Many people think that vacations, particularly to far flung destinations, are out of their financial reach. But this isn’t always the case. While travel can be expensive, there are ways to travel for free or at deeply discounted rates. These opportunities don’t usually advertise themselves, however. They require some work on your part to track down or apply for them. If you’re willing to put in the effort, though, here are some ideas:
Do you have a strong, marketable talent such as juggling, magic, singing/playing a musical instrument, or dancing? If so, you may be able to cash in on your creativity by performing on cruise ships or at resorts. Many such places hire musicians and performers, sometimes on a seasonal or even weekly basis. You’ll probably have to audition, so prepare accordingly.
Give a lecture or teach a class
Are you an expert in something? If so, you may be able to score a job at a resort or on a cruise ship as a lecturer or teacher. You may even be able to do a short stint at a college or university in a desirable location. You’ll likely have to prove your credentials and/or demonstrate your abilities as a teacher or speaker, so be prepared.
Stay with family or friends
This one is probably the easiest way to travel for free, but it means staying with people who may annoy you. However, if you have family or friends who live in cool places, it can be a great way to visit for cheap. (Just remember your manners and offer to pitch in for expenses so you aren’t remembered as the worst house guest in history and you get invited back).
Piggyback on someone else’s expertise
If you’re related to or friends with someone who can get a job entertaining or lecturing at a resort, see if you can tag along. Some places allow the performer to bring a companion for free, others give the companion a reduced rate. Others don’t allow companions at all, but it’s worth asking.
Farms, parks, campgrounds, and humanitarian efforts are often looking for free labor. In exchange for working, you may receive free or reduced rate lodging and/or food. Some may even pay for your travel expenses to the destination.
House swap/house sit
You can either offer to swap houses with other parties so you can both try a new destination (there are websites to facilitate such exchanges), or you can offer your services as a house sitter. If you’re house sitting, you take care of the property while the owners are away. Both methods can give you the opportunity to stay in a variety of places, but there are pitfalls. Make sure you cover yourself legally before agreeing to be responsible for someone else’s property.
Admittedly, this is a long shot. However, if you’re dedicated and lucky, you might be able to win a trip to your dream destination. Just be wary of scams and only enter contests sponsored by reputable companies. Also be aware that you’ll owe taxes on your prize so it won’t be completely free.
Book a bigger party
Sometimes, if you are the organizer for a convention or large group you may be able to travel for free. Some destinations will give the organizer free or reduced rate lodging in exchange for bringing in a much larger group.
Get a scholarship
Usually you have to pay to study abroad. However, there are scholarships available that will cover your tuition and some or all of your lodging and food. If you’re smart and competitive, it can’t hurt to apply.
Note that many of these methods of travel will likely require some compromise on your part, in addition to the work and research required to find the opportunity. You may not get to choose your room location at the resort, for example, and you may not get deluxe accommodations (those may be reserved for full-fare paying guests). If you’re working, you may not have a ton of free time to see and do everything as you’ll only be able to pursue your interests on your days off. And some of these may require a time commitment of several months which may keep you in one place longer than you’d like. However, a free trip is still a free trip and these can be great ways to see the world without putting out much of your cash.