Imagine unlocking the secrets of how to travel the world for free.
Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
If you’re here, it’s likely because the spirit of adventure tugs at your soul, but the strain on your wallet holds you back.
Fear not! This guide is your key to a world where free accommodation isn’t a dream, but your nightly reality, where transportation costs are a thing of the past, and where the global smorgasbord of food doesn’t come with a check.
Sounds like a fairy tale? Believe me, it’s not. Join us on this journey. After all, the joy of travel isn’t just in the destinations, but in the freedom of knowing that the essentials like food and a place to sleep are entirely taken care of, without costing you a dime.
Before we start, a word of to the wise – you know that old saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch“? Well, for the most part, we have to agree that it’s true. While we give you plenty of hacks to get free travel here, there’s almost always a different price to pay, whether it’s time invested in research and preparation, hours spent working on an organic farm in exchange for a place to stay, or time spent working a job on the road.
Now that we’ve sparked your imagination, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of making this free travel dream a reality.
How to Travel the World for Free
We’re going to explore the magic of credit card and rewards points, the potential of working on the road, and the rich experiences offered by volunteering.
We’ll outline ways to score free accommodation, transportation, entertainment, and food as you traverse the globe.
So buckle up, adventurers! It’s time to turn how to travel the world for free from a fanciful notion into your everyday life.
First up, let’s do a quick look at a few quick ways to get free flights, accommodation, meals, and entertainment on your travels: using points, volunteering, getting a job as you travel, and even an unusual tip we haven’t seen anywhere else.
Once that’s done, we’ll get into some real, practical tips for landing free meals, accommodation, flights and entertainment as you vacation around the globe.
Use your points
Let’s start with a tried and true technique of many travelers: redeeming points for travel.
There are two main ways to do this, by using either:
credit card points, or
rewards program points, like AIRMILES
Using points for travel works well if you have points that you’ve already earned, or if you’re traveling six or more months in the future, and can earn points by spending in the meantime. It doesn’t work especially well if you don’t have much money to spend, or if you’re traveling right away (and don’t have any points saved up).
I think one of the biggest myths in travel is that you can travel for almost free if you’re willing to volunteer. Unfortunately, it’s pretty darn hard to get a volunteer gig for free. Most volunteer placements require you to pay for your own airfare, and many require a fee for a volunteer placement. Some even require you to pay for your accommodation.
That said, there are a few ways to volunteer on a budget, including this one.
Do you belong to a local church or community association? Churches sometimes send volunteers abroad. You may get your expenses paid, but you’ll definitely need to spend a lot of time and effort to raise money and volunteer once you’re abroad.
That said, volunteering can be a very rewarding way to travel and give you an extended amount of time working closely with locals and learning what real day to day life can be like in some countries. It can also be a great way to learn a language since a lot of placements are far away from the tourist trail.
While working is often considered the opposite of free, the reality is that not every aspect of travel will always be paid for. So, get a job as you travel so you can pay for items that you can’t get for free.
While there are plenty of jobs, these are our top picks.
Working Holiday Visa
If you’re under 35 years of age, see if your destination country offers a youth working holiday visa.
Many countries (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) have agreements that allow young people to work on a working holiday visa for up to one year. Check out Wikipedia’s list of working holiday visa programs.
An au pair or traveling nanny position is a well known way to get free accommodation as you travel, plus a wage. It’s only a great gig if you like kids, though, and if you manage to get a good host family.
Teach English overseas
Teaching English abroad is a great way to get spending cash, and many positions offer free accommodation as well.
It’s also a great way to meet locals (and fellow travelers). China, South Korea, and Middle Eastern countries are often the highest paying countries. Some schools even pay for your flight. You’ll likely need a TEFL certification, and you’ll want to research the differences in TEFL vs TESL vs TESOL.
I don’t often hear anyone mention entering contests as a way to get free travel. While your chances of winning a major lottery are almost zero, you may actually have a chance to win a smaller contest on a brand’s social media page.
Years ago I won a short haul flight with Flair Airlines (then called New Leaf Airlines) on a contest through their email list.
To find contests with travel prizes, check out Instagram and Facebook, or you can look into contest promoting websites. While bigger companies often have bigger contests, the odds of winning are often much lower so look for smaller run contests with less people signing up to increase your odds.
How to get free accommodation when you travel
Ready to turn your dreams of free accommodation into reality?
As an experienced traveler, I can tell you it’s not as elusive as it might seem. In this section, we share practical tips and tricks to help you secure the coziest corners of the world without loosening your purse strings.
From swapping homes to surfing couches, and from volunteering at local communities to working in exchange for a bed, we’ve got you covered.
Stay with us, as we navigate the exciting landscape of free accommodation, making how to travel the world for free your new normal. It’s not just about the journey or the destination – it’s also about finding a home wherever you go, without it costing you a dime.
Here arr our top ideas for getting a free place to stay as you travel.
Sites like Trusted Housesitters let you swap housesitting for free accommodation. Most housesits involve taking care of pets and plants, in addition to maintaining the house and property so make sure you factor that into your timeline when agreeing to any stay.
