How to Travel for Free

by Diego Navarro | LAST UPDATED June 22, 2021

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Just so we’re clear from the start - there’s absolutely no way to “travel for free” literally. Instead, it’s a term that applies to those looking to spend minimal money while traveling for extended periods. 

In most cases, it requires you to work in some capacity to offset your spending, at least until you get up and running. And we’ll outline a lot of ways to do that below. 

The point of this article isn’t to try and sell you fairytale ideas on how you can quit your job tomorrow and be a backpacker in Europe without spending a single dime. 

Instead, we’ll show you a few ways to see exotic locations worldwide while saving money on some of the most significant travel costs. But before we go any further, let’s take a moment to ensure there’s no confusion about what it means to travel for free.  

What Does Travel for Free Mean?

First, understand that travel for free is used to describe situations where you earn free room and board in exchange for working. And it’s an arrangement used by organizations in countries all across the globe. 

You may find a job that offers a modest paycheck in a stipend on top of the free stay, but your payment will be the lodging most of the time. Of course, arrangements like this require you to volunteer your time and labor in exchange for free accommodations. 

While this is far from literally traveling for free, it’s an incredible way to explore the globe for a fraction of the price. After all, nothing in life is free in reality. 

On the other hand, hotel rooms usually cost an arm and a leg. And the truth is, getting legal housing in a foreign country takes a lot of time, money, and documentation. 

On top of all of this, you’ll also need to pay for food and living costs, meaning you’ll need some sort of income if you don’t have money saved already. Many people in the travel for free trend become full-on digital nomads, hardcore van lifers, or take up a series of short-term jobs in various locations. 

While volunteer work takes up about as much time as a regular job, you won’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. In many cases, your agreement will cover a large percentage of your total travel costs, but indeed not everything.

Travel for Free Tips: Volunteer Agreements, Flights, Hacks

A man at the airport getting ready to expererince the travel for free lifestyle

Be aware that most volunteer agreements end at free rooms and lodging. And they don’t cover the rest of your travel expenses or offer free flights as part of the deal. Considering the price of plane tickets, it’s safe to say that airfare is one of the most significant issues facing the travel for free community. 

Just to clarify: some services also offer free travel on top of the complimentary stay. However, these are mostly large organizations, few and far between.

With that said, most of the options in this article won’t put you up for long. And they won’t pay for your plane ticket or travel insurance also. So, expect to cover these expenses with your hard-earned money. 

You’ll also need to pay for essential everyday items like toiletries, medicine, phone and internet, and any extra equipment that you might need.

PRO TRAVEL TIP

One of the best travel tips I can think of is to get yourself a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card

I recommend this card because it allows you to do some “travel hacking.” When you use the card to pay for everyday travel expenses, you earn points towards frequent flier miles. You’ll also receive significant sign-up bonuses. To learn more about those, visit the link. 

All you need to know is that the card turns travel experiences into travel rewards, so it’s a must-have for any globe trotter.

Travel for Free: Six Legitimate Options

A woman walking on the street through a crowd

This list is an excellent place to start for anybody looking to travel the globe without breaking the bank. In addition to laying out six of the most common jobs people take up to travel for free, we provide links to the services for each section. 

While the jobs on this list are far from exhaustive, they certainly cover the basics. If you conduct any basic Google search, you’ll quickly see that these are the most common ways to travel for free.  

With that said, let’s look at the six services in greater detail. 

Teaching English (ESL)

There are plenty of organizations looking for native English speakers to work as ESL teachers. One such organization is Diverbo, a site where anyone interested in teaching English can apply for a chance to go to Spain to instruct young students.

We wrote an entire beginner’s guide dedicated to teaching English online, so check it out if you want to learn more about how to travel for free. In my opinion, it’s an excellent way to live and explore the globe on your terms. 

With that said, this career path is quite common among the digital nomad community. Diverbo, in particular, is great because you don’t need a college degree to participate. 

Although applicants with a TEFL certification get advantages over less qualified applicants, there’s a spot for anyone. What’s more, is there are no payments or membership fees. Just send a CV and email detailing why you’re a good fit for the position. Visit the Diverbo website for the full details. 

Housesitting

Housesitting is relatively new as career paths go, and that’s the primary reason many people overlook it as a legitimate way to travel for free. However, the truth is, it’s an effortless way to experience foreign countries without paying for room and board. 

While the homeowners are away, your task is to stay in the house and take care of their pets. All you need to do is be respectful and keep a close eye on the property.  In exchange, you’ll get a free place to sleep. 

One of the best aspects of housesitting is you don’t need any qualifications, meaning anyone can do it. Take note that reviews are vital for this line of work, so you need to do everything to ensure the owners are happy with the state of the home when they return. 

One bad review can make it very hard to get another job, so treat every home like yours, if not better. The good news is once you’re up and running with a few solid reviews, it’ll be pretty easy to get new clients.  

The best places to go for a housesitting job are MindMyHouse ($20 annual membership fee), Housecarers ($50 yearly membership fee), and TrustedHouseSitters ($119 yearly membership fee).

