I guess I was 18 when I was first hit by wanderlust. I took my first trip to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate my birthday with my boyfriend at the time. I immediately fell in love with the Mexican culture and the idea of living in a foreign country. Growing up, my parents never traveled at all. The furthest we went was to the Jersey shore, which, although I have very fond memories of, for the small fortune my parents spent there each year, we could have really traveled. Who knew? Now, thanks to the internet, people are starting to find out how exactly affordable and possible long term travel is.
In the past 7 years that I have been living abroad, I have lived in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Veracruz and Cancun in Mexico, and San Salvador in El Salvador. I have been so lucky to have the chance to live in these amazing cities and travel extensively on my time off. I work online teaching Spanish and English and as an instructional designer – all which require an internet connection much stronger than a hotel typically has. But a recent discovery – Airbnb – has changed all of this for the better. Now, I can work as a travel, change my location often and stay at affordable places short term. Before I had two options, I could rent a furnished room long term, paying a higher rent, or I could rent an unfurnished room and end up having to purchase secondhand furniture and appliances. At the end of my stay, I would go through the hassle of selling all of these items that I have accumulated, usually losing over 50% of the price that I paid for them. Either option was costly and still required some type of commitment, from 3 months to a year, typically.
FINDING A BETTER OPTION
Now that I have discovered Airbnb, I can not only travel the world, I can do it much cheaper than before, and I am also able to vet the place before I commit. Using the website, I can search for the city and the dates that I need accommodation, just like on a hotel website. I can then limit my parameters a bit more by choosing my price range and must have amenities (for me Wi-Fi or connected internet is a necessity for work). Then, it gets even better because I can see pictures of the properties and read reviews from past guests. If you are like me, who incessantly reads Tripadvisor’s reviews before booking any vacation, this is a huge plus.
READ THE REVIEWS
As you may have guessed – not all properties are created equally. Some are built in ways that feel more private and in others, you can hear every time someone washes a dish or flushes a toilet. Not to mention our furry friends – does the property have a friendly, nonchalant pup or will it be barking up a storm each time you walk through the door. These details are important for people who make their living online. We need a quiet space that allows us to teach classes, have phone calls with clients and work without distractions. This is where the reviews are the most helpful for me, they give me a chance to feel out the property and its owners.
MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
Since last year, when I discovered this amazing service, I have stayed at 6 different properties, ranging from a quick night to sleep to a week on vacation to a whole month to explore a new town. In Hollywood, FL, I stayed in a retired woman’s trailer, near the mall and the airport, for less than $30 per night. Comparable hotels in the area were $80 and up. She was a sweet old lady and we celebrated the day she happened to take her U.S. citizen exam. She gave me advice on local places to eat and see and her home was impeccable.
Then, going away for a romantic weekend with my husband, we decided on Antigua, Guatemala. Anyone who is familiar with this colonial city knows that it is quite pricey by Central American standards. We ended up choosing a property about 5 minutes away from the central square for $17 per night. It was my husband’s first time in this type of accommodation and he loved it. We had our own private bathroom, use of the kitchen, TV, internet, towels, shampoo and everything else you would expect at a hotel.
Then, finally, I decided on some longer term stays and I made an even more amazing discovery: weekly and monthly discounts. Many property owners will give steep discounts for weekly/monthly stays. I’ve seen monthly discounts as high as 70% off but usually, they are in the 30 – 50% range. Weekly ones are less, maybe 10 – 30%, but still helpful if you are on a budget.
As I write this article, I am staying in an Airbnb property in Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico. The home is gigantic, with 2 floors, 4 bedrooms and each bedroom has its own bathroom. It has a swimming pool in the courtyard, a balcony overlooking the sea, two game rooms each with a pool table and foosball table, an upstairs bar and kitchen area for guests, and downstairs is fully furnished for guest use as well. The owners both work from home so they are always around for questions or issues. Since I am staying the whole month I got that wonderfully step discount and my total payment was $281! To be on in front of the beach with 20 mg internet, weekly cleaning and no utility bills…. Yes, I will take it!
I PLAN TO KEEP GOING
My next adventure will begin on March 17th. I am headed to Veracruz, Mexico for 1 month and will stay in, you guessed it, an Airbnb. This property is much smaller, it is one rented room out of a two bedroom apartment. My roommates will be university students. But it has all of my necessities, privacy, a strong internet connection and is one block away from the most popular beach in town. It is also walking distance to the market and downtown areas. My price for the month was a little higher at $309, but I will be staying there over Semana Santa, which is Mexico’s version of Spring Break.
MORE THAN JUST SAVING MONEY
Personally, however, it’s not just the money saving opportunity that makes Airbnb an amazing service. It’s the personal experience and interaction that you have with the homeowner. Many are social, love meeting people from different countries and cultures and practicing languages. It’s more similar to staying with a host family than at a hotel – but of course with all of the privacy you need to continue to be productive and make money as you travel.
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF
If you would like to try Airbnb for the first time, please use my referral link. You will save $25 off your first booking, which is more than enough for a one night stay in many cities, and I will get a credit as well (so I can keep going!): www.airbnb.com/c/sarat398 .