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How to Travel (Almost) For Free

Glass jar with cash savings on wooden table and map as background
Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock

One of the most common reasons people don’t travel often is money, but if you’re willing to sacrifice some comfort and shrink your dreams a bit, these tricks can help you get by on a much stricter budget.

There’s the misconception that going on a trip always requires a big budget in order to enjoy it, which means working extra shifts and thus less free time throughout the year. However, that is not necessarily the case. There are ways you can have amazing experiences abroad with little to no money.

Get Free Accommodation

couchsurfing home page

A big chunk of your travel funds usually goes towards accommodation, an essential part of any trip. Although comfort and convenience are usually the main priorities when choosing a place, shifting your mindset can reward you in many ways, including a free stay. All you really need is an open mind and a can-do attitude. 

  • Couchsurfing: Joining this global community of travelers opens up to the opportunity to stay at a local’s house for free anywhere in the world. The accounts are verified and the only things you’re asked for is to make your own house available for other travelers wanting to visit your city. You can live unique experiences and make lifelong friends. Many have traveled far and wide like this, cultivating friendships and protecting their bank accounts along the way. 
  • WWOOF: If you love the outdoors and are not afraid of getting dirty, this is a good option for you. This organization connects globetrotters to organic farms around the world. Farmers sometimes need an extra hand to get the job done and those belonging to this community offer free accommodation and board in exchange for a few hours of work every day. It’s the perfect way to experience the local life and learn about customs and culture. 
  • Workaway: Similar to WWOOF, this global hospitality service brings together adventurous spirits who have skills to offer with entities like hostels, NGOs, farms, schools, and even private homes where help is needed. Accommodation is free and in some cases, you’re even given an allowance. This is a great way to experience a new country, learn and practice new skills, and travel for free. And in case you were wondering, there are no age limits. Whether you’re 21 and eager to try new things or 60 and looking to do something other than lay on the beach for your entire holiday, you can find an opportunity perfect for you. 
  • House sitting: By signing up to websites like HomeExchange or HouseCarers, and verifying your account in order to ensure everyone’s safety, you can find a house (and sometimes even pets) to watch in your destination of choice while the owners are away. It’s more comfortable than a hotel, comes with your own kitchen and bathroom, and is free of charge. Can’t get better than that, right?

Use Miles to Purchase Flights

Getting free flights is not as impossible as you might think. Many banks offer travel credit cards with sign-up bonuses of thousands of miles you can later redeem to get cheaper fares or even free tickets. Signing up is easy and so is collecting points.

Another option is joining an airline or airline network program that allows you to earn points every time you fly with them and redeem them to save a good percentage on your next flight. 

Have Travel Flexibility

Prices change very quickly, and if you’ve got specific travel dates on mind it can be difficult to find great deals. A good way to save some bucks is by allowing some flexibility in your plans. Websites like Kayak and Momondo let you pick a date and search for flights up to three days before and after that specific day, giving you the cheapest combination available. 

Also, although very tempting, be aware that traveling during high season will cost you at least twice as much as it’d cost you to fly during low season. Sure the experience would be different, but imagine the money you’ll save and how easy it’ll be to take pictures without huge crowds getting in your way! 

Save Money on Food

family cooking together in kitchen
George Rudy/Shutterstock

Food is something you can easily save money on if you make conscious decisions from the moment you book your accommodation to the moment you leave your place to enjoy a new day of exploring. 

  • Book your own place: You can do this through websites like Airbnb, by doing some networking with the locals, or staying in a hostel. Whatever you choose, make sure there’s a kitchen available to you during your stay. You’ll be able to cook your own meals without having to eat out every day and spending twice (if not more) the amount of money on food.
  • Always carry snacks with you: This will keep you from eating unhealthy foods whenever hunger strikes while also keeping your bank account in check. 
  • Avoid international restaurants: Due to their exclusivity, they always charge more than the local counterparts, and sometimes even have an additional tax on top of their expensive price tags. 
  • Follow the locals: From supermarkets to restaurants, they always know best. You can ask for recommendations from locals themselves or just choose the most crowded places. It’s the best way to find out about delicious and cheap food—and more often than not even avoid getting the stomach flu. 

Participate in Free Activities

Discovering a new city doesn’t have to come at a high cost. If you’re visiting a major destination, the chances are there are plenty of free activities you can join during your stay. Free walking tours are very common and can introduce you both to the history of the place and to the locals. You can ask at hostel receptions or at the local tourism office for the schedule and meet with the kind strangers that volunteer to show their city to visitors. A tip at the end of the tour is always welcome. Alternatively, you can trust the internet and travel blogs to give you a list of places you shouldn’t miss and do your own self-guided tour. 

If you’re a student, check out for discounts in places like museums and special events and bring your student ID. You can also look around Facebook groups related to your destination as they often share information about free events happening around the city. 

Work Abroad 

If you’re a freelancer or have one particular skill you think people might find useful, you can sign up to platforms like Craigslist, Upwork, Fiverr, or TaskRabbit and sell your services. The sign-up process is usually fairly simple and it’s a good way to make quick cash. 

Sometimes hostels offer free accommodation or cash in exchange for a few hours of work a week. Other times they have contacts and tips to point you in the right direction to be able to fund your travels. 

Lastly, very common among backpackers in Asia, you can teach English at local schools or language centres. Most places usually require certifications or experience, but it’s still possible to find a gig if you do your research well or if you talk to the right people. You can also just offer private lessons and even teach other languages if English isn’t your mother tongue. 

There are plenty of ways to make travel inexpensive, sometimes even to the point that you’d spend more staying at home for your holidays than abroad. All it takes is a few compromises and ingenuity.

Carla Cometto Carla Cometto
Carla has been writing professionally for five years and blogging for many more. She's worked as a journalist, photographer, and translator. She's also an avid traveler who hopes to inspire a sense of curiosity and adventure in others through her writing. Read Full Bio »
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