Traveling for free. It’s the ultimate dream, right?
It might sound impossible — but it’s not.
I know because I did it for many years.
All these strategies allowed me to travel for much less money than you can imagine — and often, for free.
Because I want all of you to experience the magic of exploring somewhere you’ve never been, here are 10 ways you can start traveling for free.
1. Get Free Plane Tickets
Transportation is one of the most expensive parts of travel. Without a doubt, the quickest and easiest way to get free flights is to rack up points with a rewards credit card.
For example, with the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you’ll earn 2% cash back on everything you purchase (plus this card has no annual fee):
And by the way, from a card with no annual fee, this is the highest reward rate we’ve seen all year.
You do need to have excellent credit to qualify for this card. Also, in order to get the maximum amount of rewards, you’ll need to have a qualified Fidelity account to deposit the rewards. Eligible Fidelity accounts you can redeem your rewards into include most non-retirement accounts, as well as Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, SEP IRA and Fidelity®-managed 529 College Savings Plan accounts.
We advocate responsible credit card use — so, please, only get a credit card if you’ll pay the bill off in full each month. No rewards are worth going into debt over.
2. Play With Polar Bears
Due to retreating sea ice, polar bears have become classified as a threatened species.
Though we’ll hopefully figure out ways to reduce climate change and bring their numbers back up, now is still the time to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
In addition to an hourly wage, you’ll get free lodging, three meals a day and a $1,000 end-of-season bonus to cover the costs of your plane tickets.
3. Rack Up the Miles
As I mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to travel for free is to use credit cards responsibly. But what if you can’t (or don’t want to) get involved in that shtick?
You can still collect travel rewards.
One easy way is with Frequent Flyer, an app that offers frequent flyer miles in exchange for your location data.
Translation? All you have to do is keep it running in the background of your smartphone.
Plus, you can earn even more miles by entering sweepstakes, completing surveys and referring friends.
4. Join the Cartel
Traveling for free takes a lot of work — otherwise everyone would do it. So sometimes it’s smart to get help from the experts.
Chris Guillebeau, one of my personal heroes, has visited every country in the world. Lucky for us mortals, he shares his secrets through the Travel Hacking Cartel.
As a Cartel member, you’ll receive several emails each week with promotions and tips to help you earn more travel rewards.
Membership only costs $1 for the first 14 days, and $15 to $39 per month after that. It also comes with a unique guarantee: Earn 100,000 miles — enough for four plane tickets — in your first year of membership, or get your money back.
I’d say that’s a bet worth taking!
5. Sleep With Strangers
No, not in the same bed — get your mind out of the gutter!
In case you haven’t heard of it, CouchSurfing is a sweet service connecting you to like-minded people across the globe. These fellow travel lovers let you sleep on their couch for FREE.
All they ask is a bit of reciprocity: that you offer up your couch to another CouchSurfer once back in your hometown.
6. Move to Antarctica
Want to live in one of the most remote corners of the planet?
Get a job in Antarctica.
You’ll get free housing and food — plus a decent income — for spending months on the bottom of the world.
Because you won’t have anywhere to spend the money during your stint, you’ll also leave with a significant chunk of change…
Not only that, but Antarctic employers also pay for your transportation to the continent.
Because you can still use your own frequent flyer account, these round-trip flights will earn you enough miles for a free ticket to a different destination during the off-season.
7. Eat Out at Restaurants
Cooking at home is an excellent way to save money, but sometimes you just can’t be bothered.
If you do decide to eat out, make sure you sign up for travel rewards programs first.
Major airlines such as United, Delta and American all have dining programs that give you miles when you eat at one of their affiliated restaurants. And, oftentimes, you can get a bonus just for signing up.
8. Cuddle With Baby Goats
This is a real thing that exists. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), you can get free room and board in exchange for four to six hours of work per day. Gigs range from crushing grapes in New Zealand to cuddling goats in North Carolina.
And WWOOF is far from your only option; there are several more types of work exchanges that’ll help you travel for free.
9. Shop Online
If you do any online shopping, please tell me you’re using a shopping portal.
If not, you’re pretty much throwing money away.
Before you buy anything online, check a site like Cashback Monitor to see which travel partner offers the most bang for your buck.
For example, if you shop at Sierra Trading Post — one of my favorite stops for travel gear — you can earn two American Airlines miles per dollar spent.
That’s on top of the miles you’ll earn by using your rewards card. Woohoo!
10. Set Sail
Is there any better way to see the world than by boat?
But #yachtlife is never gonna happen for me, unless I happen to marry a millionaire.
Since that’s looking fairly unlikely, I’ve often considered joining the crew for a sailboat or cruise ship. These travel jobs cover room and board and allow you to see many different locations within a single season.
Don’t be like the countless people who wish they could go places — but don’t want to put in the effort travel hacking requires.
From experience, I can tell you: It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it.
Instead of sitting around wishing you could travel, follow these tips, and explore the world for free.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to travel for free?
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Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.