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5 Ways You Can Travel For Free

In Blog, Travel Tips by Kay11 Comments

Most people think that travel is a luxury reserved for the rich. Find out why this idea is wrong, and learn 5 ways that you can travel for free.


Fellow twenty-somethings often come to me, asking for any advice I can give about how to fund travel. As students, money is often tough to come by and as soon as we have it, it’s gone again. The truth is that most people think of travel as a luxury, something that only the rich can do. From first-hand experience, this view is 100% not true! There are many ways that travel can be achieved for free, and even more opportunities that are especially reserved for students. Here is how¬†you can travel on the cheap, and in many cases, for free:

1) Fundraise

If you are going to volunteer somewhere, study abroad, or perform some kind of project or artwork somewhere in the world, there’s a very special option for you that can help you travel for free. When I brought a group of 14 students (including myself) to Guatemala, our participants only had to pay $400 out of pocket, about half the price of the plane ticket alone, for the entire trip. How did we pull off the rest? We fundraised, reached out to loved ones for support, sold baked goods, and applied for grants. We did everything it took to raise the $17,000+ that it cost to go to Guatemala. And guess what? We made it happen, and all in less than five short months.


2) Travel Hacking

Successful travel hacking does not necessarily mean that you have to sign up for an airline credit card or other expensive, debt-staking programs. College students have enough financial strain as it is! However, if you are accustomed to buying things online, you can almost positively earn valuable airline miles from those purchases. Clothes, cosmetics, gifts…you name it, you can find it online.

Most airlines have a shopping area for frequent flyer members to earn miles. Sometimes, purchases can get up to 5 or 6 miles per dollar! Encourage your family members and friends to buy things under your frequent flyer portal and you could earn big miles, enough for a round trip flight or a free stay in a hotel. Look out for contests and deals offering mile bonuses for signing up or entering your email. Also, airlines usually have partnerships with survey websites where each survey that you fill out gains you a few miles. A little bit can go a long way, and free travel is worth the few extra spam emails!


3) Contests/Scholarships

I once won a free trip to Europe by rapping. I got a scholarship to Buenos Aires by writing an essay. I won a $500 travel voucher simply by sending a tweet on Twitter. Dozens of other coupons, discounts, and free stays have come from simply entering giveaways. Johnny Jet has a great newsletter that sends out notifications about travel contests. WorldNomads also has a fantastic scholarships section where they send a handful of students on an all-expenses-paid trip to somewhere cool each year. Keep your eyes peeled for any opportunity and jump on it when it comes!

4) Travel Jobs

In this increasingly globally-connected world, there are more and more jobs popping up that require travel or knowledge of a foreign language. Many people work at hostels or teach English abroad in order to travel and learn about new cultures, while making a little bit of money at the same time. A few of the people I’ve met while traveling were working as au pairs, or nannies, in foreign countries, using the money they earned for travel afterwards. Often, business positions around the world offer ample opportunities to travel and visit other countries on business trips. A few even offer sponsorship for living abroad long-term. The point here is that traveling and spending money don’t always have to go hand-in-hand; in fact, you could be maing money while traveling!

5) Free Cultural Exchange

This bullet point is last because it is the best, and the broadest. Anyone can engage in cultural exchange and there are a variety of different ways to do so. Couchsurfing and WWOOFing are two options of programs that provide free housing while traveling as well as a cultural exchange with locals in the area you’re visiting. Another example of an awesome free cultural exchange is free walking tours, offered by the locals of a variety of cities. Since these are run by people who live in that city, they offer a more personal and local view of a city than an expensive tour run by a large hotel chain, for example. Plus, they’re free!

Another way you can travel for free is by walking. You’re probably thinking, “Walking?! That’s not traveling!” On the contrary, I believe walking is the best way to travel.¬†Walking doesn’t cost a dime, you see more of a place, and it’s even a great way to explore your own city. Plus, you get some calorie-burning exercise in there too.

Panajachel Market, Guatemala

So, in a nutshell, it IS possible to travel for free. You just need to make travel a priority and work hard at it, and the rest will come!

