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I work remotely from vacation rentals. It’s cheaper than rent or a mortgage — here’s how I find good deals and choose where to go next.

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a woman standing on the steps of a building in AustriaMichelle Joy in Vienna.

Courtesy of Michelle Joy

  • Michelle Joy, 35, is a travel blogger and freelancer who works remotely from vacation rentals.
  • She books monthlong stints on Airbnb at off-peak times, like a ski town in West Virginia in fall.
  • Her trips typically cost a few hundred dollars less a month than she spent on her mortgage.
a woman taking a photo on a mountainJoy in Canyonlands National Park.

Michelle Joy

When I left my previous on-site job as a magazine editor in October 2016, I had no intention of becoming a digital nomad. I just had dreams of traveling that strongly conflicted with my daily three-hour commute in Houston and measly two weeks of vacation time a year.

a woman sitting on a beachJoy in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

I already owned a home in Texas, so I thought it made the most financial sense to stay put and take short trips while I built up my new travel blog and freelance business.

This worked well at first, when I was traveling about 25% of the year.

a woman hikingJoy in Death Valley National Park.

Michelle Joy

After the pandemic put everything on pause, I started revenge traveling in the US and realized I may want to go fully nomadic for a while.

When I started researching places to stay, I quickly decided it would be much cheaper to slow travel and take advantage of long-stay discounts at vacation rentals — so much cheaper, actually, that it made me question whether I ever wanted to pay rent or a mortgage again.

woman walking through a sand duneJoy in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Michelle Joy

According to Rent.com, the median rental price is $1,937 in the US, and it’s $1,723 in my hometown of Houston. With elevated interest rates and home prices, mortgages are hardly more affordable.

a woman holds up a cup of coffee over the oceanJoy in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

Even with my extremely low mortgage payment on a small house I purchased nearly a decade ago with about a 4% interest rate, my monthly home bills topped $1,800 when I added in property tax, insurance, utilities, and internet.

At a vacation rental, all the extra bills are wrapped into one monthly price, and you don’t have to worry about saving up to repipe your entire house, install an air-conditioning unit, or replace a roof.

a woman stands in front of a condoJoy in Snowshoe.

Michelle Joy

Being nomadic and hopping from rental to rental may not suit everyone, but my lifestyle and schedule are flexible, so it allows me to combine housing and travel costs into one expense and experience living in different places.

I moved into my first Airbnb in Snowshoe, West Virginia, in October. I paid off my mortgage on my home in Texas before leaving and am still deciding what to do with the home in the long term.

a woman walking through a forestJoy in West Virginia.

Michelle Joy

When I’m searching for a long-term stay at a bargain, I look for popular and seasonal vacation destinations with a large concentration of short-term rentals, like Daytona Beach, Florida, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Towns with a lot of individually owned condos typically have plenty of rentals on sites like Airbnb, the platform I typically book on.

a condo on a beachNorth Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

To get a good deal, I make my reservations for the offseason and book for at least a month at a time. Many rentals give weekly discounts, but the nightly rate bottoms out once you hit the monthly rental rate, typically at the 28- or 30-day mark.

a ski left during the fallSnowshoe.

Michelle Joy

At the ski village in West Virginia, the “summer” season was wrapping up when I arrived in early October, and the ski slopes didn’t open until late November, so there was a sweet spot for deeply discounted condos. Plus, I got to watch the leaves change and the sun set behind the mountains from my balcony, where deer would often come to munch on the grass at dusk.

a deer in a patch of grassSnowshoe, West Virginia.

Michelle Joy

For my 31-night stay at the Airbnb in West Virginia, I paid just over $1,200. This was more than $600 cheaper for the month than my monthly bills as a homeowner.

a woman walking on a boardwalkJoy in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

Of course, staying in vacation spots in the offseason can mean missing out on the most exciting activities, and some things may be closed.

a balcony covered in snowSnowshoe.

Michelle Joy

In Snowshoe, there was just one small market open a few hours a week, one restaurant, and a coffee shop with minimal hours. I just grocery shopped on my way into town and restocked every time I drove down the mountain for a day trip. This was a great way to save money over dining out and made me feel more at home since I was cooking and eating in most nights.

a marina in Myrtle BeachNorth Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

On a longer stay, I also have to do some typical “chores” like I would at home. Most Airbnbs don’t include a midstay housekeeping service like a hotel would, so I vacuum, wash towels, and wipe down counters throughout my time there.

a woman walking next to a train trackJoy in New River Gorge National Park.

Michelle Joy

A huge upside to staying in an offseason vacation destination is the lack of crowds. In winter, I decided to live in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

woman standing next to a carouselJoy in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

In spring and summer, the beaches here are buzzing with groups and families on vacation. But in the middle of winter, I would pass just a few couples walking along the sand at sunset.

a beach at sunsetNorth Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

Even though it was too cold to go swimming, there were plenty of sunny and warm days in January and February. Plus, I could see the ocean from inside my condo, so I didn’t even have to go outside when it was too cold.

woman walking on a beachJoy in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

I worked remotely from my private balcony and went for jogs along the coast in the afternoon. I could even see the sunrise from my bedroom. Since I own my business, I have a flexible schedule and could go down to the beach for a picnic in the middle of the day or take a couple of days off when my mom came to visit.

woman working on a balconyJoy working in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

I extended my original month’s stay in Myrtle Beach to 35 nights and paid just over $1,360 in total, about $500 less than my monthly home bills were in Texas. The same unit for a month in June is listed for $7,838.

woman working in a pool chairJoy working in North Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

If you stay in a condo complex or resort building, there’s a chance that some amenities might be closed for the season. In North Myrtle Beach, the property I stayed at was doing repairs around the indoor and outdoor pools for most of the month, but they always kept at least one pool open.

There are also occasional maintenance issues that pop up, like in Myrtle Beach when the power tripped during a storm, or in West Virginia when a fireplace inspection and pest control were scheduled during my stay. I just communicate with the owners like I would a landlord.

the view from a balcony in Myrtle BeachNorth Myrtle Beach.

Michelle Joy

Without a lease tying me down, it’s easier to squeeze small trips in between longer vacation-rental stays. I typically plan a few day trips to local towns and state parks near my rental and visit other cities and national parks on the way from one base to the next. When I was in Myrtle Beach, I was able to explore nearby towns like Conway and Murrells Inlet on my off days.

In between my fall and winter vacation rentals, I spent three weeks hopping around Europe visiting Christmas markets.

woman standing in front of a palm treeJoy in Savannah, Georgia,

Michelle Joy

My business is finally growing again as people have been traveling more and using my website as a resource to plan their trips. I even launched a second website in summer about national-park travel.

After a few more domestic months, I hope to take my remote lifestyle international and mix in some low-cost rentals in places like Thailand, Indonesia, Croatia, and Portugal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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