Home Exchange and Love Home Swap are great choices if you happen to have a home already. These sites let you swap a stay at your home with someone else in a different area. If your home is in a desirable area, you’ll have better luck finding a house you find equally appealing.
This is something we’ve never done, because we like to be more … comfortable as a family.
As a female traveler, crashing at a stranger’s house just makes me uneasy, however there are thousands of people who swear by couchsurfing. We’ve also stayed at friends and have friends and family stay with us so we imagine it’s something like that.
Free accommodation in exchange for work
Worldpackers, Workaway, or WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) all offer time-tested ways to get free accommodation in exchange for time helping your host. Food is often included as well and, since you’re often working with produce daily, you know it will be freshly picked.
Use your personal connections
Looking for someplace free to stay? Go old school, and crash on a relative or friend’s (or friend of a friend’s) couch. Have extended family you barely know? Maybe it’s time to reach out. We’ve heard great stories of people meeting family from generations back that were welcomed in with open arms.
Exchange work for accommodation
Sometimes, you can luck in on a way to make money as you travel, by doing an odd job for a hostel or small hotel. We helped clean a hostel for a couple of weeks in exchange for a free double room in Adelaide, Australia and it was only a few hours a day of work. Saved us a few dollars and gave us a reason to get up earlier than we would have so helped keep our nightly expenses down too.
Camp for free
Camping on Crown land in Canada is free, and camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the USA is free, but there are limits on how long you can stay in one spot. There are similar laws you can find around the globe. You can also use apps like iOverlander to find free spots outside of free public land.
Take advantage of free nights while flying or driving
Take advantage of overnight ferries, night buses and red-eye flights to get a free night’s accommodation. While you might not get the best nights sleep, it’s a good way to save versus having to pay for 1 more nights stay.
Press trips or free nights at a hotel through blogging or influencing
This one’s not for everyone. To get free accommodation as a YouTuber, blogger or influencer, you’ll need a sizeable number of followers, or a great organic engagement in a specific niche, to qualify for press trips or free nights accommodation. Just be warned that press trips involve a lot of work writing and posting on social media, and you’ll need to stick to the organizers (often exhausting) schedule.
Always be polite here, and make sure you truly offer a benefit to the company you’re reaching out to, as a lot of companies are (rightfully) tired of being hit up for free stuff.
University or high school student exchange programs
University, college, and high school student exchange programs can let you visit another country, live with a local family, and get your education at the same time.
Look into sites like Lingoo, that offer language exchange holidays and homestays or stay with a teacher.
How to get free food when you travel
It’s time to embark on the tastiest part of our journey – the quest for free food.
As an experienced traveler, I can assure you that dining out doesn’t always mean digging into your savings.
In this section, we feed your wanderlust with a buffet of strategies (see what I did there, lol) to eat for free.
From hunting down free samples in bustling local markets to celebrating your birthday with a feast on the house, we’ve got your plate full. We’ll delve into the world of zero-waste apps and supermarkets where you can fill your bag without emptying your wallet, and explore discount food apps that make dining out a delight rather than a drain on your budget.
Tip: Most of these ideas work better in the USA and Canada, but your mileage may vary in Europe or other parts of the world.
Supermarkets often offer free samples in the supermarket aisles, and Costco still offers samples (even after slowing down a bit after the pandemic). You can find free samples in local coffee shops, bakeries, delis and more. While you won’t get full, they do make a great free snack.
Free food on your birthday
Many restaurants still offer free food on your birthday (you usually have to show ID here, but it’ll help for 1 out of 365 days). Some chains and restaurants also offer a discount that can work for the week or even the month of your birthday so it’s not a bad way to save.
Sign up for a delivery app
Sign up for a food delivery app to get the introductory coupon. If you’re careful, you can get a $15 coupon, and order $15 of food, making your meal free. Just don’t be an a$$hole, and spend a couple of bucks to tip the hard-working driver.
Free food for downloading a restaurant’s app or rewards programs
Look for apps that offer a free food bonus just for downloading the app. This is actually pretty common to get a small food item like a free donut (thanks Krispy Kreme) or free Blizzard (thanks Dairy Queen) if you download the app or sign up for their rewards program.
Another option is to forage for food on public land, or politely ask homeowners or farmers if you can harvest extra fruit or veggies from their property. Offering to just grab the fallen fruit or the too overripe to sell produce is your best bet. Just don’t steal and always ask for permission first.
Become a mystery diner
These are competitive gigs, and you’ll often need to pay out of pocket for your meal, write the review, and get reimbursed later.
Look for zero-waste supermarkets and apps
Many of these work with pay-what-you-feel distribution centers, which often let you volunteer to work in the warehouse as payment instead of cash.
You can also look for zero-waste apps to find free food. Apps like Olio connect you to see who has excess food items.
Looking for a free breakfast? Depending on the time of year, and where you’re located, pancake breakfasts at churches and during some events (like the Calgary Stampede) may be a good option. Look for festivals and upcoming events at the place where you’re heading to see what’s on the menu.
This is a pretty extreme option, to be sure, but better than going without food. I haven’t tried this myself, but I’m guessing the best time to do this would be at closing time. Some bakeries and produce centers even offer them out free to closing customers.
