They’re cute, local, affordable and a true experience.
Sure, living in a tiny house full-time may sound daunting, but renting a wee retreat for a couple of days is an easy way to get a taste of the downsized life.
The movement around tiny houses emphasizes small homes — usually less than 400 square feet — that facilitate simple, economical living.
While the concept is geared toward primary residences, there’s a subset of very small homes catering to travelers looking for unique alternatives to hotels.
Many of the tiny house rentals popping up on sites like Airbnb are in cities with tons of activities to jump into, but there are quiet, commune-with-nature-and-your-loved-ones options, too.
Tiny houses in the woods
Getaway, a tiny house vacation startup born in Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, wants to steer guests away from the tendency to hop on TripAdvisor and plan out every moment of their precious time away.
That’s why it doesn’t disclose the exact locations of its 160-square-foot houses — all three of which are within a couple of hours of Boston — to visitors until 24 hours before their trip.
Getaway sees its tiny houses as a true escape, a way to disconnect from work “but also a way to disconnect from standard vacations, which tend to stress people out more than they should given their purpose,” CEO and co-founder Jon Staff said.
“We really want you to just drop your bags and be there and read a book or play a board game or have a conversation with your loved one,” Staff said.
Staff, a Harvard Business School student, founded the company with Harvard Law student Pete Davis. Harvard Graduate School of Design students design the houses.
The spare, wooden tiny homes are situated in quiet, rural settings complete with fire pits outside ready for s’mores.
The Getaway houses rent for an average of $99 per night. The cabins are stocked with food and supplies that guests can purchase.
Stumbling into the ‘tiny house movement’
Some Americans who live in average-size homes are making the most of their properties by adding or converting existing buildings on their lots into tiny rentals.
Erin Gentry and her family built a lofted guest house on their property in Austin, Texas, because renovation plans for their 1928 bungalow involved losing their third bedroom.
They hadn’t planned to rent it out, but the little house has been a huge hit with guests.
“We put it up on Airbnb, and people love it! We were booked solid for a year and a half, almost every day we had it available was booked,” Gentry wrote in an email.
Guests have had great things to say: “The space itself is delightful, I felt like I was at camp climbing up the ladder for bed,” wrote one Airbnb reviewer.
“It had everything that a hotel would have (but way more unique),” another said.
Gentry and her wife and daughter learned about the tiny house movement after the fact, from guests who have considered building their own tiny homes.
At the moment, the three are living in the guest house until renovations on their primary home are completed this month. Then it’s back to the rental market for their tiny dwelling.
If you’re traveling with a must-do checklist, staying in residential neighborhoods where local landlord/hosts can steer you toward new and overlooked spots can be an asset.
While private rentals in sought-after cities are also pretty economical — nightly rates on many of these little homes are in the $100 to $150 range — staying in a tiny house is really all about soaking up unique design details.
Unusual angles, amazing ideas for optimizing space, reclaimed wood and retro appliances: These are tiny house charms.
But tiny does have its trade-offs.
If you’re set on cooking a four-course meal, the appliances in some of these diminutive dwellings may not match your ambitions. Gentry’s home in Austin has a sink, a microwave, a refrigerator and coffee and tea gear, but no stove or oven.
These houses are often in neighborhoods a few miles from city centers. Some properties offer free bike use or rentals, and it’s worth making a note of taxi or Uber availability and other transportation options.
Listings are usually pretty detailed, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about amenities you’re set on.
Finding the tiny ones
These Google searches will yield a cross-section of tiny house inventory: “tiny house” site:homeaway.com or “tiny house” site:airbnb.com.
Keyword searches aren’t possible on Airbnb, but the site does have a page(airbnb.com/wishlists/little-listings) where a wide selection of smaller properties are featured.
Another website, tinyhousevacations.com, aggregates listings from Airbnb and other sources.