If you’re like us, the chances are that you’re wondering if we will ever get to travel again! The masked trips to grocery stores, friend’s houses, and the nearby park just aren’t cutting it anymore. As more of the world eases travel restrictions, many of us consider packing our bags and taking off again.
Besides the pandemic, another consideration for most travelers is the cost associated with traveling. We always recommend adding travel as a goal within your overall financial plan because traveling can be expensive. You have to pay for a plane ticket, hotels, and food. But how about traveling for free or with very little money? Sounds impossible, right? Not quite!
There are many ways to travel for free with proven ideas that you should know if you want to save some money while exploring the world. This post will share how to travel for free (almost) using proven methods like volunteering, credit card bonuses, or rewards points programs. So let’s get right to it.
How to Travel for Free
Volunteering is a great way to explore the world and contribute something meaningful to your destinations. It’s also a great way to save money on room and board. There are a few ways to find volunteering opportunities around the world:
1. Volunteer on a Farm
One of the largest platforms to find volunteer work on a farm is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). There are WWOOF hosts all across the world. Choose your country and register to find opportunities. You will learn about organic farming and get first-hand experience of working on a farm. In return, you will get free room and board. It’s also a great way to meet locals and form lifelong connections.
Opportunities on organic farms will require you to get your hands dirty with planting, harvesting, composting, taking care of farm animals, etc.
2. Volunteer at a Hostel
If farming isn’t your thing, you can also find volunteer work at hostels in return for free accommodation. Visit Worldpackers to find and apply to opportunities all around the world. The work is wide-ranging: from painting to helping in the kitchen to construction. Here are a couple of exciting sample postings:
3. Get a Remote Job
There has never been a better time to travel and get paid by working remotely. The opportunities have exploded since many companies that would not typically offer remote positions listen to what their employees want post-covid. If you plan it right, you can rent out your home and use your current salary to fund travel expenses instead.
Keep time zones in mind when deciding on remote jobs. You don’t want to be in Asia working American hours.
4. Teach English
A time-tested way to fund your travel is to teach English overseas. If you are fluent in English, get a TEFL certification to make it easier to land jobs.
While there are opportunities everywhere, Asia is perhaps the hub for English teaching jobs. Many postings do not require any experience, but you will earn more money if you have teaching experience or a college degree.
5. Ask for an International Transfer
If you work for a multinational corporation with branches in other cities, ask your company for a transfer or find opportunities for work-related travel. Usually, employers will cover the cost of flights and hotels for an official visit. As an example, a good friend of ours is based out of New York but travels to Asia regularly to train the local staff of his company.
6. Become a Consultant
Working for a management consulting company is another way to have your company fund your travel. Most management consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte, and McKinsey require domestic and international travel. While the hours can be long, nights and weekends are yours to explore your destination.
As a consultant for ten years, Pri has traveled all over the United States and Europe. It is a significant contributor to our success in achieving financial freedom in our 30s.
7. Work as an Au Pair
If you have experience working with children and want to live in one place for at least a few months, consider working as an Au Pair or a live-in Nanny.
As an Au Pair, you would get paid to live with your host family and provide childcare and/or help with cooking, cleaning, etc. You can use your free time and vacation days to travel around your host city or country, using the wages you earn.
8. Leverage Your Skills
Are you creative? Handy with tools? Good at web development? Whatever your skills, you can leverage them to make money on the road with sites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit. Here is a list of online side hustle ideas to get the juices flowing.
Cash in Travel Points
9. Cash in Free Flights or Hotel Stays
There are tons of credit cards with travel reward options out there that earn you points simply for using your card for your everyday expenses.
You can get a card tied to a specific hotel chain like Mariott or get a travel points credit card that lets you redeem points towards airfare, hotels, lounge access, or rental cars. We have likely used every travel reward card out there. There are some excellent free options, but you will have to pay an annual fee to get the best rewards.
Why do we include annual fee cards in our list of free travel strategies?
Some cards give you enough perks to cancel out the annual fee. For example, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card is one of our favorites. We pay a hefty annual fee of $400, but that gets canceled out by a yearly credit of $325 for travel, food, or drinks-related purchases. $100 in TSA PreCheck credits and four free airport lounge visits are also included.
To maximize points, stick to one card for all your purchases. Most cards also offer large sign-up and referral bonuses to give your points a boost. Just make sure you don’t apply for too many cards, which can hurt your credit rating.
Get Free Accommodation
10. Couch Surf
One of the oldest, most trusted ways to travel frugally and meet new people is through Couchsurfing. This site started the original community of travelers who offer up their homes for other travel.
Couch surfing is a great way to meet locals and explore your host city, but due to the sheer volume of hosts’ requests, it is not easy to find a place to stay. Think of Couchsurfing as a dating app rather than a hotel booking app. You will need to prepare your profile and get verified (for a minimal cost). Like dating apps, you need to showcase that you are a real person interested in genuine connections and experiences.
Go ahead and get involved in the Couchsurfing community, attend meetups and become a host yourself. Finally, just like that first DM, perfect the first message to the host. Make sure it is personalized and shows what you bring to the table. That way, you increase your chances of getting a match when you swipe right.
A quick google search will help you find other home-share communities like BeWelcome and GlobalFreeloaders.
11. Become a House and Pet Sitter
You may have heard of ‘house sitting,’ but 99% of hosts who want house sitters are actually looking for pet sitters. So if you are a pet lover, you can stay in a home away from home and take care of someone’s pets while they are away. The best part is that you get free accommodation and a home to yourself while the hosts are away.
You can find pet sitting opportunities all across the world, with sites like Trusted Housesitters or Nomador. Everyone has to get verified, and there’s a review system to weed out bad experiences. There is a yearly fee for some sites, but it’s usually minuscule compared to what you would spend on hotel costs.
As with Couchsurfing, pet sitting is all about a mutual fit. When applying to opportunities, ensure that your profile is up to date with your experiences with house sitting, pets, and even handyman skills. Good postings get taken fast, so stay ready with your pitch and references.
12. Leverage Your Social or Alumni Network
That isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are not shy about asking friends and family for contacts overseas, you may be able to swing a free stay or two. Even if it does not work out, you will potentially have someone to hang out with when you are in their city.
We have friends in London and distant family in Dubai. Whenever we visit, we stay at their home for a week or so, saving a lot of money on accommodation in those expensive cities.
While we wait for the world to reopen, why not get started on your travel dreams? As you can see, there are plenty of ways to travel for free or very cheaply to see the world. Most of these ideas require stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing the non-traditional way of traveling. If you’re willing to do that, then there’s nothing stopping you from experiencing everything the world has to offer!
Ash & Pri are the Founders of AshandPri.com where they empower others to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. They achieved financial freedom in their 30’s and have traveled to over 30 countries, thanks to a disciplined approach to money management. Both hold an MBA degree and have 13+ years of experience in financial services, consulting, and telecommunications.