Everyone wants the luxury of just traveling, but we all know how expensive it is. So is there a way to actually travel for free?
Well, kind of. It certainly is possible to get somewhere with little to no cost at all. You just have to understand that there isn’t much that is truly free, and everything has a tradeoff. When it comes to free travel, compromise and flexibility will certainly pay off for you.
If you want to live that carefree, Instagram vignette life of roaming, sipping cocktails and hanging out in the French Riviera in a white tunic – you probably can. I think it’s every human’s desire to create a life where we can do what we want, when we want and never have to think about money. It’s the true meaning of freedom, isn’t it? It works for many successful fashion and travel bloggers, like Aimee Song. (But it didn’t happen overnight)
I have been giving more thought and doing more research on this whole travel for free scheme and I have uncovered some really juicy solutions. Obviously the most expensive part of traveling overseas is getting there, and many times the lodging can be more than the flight if you plan to stay longer than a week. So, if you can scrape together your airfare and daily living expenses, you just might get to live the good life on a dime.
If you are more of a freelancer or unemployed, and you still want to travel and work on your own terms, you can wing it and use sites such as CrowdSpring, Gumroad, ELance, ODesk or Fiverr to work from wherever you are. And don’t discount Etsy or eBay. I used to make a lot of money from buying and reselling on eBay
There are other ways to earn extra money while you travel. If you have a good vehicle, you can sign up to be an Uber or Lyft driver. The average Uber driver in San Francisco makes $20-$30 per hour on normal hours.
Are you a chef or super talented cook? Check out: EatWith, where you can earn up to $700 for hosting a communal meal. The awesome part is, you can do this anywhere in the world.
If you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty or running errands, check out TaskRabbit. A lot of the online freelance jobs can take you anywhere, even overseas!
When you get to where you want to be, whether overseas or Canada, plug into the expat community, apply for a working holiday visa or get some freelance work with the above mentioned websites and services. You can also teach English or be a Nanny abroad.
10 Ways to Travel Free
- There are two websites that offer house/dog sitter exchange. One is USA-based Rover.com , which offers the option to sign up as a sitter and stay at a home for free while you care for the family pooch. There is also UK-based Trusted House Sitters which is super amazing on so many levels. It’s called the ‘win-win for pet lovers who travel’. Pet lover? Check. Loves traveling?? Check! Basically, you sign up as a sitter and you get to stay at guest homes and watch over their home and care for their furry babies while they’re away! Free vacation home in south France? Yes, please.
- Couchsurfing. Yes, I have been a member of Couchsurfing for a long time, and I am happy to say I had only one negative experience with it in London. Ladies, be careful of the creepers. Overall, the Couchsurfing community is really wonderful. They have meetups all over the world and it’s a great way to not only travel for free, but to truly experience wherever you happen to find yourself and share the experience of travel with others. You never know what lifelong friends you might meet in your journeys, and I can guarantee you the experiences will be like no other.
- HomeExchange let’s you swap homes with someone else! My NYC apartment for your Paris apartment? I’m in! I actually (almost) did this with a couple from Lille, France back when I lived in LA. We didn’t get our travel plans in synch, so we cancelled, but man that would have been AWESOME. This service works especially well if you live in a desirable city where there is tourism.
- Earn Travel Points with a credit card. We all have one, so why not put it to earning points for us? Why not put those expenses on a card and earn points for travel? Voila! What I card I have recently found is the Capital One Venture card, which earns 1.2-2X points for every dollar spent. I am about to do some big dental shit that isn’t covered by insurance, so it’s gonna be a lot out of pocket. But it’s also going to be a huge return on the investment in more ways than one (to the tune of almost 68,000 miles) But you don’t have to even do what I’m doing. Every time you pay for something in cash, you are throwing away valuable travel points. Obviously if you are a responsible plastic user, charge every single dollar of your normal expenses as possible on a points-earning credit card to rack up those miles. Read the fine print, though. For example, AA has a 50,000 Miles bonus sign-up when you get the Citi card. The catch, however, is you have to charge $3,000 in the first three months to earn it. Check with your bank. Many banks, such as Wells Fargo, have rewards programs that let you earn rewards that you can use for travel also.
- Many airlines (and hotels) such as American, Delta and Southwest, also offer online shopping portals with bonus offers at various merchants where you can earn multiple points or miles per $1 you spend there. Get into the habit of clicking through these portals to the retailer of your choice (Target, etc.) I am also signed up through American Airlines Dining Rewards, so every time I eat out, I am also earning points. It’s another win-win.Also, If you are a member of AAdvantage (as well as other hotel, airline, train loyalty programs) you can sign up with Points.com and not only keep track of your Rewards program balances in one place, but you can trade points with others.
- Websites like SwagBucks and MyPoints.com offer other ways to earn rewards. It’s a lot like the airline shopping portals, but there are added ways to earn like taking surveys, using coupons, um, playing games 🙂 and referring a friend. I have personally used MyPoints for many years and it paid off in a major way. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of dollars I racked up over the years in restaurant gift cards just by clicking on the MyPoints email links. It was worth it. Also, Expedia now has a rewards program where you can earn points for every trip you book. I just signed up and I’m currently at 91 points, which is 3,500 Expedia+ points away from getting $25 off. Hey!
- WWOOF it! If you are an eco-conscious being and interested in organic farming, the WWOOF community might be your calling. WWOOF is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and basically how it works is: you live with your host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day to day activities. In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation. The first step of your WWOOFing experience is to choose your destination (for example, Ireland or Italy) and join the relevant WWOOF organization. As a member you will be able to access a database of farms in your chosen country and start making plans. Read the FAQs section of WWOOF for valuable info in getting started.
- Volunteer your time or skills for accommodations exchange. A lot of eco-travel, yoga events, camp, ESL and such offer volunteer exchange-for-work programs. On InterExchange, you can find programs that match with your skills and interest. This particular method is not free (or free to sign up), but you do get the opportunities to travel and earn. There are also certain festivals and retreats in Costa Rica that offer these exchange programs for selective recipients, such as certified yoga instructors.
- Group Travel – If you are OK to split the costs with a larger group of say, 10 people, you can stay at a cozy villa in Spain or Italy for 2 weeks at about $45 a day. I have found several awesome villas in Italy on Air BNB (airbnb.com) that accommodate 12-16 persons and the daily rate is super low per person. Splitting the costs of ground transportation is also a great way to cut costs. Again, the airline fees of getting there will be the heaviest cost, but once you reach your destination, you can stay for a few weeks for a relatively cheap daily fee.
When a friend travels on Airbnb, you both get $35 in travel credit. When they welcome their first guest, you get $75 in travel credit
And last, but certainly not the least, ASK friends and family if they have any airline points, spare change or miles they can donate (or start a GoFundMe page and ask friends and family to pitch it for your dream vacay). Perhaps a few people you know would be willing to gift you their airline points. It sounds simple and it is, but what’s the worst thing they could say? More importantly, if they say “Sure!” you are on your way to St. Somewhere. I honestly don’t know many family members of my own who would turn me down for a few extra airline miles to fulfill my big Scotland dream adventure, especially if I’m willing to meet them halfway. So, here’s is your dose of (mostly) free travel inspiration. Get Dreaming, Get earning and get packing! 😉