Last Updated on June 9, 2023 by Ellen
We’ve lived in Airbnb monthly rentals since 2015, and we’re still at it in 2023 for three reasons.
First, Airbnb provides great value for budget slow travelers in early retirement. Month-long stays can give renters deep discounts. Second, Airbnb offers some protections and recourse if something isn’t right when we arrive at a destination. And the third reason: we have met some fantastic people!
Let’s take a closer look at these reasons in the ‘new normal.’
Why living in Airbnb is still worth it
Reason #1: The monthly discount
Disclosure: we are long on Airbnb stock.
Airbnb owners have the option to give a discount for a longer stay, by the week and/or the by the month. Advantages for the owner to do this include a guaranteed income all month, a decrease in turn over, less wear and tear on a home, less hassle to outline rules, property idiosyncrasies and the like.
Longer stays are more popular than ever in the COVID era, as more people decide to work from anywhere. So finding a solid month in a place where you want to be might become more of a challenge. Planning ahead is your best bet. Don’t wait until the month before you arrive in a country to book.
Sometimes the discount for a month-long stay for us renters can be as much as 50 percent! That alone makes living in Airbnb rentals still worth it. Some of our rentals break down to just $15 dollars a night – way less than the cost of a hotel. In fact, our cheapest rental ever was in 2022.
Before COVID, we found it necessary to book pretty far in advance in order to ensure an entire month was available. Now, in the COVID era, Airbnb has announced “split stays.”
This is a new result in searches for rentals. Airbnb will suggest two weeks in one property, and two weeks in a comparable nearby property — if your first choice is not available as a month-long rental.
What does this mean for that monthly discount? Time will tell, but an educated guess is that Airbnb anticipates greater demand for monthly rentals.
Of course, some owners do not offer monthly discounts because they want a high turn over for higher payments. And some owners offer a small monthly discount. As budget slow travelers in early retirement, we might ask for a better discount if only a small one is offered. We’ve made some deals this way.
Hotels cost more
Hotels simply cost more than Airbnb living in a monthly rental.
To rent a hotel room 365 days a year would put an end to our early retired budget travel lifestyle real quick. And we eat in a lot, so we need a kitchen.
Hostels generally don’t work for us, but we’ve used them for a night or two when we had to. Though hostels have communal kitchens, we want our own bathroom.
Also, hostels charge per person, which makes them more cost effective for single travelers. For two people, hostels can cost more than a cheap hotel!
Our cheapest monthly Airbnb ever was in Thailand in 2022.
Reason #2 why living in Airbnb is worth it: Protection
We have not had to use this small protection/remediation route with Airbnb yet. But having it gives some peace of mind. If we ever arrive at a rental and it’s a dump, our rent money isn’t ‘gone.’
To stack the deck in our favor, we rely heavily on reviews left by other tenants. Our best rentals have been with “super hosts.” We’ve also had great experiences with regular hosts who have good reviews from other renters.
There has only been one Airbnb rental where we briefly stayed in Mexico that I wish had been a bit more detailed in the reviews. We ourselves leave detailed, honest reviews, because we rely on others to guide us to good rentals.
Notes on booking
When we started this, we were booking about two or three months ahead of a stay. We still can find wonderful rentals with that amount of time in advance, but the selection is much greater if we look several months ahead – as much as five or six months out.
People who book a weekend or a week also limit our selection. Sometimes we find a place we’d love to rent for a month, but somewhere during our desired block of time, two or three nights are already reserved by someone’s quick trip.
Another problem: booking way ahead of time limits our flexibility. For example, if we were to book a place six months out, but had to change our plans, we would loose that rent payment. This is standard Airbnb policy when booking for a month or longer. (But the ultimate policy is up to the landlord.)
Reason #3: The fantastic people we meet!
Some of the Airbnb owners have been among the kindest people we’ve met on our travels. This is why we slow travel! To meet great people as we explore Earth.
Some Airbnb hosts have become friends. Like, real friends! If we were to return to their city – we would meet these people out for dinner or happy hour in a heartbeat.
When was the last time you got that benefit from a hotel? Hhhmmm… see what I mean?
This type of authentic connection during travel, is arguably as important as price value.
Other rental options
We keep waiting for some new service comparable to Airbnb. Some hotels are getting into the short-term rental market, and there are a few home-stay start ups.
Airbnb is hands down the most cost effective service – even with “guest fees” at six to 12 percent. That covers the customer service benefit if we ever found ourselves in a jam, as mentioned earlier. Even with the fees, it beats VRBO, Flipkey, and other rental sites we’ve looked at.
The only method that is more cost effective that I’m aware of, is to rent fully furnished apartments from local landlords outside of Airbnb with short-term leases. We’ve also done that, twice. Each time we trusted the landlord. Once in Mahaual, Mexico (three months), and once in Malay, Philippines, during the pandemic (25 months). Both were great experiences!
But what about gentrification?
Some people refuse to use Airbnb because it has caused various measures of gentrification in cities around the world, and made it difficult for some locals to find affordable housing.
My view: overpopulation is the greater underlying issue as to whether or not locals can afford decent housing. Too many people and lax urban planning are not things I can control.
I also cannot control what local owners do with their property. If an owner wants to rent living space in a city and we don’t rent it, someone else will.
We still think living in Airbnb is still worth it.
So, for now, unless or until something better comes along, we will continue to mostly use Airbnb around the world. Meanwhile, we are always mindful of the struggles of local people, and make appropriate donations whenever we can. Plus we help support local economies with our travel money.
We’ve been living in Airbnbs so long, we have 100+ plus units behind us. Some stay with us longer. Like the one in the video below. This unique place was in Guatemala, on Lake Atitlan.
I’ll end this post with a link back to our San Pablo la Laguna rental, and the fantastic memories it made it for me. You can read more about San Pablo on this oldie-but-goodie post.