Volunteering Your Time

There is no shortage of work exchange options when it comes to offering your services for room and board. Sites like Workaway allow you to choose anything from a school position to a job on a cruise ship. Then there are sites like Au Pair World specializing in babysitting positions.

The former is a lot more suitable for people interested in travel, whereas the latter is ideal for those that don’t have a problem staying in one location for a while. 

Aupairworld requires you to register on the site, contact a family, negotiate the agreement and the rules, and sign a contract. Workaway is much more simple. All you need to do is create an account and choose a position from the list of available jobs and locations. 

Considering you get the chance to travel for free, volunteering is an excellent way to go about it.   

Become a Farm Hand: WWOOF

For those not afraid to get their hands dirty, wwoofing is well worth checking out. You work as a volunteer farmhand in exchange for benefits like room and board, for example.  

WWOOF stands for ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” and it’s so popular that’s the acronym has become a verb in its own right. At least within the travel for free community. 

If you’re interested, you should visit the official WWOOF website. All you need to do is select a country, sign up to the site and pay the $40 membership fee. After that, choose a farm in the location of your choosing and work out the details with your host. 

Helpx is another site that allows you to work on anything from farm stays and hobby farms to lifestyle blocks and ranches. Of course, you’ll need to sign up for membership. For a fee of $22, you get access for two years.

Both of these sites provide the chance to travel anywhere from Italy to Australia or New Zealand, and the primary difference is the membership fee.

House Exchange

One of the most unorthodox ways to visit another country without paying for a hotel room is to trade houses.

Sites like HomeExchange allow homeowners to list their houses online and look for people interested in living in another location for a while. Unlike most of the services on this list, it’s up to the parties to come up with a deal independently. 

After you’ve exchanged a certain amount of information (also your decision), both parties live in each other’s house for a set amount of time. 

We understand that this might seem strange on the first exchange. However, you’re free to reject any applicant that might seem sketchy. Rest assured that the site provides 24/7 member support in case of cancellation or non-compliance and property damage coverage.

For a one-year membership, you’ll pay $150, which is a sweet deal compared to paying for accommodation. 

Couchsurfing: Focus on Traveling

If you’re looking for a place to stay without volunteering your time, I suggest finding a couch surfing host. 

Sites like Couchsurfing allow you to sign up as a visitor or host for a small membership fee. The cost is $2.39 per month or $14.29 per year.

The procedure is simple - sign up to the site, pay the fee, and look through the catalog for a free place to stay for your trip. 

Couchsurfing is a massive trend within the traveling community, and it’s one of the easiest ways to meet new people, experience new cultures, and, most importantly, travel for free. 

Final Thoughts about Travel for Free Gigs

People sitting in a bar, watching through a window

One of the most significant benefits of the travel for free trend is the opportunity to experience the world on your terms without breaking the bank. 

Although there’s nothing wrong with hotel stays or Airbnbs, the truth is it’s costly these days. And to be honest, not everybody can afford it. 

However, thanks to the internet and good old-fashioned human ingenuity, we’ve found a way for everybody to experience the world. And rightfully so. We hope that by writing this article, we can help more people unlock the benefits of world travel. 

After all, globetrotting is not only about seeing beautiful sites but growing as humans and opening the mind to new experiences. 

Staying with residents is the best way to engage with the heart and soul of any community. If you have good experiences with any of the services on this list (or bad), please drop a comment and share it with our readers to learn from each other and enjoy life just a little more. After all, that’s the point of traveling the world for free. 

For more content related to budget travel check out these travel blogs from OptOut Living:

Van Life Costs: Expenses, Travel Tips, and 4 Budget Hacks

Van Life Parking: Helpful Hacks For Harcore Travelers

The Important of Budgeting

As a final note, we want to reiterate the importance of budgeting. As stated in the opening paragraph, there is no way to literally travel for free. But there is a way to travel for cheap. It's important to understand the difference between the two.

In some of our previous articles, we explain how to budget in greater depth because it's a skill that every seasoned traveler has to develop to comfortably explore. The best thing to do is plan out your trip and research the cost of living in each location. Whether you're interested in van life, digital nomadism, travel for free, tiny homes, or even off-grid living, the same rules apply.

About Opt Out Living

Opt Out Living is an online website dedicated to alternative lifestyles like digital nomadism, van life, tiny homes, and living off-grid. We strive to publish next-level content that helps people explore the world on their own terms. And we hope that our articles help readers find a new path to happiness.

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At Opt Out Living, alternative living is our game and we're excited to share our experiences with our readers. If you'd like to see more content like this in the future, don't hesitate to let us know. If there is any topic you want to learn more about just drop a comment and let us know what you're thinking. We're more than happy to get one of our writers working on it as soon as possible!

Diego Navarro
Diego became interested in a nomadic lifestyle during a semester abroad during college. He spends most of his time in central Europe and the American southwest (where his family is from). He loves exotic food and playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.

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