How to Travel FOR FREE – The Complete Guide
Learning how to travel for free is a skill we’ve only learned since we started traveling full-time. As full-time travelers, we are consistently asked how we can afford to travel the world and even travel for free! And I get it, when you look at our Instagram account it looks like we’re millionaires from all of the trips we take! Honestly, it’s a mixture of scoring free experiences, accommodations, and flights, as well as, making money on the road (Learn how to do that here!). As a matter of fact, here are some of the…
FREE Travel Opportunities We’ve Gotten!
Bathed and Fed Elephants in Thailand for FREE
Guys, this was seriously one of the cutest experiences we’ve ever gotten for free! One of the baby elephants even tried to take off my swimsuit! Click here to watch the adorableness!!
Scuba Dived with Sharks and Sea Turtles in Indonesia for FREE
When we got on the boat and they told us there was a shark in the water, I just about lost my marbles! You can check out that crazy experience here!
Ate our way through The Queen Victoria Market in Australia Fo’ FREE
Daniel and I partnered up with Melbourne’s largest tourist attraction and went on the Ultimate Foodie Tour for free, Y’all! We were so fat and happy after and it didn’t even cost us a nickel! We even ate a kangaroo! Want to know how it was? Click here to find out!
Took 4 different cooking classes in Thailand for…… Can you guess?
I’m basically a Thai chef after all of the food we learned to cook in Thailand. We were able to do them free and guess what? We didn’t have a million followers or subscribers, and we didn’t sell our bodies on Khao San Road.
I can keep making you jealous, but…
I’m a nice person! I want you to be able to see how easy it can be to get out there and travel for free with just a little bit of work! I get it- You think I’m crazy. You typically spend a whole year saving money so that you can spend it all on vacation… But what if I told you that didn’t have to spend thousands just to travel? What if I told you that there’s a ton of opportunities that allow you to see the world for free?!
Well, it’s not a myth, and I’m about to let you in on the secret!
To Travel the World for Free… You need to start with free flights! Am I right?
When we started researching one-way tickets to Bangkok, Thailand they were $700 EACH! Y’all, I just about crapped myself. We had already started selling all of our stuff and could not imagine spending $1,400 just to get there. How about heeeelll no! There had to be another way. And so began the countless hours scouring the internet for answers, until I found one that worked for me!
How to Get Free Flights
Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Did you see how I put that in big, bold letters? That was not an accident! Playing around with travel credit cards is literally how we got our flights to Bangkok FOR FREE! And it was on Qatar Airways!!! (You can check out that awesome flight here!) If you want to know how to fly for free here’s how we did it:
8 months before we left, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card has a $95 annual fee, but when you spend $4000 in the first 3 months it gives you 60,000 points! That is equal to $750!!
You’re probably thinking, “That’s awesome, Annette, but I’m reading this post because I’m broke… How the hell do you expect me to spend $4000 in 3 months…”. Friend, I gotchu. There are several ways around this.
- Put all of your current expenses on your credit card (car insurance, utilities, internet, phone bill, cable, EVERYTHING)
- Recruit your friends and family to use your credit card and Venmo (Cash App) you the money
- Buy everything you’re going to need for your trip with the credit card. If you don’t know what you’ll need, here’s everything Daniel and I use to travel full-time.
- Lastly, use manufactured spending (more info below)
Cards We Use
I did the above steps with the Capital One Venture Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and pretty much any other card that gave me a sign-up bonus! I will say, I put all of our expenses on Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Although it’s more expensive, the benefits it provides are well worth it if you travel often. That card deserves a blog post all on its own, but if you want to know more about it, click here.
DISCLAIMER: We DO NOT, I repeat, do not get any commission for any of the cards we are recommending on here (although, I admittedly wish I did- Chase, I’m talking to you…). These are simply the ones we use and have worked for us. I’m sure there are dozens of others out there that do something similar, so choose what’s right for you!
What is Manufactured Spending?
It’s when you use your credit card, to buy something that is a cash equivalent and then use it to pay off your card. Still don’t get it?
Let’s say you need $2000 to reach your credit card bonus. You can buy $2000 worth of gift cards, use those gift cards to buy a money order, and then use the money order to pay off your credit card. Does that make sense? That way, you can get the points without spending the actual money. Although that specific method is no longer that simple, that’s the essence of what you’re doing. Here’s a complete guide on manufactured spending from an expert on the subject.
If you noticed, I listed manufactured spending last on the list because it’s the method I like the least. I would much rather recruit friends and family to get points because it feels safer to me. With that said, you might be savvier than me, which is why it’s worth mentioning.
To Travel the World for FREE you need to travel carry on only!
This may sound harder than it actually is, but believe me when I tell you that it is going to save you hundreds of dollars! After you get your free flights, you’re going to feel on top of the world. Don’t let that feeling get slapped in the face when you get to the airport and they try to charge you $90 for a checked bag.
Daniel and I travel out of a carry-on and we travel the world full-time! Like, 52 weeks out of the years we are living out of a single carry-on backpack! If you want to know how to NEVER pay for those pesky fees again, make sure you check out our complete guide to dodging luggage fees! Also, if you’re struggling with downsizing to a backpack, we have a FREE carry-on only packing list that you can download by clicking right here!
If you want to know even more about exactly what we own to minimize the junk we carry with us, check out our gear page here.
To Travel for FREE, You Need to Know How to Get Free Hotel Rooms
Outside of flights, the next biggest chunk of your travel budget is accommodations. If what you’re looking for is how to get free hotel stays, you have one of two options:
- Use your travel credit card’s rewards points
- Become a travel influencer, and pitch exposure to hotels in exchange for a free stay.
