as non-smoking), and the owner had left all sorts of personal belongings including half-eaten food in the fridge.
Extended Stay Hotel
After AirBNB, we turned to extended stay hotels. We stayed for a week and a half at a Staybridge just outside of Napa. This method has all the luxuries of a hotel and with an extended stay hotel you also have a kitchen.
We found the hotels to be along the same expense as the AirBNB, which is why we opted for them. The bonus to a hotel is multi-fold. First, you don’t have to make your bed or clean your room! The extended hotels typically offer breakfast as well as a complimentary happy hour/dinner in the evenings. Not having to factor in the expense or hassle of cooking breakfast was a plus, although the options are pretty limited and not nearly as healthy as we typically eat. Also, while we didn’t really utilize the dinner options, we did go for a couple of beers and enjoyed having the option. We also had complimentary wi-fi, and our room happened to be a two room suite, which allowed me to work in one room while Matt did whatever unemployed people do during the day. The kitchen was another huge plus for us. We really enjoy cooking and, although it was a little more difficult to cook on a single cooktop, we were able to make some very tasty meals.
The biggest con for us was that the hotel was in a business district, which didn’t have a lot going on around it. This may have been due to the area, and there are surely better options, but we didn’t really love having to drive to get dinner. The plus was that we were right across the street from a grocery store so we were able to easily get supplies. The other main con, was that it was loud and we could hear people upstairs. This was only truly bothersome one night when there was a large group partying all night, but it is still a common occurrence in hotels. We also found that traveling with a dog often meant staying in the pet-approved suites; not altogether terrible, but they are typically on lower floors which contributes to the aforementioned noise.
Short-term, unfurnished apartment rentals
We used short-term apartment rentals in Portland and now in Denver, and have found it to be what works best for us and our needs.
When we went to Portland, we knew we’d likely stay longer than a month. The reason for this was due to Matt’s travel schedule for work and only having the weekends to explore and eat our way through the city. After comparing costs and the above pros and cons, we decided to look into short-term apartment rentals. Admittedly, going this route takes a little more planning, but it’s been well worth it.
The hardest part has been finding apartments that are pet-friendly as well as offer short-term rentals. We’ve found that while the majority of complexes are very pet-friendly, the majority of them DO NOT offer short-term leases. Or the shortest lease term is 6 months. That being said, when we did find rentals that offered short-term (3-4 month) rents, we paid a premium. This has ranged from $600-$300 additional a month, and we’ve seen some as high as $1000. That’s insane!
While there are some furnished options, we chose to go the unfurnished route. Furnished rentals tend to run an additional $1000+ a month on top of the short-term premium. For us, it was more economical – though more logistically taxing – to rent unfurnished, rent furniture through a third party, and purchase any linens and cookware we needed. We’ve got a whole record of all the prices and options, but I won’t bore you with that here. Suffice to say, going that route has saved us hundreds of dollars a month while still keeping us within the bounds of our budget.
The pros to this route have been mutli-fold. We have our own dedicated space to do with as we please. While we have to clean it ourselves, we don’t have to worry about invasion of privacy and the floors/ceilings in the complexes we’ve stayed in have been very thick. We rarely hear our neighbors. We have also been able to stay in areas that we enjoy. In Portland we were right downtown and close to everything!
One method we didn’t try, and probably won’t, has been the short-term, furnished rental. We’ve just found this to be too costly for our budget, but it would be a great option if you don’t want to worry about coordinating furniture rentals and utilities.
[UPDATE: We’re using a short-term, furnished rental in Minneapolis!]
Short-term, furnished apartment rental
We ended up using short-term, furnished rentals in Minneapolis for one main reason: no apartments would do a 2 month lease. We were literally scrambling the week before we were set to move to find a place to stay. Worst case scenario: stay with Matt’s parents in Thorp until the apartment we found on Craigslist opened up in mid-September (perfect location, good price point, fully furnished). But, because of our travel schedule this wasn’t ideal. We ended up finding a corporate rental that didn’t cost any more than we had been paying in Portland and Denver for the apartment + utilities + furniture and jumped on it.
This arrangement has worked out well for us so far. In addition to not having to worry about the logistics of renting the furniture and making sure it’s set up by the time you arrive, it’s fully stocked with linens and most kitchen tools you would need (we’re a little particular so we were glad to have our own things as well, but we definitely wouldn’t need them to get by). We would definitely consider going this route again if the price was right because of the convenience but also because you need fewer things – we’d really like to downsize the amount of STUFF we have.
Whew! If you made it this far, you are a champ! For that, you will be rewarded with a cute puppy picture 🙂