How have you managed to afford your travels? What things have you gotten for free? Share your expertise in the comments.

If you liked this article, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest and greatest! And as always, thanks so much for reading.


    1. Author

      Why not? Don’t you think that people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a trip should be able to fundraise? Do you think “voluntourism” (which is an awful word in and of itself) is a right reserved only for the rich? If so, read the first sentence of this article.

        1. Author

          I agree that disguising any kind of fundraising is wrong. But first off, we didn’t volunteer at an orphanage, and maybe if you wanted to learn more about what we did you could read about it on my site. Second, we were upfront about all of the volunteering and fundraising we did, where all the money would go, and what the purpose of our trip was. If you want to argue that our trip, which has been happening for 17 years, is wrong, then I understand. But ask the dozens of students who gave their hands and hearts instead of their wallets to this trip, and you’ll see why a true traveler would give their support.

        2. I would also like to say that although some like illich http://www.swaraj.org/illich_hell.htm

          would argue that volunteering abroad does more harm than good. And I agree with that when it comes to foreigners attempting to tell locals how to fix their issues. However, when done correctly with community lead projects supplemented by outside resources, volunteering abroad can do a lot of good. In that situation it becomes a learning experience for students. Volunteering abroad gives students the opportunity to learn about lifestyles outside of the western model as well as the opportunity to discover that many issues in the developing world cannot be solved using methods that stem from western values. We spend money to go to college and learn in the classroom, why not spend money to learn in another country?

        3. This is going to be an elaboration of what Andrea wrote, but here goes: I went on the trip last year, and admittedly a lot more of the purpose of many international volunteering projects is for the students to gain from learning about the community. However, I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is going in to a country with the idea that you are there as a savior and saint. However, you cannot necessarily stereotype our group or other volunteers for that matter and say that we came in with this mindset. Before the trip, we had many weeks where we covered the ethics of international travel and studied the background of Guatemala so as to not come in as ignorant and to reflect on what our actual goals were for international service. We all knew that as college students we were not professionally trained at any of the activities we’d be doing and could probably not make a huge impact on the community, but signed up for the trip to gain a better understanding of the world around us and develop a passion for service, both internationally and domestically. It is extremely important to educate youth on what life is like outside of the United States so that they may be more interested in later on creating real sustainability for other countries in the more effective ways that you state.

          The bottom line is, how did the people who are creating sustainable international service programs get where they are now? You need to start somewhere, and I think trips such as the one Kay is talking about are perfect ways to get high-achieving students involved and hopefully incorporate it as a permanent part of their life. I had never really had an interest in studying international service and had known absolutely nothing about the issues in Guatemala before. Now, though, I am much more interested in spreading my own awareness and making a larger impact in the global world as I grow. So, it’s not really voluntourism at all if you’re passing it on, right?

  1. Love these tips Kay. It’s great to show people that travel doesn’t have to be some once in a lifetime, super expensive experience. I’ve also used cultural exchange, and I’ve won a few travel contests. Of course it’s never enough to pay for absolutely everything on a trip, but it is enough to help offset some major costs of a trip, and to encourage me to go out and travel.

    1. Author

      Thanks for stopping by, Alouise. I agree, if you can get flights and/or accommodation covered, that’s the majority of the burden!

  2. I like your ideas – the jury is still out on the ethics of voluntourism yes, but at the moment it’s still a viable way to travel I think.

    I would prefer to go WWOOFing or do grassroots volunteering myself, but don’t want to be all grinchy and “you can’t do that!” to other travellers.

  3. Great article, Kay! Some of these tips aren’t utilised by travelers nearly enough – myself included. I’m signing up to Johnny Jet’s newsletter right now..!

  4. Some great tips here Kay. I think that if people apply themselves they can always find a way of making travel happen. These ideas should help anyone struggling for inspiration. If you can’t afford to travel in luxury then you can still make travel happen, just know that you might have to adjust your desired comfort level.

    I love the idea of the travel competition newsletter, this sounds like a fabulous resource.

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