In the bestselling book, The Four-Hour Work Week, author Tim Ferriss asserts that poor and middle class people typically want to live the lifestyle they think that rich people have. That includes eating in restaurants every night of the week, buying lots of “stuff” that they don’t need or will never use or spending money they don’t have. I think there’s some truth to that because when it comes to vacations, those of us who should be watching our pocket books often end up going broke because we try to “live large” by staying in $200/night hotels and paint the town every night.
This is huge mistake on many levels. Besides spending money you may not have, staying in hotels and eating out every night often robs you of the very thing you’ve traveled so far for — to experience the local culture and foods. It also can cramp your sightseeing. Let me explain.
Most of the rich people I know take the time to appreciate life. As such, while, yes, many of them might vacation in hotels because they can afford them, I’ve known quite a few to take refuge in privately owned bungalows and guest houses. Many of these places come with a hefty price tag, but there are certainly smaller places that cater to the rest of us at a fraction of the cost of big hotels. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there are more places like this for *us* than there are for rich folk.
Renting from a local family on vacation has many benefits.
- As I already mentioned, the price can be dirt cheap!
- Sometimes they offer breakfast and dinner for a nominal fee, if it’s not included.
- It’s good karma. You’re putting money back into the local economy, not into the hands of absentee landlords.
- If you have a kitchen, you can experiment with the local foods. My favorite part of getting to know the country. It also forces me to be creative with limited utensils and ingredients — always with outstanding results.
- If you have food allergies or restrictions, the kitchen allows you adhere to your health requirements while getting away from the daily grind. You may want to contact the owner ahead of time to find out if there are any health food stores or other locations that cater to your needs.
- You’ll be meeting locals who will guide you towards the places they go to save money. You may even build some lasting friendships with them.
- You get insight into local daily life that few other tourists ever see.
- You’ll feel like you’ve actually lived somewhere for a week or two instead of feeling like you’ve been living out of a suitcase.
So far, every country I’ve visited (including here in the US) abounds with opportunities to rent guest houses, vacation apartments, bungalows, yurts or just rooms. Look for accommodations that have star (or similar) ratings from the local tourist office. Some of my favorite sites to research accommodations are Belvilla, BedandBreakfast.com and Homelidays.com. Note that you cannot book online with a credit card at BedandBreakfast.com or Homelidays.com.
While a few landlords work on the honor system, the vast majority require a wire transfer of up to 50% of the total price upon booking. This can cheaply and easily be done at xe.com. Simply click on the ‘trading’ tab, set up a free account and you’re on your way. Where your local US bank is probably unfamiliar with wire transfers and will charge you about $130 or more for the transfer and currency conversion, xe.com costs about $20-30 for a transfer including the conversion depending on the amount you are sending. If you’re in no rush, they’ll actually send you a bank check to forward to the person overseas free of charge! But that might take up to 30 days.
Another option that works with some property owners is to recommend sending your payment via PayPal. This works great for EU countries and here in the States. Several owners have thanked me for suggesting this option as it offered them a new, cheaper way to conduct business with the US.
On occasion, we do need to stay at a hotel — usually the night before we take our early morning flight back to the US. That’s where the French-owned Accor hotel chain comes in. For less than $100 per night (sometimes less than $80), you can stay in an exceptionally clean, modern room in many their well-known hotels such as Mercure, Ibis or Novotel. If you absolutely need a kitchen, you may need to scour the Accor website for which hotels in the area that have them.
If you’ve never rented a vacation apartment before, I urge you to take this opportunity to travel like a native. You’ll thank me the first morning you spend leisurely sipping a hot cup of organic coffee (tea or raw milk) by the open window of your log cabin overlooking the Alps (the beach, desert or citrus groves).