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I’ve used Airbnb for long term stays since 2017. Besides a few brief stints at home to see family for the summer or the holidays, I’ve lived in Airbnbs for more than three years!
So, what exactly does it mean to live in an Airbnb?
Dan and I are digital nomads, which means we don’t own any furniture, have any pets, or even have a car. Instead, we both live out of these carry-on backpacks and move from one long term Airbnb stay to the next without anything else to weigh us down.
The amount of time that we live in each place varies. On the short end, we’ll stay for one month, but usually, we stay for at least five or six weeks in each. Sometimes, we stay for up to three months at a time.
To date, I’ve stayed in 43 Airbnbs and 21 one those stays were for a month or longer.
I consider myself an expert on how to book an Airbnb and have learned a lot of best practices over the years. Now, I’m sharing them all with you.
Do these nine things before you book an Airbnb for a long term stay to ensure the best possible experience on your trip!
9 Tips to Book an Airbnb for a Long Term Stay
When you live in an Airbnb you need different things than you may look for when you’re just booking for vacation.
Because you’re staying in it for weeks or months at a time, you need a kitchen to cook your meals and will want to be sure the wifi speeds are usable. And these are just a few examples.
This list of nine tips is your essential checklist for booking a successful long term stay in an Airbnb!
Our Airbnb decorated with traditional Mexican decor in San Miguel de Allende
1. Make sure it’s not a shared space.
I’ve been living in Airbnbs long enough that I’ve seen this trend rise and fall – but, unfortunately, it’s not completely gone.
There was about a year where people were labeling private bedrooms rooms in their homes as ‘Entire Home’ because you technically had access to the whole home… there was just someone else living in it as well.
This is obviously not cool and Airbnb has since cracked down on it and reduced the number of people doing this but it still happens.
So, even if a listing is labeled as ‘Entire Home,’ read the description closely. If there’s any vague wording or you have any doubts, send a direct message to the host before you book to be 100% sure that you’ll have your privacy and they’re not living in the space too.
(Unless you want that. But for a long term Airbnb stay, I need my privacy and never do.)
As a side note, if the owner lives above or next door to the apartment, they might be a little nosy. I’ve had both good and not-so-great experiences with this, so that’s something to look out for as well.
Had to make a 100% stove top Thanksgiving this year because our Airbnb didn’t have an oven. It still turned out delicious.
2. Look closely at photos of the kitchen.
The kitchen is a much more important part of the space when you’re booking an Airbnb for a long term stay vs. if you’re just going on vacation for a few days.
On vacation, you’ll want to try all the new cuisine and eat out almost every meal. When you live in an Airbnb for a few weeks or months, you’ll be shopping at grocery stores and cooking meals at home.
So, how can you be sure the kitchen is usable?
Dan and I have experienced a huge variety of appliances and usability in kitchens in our stays over the past few years. I’ve found that between the major appliances – stovetop, oven, toaster oven, microwave – we’ll usually only get half at one time.
Once, in our early days, we showed up and there was no fridge (and it took the host five long, expensive days of eating out to deliver one.) Mini fridges are also somewhat common and while they’re not a deal-breaker, they’re a pain in the ass to store all our food as a couple.
The point of this is that you need to look closely at the kitchen set up and the bare minimum you should accept is a stovetop or double hot plate, microwave, coffee maker, and mini-fridge. In the list of priorities, a microwave is more useful than an oven. Sometimes we make it work with just a stovetop but it’s not ideal.
The apartment also needs to have pots and pans for cooking and a set of spatulas or wooden spoons as well. Look at the counter space too – can you store dry goods anywhere and will you have enough space to prepare food without losing your mind?
Again, my advice is to look closely at the photos. If you’re used to only booking Airbnbs for a few days, you’ve likely never even paid attention to the kitchen amenities before, but now you have to.
Owners are happy to mark down a sink and a hotplate as a full kitchen so if you’re unsure about anything, send them a message and ask for a list of what they have before you book!
