By travelanswerman | November 19, 2009
For those who love to travel, finding a way to do so on someone else’s dime can make all the difference between staying at home and embracing the joy of exploration. Many of the suggestions below require that you give something in return, be it your time or a reciprocated place on your couch, but at least you don’t have to pay your own way. While it’s true you may not be getting something for nothing, at least you can take that vacation without breaking the bank.
Volunteering to help others either in a foreign country or right here at home is an excellent way to travel while making a difference in the world. Volunteer opportunities usually require that you pay for the transportation to and from the work site, but accommodations and meals are usually free.
- WWOOF. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms allows you to volunteer to work on organic farms from one week to several months. As a volunteer, you live for free as a part of the family, but you do not earn any money. You may need to pay a very small fee to recieve the farm listing and transportation is not included.
- VolunteerLouge. Read this blog to stay abreast of chances to volunteer around the world. They include links to a variety of other sites that offer opportunities, tips, resources, and more.
- GoLiveGive. This TV show offers opportunities to combine travel with volunteering for ecological foundations. Read their blog for more information on how you can be a green volunteer and travel too.
- Repair a trail. Volunteer with the Pacific Northwest Trail Association and you can spend 8 days in a national park. You will need to provide your own transportation, but the opportunity for friendships and a unique vacation are limitless.
- Volunteer at Mount Rainier. You can work for a weekend or long term repairing trails, leading hikes, or any number of other positions. Check out their blog for more about becoming a volunteer.
- Work at a kibbutz. In exchange for room and board, you can volunteer your time at a kibbutz. This site sponsored by a man who was a kibbutz volunteer for over two years, offers all the information you could want to get you started down the path of becoming a kibbutznik.
- Be a missionary. If religion is important to you and you have a strong desire to help others, then becoming a missionary may be the way for you to combine those passions with travel. Here is one woman’s experience as a missionary in Liberia.
If you need a job and love to travel, there are ways to do both. Most of these ideas provide free transportation and either free or low-cost living accommodations. Keep in mind that these are jobs, so you will need to apply, get hired, and do the work once you’ve landed the position.
- Teach English. Many companies in other countries hire native English speakers to teach English to both adults and children. You will usually receive a good paycheck, a stipend for living expenses or free accommodations, return airfare, and sometimes you receive a free airline ticket to the destination. Check out sites such as this one for more on these incredible opportunities for travel.
- Become a caretaker. If you are looking for work and want to travel, caretaking is a great way to live and travel inexpensively. If you can do housework or work on the grounds of an estate, caretaking usuallys provides you with a place to stay, money earned, and beautiful surroundings.
- Be a travel agent. Sometimes when you sign a contract to become a travel agent, the company will provide you a free vacation. This blog provides a link to one company that does just that.
- Join the Peace Corp. The Peace Corp offers a two-year stint doing work in a foreign country. You receive living accommodations and a small stipend and will need a college degree to qualify. Read about the experience of a couple working together in the Peace Corp. Of special interest, their post on April 15, 2008 includes some FAQs about the Peace Corp as well as their location.
- Become an au pair. If you are younger than 30, you can be an au pair, or a mother’s helper. You will receive room and board and a stipend in exchange for helping with the children and maybe some light housework. Depending on the agency, you may have to pay for your transportation or the host family may pay for it. This blog post captures the essence of being an au pair.
- Be a tour guide. If you enjoy learning about the culture and history of an area and like sharing what you know, then you could be a tour guide. Many places where English isn’t the first language like to hire native English speakers to guide their tours.
- Translate. Granted, you need to be fluent in a language other than English, but if you have that knowledge, use it. Translaters are usually in high demand, so take advantage of it and land a job that will pay you to live and work abroad.
- Join the military. While your travel may not be on your terms, you can learn a new vocation and earn money while traveling. If defending your country and potentially going to war are your thing, you may enjoy reading about this man’s experience in the U.S. Marine Corps.