Free hotel breakfasts
If you have to pay for a hostel or hotel, look for one that offers free food. Some only offer free cookies and coffee, but others offer a full breakfast, and still others offer manager’s happy hours with plenty of great food to be had.
Check your receipts
Check your receipts for surveys that offer a free food bonus for taking a customer satisfaction survey.
Not having much luck? Consider exchanging work for food, by working in a restaurant or supermarket that gives you some meals for free as a perk of your employment.
How to get free transportation when you travel
This is a tough one. Transportation might just be the hardest travel cost to get for free.
In this section, we’ll rev up your travel game with a few ways to hit the road, sail the seven seas, or fly the skies for free.
Whether you’re a student looking for the best discounts, an airline employee ready to take advantage of those well-deserved perks, or a social butterfly who loves the idea of carpooling, we’ve got the tickets to your next adventure.
After all, the joy of travel isn’t just in the destination, but also in the thrill of getting there without breaking the bank.
Get a job with an airline
We have a friend who used to work with Air Canada well over a decade ago. He still has several friends and family passes that let him and a guest travel anywhere in the world Air Canada flies for free. I’m not sure if all airlines offer this perk to employees, or even if it’s still available at Air Canada, but it’s one of the best ways to get free flights I’ve ever heard of.
Get free transit passes as a child, student, senior, or if you have a low income
Depending on where you’re visiting, and for how long, you may be able to get discounted or free public transportation. You may also be eligible if you have a disability.
Bicycle (or e-bike)
While you’ll need to pay the upfront cost for a bike (or e-bike), you’ll get plenty of exercise, and never have to pay for gas if you travel by bike.
Working as a yacht crew
We volunteered as yacht crew for evening cruises at the yacht club in Brisbane and found the club and captains to be friendly and open to our help.
Depending on where you volunteer, you may be able to get a ride around the harbor for an afternoon, or embark on a sailing trip around the world.
Have a friend who’s traveling? Ask them if you can exchange some driving time for a ride. Make sure you clarify who’s paying for gas here – many people will expect carpoolers to split the cost of gas (or at least pitch in).
Share your ride sharing refer-a-friend code
Several ride sharing apps (Uber and Lyft) offer a refer-a-friend bonus if you refer someone who creates an account, and uses the service, with your refer-a-friend code.
Transport a vehicle to its final destination
There are sites where you can sign up as a driver and get a gig delivering a car to its destination. Car and RV dealerships or car rental companies sometimes hire people to drive cars to a different destination.
There are no guarantees with these, but you just may luck out with sites like Canada DriveAway, Cars to Florida, or HitTheRoad.ca.
Work on a cruise ship
There are plenty of jobs available on cruise ships, from entertainers, to cooks, to housekeepers, to almost anything you can imagine.
These jobs are better suited to single people, as you’ll be on the road a bit.
You’ll also travel to exotic ports of call, but you’ll likely only stay for less than a day, and return to the same port. The one exception here are repositioning cruises, where you’ll crew a ship on a one way trip to a new destination port.
Work on a cargo or container ship
While not as glamorous as working on a luxury cruise liner, working on a container ship can be a more leisurely way to see the world. Workers often act as lookouts and perform maintenance like painting and maintaining containers. You’ll need a high school diploma and many deckhands have training through industry or labor union schools.
How to get free entertainment when you travel
Let’s set the stage for the most fun part of your journey – scoring free entertainment.
Whether you’re a student in search of cultural enrichment, an airline employee seizing those extra perks, or a savvy traveler ready to tap into the local scene, we have the keys to unlock a world of entertainment. After all, travel isn’t merely about moving—it’s about creating memories, and they are every bit as precious when they come without a price tag.
Volunteer at Events
I’m surprised how rarely I see this tip, but most festivals and events offer their volunteers free tickets (and sometimes extra perks) in exchange for volunteering. Sure, you have to do some work to get the free tickets, but it’s still a pretty sweet deal. You’ll have better luck with smaller local events, and less luck with huge festivals like Coachella or Burning Man but even those positions need to get filled somehow.
Attend free events
Most cities have plenty of free events, which are just an internet search away. Some are surprisingly high quality, ranging from free yoga classes, to theater and late night movies on the lawn events, to festivals, to free sporting matches!
Take advantage of free nights
Many museums and art galleries offer free nights for admission. They’re usually evenings or weekends (though not always). We’ve visited museums around the world on their free entry days. Most weren’t that expensive but when traveling with 4 of us those costs can quickly add up.
Do free things
Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do for fun when you travel. You could wander through the city center (or take a free walking tour), visit local parks or the beach, go to the library, hike, take in the architecture, or people watch.
How to travel the world for free
Are you ready to transform your adventures into priceless moments, all while on a tight budget?
Remember, the world is your oyster and it’s full of treasures that are there for the taking.
The next step? Take the plunge, let go of those financial reins, and embark on your journey to travel the world for free. After all, the greatest adventures you ever take might just be those that cost you nothing, but enrich you in ways beyond measure.
So, here’s to free travel and the endless memories it will bring! Safe journeys fellow nomads.