It's time to get out of the mindset that traveling the world requires saving up a ton of money and then booking flights and hotel stays. That is, of course, one way to do it, but it can be the most expensive way out of many other alternatives. Don't ever let your perceived lack of funds get in the way of exploring and traveling to your dream destinations, especially when you're young. It sometimes seems like in our younger years we're trying to save money and forward our careers, and then by the time we're making good money we're more locked down with other responsibilities like that job and families, or whatever else you have going on. But being open and a little crafty can ensure that you get to see every country that you want to see no matter what age you are. This is especially true if you're open to working in other countries or volunteering, even for short periods of time. Here are 15 very different ways to travel on the cheap that can fit into anyone's dream trip agenda.
15 Rent Out Your Pad
This option used to be a little more complicated but now with things like AirBnb you can easily rent out practically anything. The amount of money that you can get for renting out your place might even be able to cover your entire trip. It's true. The only caveat, of course, is making sure this is allowed where you live. If you're in an apartment building, your lease might actually prohibit renting out your spot, and you don't want to come back from vacation with an eviction notice on your door or something. We don't know if the rules are that dramatic or if you get a warning or a charge or what... but definitely find out before you consider trying it. If you live in a place where renting it out is totally up to your discretion then it's a great option. You can, of course, plan to rent out your home while you're actually away on your trip traveling the world, but you can also get in the habit of renting it out when you're away for a weekend anyway. Or even if you have another place to stay in town and just want to make some cash one week.
Signing up to do volunteer work in a foreign country is not going to give you enough cash for a plane ticket... but why not fundraise for your trip? People are a lot more likely to want to help you pay for a trip that you can't afford if you have an actual reason for taking that trip. Volunteer work, of course, is a noble cause that anyone can see the merit in. Of course, you have to actually do the volunteer work, and that generally doesn't mean lounging around in fancy hotels. It means working for free for a good cause. But the cool thing about doing that is that you get to experience a foreign country from the perspective of the locals as opposed to how the hospitality industry caters to tourists. You will be immersed in the local culture and language, and will probably have more opportunity to be in a place to think on the go and try to figure things out like directions and what you can and can't eat. Someone can tell you all of these things, or you can dive in and explore a new world and take home a really unique experience that you will never forget.
13 Crew A Yacht
You don't always have to be trained to offer your services to crew a yacht. There are a lot of positions to fill which includes the kitchen. If you have a skill that you could use on a yacht, you can get yourself a position on a boat that will be traveling around. Of course, you will be working, but everyone gets their off hours. You could also get a job on a cruise ship, although that tends to be longer term and might be a whole lifestyle change. And if you're looking for a huge lifestyle change and think you might be happier being on the go at all times, it's certainly one way to do it. Cruise ships have even more job opportunities than yachts, including waiting tables and being a performer on the ship. Of course, this isn't an exchange of services for travel, you would actually be getting paid and working a full-time job. For the adventurous types that don't have many ties to people or places, it can be a good way to see a lot of the world before settling down or taking on a different type of job that leaves you less mobile.
12 Become A Farmer
Well, temporarily, that is. There is a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms where farmers from around the world offer room and board to people who will come volunteer and help them out on the farm. There at least 65 different countries that take part in this, so you can basically go to the website and check out the countries that are actively participating. Of course, this means that you will be working on a farm in whatever given country you're going to, but like any other type of volunteering it's for a good cause and it will be a totally unique learning experience. Most of us don't spend a lot of time on farms anymore, and we can actually be really out of touch with where our food comes from and the amount of work that is involved in moving it from the creation stages to our mouths. You can be sure that spending some time in a foreign country learning about organic farm to table practices would completely change your relationship with food.