Clutter-free is the way to be. I loved spending five weeks in this spacious Airbnb in Sibiu, Romania.
3. Look closely at photos of the rest of the space.
Look for the two C’s when you’re scrolling through any listing’s photos: couch and clutter.
A lot of apartments, especially studios, try to get away with furnishing as cheaply as possible. Sometimes that means putting in a couple of crappy chairs instead of a couch or even no seating at all.
If you’re going to be living and working here, you need a comfortable space to veg and relax in the evenings so make sure the apartment has that before you book.
Also, how cluttered is it?
Some people just don’t know how to furnish a rental property. I once stayed in an apartment that the owner basically used as a storage space, and every closet, drawer, and cabinet was packed full so there was no space left for my clothes and food.
I live out of this carry-on backpack, so I love a minimalist packing list and lifestyle and can’t stand living among someone else’s clutter. For a short-term stay, maybe, but for a long-term booking, definitely not.
We had beautiful views from our Airbnb in Huaraz, Peru, but the slow wifi and regular outages were killer on my productivity
4. Ask for a screenshot of the wifi speeds.
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need fast wifi.
When you’re on vacation, you’re out of the apartment almost all day and then pretty much only need to be on your phone to answer emails from your annoying boss google where you’re going to eat next.
But when you live in an Airbnb and work from it, wifi speeds matter.
In our early days, Dan and I lived in Cusco for two months where the wifi was super slow and the city regularly experienced rolling blackouts. In an act of desperation, Dan had to take a Skype interview in a hotel lobby – unsurprisingly, he didn’t get the job.
So, how can you check wifi speeds before you book a long term stay in an Airbnb?
Just asking the host isn’t enough. They’ll probably tell you whatever the high speed is that their provider promises them but never delivers. It’ll be inaccurate.
Instead, ask them to run this simple internet speed test in the apartment and send you a screenshot of the results. Comparing the results of the Airbnb to what you’re currently using will give you a good benchmark for how fast or slow the speeds are.
Generally, upload and download speeds in double digits or higher are fine, but upload speeds as low as six or seven will be ok. If you don’t regularly need to upload photos and videos, you can go lower.
Landed this cheap and central Airbnb with a beautiful view in Lviv, Ukraine, by booking months before we traveled there.
5. The farther in advance you book, the more options you have.
You can research how to book an Airbnb for a long term stay all you want, but if you wait ‘til the last minute and no places are available, all your effort will still be pointless.
The problem with booking a long term Airbnb stay is that all anyone has to do is book ONE DAY in a place during your date range and it will be unavailable to you. This significantly reduces your choices so booking as early as possible is the best way to get around it.
We usually book three to six months ahead of our stay dates. Even then, sometimes we’re stuck choosing between only three or four apartments in our budget.
Waiting ‘til the last minute to book an Airbnb for a long-term stay will force you to pay more, stay somewhere crappier, or both. It may even take away all of your options and force you to change travel plans completely. Don’t do it.
Our tiny home in Caye Caulker, Belize. It was perfect for a four-night vacation, but way too small for a long term stay. Booking for the two types of travel requires looking at very different things!
6. Research all neighborhoods in the city you’re visiting.
Sometimes the hot tourist spots aren’t the best place for a long term stay (or the cheapest).
You want to stay in a livable neighborhood, with restaurants, bars, markets, and pharmacies. One that’s quiet enough to sleep at night and maybe has some parks to walk through in the evenings after work.
Maybe this is the main tourist hotspot, maybe it’s somewhere more residential.
For example, in Istanbul, the Sultanahmet neighborhood is full of the main attractions like the Hagia Sofia, the Grand Bazaar, and the Blue Mosque. For a quick weekend in the city, that’s where you want to stay to pack all the main sights into your itinerary.
But, like many super-touristy places, the restaurants in Sultanahmet are overpriced and average. At night, all of the sites close and the streets are silent and empty, making it a terrible place for a long-term stay.
