Some ideas for making “slow travel” affordable

Consider renting your home to generate income and reduce costs

If you plan to be away from home for several months consider renting your house while you travel. There are a number of ways to do that easily and safely. You may wish to find one tenant to rent your home through an agency that will manage everything for you. Or you may prefer to offer your place for short term rental with a service such as AirBnB.  The income from short-term rentals is higher and insurance is available but there are additional expenses such as paying someone to manage your rental “business” while you’re away. If you live in a city where the hotel industry is resisting the popularity of the new “sharing economy,” you may discover restrictions that limit your ability to offer short term rental of your property. Rental income may cover your mortgage, taxes and insurance and supplement your extended travel budget.

Tip: Tax rules (in the U.S.A.) are convoluted regarding renting your home. A good article discussing various scenarios including renting via AirBnB is located here.  Discussing this with your accountant prior to making decisions is the best policy.

Tip: Insurance, both for your property and any liability that might arise out of renting your home, are questions to be answered before making decisions. Here’s a link to an authoritative article on that subject.

Other benefits of renting your home may include not having utility bills and maintenance costs to pay if you sign a longer lease with a tenant. The flipside of that is that you may encounter repair bills that surprise you.

Look for other sources of revenue

Consider selling objects you no longer need but that have value to others. I once had a good collection of genealogy books that financed one of my trips to France when I sold it, one book at a time, on E-Bay. Perhaps you have a motorcycle, a grand piano or some other valuable object that you can offer on Craig’s List. Or have a big garage sale and earmark the money for your travels.

If you’re planning your journey months in advance, consider finding a part-time job (if you’re already employed) or a job if you’re retired. Bank that money specifically to pay for your travels.

Plan to stay in vacation rentals or other low-cost accommodations

We are all familiar with rented vacation cottages, commonly found in resort areas all over the U.S. and Canada. At the beach, in the mountains and near major tourist destinations, families often rent cottages or condos for summer vacations and long weekends.

Across the United Kingdom and Europe these accommodations have until recently been much more common than they are in the U.S. The British have traditionally called these vacation rentals “self-catering” cottages or flats. The term means that cooking facilities will be found in the rental. They range from luxurious city apartments and villas costing thousands of dollars per week to tiny one-room studios with the most basic kitchenettes tucked into a corner. Most commonly, however, they are one, two and three-bedroom cottages scattered throughout the countryside on farms, in villages or they may be apartments in ancient cities. They are often less expensive than a hotel room in a major European city.

Such places can be found in every part of the world. The advent of AirBnB and similar companies have radically change the marketing of short-term rentals over the past few years. While AirBnB began as a place to arrange to sleep in the guest room or on the sofa of a stranger, today it is largely a world-wide site featuring many thousand vacation rentals. was a large British self-catering rental agency until it acquired the American firm, V.R.B.O. (which stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner) and became enormous. While there are other sites offering vacation rentals these two giants have the largest number of rental offerings. The link in this paragraph will take you to an article that lists many other companies and offers advice about choosing a vacation rental company.

By staying in vacation rentals (self-catering cottages) instead of hotels you’ll be able to travel slowly and for a much longer time. You will see more and learn more about the places you want to visit. You’ll avoid exhaustion by moving less often. You can save money and calories by cooking for yourself part of the time. You’ll live much as you do at home. And best of all, you’ll have more opportunities to meet the citizens of the countries you’ll visit.

Click here to see the page on renting homes instead of hotels while you travel. There are many other ways to sleep cheaply in Europe, some familiar and some which may be new to you. Click here for more information about those options.

Consider these free or low-cost options

The Internet has caused an explosion in opportunities for finding places to stay that cost little or nothing. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • House-sitting: I’ll just share the words of a professional house-sitter with you: “The lifestyle that house sitting provides is perfect for us. We can explore different parts of the world on a very slim budget. We get to enjoy a slow pace of travel, and become involved in each community that we visit. And the home owner gets a valuable service in return – two responsible people to care for and maintain their property, their pets, and whatever else needs attending to.” (See where you’ll find much more information about this excellent ideas for budget travelers. You may also wish to read this recent article about house-sitting in the New York Times.

