Mom always said the best things in life are free. Walking barefoot on freshly cut grass, building a snowman, an afternoon with good friends – yup, she was right. But what about travel? Is it possible to jet around the world for free? Well, maybe not free – but cheap, yes.
If you’re aching to take the trip of a lifetime, don’t let a small thing like your wallet get in the way. Check out our top ways for traveling cheap – and let us know if we missed any. We’d love to hear your ideas too!
#1: Fly smart
Saving money on airfare is the underpinning of my love for travel. I want a safe, cheap flight so I can spend my money at the destination. Get out your laptop, pour a glass of wine and dig into this simple plan for booking cheap online travel.
Upside – Finding cheap flights is easier than you think.
Reality check – To save money, you’ll have to be flexible on arrival and departure times and prepare yourself for layovers between flights. And don’t be afraid to hop between carriers to get the best price.
#2: Enter contests
Search Google for “travel contests” and you’ll be amazed at how many websites host contests. Tour companies, airlines, cruise lines, resorts and tourism boards offer up prizes all the time and if you’re happy to travel anywhere, you might end up traveling a lot more than you ever dreamed.
Upside – Travel for free? What’s not to love?
Reality check – Read the restrictions closely – there may be blackout time periods or other restrictions that prevent you from enjoying your prize when and how you want.
#3: House-swap or house-sit
If you’ve got a house and live in an area of the world people want to visit, this is an ideal way to trade lodging for travel. Keep in mind that where you go and for how long for is dependent on finding a fellow house swapper with similar travel aspirations. If you can’t find a suitable partner, consider renting out your home while you travel or house sitting someone else’s home. Check out these organizations that will help you hook up with homeowners itching to travel:
Upside – Staying in a home rather than a hotel allows you to do your own laundry and cook your own food – cheaper and healthier.
Reality check – Giving a stranger access to your home and personal belongings can be scary. Check references before handing over your keys.
#4: Volunteer your way around the world
Whether you’re interested in a once in a lifetime mission or you’re eager to learn how to make voluntourism your new way of life, check out how to make your volunteer travel successful for both you and the organization you’re helping.
Upside – Working in small communities gives you an inside view of the places you travel to. The friendships you make while helping others will last a lifetime.
Reality check – Some mission work takes you face to face with severe human suffering and the stress can be overwhelming for some.
#5: WWOOF your way around the world
WOOF (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connects organic farmers to volunteers looking for travel opportunities in more than 100 countries. You’ll need to sign up for a membership to access lists in the country you’re interested in, but it’s worth the price. We love it because of its age – WWOOF was founded in 1971 and has been online since 2003 – they’ve earned their travel street chops.
Upside – Working with others, provides opportunities to make friends while doing good. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy some of the fruits of your labor at meals, the farm to fork way.
Reality check – This isn’t a beach vacation so come prepared to work.
#6: Organize a group tour
Ever wonder why high school teachers put their hand up to chaperone 20 teenagers traveling to Italy? Simple, the chaperone usually gets a pretty steep discount. As an organizer, it’s your job to pick a date and get people to sign up for the tour. The booking of accommodations, activities and tour guiding is done by a pro.
Upside – You get to see and do stuff for a lot cheaper than you would on your own.
Reality check – Traveling with weird and whacky personalities can be interesting…
#7: Fundraise a team challenge
For big-hearted, competitive people, this is a fun new travel trend. Here’s how it works: you gather a team (or join an existing one), choose a charity and fundraise for it while a tour company customizes a challenge somewhere in the world. You and your team do the adventure and the charity of your choice wins the financial reward of your efforts – you win the fun. Check out GlobalAdventures.com.
Upside – For travelers that are into high-adrenaline adventure and want to give back at the same time, this is perfect.
Reality check – Be realistic about what kind of adventure you want and choose your team and your adventure wisely.