Travel is back! Well, sort of.
Vaccines are rolling out. In the U.S., the CDC says fully vaccinated people are cleared to travel. But a pediatric vaccine is still a ways away, and—for Americans, at least—Europe and other popular international destinations may be off-limits for a while longer.
What’s a travel-starved family to do? Consider relocating for the summer. Many workplaces are still fully remote—if you have the flexibility to work from anywhere, a month-plus away from home may be just what the doctor ordered.
But if you’re never done it before, moving away for the season may seem intimidating. What to bring? Where to stay? And what do we do with our mail? We encourage you to go for it and take a looooong break from your normal routine. Here are some tips for pulling it off.
1) Vet your rental carefully
For a multi-month trip, chances are you’re looking to settle in somewhere—more likely a home rental than a hotel. It will likely be cheaper, almost certainly offer more space, and just be all-around more comfortable and flexible.
But the stakes are a lot higher when you’re choosing a rental for a season than for a long weekend. A summer-long rental can be a serious investment. Any problems will plague you for months, not a few days. And even if there are no serious issues, you want to pick a place you’ll really love.
Demand is expected to be high this year, so you’ll want to start searching right away. And you’re going to want to vet your rental very carefully.
If you’re using a vacation-rentals site like VRBO or Airbnb, you’ll have a lot of ways to filter your search (geography, price, bedrooms, specific amenities). Our advice: Cast a wide net and take the time to dig in. Open a lot of browser tabs. Experiment with different search terms. You don’t want to miss your dream rental because you searched for a “chalet” and it was listed as a “cabin.”
As you get a sense of what’s available, bookmark any spots that seem appealing. Then come back and go through them all more carefully.
Read every review, with an eye toward filtering out the cranks. (Someone gave an awesome-looking property 2 stars because they didn’t like the curtains? Ignore.) Look for common themes. The one you want to see is: “It’s even better than in the pictures!”
Be sure to scrutinize those pictures—including the views out the windows. Are the shades closed? Watch out. Are there few (or no) photos of the outdoor place? It’s probably not very attractive. Ditto for bathrooms. Mentally correct for the old fish-eye lens trick that makes rooms look bigger.
You should even read the photo captions, because pictures alone can be misleading. That beautiful landscape may be “nearby”—not a few that’s visible from the property.
Does the house have a name? Google it: You might find a site with more information and pictures—and even a way to book directly with the owner. Rates can be lower this way, because they don’t have to pay commissions to the home-rental site. But there will also be fewer protections.
Unlike with hotel rates, with vacation rentals, the sticker price isn’t always the final word. Homes are generally priced for one- to two-week stays. Owners are factoring in turnover costs, vacant days between bookings, and the general hassle of dealing with multiple renters over the course of a season. (Not everyone’s as nice and chill as you!)
If you’re renting for two or three months, you’re removing a ton of uncertainty for the owner. That’s worth something.
Use the contact-the-host feature to reach out and let them know how long you’re planning to stay. Ask if they can do anything for you on the rate for a long-term rental. Of course, you don’t want to be pushy. And if you’re dealing with a particularly high-demand area, they may be firm on price.
But it rarely hurts to ask.
It also doesn’t hurt being a family when doing this. Most owners would prefer to host a family than a group of young singles, who may be more likely to throw parties or otherwise be a risk for property damage.
3) Get a long-term car rental
Don’t let this one sneak up on you—it’s not as straightforward as you might think to rent a car for a month or longer.
Paying the regular weekly rate for a rental car over a term of months can get expensive, and that’s if the car rental company or travel portal even allows it. Many car rental companies handle long-term rentals through separate sites. (Here are the long-term rental sites here for Enterprise, Budget, Hertz, Avis, and Sixt.)
If you want to go an app-ier route, Fair is a new-ish company that offers flexible leases on used cars. You may save some money this way. Be warned that our experience with customer service wasn’t great, and it’s not available in every state.
In Europe, there are long-term car rental programs that let you “buy” the car and then sell it back to the company (it’s all about taxes). Renault Eurodrive program is one such program we’ve tried; it offers great prices and great customer service. You can read about other options here.
The other option worth mentioning is getting a short-term car lease. You may (or may not) save some money, but will pay for it in paperwork. For a summer trip (three months or less), it’s not the route we’d recommend. For longer stays, it’s worth considering.
4) Get a virtual mailbox
If only you could just cancel the mail. Actually, you sort of can.
For a two-week trip, it may not even be worth pausing your mail. Maybe a neighbor can clear out your mailbox a couple of times. But if you’re going to be away for months, all those credit card solicitations and delayed Amazon purchases will need a place to go. You probably want to be able to check your mail, too.
That’s where virtual mailboxes come in. Most of these services receive your forwarded mail, toss the junk (thanks!), and scan and upload the real mail. Now postal mail is just an app on your phone.
If you need something forwarded to where you’re staying, they can do that. If you just want them to forward a check to the bank to deposit, they can do that, too.
We’ve had great experiences with Traveling Mailbox (despite its somewhat junky-looking website). We use it for privacy and convenience, as well as travel. Another option is PhysicalAddress.com. There are plenty to choose from.
You may like it so much, you keep it after you get home. Maybe take this as an opportunity to de-clutter your real-life inbox from now on.
5) Consider renting out your own home
Again, with so much of the world still closed off—or, at least, uncertain—demand for rental homes is high this year. Even if you’ve never had the urge to list yours before, you may be able to make a nice chunk of change in a hot market.
You could also consider home-swapping. Platforms like Home Exchange and relative newcomer Love Home Swap make it easy to find families to trade with. And you don’t have to do your swaps at the same time, but trade for points that you can use to book future travel.
Future travel—here’s to having a lot more of that to look forward to.