Here are links to two online sites that arrange house-sitting assignments. (I’m not endorsing them, simply providing links.)

  • House-swapping: A similar option to house sitting, house-swapping involves exchanging your home for someone else’s. Often trading automobiles is part of the deal. In addition to houses available everywhere, you may also find you can swap for a boat or other unusual accommodations. Here are links to two popular house swapping sites: and
  • Couch-surfing: Stay in someone’s home at low cost or even for free while traveling. The two best known sites, and have become enormously successful. Learn more here: or
  • Volunteering: Here you must tread carefully. There are countless “voluntourism” opportunities around the world that are little more than expensive tours that include a few hours “teaching English” or “nurturing orphans.” What I’m suggesting is making arrangements through your religious or professional organization to spend part of your journey in a place where you can provide needed services in exchange for a place to stay. This works well for people with skills that are much in demand such as medical professionals. (Always have a back-up plan ready when you arrive at your volunteering destination in case things aren’t to your liking.)

Discover long-term leases of brand new cars at rock bottom rates.

In France it’s possible to enter into a “buy back” lease for a new car at a cost of less than $20 a day if you plan to keep the car for several months. You arrange the rental through an American company and pre-pay for the entire period. The longer you keep the car the lower the rate will be. The American company I’ve always used is AutoEurope. They have a complete explanation of this program on their website where you can also enter your dates and choice of vehicle and instantly find the cost.  Click here to read more.  (Opting for a diesel-powered vehicle will save quite a lot of money by greatly increasing fuel efficiency.)

Use the Internet to make your own plans, arrangements and reservations

Planning your trip is half the fun! It is also about 95% of what will determine the success of your trip. The Internet makes an unlimited supply of information available to us instantly. Finding a travel agent willing to plan a long-term, low-budget trip for you is probably impossible. By becoming your own travel agent, by doing your own research and by booking vacation rental properties directly, you can use the Internet to dramatically lower your costs. You will also learn more about the areas you plan to visit while increasing your anticipation!

Thousands of government tourism agencies throughout the world maintain excellent web sites designed to entice you to visit their locality. By using their sites, you can find the information and accommodations you want before leaving home. Publishers, advertisers and Internet service companies have created many sites where you can obtain information and learn from others who have traveled to places you are considering. Individuals have created web sites about their own vacations, their favorite places, their ideas, experiences and opinions. The web offers unlimited opportunities for discovery, and an endless supply of destination information to meet your needs.

For years one of my favorite websites has been the one called The message board on that site has literally hundreds of thousands of answers to travelers’ questions. It’s just one place on the `net where you’ll find websites filled with advice and information to help you plan a successful journey.

Travel off-season

Here are just a few of the reasons to avoid popular places in Europe during July and August:

  • There are hordes of tourists at every famous location
  • Prices are at their highest, including the cost of air fare.
  • In August you’ll find a majority of restaurants and small businesses closed because their owners and employees are on vacation.
  • The weather is often very hot and muggy

By traveling off-season you’ll pay less, see more and do it all more comfortably. True “off season” for Europe is November through March. The months of September, October, April and May are considered to be “shoulder season.”  Those months are the prime time for travel with one exception. School children of all ages are brought to the major cities of Europe in May. They number in the thousands and they move in packs, afraid to be separated from their group. That means they stop for no one. Instead of Paris or Venice in May, consider exploring the green and beautiful countryside.

Take advantage of bargains wherever you can find them

Travel bargains take many forms. From low-cost airfare to senior citizen discounts that save a euro or two, making the most of discounts can make the most of your travel dollar. Using the Internet is one way to find these bargains. Trading tips with other travelers on the Internet often leads to little-known bargains. Choosing a credit card that pays you back in travel benefits is another way to get more for your money (see The Points Guy for good ideas).  Checking in with tourist information offices early in your visit to each new place will help you save money and increase your enjoyment by helping you find little known but interesting sights.

If you’re thinking of heading to Europe in April or returning in November, consider taking a cruise ship. Most ships are moved between the Caribbean and Europe then and the cost of a week or so onboard is hundreds less than the cost of a flight to Europe. Your journey can begin with a luxurious experience at a bargain-basement price.