As a full-time travel blogger and a full-time traveler, people often say to me, "I want to travel, but I don't have enough money." But with online communities and worldwide volunteering opportunities growing, anyone can now travel for free. The following tips are for anyone who wants to make travel a bigger part of their lives, but doesn't have the funds to make it happen. (See also: 10 Ways to Get Free (or Almost Free) Airline Tickets)
1. House Sitting
The idea of getting paid to house-sit seems almost too good to be true. But hundreds of listings are posted every day on a collection of amazing websites (my personal favorite is TrustedHouseSitters.com).
The homes available vary from oceanside cottages and jungle cabins to castles and mansions on vineyards. The amazing thing, is that anyone and everyone can sign up for these websites, add their profile, and start finding free accommodations all around the world.
Don't like animals? Some of the jobs are only house-sits, with no pets to worry about.
If you love animals, this is the perfect chance for you to bond with a furry companion while discovering new destinations and learning about cultures around the world.
There is a yearly fee of $113.88 ($9.49/month) to view the jobs. Look over these frequently asked questions about house sitting for a better understanding of the program. (See also: How to Land the Perfect House Sitting Gig)
In my experience, most of the homes on the website are luxurious. Typically, the homeowners that post their houses on the site have money to take a few months off each year, so they also have money for a beautiful home, a gardener, a housekeeper etc.
My wife and I once even landed a house sitting job in the Caribbean!
Travel is a wonderful way to grow as a person, learn about different traditions around the world, and meet new people from different cultures. For all the good travel does you, why not give back a little (and enjoy some free travel along the way)? (See also: 11 Volunteer Opportunities for Free or Very Cheap Travel)
Volunteering will give you the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and help out where it's needed most. Some of the most popular options include:
- WWOOFing (Fee varies by locale):
Sorry dog-lovers, this isn't a K9 rescue program, as the name would imply. WWOOFing is a worldwide organization that aims to connect people who want to live on an organic farm and learn more about sustainable living and eco-friendly farming. Typically, volunteers are involved in planting, tending to crops and animals, and helping out wherever possible. In exchange, they are usually offering free room and board. To find jobs, click on a country where you're interested in WWOOFing. You'll then be brought to that country's WWOOF website where you can pay a fee to join their network. There is no international WWOOFing fee, so if you want access to jobs all over the world, you'll have to pay for numerous annual fees (usually around $15-$40 per year).
- WorkAway.info (Registration fee = $29/2 years):
This site is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to work overseas in exchange for free accommodations. The site features volunteering and cultural exchange programs, helping you to integrate and help local communities in over 130 countries worldwide. Jobs range from home and community restoration to teaching English in rural villages.
- helpX ($0-$23):
Yet another online network of hosts from around the world who need an extra hand. HelpX has a great network of people. Volunteers are typically asked to work between 4-6 hours per day in exchange for room and board. The basic package is free, but premium users must pay €20 ($23) for a two-year membership. Premium users have access to direct communications with the hosts.
3. Use Credit Card Points
If you want to travel for free, then you should be charging all of your day-to-day purchases on your favorite travel rewards credit card, so that at the end of each year, you can put the points towards travel.
If you don't already have an excellent rewards credit card, consider signing up for a few of the best ones at the same time based on the best sign-up bonuses, which can equal up to $500 each. Sign up for three cards with large sign-up bonuses and by the end of the year you may have enough for a free trip. There's no better way to get a free (or close to free flight) than using your rewards points.
4. Hitchhike (On Land and Sea)
Before you cringe at the idea of being kidnapped from the side of the road, you should know that hitchhiking isn't nearly as dangerous as we've been led to believe. According to some recent studies, you are more likely to die from tripping and falling over than from being murdered while hitchhiking. But that could also be because most people don't hitchhike anymore.
Thumbing it is an excellent way to get from one destination to another, and in many parts of the world, it's still the norm. While I was traveling in Kyrgyzstan, everyone and their goat (literally in some cases) used hitchhiking as a form of transport.
You don't have to limit your thumb to the side of the road either! You can even hitchhike on sail boats and cruise around the sea for free. Usually you'll be asked to help out as a "skipper," but it's definitely worth it for a free sailing tour.
I've met many people in the Caribbean who have seen numerous islands without spending a cent to get between them. On top of that, they used our next trick to get free accommodation.
In most parts of North America, there will be a fee for camping, but in many parts of the world (including Mexico, Central America, and most of the Caribbean), camping on beaches is free.
Locals often use camping as a way to enjoy a cheap domestic holiday, so why not join them? The great thing about this method of free travel is the opportunity to meet new people along the way. You'll often be camping in groups and you may even meet people who will drive you to your next destination.
Note: To find free campsites around the world, check out FreeCampsites.net.
Of course, you'll have to be careful about where you post up your tent, as some beaches can be dangerous. But a little bit of research and an adventurous spirit can give you some pretty amazing travel experiences, without breaking your bank.
6. Find Free Food
Few people know how easy it is to find free food while traveling.
Ashrams (Typically in India)
Head into the nearest ashram and take part in the day-to-day meditations and yoga classes (also free). Help out by cleaning and guiding new visitors and you'll be given free room and board. That's right. Enjoy free yoga, free meditation, free food, and free housing all while finding inner peace and learning more about yourself. Does it get any better than that?
Did you know that bakeries often give away their leftovers at the end of a day? Any bakery worth eating at will bake fresh goods each and every morning — meaning that there is typically a lot of leftovers come nightfall. Visit a nearby bakery at closing time and enjoy free food.
Temples and Places of Worship
Free food can be found at places of worship around the world. You'll usually have to volunteer and help out in order to eat for free, but the experience is always worth it! I helped roll chapati bread at a Sikh temple in India and was given free food for the day.
There's nothing like a good festival to land yourself some free food. There's almost always some company giving away free samples, or even full plates of food. If you hear music, celebrations, and a rumble in your stomach at the same time, follow your nose to a free lunch!
7. Work in Hostels, Hotels, and Bars
You'd be surprised at how many establishments are looking for foreigners to help out. Usually you'll be offered free room and board in exchange for your cleaning, bartending, administration, or reception services.
To find work, simply check-in or order a drink and ask if they are looking for help. There are so many jobs available around the world that it may even be worth traveling with multiple copies of your resume.
No More Excuses!
Start putting your expenses on your favorite travel rewards credit card to earn points for your flight, then start browsing, researching, and registering for opportunities and you could easily hit the road with very little (or no) money in your pocket.
Once you're on the road working and volunteering, you'll start networking with businesses and communities, and you'll find more and more opportunities to continue traveling without spending money. If you want, you can potentially travel forever!
This article first appeared at Wise Bread.