This is about the time of year that we wistfully browse our social media news feeds, seeing what seems like all our friends in exotic locations having impossibly luxurious vacations. Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out if we can afford a trip that involves a bus ride to a neighboring state, where we’ll stay at a budget hotel and eat at the local fast food spots.
It doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to be impossibly rich to have incredible travel adventures. If your budget isn’t as wide as your travel desires, just be a bit creative about it. There’s tons of ways to travel this year – and not spend a dime.
Try A House Swap
If you live in a popular city or near a popular attraction, your home may be quite valuable and you can leverage it to score free stays in other parts of the country or world. “Sign up at HomeExchange.com to swap homes and enjoy free stays. TrustedHouseSitters.com is another resource for finding free accommodation but you have to provide house sitting and or pet sitting services in exchange,” says Andrea Woroch, nationally-recognized consumer finance and budgeting expert.
Another great home exchange option is a service called Love Home Swap, which is a global home swapping platform which allows members to choose from three different monthly plans. Options include a classic, simultaneous swap, where they swap houses with someone else, either at the same time or on different dates, or a non-simultaneous points swap, allowing them to travel without having to match their plans with another member. This offers even more options and flexibility than the traditional housing swap!
Become An Artist In Residence
There’s so many fun ways to do this. Shakespeare and Company, which is a Paris bookshop with tons of history, allows writers to sleep on beds hidden behind their bookshelves as part of the shop’s Tumbleweeds program. And the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China, lets apply for its artist in residency program, which involves a free stay at the hotel for up to six months!
House Sitting (This often involves pets!)
House sitting is a fun way of traveling for free, and often involves getting to hang out with a furry friend while you are at it. “My personal favorite way to travel for free is via Trusted House Sitters, a program where homeowners can hire travelers to live in their house while they are away,” says Kara Harms, a travel blogger. In exchange for free lodging, travelers are expected to do things like water plants, take in mail and care for pets. “The latter is why I love traveling this way. As a huge animal lover who always misses the company of animals on trips, I adore the chance to care for cats and dogs. There’s nothing more relaxing than exploring a new city all day than coming back to a cozy house and curling up with a cat,” says Harms.
Sometimes there’s even fun chances to care for chickens or lizards, providing a unique opportunity to learn and engage with animals travelers don’t have at home. “This offers a way for travelers to really feel like a local versus a tourist,” says Harms.
This is a very popular option for digital nomads or those who have any sort of remote work lifestyle. “One of my family’s best ways to travel for free is through house sitting. We have been doing it since 2019, in 2022 we’ll have spent 22 weeks of the entire year in free accommodations thanks to housesitting,” says Brodi Cole, owner of the family travel website Our Offbeat Life.
So far this year, The Cole family has house-sat for six weeks in Mexico, five weeks in Guatemala, and has two months of house-sitting commitments in Costa Rica lined up later this summer. “Most of our housesitting is secured through one house sitting platform, of which we are paying members. Other housesits are found through social media. There isn’t a single way to housesit successfully,” says Cole.
House sitting can be incredibly rewarding as well as a tremendous cost-saving strategy. “The key to starting out is applying for local or nearby sits, especially those still available at the last minute. Getting reviews will help for snagging more desirable sits, like two months in Costa Rica, down the road,” says Cole, who shares that their family loves house sitting because it helps them get a fuzzy friend fix while they travel full time as digital nomads. “Since we can’t own our own pets, we get to snuggle other people’s critters for a few weeks or months while they travel,” says Cole.
Volunteering for an organization like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a great way to travel for free. “WWOOF connects you with an organic farm that needs help. In exchange for helping on the farm, you’ll receive free room and board,” says travel expert Elise Armitage. You will have to pay for your transportation, but you’ll save a lot of money by having free room and board. “Working with an organization like WWOOF is a great way to experience the local culture, learn about sustainability, and meet new people. WWOOF has organizations in countries all over the world from Peru to Vietnam, so you can choose a part of the world that you’re interested in visiting and check to see if there’s a location there,” says Armitage.
