How can you afford to travel for more than a week or two? If you’re planning to move, use the occasion to put your things in storage and hit the road. If you want to travel for a month or more, it’s hard to pay a mortgage or rent plus travel expenses, unless you’ve got plenty of cash to burn. But if you have no rent or mortgage payments, you might actually be able to travel for less than you ordinarily spend living at home.
I’ve done the storage/travel combo four times over the last 15 years and have found it to be the most economical way to travel for a few months at a time. My wife and I both work from home so we have the ability to work from remote locations, as long as we have Internet access, so we’ve taken advantage of this freedom when we were planning to move anyway.When I was in the Foreign Service, we were also without our belongings in between posts, usually for a few months at a time, so I have plenty of experience traveling while my belongings are on a container ship or in storage.
No matter how carefully you pack, you’ll miss some of your stuff. But I’ve always found dumping all my things for a few months very liberating. You realize how much you have that you do not need and moving helps you pare down all your junk. And when you get your worldly possessions back, you’ll have a new appreciation for your favorite things. Here are a few tips for putting your things in storage and hitting the road.
Negotiate Free Storage with a Moving Company. Meet with moving companies that also offer storage, tell them your plans and try to negotiate a few months of free storage. Two years ago, United Van Lines offered us three months of free storage in order to secure our move business, and just a few months ago, we got two months of free storage from Allied Van Lines. After our two months are up, we’ll be paying $248 per month to store about 7,500 pounds, which is probably a typical weight figure for a family of four.
If you’re only doing a local move and have a much lower weight, it’ll be tougher to negotiate free storage, but if you’re a family doing an interstate move, you can almost certainly get at least a month for free.
Organize Your Belongings Very Carefully Before the Move. You’ll need to pack very carefully, keeping in mind what the weather will be like at your destination and also when you return. It’s usually complicated and expensive to extract things from storage, but mark the boxes you think you might need access to while in storage “high priority” and ask the moving company to place those boxes near the front of your storage unit, in case you need to get into them.
If at all possible, pack a suitcase or two of important items and leave them with a friend or neighbor, especially if you won’t move right into a new home or apartment when you return from your travels. Resist the urge to take loads of clothing with you on your trip. If you have to buy some new clothes on the road, so be it.
Pick The Right Destination. Whether you plan a domestic or international trip, do some research on sites like FlipKey, VRBO, HomeAway, Wimdu, AirBnb, and 9 Flats to get an idea for what it costs to rent apartments in your destination. Unless you have a huge budget, you can’t stay in hotels every night for months on end. And even if you did want to spend the money, you’d get tired of eating out every night.
Unless you’re traveling to a very popular destination during the high season, I recommend that you book a hotel first and do your longer term apartment search on the ground, in person, to make sure you get something you like.
We’ve spent most of this recent trip in Italy and Greece, and so far, we’ve found the Greek isles to be significantly cheaper than Italy. In Greece, we’ve found good quality apartments with Wi-Fi in Kos, Patmos and Samos ranging from the equivalent of $62-$68 per night (see videos of apartments below). Italy is about 20-25 percent more expensive, and in major cities like Rome or Florence, it’s probably more like 50 percent more expensive.
Given the fact that we were paying nearly $100 per night to live in our home in the pricey suburbs of Washington, D.C., Greece seems like a pretty good bargain to us, even factoring in the monthly storage costs, especially since we have daily maid service and a buffet breakfast included with our apartment.
Dealing with your mail and bills. Being officially homeless is a complicated affair, as you’ll need some sort of address for a variety of purposes. Pick a close relative or very good friend and ask them to receive your mail, or have the post office hold it for you, if no one can help.
Set up auto-bill pay for as many of your bills as you can, and if you do have a friend or family member willing to help, give them some checks and deposit slips so they can help you manage your financial affairs while out of town. This is especially important if you’ll be outside the U.S.
Skype. Skype is a terrific lifeline if you’ll be out of the country. We looked into buying mobile phones while overseas or using our U.S. mobile phones, but decided to save the money by discontinuing our U.S. service and just using Skype. For about $6 per month, you can get your own Skype line that includes voice mail and a U.S. telephone number.
Coming Home. As soon as you have your plans in order, let your moving company know when and where to send your things. This is especially important if you want to move at the end or beginning of the month in the summertime. It might seem complex, but keeping your things in storage in between moves isn’t actually much more work than moving straight from point A to point B, and the money you save on your rent or mortgage can help you see the world.
(Photos and videos by Dave Seminara)