3 Ways to Score a Free Vacation (Without Entering a Scammy Contest)

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Where do you want to go on vacation? Disney World? New York City? Vegas? Paris? A sandy beach somewhere?

All of those sound awesome, but holy cow, are vacations expensive. You’ll have to pay for plane tickets or a serious road trip. You’ll need to stay at a hotel (or Airbnb). Add the cost of restaurant meals, maybe a rental car and admission fees for all those fun tourist activities you want to do.

Making memories ain’t cheap, but luckily we’ve got ideas for how you can afford it. If you can pull in enough cash through side gigs or passive income, your vacation will be basically free.

Here are three ideas:

1. List Your Place While You’re Gone

While you’re on vacation, you won’t be home. I mean, that’s sort of the whole point of a vacation, isn’t it? To get away. You leave your house or your apartment, and you travel somewhere far away.

Since you won’t be using your home, why not let someone else use it while you’re gone? You might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

Sure, you can always list a spare room if you’ve got one. But consider listing your entire place while you’re away. If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could make some bank on Airbnb.

Just enter your information into Airbnb’s calculator to receive a free income estimate. Depending on how long you can list your place, you could make hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars.

Here are some tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events.
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.

Here’s our beginner’s guide to being an Airbnb host, starting with how to create your listing and set your price.

2. Use a Rewards Credit Card to, Well, Reward Yourself

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money — money that you could be using for your vacation.

You could use it on your trip. Use it to pay for your hotel stay or car rental or dinner out, to really get more bang for your buck. (Just make sure to pay off your balance each month to avoid interest charges.)

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card, you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

3. Get Free Accommodations as a House-Sitter

What about staying someplace cool and getting paid for it?

Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a beautiful balcony looking out over the ocean. Later, you water the plants and clean up a bit before taking a dip in the pool. Oh, and you’re getting paid for taking care of this house.

It sounds too good to be true. Can you really find house-sitting jobs that pay?

Yes and no. Yes, caretaking gigs that pay a salary or stipend in addition to providing you a place to stay do exist. But no, there aren’t many that fit the description above.

Most house-sitting opportunities fall into one of these two categories: standard house-sitting gigs, or more demanding caretaking jobs.

Many websites list house-sitting gigs, and a quick glance tells you right away that not many people are offering to pay their house sitters much — if anything. Normally, you get a nice place to stay for free.

This might not sound like much of a money-making opportunity, but it depends on how you look at it. House-sitting could be a way to get free accommodations when you travel, cutting a huge expense.

Here are some of the online platforms where you can find the opportunities, along with their subscription rates:

  • House Sitters America ($30 per year)
  • Mind My House ($20 per year)
  • Housecarers.com ($50 per year or free limited membership)
  • Luxury House Sitting ($25 per year)
  • Nomador ($89 per year or limited free membership)

Some people make a lifestyle of house-sitting. Canadian couple Dalene and Peter Heck sold everything to travel the world, staying in other people’s homes. For eight years, they stayed in more than a dozen different countries all over the world, saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars in housing costs.

Now, think again about where you want to go on vacation.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He could use a vacation.