If you’re looking for free accommodations around the world that are more sustainable, here are your options:
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s an international program that set you up with work on organic farms in exchange for free food and accommodations. WWOOFing is an amazing opportunity to get absorbed by local culture, live with a local family, and gain some really useful agricultural skills along the way.
There are over 120 different countries to choose from, so no matter where you want to go in the world, you are covered. We recently lived in Australia for 4 months and loved it! If you’re interested in that program, click here: WWOOF Australia
If you want to travel for free, but working on a farm isn’t your jam, it’s definitely not the only option. There are homeowners all around the world looking for responsible people to take care of their home (and sometimes furry friends) while they’re on vacation! The way housesitting websites work is you pay a small, yearly membership fee (between $25-$119 for the year) which covers a background check and gives you access to find available homes around the world. Then, you just reach out to the host, make travel arrangements, and stay at their place fo’ free, y’all! It seriously doesn’t get better than that.
Bonus: Some of the homes you get to stay at are GORGEOUS and they all definitely beat a hostel! Below I’ve listed our fave housesitting site, HouseCarers.com. If you’re interested in learning more about them, click here to learn from a girl who definitely knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the housesitting game!
Our friends LOVE Trusted Housesitters because it’s let them score amazing house sits all over the world! They’ve stayed in mansions in Singapore, castle-like properties in Eastern Europe, and even boathouses. They’ve been able to subsidize their costs all while snuggling and loving on people’s pets!
HouseCarers.com is a bomb-digity website that lets you create a house sitter profile, designate the places you want to housesit and even the kinds of pets you’re willing to take care of! They have a free version available, but to be honest it is very limited. It doesn’t let you put up a picture of yourself, and only the homeowners can contact you-you can’t be the one to apply for the gig. And, we already know how comfortable we feel when people don’t have profile pictures…
For only $50 a year, you’re able to apply to an unlimited amount of gigs, post pictures of yourself, and even create a video that will help you get hired. For less than the cost of 1 night at Motel 6, you have a year’s worth of staying in beautiful homes around the world! Easiest decision ever, if you ask me!
I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about CouchSurfing. Here’s the concept: You connect with people all around the world who are willing to host travelers in their home. Sometimes they have an extra bedroom, other times it’s a space on the floor. No matter what the accommodations look like, most of the people of CouchSurfing are really looking for friendship and you get to travel for free as a bonus!
The CouchSurfing App has hangouts in cities around the world where you can meet other CouchSurfers and just get to know each other! This is great not only for finding people who can host you, but all of those Couchsurfers can also write you a “reference” on the website basically confirming that you’re not a creep. And that, my friends, makes it infinitely easier to get couches to sleep on.
Although the idea of staying at random strangers homes may sound unsafe, it’s not as bad as you’d think! CouchSurfing is less about the room (or sometimes floor) you’re staying on, and more about the learning and hanging out with a real local! It’s not just an opportunity for free accommodation while traveling, but also a place to make life-long friendships! Also, travelers, in general, are pretty freaking awesome!
House-what?! You read that right! Almost every hostel I’ve stayed at allows people to clean the rooms or do receptionist work in exchange for a free bed to sleep on. If that is something you’re planning on doing, you usually can just show up to the hostel and ask at check-in. Lots of our traveler friends have done this, and have even scored a short-term job to help sustain their travels.
Don’t know how to pitch people to get accommodations or experiences for free? I’ve got you covered travel dreamer! Click below to get your copy of our pitch template and start getting some free stuff! #score!
Use Your Network
If you look through your Facebook profile, you’l’ find that your network is much larger than you realize. There have been a handful of times where Facebook friends have hosted Daniel and I just because we posted something like:
“Hey, friends!! Daniel and I are going to be in _______ for the weekend and are looking for a place to stay! If you or anyone you know is willing to host a couple of quirky travel vloggers that love board games and can cook like an old Thai woman, please let us know!”
Speaking of Facebook and the importance of networking, there is an entire traveler community ready to take you in! My favorite group of all time is Girls LOVE Travel on Facebook that is over 740,000 traveling women strong! Any time I have a question or want a local to show me around wherever Daniel and I are traveling, I post in that group! Within minutes there are literally hundreds of people reaching out, giving suggestions, and even taking us in. It’s truly a beautiful community and no matter what kind of traveler you are, I promise there is a group for you!
To Travel for FREE, you need to find free transportation to each city
I know how it sounds. The moment you heard hitchhiking, you’re probably imaging yourself getting kidnapped by some crazy serial killer. Let me give you a healthy dose of reality: the world is not as scary as the Western world makes it out to be. I’m sorry, I’ve got to put that out there. If you spend your free time watching the news, you’re probably never going to leave your front porch.
Hitchhiking, though not something Daniel and I have had to do yet, is something lots of our friends have done through DOZENS of countries (Nir, I’m looking at you)! If this is something you want to try, but gives you panic attack just thinking about it, here’s an expert on hitchhiking from a guy named Will, who’s done it in over 4 continents for a decade! Read his hitchhiking guide if that’s something you’re looking into!
There you have it!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking you through the ways that Daniel and I created this travel lifestyle, and how we do it full-time through e-mail. Want to get more on this topic? Make sure you sign up right here, right now so that you don’t miss any of the awesome and FREE information that you won’t be able to find anywhere else on the internet AND you get access to our FREE library of resources! Seriously, don’t pass this up!
*Updated: June 21st, 2019*
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