- Work as a personal assistant. The key to this job is to work as an assistant to a high-powered executive. You may put in long hours and need to deal with the personal whims of your boss, but you will likely spend a lot of time traveling and participating in fun perks such as high-profile events.
Whether you are taking the time to learn a little something or using the knowledge you’ve built up over years of education, studying can get you free travel. Take advantage of one of these ideas below just by using your brain.
- Learn Esperanto. If you invest a bit of time into learning Esperanto, you can participate in an exchange program with other Esperanto speakers. Once you have learned a bit of Esperanto, either buy Passport Services for $25 or agree to list your home in the book and receive a copy for free.
- Group Study Exchange. The Rotary Club offers a group study exchange for people between the ages of 25 and 40 who are starting out in their careers. You will have to spend some time doing presentations, but you receive a four week trip with airfare, accommodations, and meals free of charge.
- Become a Fulbright Scholar. Fulbright offers exchange programs for students, teachers, recent graduates, and post-graduate students. Read about this Australian Fulbright Fellow’s experience in the United States.
- Listen to a timeshare pitch. The folks who sell timeshares frequently offer incentives for people to listen to their pitch. Gifts range from full vacation packages to overnight accommodations. Be aware that they are working to sell you a timeshare, so you must not fall victim to their selling tactics–unless you are in the market for a timeshare, of course.
- Intern or study abroad. There are many agencies that will arrange internships or study programs for students. While there are sometimes costs associated with these services, many scholarships are offered to allow those who cannot afford it to participate.
- Apprentice. Many artisans can apprentice to learn how to become a master in their field. From carpentry to pottery, if you aspire to become a professional artisan, check into apprenticeships. Many times in order to study under a master, you will need to travel to where he or she lives and works (at your expense), but you will gain unequalled experience and enjoy living in a new place at the same time.
While there is no guarantee you will be able to actually take a vacation this way, it’s worth a try to see if you can win something. Take these suggestions if you feel lucky.
- Holidays & Travel. Check out the numerous vacation giveaways on this site. They also offer travel deals, so you will have to read through the posts to find the chances to win instead of paying for your vacation.
- Prizatron. This blog is devoted to listing sweepstakes. Almost every day this blogger posts links to open sweepstakes. You will have to wade through them to find travel-specific opportunities, but it’s probably worth it if you win.
- All Because Two People Fell in Love. You can also subscribe to this blog. You’ll find posts and links to tons and tons of sweepstake giveaways (mostly with a mama theme). Not all are travel related, but many either award vacations or money that can be easily spent on travel.
- Search blogs. Try this blog search by typing in vacation givaway in the search box. You will get a list of blogs that feature giveaway opportunities. Be sure to check the dates on these opportunities as they usually have a deadline to enter.
- Enter raffles. Many schools and organizations hold raffles to raise money, and depending on who donated for the raffle, you can sometimes find vacation packages, accommodations, or flights as prizes. Spend a couple of dollars to try for a free vacation.
Sometimes finding a place to stay is the most expensive part of travel. From crashing on a stranger’s couch to writing about a resort, the suggestions below will help you find a way to stay for free.
- Couch surf. If you enjoy meeting new people, consider joining CouchSurfing.com. Simply join, participate in discussion groups to get to know the other members, and when you have booked your travel, you contact the members in what ever part of the world you plan to travel and work out a play to stay. The service is completely free of charge and there is a member screening process to ensure safety.
- Join The Hospitality Club. The Hospitality Club works similarly to CouchSurfing.com in that it connects people around the world who are willing to open their homes up to travelers. This service is free and you can browse the member profiles to select a potential host.
- Home swap. If you are willing to trade homes, you can stay free anywhere in the world. For a small fee, you can join a home exchange group and never pay for accommodations again.
- Share your guest room. If you are willing to open your extra bedroom up to someone, you can take advantage of the same opportunity to stay in an extra room for your vacation. Sign up with Guestroom Network and for only $4, you can stay in another member’s home.
- Arrange a sponsorship. Some companies will provide accommodations for you in return for your services. For example, a specialist in a specific field who gives a presentation at a conference or for a company retreatmay get room and board in return for sharing their expertise.