11 Utilize Budget Airlines
There are a lot of budget airlines out there for both international and domestic flights. A budget airline isn't cheaper because the quality or safety of the flight is any different, they just find ways to cut costs by not offering extra thrills that are included in the costs of other types of flights. For example, no snacks. There are, of course, things that you will have to keep in mind to make sure that you're actually getting a good deal. A budget airline might have a small allowance for the size of your carry on bag and not offer free checked bags, where some larger airlines offer a couple free checked bags. These airports are often located outside of the major cities, which means that there is going to be additional travel required if you're heading to one of those cities (you know, trains, buses, etc). Of course, those options are generally quite inexpensive and when you're in another country they can be fun and interesting since you get the chance to see more of the country while you drive on and peer out the window.
10 Organize A Group Tour
If you can organize a group tour through a travel agency, you will be able to either get your travel discounted or even completely comped. This would label you as a "group leader" which does not mean that you would actually be leading the group, but just that you've organized the who, when, and where. This is exactly how teachers are able to travel abroad with students, the fact that they can get you to sign up generally means that they don't have to worry about a thing as far as their own fees go. This doesn't have to be in the form of an educational experience either, at least not in the traditional sense. It doesn't matter why you guys are taking the trip, just that you are. Sometimes this just means several people in a group too, it's not necessarily a massive group. This is also a great way to travel with your friends if there's a spot that a group of you have always wanted to visit. There are a few different organizations that make this possibility even easier.
9 Win A Contest
This one might be a little more far-fetched, but there are a lot of contests out there and someone is winning them. So why can't it be you?! There are general contests that companies do basically just to get your email address so that they can pester you with marketing content for the rest of your life, and they do this by giving one person an awesome vacation. Then there are contests that are more specific and have a personal element related to it, like related to photography or travel writing. If you have a skill that you could potentially use to enter a contest, why not give it a try? Who knows what could happen when you put yourself out there and try out some unconventional options. Of course, if you won a contest you wouldn't have any say about where you would be traveling to, but they have contests with trips to pretty much anywhere in the world and why would you turn down a free trip anyway? If you did want to turn down a free trip, though, some of the contests offer a cash alternative, which you could take to plan your own trip.
8 Get Free Rooms In Exchange For Your English
If you don't want to get a job in a foreign country but you still want to get some free room and board, you can always find a host family that is willing to put you up in exchange for letting them practice their English with you. There is a site called culturegogo.com that sets up these trades, which can last from a weekend to a year and is arranged by you and whatever host you choose. Some of the potential locations include Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Argentina, Balearic Islands, Bologna, Castilla la Mancha, Catalonia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Milan, Navarra, Rome, and Valencia. It's basically the equivalent to being an exchange student, except you don't have to be in school to do it. The hosts benefit by having the opportunity to have a native English speaker in their home which might be the closest thing they have to full immersion in the English language in a practical sense. You just have to commit to a few hours of the day of helping them work on their English, which will be done through games, hobbies, or general fun. Nothing stuffy about it.
7 Rack Up Those Miles
There are a lot of credit cards and rewards programs out there that can give you a lot of travel miles. Of course, you have to be careful when you're signing up for more credit cards because getting yourself into debt isn't going to help you to increase your traveling options. This is generally only a good idea if you have money that you can use to pay off the credit card bills immediately so that you won't be getting yourself into trouble. But if you were going to be getting a credit card anyway, you might want to consider one that can provide you with some mileage or other perks. If you're going to be using it, you might as well collect some benefits. Just carefully do your research so that you don't get tricked into high balances and hidden fees. You can also sign up for airline mailing lists that sometimes advertise deals like two for one flights and things like that if getting a new credit card isn't super appealing to you. Big companies like Target and Amazon can also get you some miles just for shopping, which is something to look into as well.
6 Be An Au Pair
If you're interested in getting your travel, room, and board paid for and are willing to do some work, becoming an au pair can be a way to do it. But do keep in mind that this is generally a longer time arrangement so it's more of a commitment. An au pair is essentially a part-time nanny, with hours that will vary by country. Payment and days off of course can vary dramatically so you want to make sure that you're finding a setup that works for you in a country that you're actually thrilled to visit. You will be working with a foreign family, so liking kids is, of course, a must. The thing is that hiring an au pair is a lot cheaper than hiring a nanny, so many families are willing to offer some other interesting perks. You will live in the family home, so it's important to be clear about which days and times off you have ahead of time so that you can avoid being exploited for more work. It's also important to figure out exactly what is expected of you and what isn't...like housework and cleaning.
