Better Than Airbnb: Save as Much as $15,000 on Lodging

This year Tanya Hughes and Dave Ivey stayed rent-free for almost five months in the Yucatán, Mexico.

For the first three and a half months they enjoyed the luxury of a two-bedroom home, with two additional casitas. “It was a lovely place with a huge yard and massive lap pool, typically shared by 4 to 10 people at a time,” says Tanya. “We were located one block from the ocean at the very start of the Malecón (or boardwalk) which is the main walking road in front of the beach, lined with shops and restaurants. We walked the Malecón every morning before the heat set in, and once a week we went to the beach for a few cold beers. The town had a couple of nice restaurants, so we had a weekly breakfast date at a lovely place on the beach.”

The remainder of their time in the Yucatán, they stayed in another nearby beachside town with sand streets and a handful of small restaurants. The house had a pool in a private patio area and was less than a block from the ocean and a quiet, empty beach. They had the furry company of two dogs and two cats, and when they walked the dogs on the beach they rarely saw other people. “It was a lot of doggy play time, they loved swimming in the pool with us and playing ball. The animals were very entertaining and active.”

They didn’t even pay for weekly cleaning or twice weekly pool and yard care. And, as they had already explored the area during their previous stay along the coast, Tanya says that they spent most of their time enjoying the home. “We never really left. We enjoyed the animals, and the beach, and went out for dinner maybe three times.”

Tanya met Dave Ivey in the charming colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. Hailing from Canada and the U.S., and both avid travelers, they formed a bond quickly. “We first fell in love with the Spanish language and culture, then each other,” says Tanya.

“We love the idea of seeing a new place longer-term, getting to have a home base instead of a hotel, and spending time learning about the area. I love to see new places and travel often, and we found a great way to do it without having to shell out for hotels.”

As savvy travelers, they’ve discovered the secret to drastically reducing travel costs by staying rent-free in alluring locations. In exchange for watching over the pets of the homeowners, they get full use of luxury homes, without paying anything for it.

While staying for free they also continue to work full-time online so good WiFi is a necessary requirement for them wherever they go.

They’ve stayed in a rustic lakeside cottage, with free-range hens laying fresh eggs daily, on the shores of stunning Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala. Another favorite was a three-bedroom home with a lovely colonial kitchen and a pretty patio overlooking a courtyard in a quaint neighborhood near historical Antigua.

And they already have their next stay planned. In January they fly to Guadalajara, Mexico. Their hosts will pick them up at the airport and take them to their lakeside home on Lake Ajijic where there is a huge retired expat community. They’ve invited Tanya and Dave for dinner the first night, as well as a tour of the lake and surroundings to acquaint them with the area. The couple plan on taking a one-day hop-on-hop-off tour of Guadalajara after their hosts depart too. During their eight-day stay, they’ll be left with a car, a fully stocked fridge, and the services of a gardener and cleaning lady.

“In all honesty, I think we could continue traveling rent-free and probably be booked 10 to 12 months a year if we chose to,” says Tanya. “The expense would be on flights and some hotels in between. We will continue to use this as a means to travel at a lesser expense and next year we may also look for free stays in Colombia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.”

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