- Write a review. If you have writing skills, try writing a review for a hotel or resort. Many online guides will pay for the accommodations in return for a professionally written review.
Along with accommodation expenses, transportation is the other big ticket item while traveling. Find a way to travel for free and you are half way to a vacation paid by someone else. Here are some thoughts on how to get your transportation for free.
- Become a courier. For the price of delivering a package, you can get free airfare to anywhere outside the United States. Learn how to be a courier and get a free flight to another country.
- Cash in your frequent flier miles. If you’ve been saving miles, cash them in for a free ticket. If you haven’t saved enough of them, you can always take advantage of the many promotional offers for extra miles by opening a credit card.
- Friends or family at an airline. Take advantage of the travel perks your friends or family may have from their jobs at airlines. If you don’t know of any friends or family connections, ask around. You may be surprised to learn of someone’s connections you didn’t know about.
- Book a tour. Sometimes promotional giveaways like this one will provide free airfare if you book a tour with them. You may not have as much flexibility with dates or destinations, but you can fly for free and save quite a bit of money.
- Transport a car. Many auto transport services need people to drive their clients’ cars to destinations across the country. If you have a good driving record and are responsible, you may be able to get to your travel destination for free by driving a transport car.
- Craigslist. Check out the rideshare section on craigslist for people who are looking for company on a long drive. Sometimes the person posting the ad asks for help with the driving or some gas money in return for the ride. Or you can be more proactive and post your own ad looking for someone to let you come along on their road trip.
- Barter for Miles. If you have a skill or service, barter your services with someone who has frequent flayer miles. You may even be able to trade your services at your destination for the air fare to get there.
- Use your debit card as a credit card. Some banks will reward you for using your debit card as a credit card by giving points that are redeemable for frequent flier miles. Check to see if your bank offers this service. If not, it might be worth your while to switch to a bank that does.
- Hitchhike. While this option is not a safe idea in many countries, including the United States, there are some countries where hitchhiking is not only safe, but a common method of transportation. Read this blog entry about hitchhiking (or “hiking”) in Namibia.
- Extend a business trip. If your company is sending you on a business trip, extend the return date by a few days and enjoy a short vacation before returning home. Make sure this is alright with your boss before doing it, though, or that may be your last business trip with them.
Ask for freebies
Sometimes getting something is as simple as asking for it.
- Get married. Instead of signing up for traditional gift registries for housewares, many couples are asking for gifts of money to go toward travel expenses so they can take a nice trip instead. Check out this site that allows you to set up a registry free of charge.
- Ask for donations. This couple posted a request for donations on their travel blog to help keep their travels going. There’s no guarantee anyone will donate, but if you’ve made your friends and family angry enough at you, there’s no telling how much they’ll pay to keep you away.
- Ask for gift cards. Next time the next major gift-giving holiday rolls around, ask for a travel gift card in lieu of gifts. Many major airlines and hotels offer gift cards as do many travel services.
While these ideas may not pay for your vacation, they will certainly help fund some of the extras that need to be taken into consideration when planning travel. From food to toiletries, find ways to get free stuff to take with you on vacation.
- Free sunscreen. No matter where you plan to vacation, you will need sunscreen. Simply fill out this survey and receive a free tube of SPF 30 sunscreen.
- $50 at a restaurant. Complete a survey and get a gift card for one of many restaurants or a Visa gift card spendable anywhere. Your information will be shared with their marketing partner corporations, so you will likely get a ton of marketing material.
- Get free TV show tickets. If you will be in the Los Angeles area, you can get free tickets to many TV and game show tapings. Just select the show you are interested in seeing, click Order Tickets, then print your ticket and bring it with you. You must be 18 or older and they suggest you arrive early.
- Random free stuff. Visit That Freebie Site for a listing of lots of free stuff. Click on the Travel & Vacation link for freebies specifically related to travel. Don’t forget to browse around for other free things to take with you on your travels such as toiletries or clothing.
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