Work as an au pair
A great way to travel for free this year is to work for a family as a nanny or au pair. It’s an excellent way to see a country from a local’s perspective. “See how locals dine, travel, and interact with a family that can teach you about life in the country. You’ll also have time to explore on your own, so even if the family isn’t interested in visiting a particular landmark or site, you can,” says Candice Criscione, founder of MomInItaly.com and TheTuscanMom.com.
This type of work is especially in demand in 2022 as families are traveling again after a long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Many families are seeking mother-tongue English speakers to help their kids with their language skills,” says Criscione. Of course, you should enjoy working with children and be willing to learn about another culture! “I’m in Italy and I see high demand for nannies and au pairs. The best places to look for this type of work are on official Au Pair sites and even local moms groups on Facebook for the area you’d like to work in,” says Criscione.
Work on a cruise ship
Not a day goes by that we don’t read about the labor shortage in almost every industry. The travel industry is particularly hard-hit as pilots, flight attendants, and cruise personnel are in short supply. As a result, this is the perfect time to work on a cruise ship. “It’s a way to travel to exotic locations, meet some truly fascinating people, and earn some extra money while you’re at it,” says Tim White, the CEO and Founder of MilePro.
Leverage your credit card
Even though you scored a free place to stay by house sitting, you may need to cough up enough cash to cover the flight there. However, opening a new airline miles reward card can help you get there at no cost. For example: “The JetBlue MasterCard offers 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex card offers 100,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of ownership. As long as you use the card for daily essentials and household bills or big ticket purchases you can meet that spending minimum and earn free flights for your trip),” says Woroch.
You can even use your card to get free hotel stays! For instance: “The World of Hyatt Credit Card offers a free night at any Category 1 – 4 Hyatt hotel as long as you hit their required spending minimum for the year. And, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card gives cardmembers a free anniversary night certificate every year, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card provides 5 free nights when you first sign up and hit the spending minimum,” says Woroch. Just make sure you compare credit card reward programs and perks to find the best one for your travel needs at sites like CardRates.com.
Don’t overlook the power of maximizing a cashback card to pay for your travel either, though! For example: “The Bread Cashback American Express card offers an unlimited 2% back on everything you buy with no spending limit, so you can earn more cash back no matter what you’re buying or where you’re shopping to offset travel costs,” says Woroch.
Try using travel loyalty programs to score free travel. For instance: “If you rack up enough miles with any given airline, you could score free flights by redeeming those miles for an award flight,” says Woroch. Sign up for Hotels.com loyalty program and use the booking site to book your hotel stays throughout the year which will earn you a free hotel night stay for every 10 bookings, says Woroch. Depending on how much you travel for work or leisure, save up your free nights to get a free weekend hotel stay!
Meanwhile, you can get free hotel gift cards by using a rebate app like Fetch Rewards app. “Scan pictures of all your shopping receipts daily to earn points towards free gift cards including Hotels.com gift cards and Global Hotel Gift Cards powered by Orbitz,” said Woroch.. Use these gift cards to get free hotel bookings. You can even redeem points for free restaurant gift cards to save on dining out costs while traveling.
Discover Your Roots
One way to travel for free is to travel to the land of your ancestors. For example, I joined Birthright Israel in college, and was able to travel to Israel for free. Many other countries offer similar opportunities to visit your homeland (or those of your grandparents).
Drive Someone’s Car Cross-Country
This is really cool, and a fun way to get a free road trip. Good friends of mine recently moved cross country. They spent more to ship their car then they spent to ship their furniture! Another option would have been to pay someone to drive their car cross-country for them. That person gets a free road trip, and the people who own the car get their car delivered.
Teach English Overseas
If you speak English fluently and have a TEFL degree, you can get a job teaching English abroad. The pay is good, and some countries will even pay for your flight over. A good friend of mine did this, and ended up meeting her husband this way. So now she lives in the country where she was teaching abroad, and is married with a kid. A whole new life.
Read More On HerMoney:
- Ways To Save On Hotels That You Didn’t Know Existed
- The Best Cruise Deals For The End Of 2022
- Trip Ruined Due To A Nightmare Travel Scenario? There May Be A Credit For That
- 8 Surprising Ways To Save On Your Next Trip
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