Remember that you have time to take Ubers or taxis to see the main sights of the city over a few weeks rather than trying to pack everything into a few days, so think about what’s really important for you to have nearby.
Searching where the expats in the city are choosing to live is a great way to find which neighborhoods that have the best balance for living and traveling in the area.
Another memorable Airbnb that I loved for a quick trip but would never book for a long term stay because it had no kitchen and slow wifi.
7. Check reviews. Has the host canceled before?
Airbnb has a great feature that leaves an automatic review if a host cancels a reservation. It says: The host canceled this reservation XX days before arrival. This is an automated posting.
If the host canceled a reservation once, they might do it again.
And, as I said above, booking a long term Airbnb stay requires planning it months in advance. If your stay suddenly gets cancelled a day or two before you arrive, it’s going to be extremely hard to find a new one.
So, I play it safe. If a host has a review saying they canceled a reservation even one time, I don’t even consider it and move on to the next.
In more than three years of living in Airbnbs, this method has never steered me wrong and I have a track record of zero hosts canceling on me so far.
Spent Dan’s 29th birthday building a fort and watching terrible movies in our Airbnb. If it had been cancelled last minute, we would have had a very different experience.
8. Understand the payment plan.
When it comes to booking an Airbnb for a long term stay, you need to be absolutely sure with your choice because the first month is non-refundable.
The perk of booking a month-long stay is that you often get discounts on the price. But, Airbnb hosts are willing to offer those discounts because their money is guaranteed once you hit that book button.
If you’re staying longer than a month, you will pay the next month or few weeks once your first month is finished. So, your payment plan will look like this:
- Day of booking: first month of rent
- First of stay: nothing
- 30th day of stay: next month’s rent or the payment for however many days you have left
And repeat for as long as you end up staying. The moral of this tip is: the first month of a long term Airbnb stay in non-refundable. Don’t cancel it or you’ll be super sad.
Saving money always makes me smile
9. Take advantage of the discounts.
Once you understand how to book an Airbnb, the next step is saving money on it! The best part about booking an Airbnb for a long term stay is the crazy discounts that often come along with it.
Think about it: you’re saving the host so much time and work that they would spend on checking multiple groups in and out, regular cleanings, etc. So, they pass these savings on to you with stellar discounts.
When you search for a month or longer on Airbnb, the platform will automatically apply these discounts to the price so you don’t have to do the math yourself. So, it’s important to search at least one month at a time.
For example, if Dan and I want to spend $800 for a month-long stay, that divides to around $26 per night. But, just looking at nightly rates and excluding anything over $26 would be a mistake because many of the more expensive places offer discounts to put them into our range when you’re staying for a month or more.
We’ve gotten discounts up to 50% off for long term stays before and can usually count on at least 20%.
Oh, and, if you really like a place but it doesn’t offer a discount, don’t be afraid to message the host and ask for one!
If you’re staying extra long, like three to six months, they’ll probably be happy to negotiate a price that works for both of you in exchange for landing a long term tenant and guaranteed income.
I love going home to a cozy and full home for Christmas every year, but I wouldn’t trade my life of living in Airbnbs for anything!
Ready to live in an Airbnb? Use this guide to get started!
Living in an Airbnb is fun and easy.
You get all your utilities and internet payments priced into the upfront cost and never have to do any maintenance.
Plus, even if you accidentally book a place that sucks (it happens) or find out the neighbors are loud or discover any other problem that comes along with the uncertainties of life, you only have to stick it out for five or six weeks before you move again!
I love our lifestyle and have gotten to see and experience so much more of the world because of it.
If you work remotely, use these tips to start booking long term Airbnb stays and traveling more for less. The world is at your fingertips!
Ready to try it out? Explore long-term stays on Airbnb and book your first one with confidence!
This article is part of the Digital Nomad Series. Read the rest below:
Then, explore the complete Long Term Travel series for more insider tips on making the transition to a location independent lifestyle.
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