6+ Ways to Travel Cheap or Free

Incurable Wanderlust Podcast - Season 1, Episode 6

How to save money while travelling is by far the question I hear the most, and luckily for you, you have found this episode of the Incurable Wanderlust podcast! Throughout the 6+ (well, more like 9+) tips and tricks, you will learn multiple ways that you can either save money on your travel or allow you to travel for free. If you are someone who loves to save, then this episode is for you.

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Welcome to this week's episode! As the 1927 Ray Henderson song goes "the best things in life are free". No, I'm not gonna sing, I'll save you from that, but the statement is also true with travel. The majority of us travellers or tourists would love to be able to save a ton on our vacations or even travel for free and since you've clicked on this episode, I think it's safe to assume that you're going to be one of them. Although the title says the six top ways, I'm actually going to list nine plus a few sub-bullet points so I'm sure they'll you'll find a great way to save on your next trip.

The first and biggest tip I can give is to work in the right industry. If you can get a job in the travel industry, for example working in a hotel, an airline, working on a cruise ship, or even selling travel, you could end up scoring some free or cheap hotel nights, completely covered trips which are referred to as FAM trips, free passes to theme parks, and so much more. Normally people who get into these positions are not paid a ton but if you are interested in traveling it can really save you some money in the long run.

Another option is to get into a specialized job like being an international nurse, a nanny, IT specialist, etc. A friend of mine taught English in an American school in Japan, a lot of women who came into my previous job, were getting ready to move to Dubai to teach in American schools or their husbands were engineers and they were being transferred over. I've had family transferred to places like Australia because they were specialized in mining. I've even had clients that just wanted to get an address in a specific location to become a citizen because if they had a Canadian, US, or British passport, they were paid three times what they would be paid if they were "average citizens". Some of these workplaces will pay for you to travel home yearly; some will give you living wage; they'll pay for your meals, car rental, and never hurts to open up international work sites to see who's offering what and where.

If you're not a specialized worker, and you don't mind getting your hands dirty then you could always look at a work exchange. Work exchange are when an "employer" will provide free housing and sometimes meals known as "room and board" in exchange for doing work for them. I worked with a couple of people who had travelled to Australia and they paid for their trip while doing these work exchanges. They would go to a farm or chat with other travelers in a local hostel to find out if there's any work locations nearby that they could exchange work for staying on the farm for a few nights. There were even some hostels that would provide a free room in exchange for someone to help out around the area.

A slight twist on this would be house sitting or pet setting where people stay for free in people's homes to watch the house, pets, or plants, and you even get paid to do this. While it's not great if you're planning on just going out and exploring an area for 14 days, if you just want to go out and do little day trips and you don't mind easy work; it's pretty easy money.

While volunteering is technically not work, I have lumped it into this point as a lot of people forget about volunteering. Now I'm not talking about voluntourism, as those companies want you to pay for your trip, pay for your stay, and pay for the supplies that you are using to help out the village. I'm talking about joining an organization like Peace Corps or CUSO where you actually volunteer. While these options are more for people fresh out of school or on a sabbatical, they are a great way to get out into the world wide community and make a difference while expanding your knowledge of the world.

Both of these examples do accept volunteers and about one in three applicants are accepted but you may have to sign up for a long term commitment. For example, the Peace Corps, they do three months of training and two years in the field for a total of 27 months. On top of that they will provide you enough money to cover your housing, food, and possibly some money to spend in the community you are helping. So you can see why I mentioned that it's great for people just out of school or on a sabbatical. There are some companies out there that will allow you to volunteer for a couple of weeks at a time, but they usually focus on teaching English to non-native speakers and usually do not cover the cost of anything besides maybe a meal if you're using it to teach over.

My second point is to spend your money right. Look at various credit cards and loyalty programs to help stretch your dollar. You could get a credit card that earns points and either allows you to redeem them for purchases or travel. Some cards will even include things like free insurances, companion vouchers, free airport lounge access, or even additional perks for signing up with them. For example, sometimes opening up a bank account or a new credit card account will give you things like enough free miles to fly somewhere. You could even do a thing called "credit card churning", which is where you sign up for a credit card for the bonus or offer, fulfill what is required to earn the item you want, use it, then cancel the card before the annual fee, and then sign up for another one. Rinse and repeat. The next year you repeat the same thing over again as most of these promotions are for new customers that have not signed up in the last 12 to 18 months. While it can be a bit of a pain to track everything if you're really great with timing, tracking, and reading fine print, then this might actually do well for you as it doesn't hurt your credit score as much as you might think.

When it comes to loyalty rewards look at membership cards for hotels and airlines you are most likely to travel with and things like Air Miles where you can earn points and redeem them towards travel. Just remember to look into the credit cards as well as reward programs that might overlap each other. For example, it is better to sign up for a loyalty program that would allow you to collect points at Hotel X and Airline x while your credit card doubles those points but you're able to spend them at Hotel Y too. This way you're able to rack up points faster and spend them easier.

A great way to do this and start with your flights; airlines that have a partnership called a "codeshare" will allow you to collect points on their cards even if you're not traveling with them. For example, Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance as is KLM and Lufthansa. So if you have a Lufthansa "Miles More" card but you're flying on Air Canada, you can still add your rewards card number to the flight booking and earn miles. Not only will it allow you to rack up points faster, but you also have less plastic in your wallet; win win for everybody, right?

