VACATION IDEAS

How To Travel The World For Free

You'll be amazed at these smart, effective ways to cut travel costs you thought were unavoidable—whether you're planning to WWOOF your way around the world or embrace the brave new world of travel hacking.

Sunset view of Torii Gate in Miyajima, Japan

Teaching English in Japan is a great way to save money and experience life as a local as you travel the world.

(Chuongy / Dreamstime.com)

We know, we know. You can't actually travel the world without paying for something along the way. But we've got a few ideas to help cut down on costs and ensure you'll have a more authentic adventure.

Barter your time and hard work for a place to stay

Christine Maxfield, founder and editor of CompassMag.com and producer of the When In Roam: Conversations with Travel Writers podcast on iTunes, recommends work-exchange programs like WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), HelpX.net, and WorkAway.info as a way to immerse yourself in new culture and make local friends quickly. "Work exchange is a little different than volunteering because you barter your time for food and lodging with a host rather than spending money for the opportunity, said Maxfield. "I've learned the most interesting jobs that way, from black-pearl diving to working at a sea-turtle hatchery, and it only cost me my hard work! It was a very fulfilling way to travel, and I also made lifelong friends with my hosts so I was never lonely." Another option is to pitch in at a local hostel you plan to stay in, as oftentimes owners can use the extra help and may be willing to offer you a free bed for the night as payment for a day's work.

How to get started: In the case of WWOOF, the hardest part is deciding where you want to go. Some countries have their own WWOOF organizations, websites, and programs, so visit the link listed above, choose a country, and browse through the farm lists. Sign up to be a volunteer—as long as you're over the age of 18—and follow the instructions. In some cases, you may have to pay a fee of up to $72 to view the final listings for a country, but it's well worth the money you'll be saving on accommodations in the long run. Pack sturdy work boots, prepare to pay for your travel expenses to and from the farm, and set aside some extra cash for day trips while you're off. The program is available in more than 60 countries worldwide including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Ireland, Italy, the United States, and Canada, so take your pick!

Related: 50 Incredible Images of New Zealand and Australia

House-sit your way around the world

You’ve heard about pet–sitting, but what about house–sitting to save money while traveling? Dalene and Peter Heck are one Canadian couple who did just that: four years ago, they sold everything for the sake of travel, started a website, Hecktic Travels, and wrote a book about how they saved over $30,000 in accommodations costs by house–sitting their way around the world. The basic idea is reciprocity: keep an eye on someone's home while they're away, and you get to stay in it for free. It's a win–win since the owners get the peace of mind in knowing their houses (and sometimes pets) are safe, and you get to take the price of accommodations out of your vacation budget. (You'll also save money on food, since your lodgings now include a kitchen.) Jobs can last anywhere from two weeks to six months and give new meaning to the term culture immersion. "The best part about the whole experience has been the ability to really dig in to a destination and get to understand the culture. We get to know people and visit places that regular tourists never would," said Dalene Heck.

How to get started: A number of websites, such as House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, and Mind My House among others, provide listings for a fee (ranging from $20 to $60 depending on the membership), but consider this an investment. The couple recommends creating an account on multiple websites to increase your chances of being chosen for a coveted house–sit job. Planning ahead is the key, since it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully flesh out the details of a contract. House–sitting hopefuls from the U.S. should remember to check Visa requirements for countries they plan to apply for, Dalene warns. "In 28 countries of Europe, Americans are only allowed 90 days total at a time, so the dream of bouncing around from house–sit to house–sit indefinitely isn't really an option there."

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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