While we always try to live our lives by the philosophy that you should making your world something you don't need to escape from, there's nothing better than a free vacation. A lot of people are under the misconception that traveling (especially internationally) is too expensive to indulge in or a luxury they can't afford. However, if you put the time in to plan, that's almost never the case. That being said, aside from winning the lottery, how can you travel for free? Or on a seriously slim budget? Read on for tips and tricks of the trade.
Rent Your House Out
If you're worried about disposable income, why not make some more? Airbnb, a new(ish) site lets you turn your spare bedroom or whole house into a bed and breakfast whether you're there or not. For one weekend only, you could easily make $100 for two nights, which in turn will pay for your own trip somewhere else. You are empowered to set your own price and control when people can stay based on your schedule. And don't worry about your stuff, there's a million dollar insurance policy. The theory behind it is that people are tired of staying in the standard, run of the mill hotel that all looks and feels the same. For a more personalized experience with a resident as your guide, you get a unique, local vibe of the city/country/neighborhood. To help you make the most money possible, the site offers tips about how to set rates, security deposits and they'll even send a free photographer to your house to make it look as spiffy as possible.
Become a Travel Writer
While this is a dream job for most people and unobtainable unless you actually are a good writer, it is very hard to get paid to travel (One site that does offer compensation for articles is wildjunket.com). On the other hand, some boutique hotels (not big chains) will exchange free stays if you guarantee press coverage. Travel publishers can write you a letter of assignment for covering certain activities or you can pitch the property's PR department directly stating where you have access to publish (some sites let anyone publish for free, like matadornetwork.com). Don't just assume this is a go though; send your story ideas to a list of prospects at least a few months out.
Play the Miles/Points Game
While we don't necessarily condone opening up 10 million credit cards, there is always a new card that offers enough bonus miles for a round trip domestic flight so if the mood strikes... (just be sure to check the annual fee). I often look at using a combination of miles and money to make my trip cheaper and help subsidize the flight cost. If you fly one way on miles and one way in cash, it usually doesn't drain your account too much on either end. Be sure to calculate all the options before booking though because sometimes the way there is cheaper vs. the way back and vice versa. Or sometimes it's cheaper still to use those miles to cover your hotel cost. Basically, the more time you invest into researching the options, the more likely you will be rewarded with hidden deals.
Win a Contest
There are thousands of travel contests each quarter run by local convention and tourism boards, travel magazines, hotel groups, etc. Usually the best way to find out about them is through their social media pages so make a list of places you want to go and like/follow them all on facebook and twitter. After that, sweepstakes are just a numbers game, the more you enter, the better chance you have. Make sure to take note of the terms as some let you enter every day and some just once so sure to read the fine print. Contests with higher barriers to entry that require making a video or writing a story usually have less entries so it could pay off to go the extra mile. May the odds ever be in your favor.
Use Your Bonus/Tax Return
If all else fails, it's like free money, no? In most cases, you're not expecting it or counting on it so treat it as what it is, your own personal slush fund.