Have you ever thought about how great it would be to travel for free? Every traveler, including myself, dreams of this reality. While it’s possible to have trips sponsored or use flight points for free air travel, there are lesser-known ways to travel for free.
After a few years of solo traveling, I noticed that my most significant expenses were flights and accommodations. Realizing this, I wanted to figure out a way to lower the cost of these expenses so that I could travel more frequently.
Fortunately, throughout my travels, I met different adventurers who shared their travel hacks for getting free accommodations.
For my fellow travelers, solo travelers, and adventure seekers, I will share some ways I’ve gotten free accommodations in places such as Portugal, Spain, and the United States.
3 Ways to Vacation in Popular Travel Destinations For Free
You’re probably wondering what ridiculous suggestion I might have for you. Don’t worry; these tips don’t involve selling your soul or doing something outrageous to get a free stay. These are techniques and tricks that I personally use to save a coin or two while traveling.
1. Staying with friends and family
Visiting friends or family living out of state or even in a different city may sound like an obvious choice, but have you considered it? When I first started solo traveling, visiting friends who lived upstate or across the country was the easiest way to explore new places without worrying about spending money on a hotel or a budget hostel.
With this travel hack, you don’t want to become a freeloader and take advantage of friends and family when visiting. Therefore, offering some form of help or assistance is essential while visiting. Of course, whoever you see will enjoy your company. However, everyone is trying to make it in this capitalist world, so offering a little help can go a long way.
Some ways you can offer support to friends and family include
- Offering to help do chores around the house
- Bring them unique gifts from your hometown
- Offer to take them out for lunch or dinner
- Pitch in for gas if they are driving you around
- Offer to buy groceries for you and your host
- Take them out for a drink or a desert
These gestures may seem small but can be a prominent symbol of your gratitude. Additionally, suppose you have a unique profession, such as a massage therapist or a hairstylist. In that case, you can offer free labor in exchange for a place to stay.
When staying with someone you know, the most important thing is to be a good guest. It’s common to feel slightly more relaxed when staying with a good friend, but treating their home respectfully is essential.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Always clean up after yourself
- Offer to help out where you can
- Set a clear visiting time frame so they know when to expect you and when you’re leaving
- Be mindful of their schedule. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean they are, too.
The great thing about visiting someone you know is that you often get a local guide to the city. Your friend or cousin will most likely take you to the less tourist spots and show you parts of the town that only the locals know about.
2. House Sitting
House sitting is a travel hack that has been growing in popularity. The premise of this system is homeowners, usually with pets, decide to take a vacation. The only problem is they don’t want to put their pet in a daycare or kennel. So, instead, they look for a house sitter. That’s where you come in.
House sitting is a free way to stay in someone’s home when you travel to a new place. While every house sit is different, you’ll be required to take care of some light responsibilities such as watering the plants, taking the dog for a walk, feeding the cat, etc.
This exchange has mutual benefits. Homeowners get peace of mind that their home and or pets will be taken care of while they are away. It also allows travelers to stay in a comfortable place while traveling.
My first houseitting experience was in Lisbon, Portugal. I had a two-bedroom apartment all to myself, and every morning and evening, I would feed and walk the owner’s dog. And, of course, I would give the dog lots of cuddles and attention. Outside of those responsibilities, I was free to roam around the charming city of Lisbon, eat plenty of gelato, and try their infamous pastries.
If you’re curious about how to get started with this enticing gig, there are many ways to jump on the bandwagon.
Word of mouth: One of the easiest ways is through word of mouth. Suppose you know someone planning to go out of town; you can offer to take care of their house while they are away. You can start a referral system once you’ve house-sat for friends and family a few times. Ask them to share your availability with other people they know.
House-sitting websites: There are many websites, but the two main ones are Trusted Housesitters and Nomadors. Some sites require a yearly fee to join, but the membership fee pays for itself after your first house sit.
It may feel a little weird house-sitting for a stranger, but the advantage of using a website is that all members, both owners and sitters, are vented. And if there is a problem, you have an organization that can offer their support.
3. Work Exchange
A final way to land free accommodations while traveling is through a work exchange. This type of exchange is when you offer a service in exchange for free room and board.
Work exchange is a common practice in hostels and a great way to travel on a budget. Many people use sites like workaway.info to help bring travelers and hosts together. Sometimes, a work exchange can look like helping to keep the hostel clean in exchange for a free bed. Other exchanges can be for child care.
When I completed a work exchange experience, I stayed with a family in Spain. It was a great way to learn about the culture while I worked with the family to help them learn English. During my stay with the family, we went to family events, hiking trails, exploring the city, and more.
With these options, you can save money and travel more. They are also great options for solo travelers worried about traveling to a new country.