The third idea is to house swap. Want to travel and experience the world but don't want to shell out for an Airbnb? Well, why not allow a stranger to stay in your home while you stay in theirs? This is what house swapping is essentially in a nutshell. However, there are vetted websites that you do use for these transactions so you not only know who was staying in your house but you also see their rating to let you know how they stayed in other people's houses. Another option would be couch-surfing where someone offers up their couch or spare bed for you to sleep on for the night. There is a website for this but some people will ask friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, or even on social media for help. However, unless you know the person whose house you're staying at while you're sleeping on their couch, I don't think I would sleep very well.

The fourth tip is one people usually don't think of and that's to explore your heritage. Over the generations a lot of people have left the "old country" and their descendants have never experienced their authentic heritage. There are a few programs out there that are put on by various governments or tourism organizations that will help you visit your home country in a variety of different ways from steam lined applications to free accommodation, to discounts on flights, and more. There are some countries like the UK and Italy to where if you can prove your grandparents or parents were born in that country, then you can apply for a citizen citizenship which would open you up to a whole other group of options.

If you're not afraid to use the phone, then the fifth idea is for you.

Feel free to call cruise lines to see if they're offering repositioning cruises or call a car rental company to see if they need any cars moved around and is available for your date. These options will usually be super cheap, but not necessarily free. If you go with a repositioning cruise, this is when a cruise is moving from one country to another in time to prepare for a busy season in that area. So think about an Alaskan cruise that moves the ship down to the Caribbean or vice versa.

I'm sure you never gave it much thought as to how cruise lines move their ships but surprise, they don't drag them across the country but rather sail around the countries.

Sometimes the cruise lines would rather sell the fares at a steep discount then move the ship empty after all, they still have to pay for fuel and staff wages. While you can save a ton of money not all the amenities will be open as this is the time where the ship can do things like deep cleaning, painting, various repairs, or even rebranding of restaurants and bars. With Car rentals or even people that are moving, they could always use help getting their vehicle from point A to point B so you get might get paid for your time alone in the car plus a free flight home. If you love driving or want to see more of a country this could be a great way to do it.

Love it or hate it, timeshares is point number six.

If you have been to a timeshare presentation then you know how painful and long they can sometimes be but the prize at the end of the tunnel might be worth it. If you are great at saying no and you're not easily looped into sales pitches, then this could be a great way to get some free add-ons or even a free vacation. My first time in Vegas there were a ton of timeshares that were offering you a free Vegas weekend for two if you sat through their presentation. However, after the recession in 2007, most of them just offered trip add-ons now instead of free vacations. For example, the last time I was in Vegas, I decided to go through one and it was supposed to only be 45 minutes but it turned into three hours. At the end of it however we ended up getting some of the tickets to the hottest show in town, $100 Visa gift card, and while they promised ice cream we didn't get it. I guess you only got that if you actually bought a timeshare.

In Florida we were offered one at Universal Studios where they would provide free transportation to the new resort. You had time to explore the resort and give feedback over breakfast then they would give you $100 for your time. When we pressed the agent on how we would get back from the timeshare, he just pushed us harder to sign up. So my guess was the $100 was probably to cover the cab ride back. You just never know what you're gonna get with timeshares so make sure to ask a lot of questions!

Now that I've covered the six easiest ways, here are a couple more ideas.

Crowdfund. Well, these days almost everyone is crowdfunding but if you're trying to raise money for a volunteer trip or for unusual cause, then you're more likely to raise funds for your trip. A few years back there was a couple of people who were trying to crowdfund their trips because their mother had picked up extra shifts at work to be able to pay for their full time traveling and they felt bad that she had to work so much so they asked the public to pay for their trips instead. Don't be these people. It did not work out well at all. I don't even think they're on social media anymore because of it.

Another option hope you get bumped. Airlines are starting to really overbook flights more and more these days so if you're traveling with a carry on and have a ton of flexibility, then if the airline needs to bump someone off a flight, they might offer financial compensation. People that can hold out as long as possible could be offered hundreds of dollars. Make sure that you understand the rules of the country you're flying out of based on what compensation you could get for a delayed flight as compensation does vary based on the country and the airline you're using to depart from.

The last option here is book a last minute deal. Companies are always trying to make money by betting that a certain percentage of people will cancel or no show on their reservation. Due to this, sometimes there will be steep discounts on things like hotel rooms and car rentals because they want to double dip if they can. What I mean by that is that the person did not show up but it's within the cancellation policy for the hotel, that's usually the cost of one night. So since this room is already cleaned and ready to sell be sold if you call up the hotel and ask they'll be more than happy to sell you this available room at a discount because they've already made their money on it; the cost that you pay is just a bonus. You could even pop online and check to see if there's any last minute deals for airlines as they might be having a seat sale to fill up planes. However, with airlines the general rule of thumb is the fuller the aircraft, the higher the price.

And with that, that's the last tip so it brings us to the end of this week's podcast. If you head over to TheFemaleAbroad.com or look into this week's episode description you will find a link to an article that pairs well with this episode. In this article will be links and examples to various websites that can help point you in the right directions with the topics covered in today's episode. Now I must mention that we are not affiliated with any of these companies in any way and the links provided are for informational purposes only.

Safe travels!

Thank you for listening and make sure to follow or subscribe so you never miss an episode, and can find us when you need to find your next trip. If you can recommend the Incurable Wanderlust to those that you travel with and also if you have a moment, leave us a rating and review. In the review if there are topics or destinations that you'd like to learn more about make sure to include it in your comment. Also, do not forget to visit TheFemaleAbroad.com for more helpful tips, tricks and trips, as well as podcast transcripts. And if you want to stay up to date with me, then follow me on Instagram @female_abroad . Remember the incurable wanderlust is a weekly podcast with new episodes released every Thursday. Thanks again for listening and until next week. Safe travels!