Traveling for free seems like an impossible feat, however if you do it the right way you could avoid spending thousands trotting the globe. Here are some of the tips we suggest.
Churning is what people call “travel hacking.” I only recommend it for the highly responsible who keep track of what they spend and can pay off their balance every month. You have a spreadsheet (like Google Sheets or Excel) to keep track of a bunch of credit cards. Check your credit before you do this! Then, look up credit cards that give you sign-up bonuses.
In your spreadsheet, keep track of everything: name of the card, the bank, the bonus amount, the minimum purchase requirements, the time limit, when you were approved for the card, the deadline for spending your minimum requirement, the categories, the % cash back, whether points are transferable, etc.
The idea is to spend just enough to receive the sign-up bonus and then to sign up for a new card. If done correctly, your credit score will not be affected negatively. It’s not free since you have to spend the minimum requirements before receiving the bonus, but if you spend more than $500 in three months anyways, you may as well get rewarded for it. Google “credit card churning” for more information.
Using your credit card! Again, not technically free, but if you use your card(s) and regularly pay off your balance, you can get free money back for things you’re paying for anyways (as long as you have a rewards card). Set your card(s) up to pay for everything you possibly can: phone bills, gas bills, water bills, groceries, restaurants, gifts, whatever. Some cards give you extra points for specific categories (gas, food, travel, etc); find out which cards are good for what. Then, find a good travel card that has a 0% foreign transaction fee, collect the sign-up bonus if you haven’t already, and use your rewards. Some cards give you 25%-50% more for your points if you spend on travel, so $100 in rewards becomes $125 or $150, and $500 in rewards becomes $625 or $750.
CouchSurfing is a great way to meet locals who are fellow travelers and get a free place to crash. we cannot recommend it enough as long as you read all of the reviews for your hosts. If you are using your credit card rewards to fund your trip, you can save money a lot of money on lodging by using this network. If you use this, try to host some people as well!
Hopper is a another great resource to ensure you’re getting the best price for your flight. It uses an AI to predict when prices will fall or rise and alerts you when prices change or when it’s time for you to buy. Like CouchSurfing, this is great if you’re using your credit card rewards to travel and still need to save money.
Get a job that has you traveling or taking business trips on the company’s dime. This means you’ll have to balance work and play while abroad. It’s also a big commitment to change your career just to travel for free. Still, if seeing the world is a big enough goal, this might be worth it.
Check to see how easy or hard it would be for you to obtain a work visa for your country of choice and apply to jobs! Australia has a great youth travel visa, for example, that allows visa holders to work in certain industries for six months to a year (please don’t quote me on this). You can “job hop” and move on to the next country once your visa expires.
Many hostels offer a work program. Oftentimes, it’ll require a stay of at least a month, but you’re given free housing for minimal work (a few hours a day). You’ll still have to figure out how to pay for food and travel expenses, but “free” lodging is a huge deal. This and the work visa option both give you a great immersion experience that you just can’t get from staying in a city for three days.
There are some volunteer programs that send you abroad. Depending on the program, you may or may not receive a food and housing stipend and they may or may not pay for your flight, so make sure you look into that. This is another great immersion experience, but you might not be “traveling” as much as you’d like. Depends on what you think travel is. Also, the locations may be limited.