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In 2017-2018, we took a major leap and hit the road for a year of travel with our 5 kids. In one year, we lived in 17 different countries with them, and a majority of the time we stayed in Airbnb’s. Some of these stays were only for a few days and others where for a couple months. I can honestly say that we LOVE Airbnb. It has completely changed the way that we travel and has made travel so much more accessible and affordable for families.
In fact, we spent less money on our year of travel than we will for a year of living in the US, thanks in large part to Airbnb rentals.
Our goal was to really experience the world and traveling how we did and living with the locals, made our trip the amazing experience that it became.
Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons that have probably changed our lives forever.
Lessons learned from living in Airbnb’s for a year with a big family
We don’t need everything all the time
This was one of the biggest changes in our mindset that came from living in Airbnb’s for a year. We don’t need everything all the time.
Sure at home, I LOVE having my morning smoothie, but if the house we’re staying at this week doesn’t have a blender, I know I’m going to be okay. I’ll trade that time without a blender for something else amazing, like cool jungles and waterfalls.
Our oldest son HATES to share a bed, but the reality is that when we’re on the road we don’t always have that option. It only took a couple of stubborn nights of sleeping on a cold tile floor to make him realize that he’s just happy to have any bed (even if he does have to share it with his little brother). In fact, it’s a pretty small price to pay for all these amazing experiences
It’s okay to not have ALL THE THINGS, in fact, I think it has made us happier and more resilient.
LESS IS MORE!
When we started out on our year journey, we had 2 suitcases, 2 carryon’s and 2 backpacks. And yes, that’s for SEVEN people. Everyone had 3 changes of clothes and each of the kids had to fit their toys in a small packing cube that was about the size of a sandwich baggie. It took some getting used to those first couple of weeks, but after that it was completely freeing. We loved and used EVERYTHING we had. Each of those carefully chosen toys our kids had was a treasure and they were mindful to never lose or break them (unlike the whole boxes of toys they had before that they rarely played with).
And my absolute favorite part of having less? It was a breeze to pack up and head to our next stop since we barely had anything.
(Note: halfway through our trip, we added 2 carry-ons to our luggage. We didn’t have more things, but we realized it was simpler to let our kids have more space for their things and that made it so much easier on packing days.)
Keeping meals simple keeps life simple
When we’re constantly moving, a well stocked pantry is completely impossible. We carried a few spices with us from location to location, but overall, kept our meals really simple. We ate A LOT of fresh fruits and veggies and chicken and beans both became meal staples of ours. I think that we went without an oven for more than half of the time! Of course, we always got our fill of the local fare (yes, lots of tacos in Mexico and curry in Thailand) too, which was always a great deal.
Not having to worry about always changing our menu up or about making fancy meals made a considerable difference in our daily activities and gave us so much more time to EXPLORE and enjoy where we were.
Structure is important
Although it’s easy to look at us and think that we were on a year-long vacation, that was hardly the case. Rather, we were living our everyday lives, but just in really awesome places all the time. With 5 kids to take care of, homeschooling to be done and working remotely, we simply had to have structure.
Most of our days started early with a workout and some morning work, and then we would spend our entire morning doing work and homeschool (learn how we manage homeschooling here). After lunch, we would take a quick break (usually a swim) and then would spend the rest of the afternoon exploring (often me solo with the kids while Andrew worked). This became our rhythm and we kept it pretty consistent from country to country. Keeping that structure in place made moving all the time so much easier on all of us.
Kids are only as resilient as we expect them to be
Now that we’ve been back from our trip for a few months, one of the things that people comment most on when we tell them what we did was the kids. “How did the kids do with all of that?” “Was it really stressful on the kids moving all the time and not having a real home?”
Actually NO, it wasn’t. Both Andrew and I worked incredibly hard to focus on the positive aspects of what we were doing. Sure they didn’t have activities and sports that they were involved in, but that was made up for with things like “WOW, isn’t it cool that we can just go down the street to the soccer field and the kids there are super excited to have us join in their game?” The kids made friends everywhere we went and we talk A LOT about how cool that is, and they are still in touch with a lot of the friends they made while traveling (In fact, we just had a family we met while traveling come to stay with us in Utah a couple weeks ago).
We are really open with our kids and talk with them about the hard parts of travel. But the thing is, that we’re all going through those hard parts together, and it’s a whole lot easier for kids to push through that when they see Mom and Dad and all their siblings doing the same hard things!
Living with locals is more rewarding than living at a resort
A couple of times we stayed at hotels and even a couple of resorts. Let me tell you, the experience between a resort and an Airbnb property is night and day. First of all resorts are about 10 x’s as expensive as an Airbnb (especially for a big family like ours). Second, everything at a resort feels kind of fake and there’s a lot of manufactured entertainment. We’d much rather eat from a Thai street vendor while the kids run around with their new friends at the park than at a fancy resort restaurant full of a bunch of tourists (though our stay at the Dhara Dhevi was our most magical stop ever). Our goal with this trip wasn’t just to SEE the world, but to EXPERIENCE it. Living alongside the locals is the absolute BEST WAY to do that.
Have you ever stayed long term in Airbnb’s?? I’d love to know about your experience too!