5 Cook Your Own Meals
One way to save a ton of money while traveling is to stay somewhere with a kitchen, grocery shop and cook your own meals. Dining out on vacation can get incredibly expensive, especially if you are doing it for every meal. Especially when there is alcohol involved. Imagine if you were eating out for every meal during a normal week at home, you'd be massively upping your spending. If you have a kitchen where you're staying you can bring home leftovers as well the times that you do actually end up eating out. Cooking your own food in another place is still a fun cultural experience since the food that you will have access to is still local stuff that will most likely be different than what you would find at your own local grocery store. A lot of places you might want to visit have local markets as well, which can be an adventure all on its own. Then comes the challenge of creating a meal out of the ingredients that you found. It can be incredibly fun, whether you're traveling alone or with a group of friends who are up for saving money as well.
4 House Sit
There are actually websites out there where you can offer your house sitting services to people who are planning to travel and would rather have someone around while they're gone. As a housesitter, you will most likely have some things to look after like taking care of pets, watering a garden, and bringing in the mail or signing for packages. Basically just keep the household running on a minor scale while the people are gone and make sure that nothing living goes without food or water. These options are just local either, you can find people that need house sitting services all over the world that might be looking for you. It's another trade type opportunity, but one that can be a little more private since you'll just be using someone's home as opposed to staying with the family that lives there as well. It might take some time to find the perfect match, but if you're open to different types of locations and can be flexible with travel times you can find yourself some extended stays where the room is totally free.
3 Couch Surf
Yes, couchsurfing is an actual option. Sometimes it will even get you a room or an air mattress, but it might also be a literal couch. Naturally, you would want to do your due diligence before you decide to stay in a stranger's home, but there are organizations like couchsurfing meetups all over the place where you can check out options. As to why someone might want to offer their couch up to a stranger without getting anything in return? That's a little harder to imagine. Maybe some people just enjoy meeting new people from all over the world and hope that someday they can turn the tables and have a place to stay when they're in your hometown. Do keep in mind that if you're planning on couchsurfing you should be traveling pretty light, and you should always find a way to keep people informed about where you are. It's good to trust and assume that people of the world are inherently good, but you also have to be practical and pragmatic with your choices and actions.
2 Get City Tourist Cards
You can get a ton of discounts in cities that offer city tourist cards, especially if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing. These tourist cards might be able to get your discounts on travel in the area like the bus and metro, as well as entrance fees to museums or other attractions. It's silly not to get one if you will be using a lot of public transportation. This is a good time to point out that you should always be using public transportation when you're trying to save money. Taxis and other more specialized services might be necessary for getting from the airport to your location, but they're also way more expensive than a metro ride. The good thing is that taking public transportation in other cities and countries can actually be really fun. You get to people watch, test out the local lingo and your navigational skills, see different areas of the town that you might not have otherwise. And since you're probably not on a fixed schedule as much of the time, if you get lost it's simply an adventure not like a travesty. You can only get so lost on a metro system, you'll end up somewhere and there are always trains back to where you came from.
1 Be Flexible
The more flexible you can be about travel times and locations, the more options you will have. You can set fare alerts for different airlines and keywords and be alerted to when something is falling into your price range, which can save you a ton of money on flights. Flying during the off season, off days, and off times can also slash prices astronomically. If you're willing to spend a little more effort getting around at your destination, you can stay in hotels that are outside of the city centers and more toward suburban areas. Choices like that can save you hundreds of dollars on even short trips, which could be the difference between going at all or not. Waiting to book a hotel room until you arrive at a destination can sometimes help as well. Towards the end of the day when a hotel has extra rooms to fill, they will be more likely to offer you a discounted rate in person versus trying to book something online. There are also hotel apps that notify you about places that have drops in fares or crazy deals, and if you're flexible enough to be open about where you might end up, your options will be open up as well.