Ways to Travel for Free


Made famous by the movie The Holiday, this option, of course, requires you to have a house. If you do have a house to offer up, there are various websites that provide online classifieds for owners to advertise (homeexchange.com or homebase-hols.com). Most require a registration fee, but then you can advertise your property for the entire year. The length of time for exchanges depends on the needs of the two parties swapping houses. Another alternative for those travellers lucky enough to be property owners is to rent out your home.

What advocates say:Accommodation with no cash down? This is a no-brainer. Staying in a home rather than a hotel usually has perks like an equipped kitchen, telephone and some may even have internet. And renting out your home while you’re away is a great source of cash; monthly rent from an apartment in Toronto, Vancouver or even St. John’s can go a long way towards covering your costs in Bolivia or Ghana.

If you’re kipping in your parents’ spare room, sleeping in a college dorm, or surfing on your friends’ sofas then you’re out of luck on the house-swapping front (or, more accurately, you may already be travelling for free). But a house-sitting gig may be an option for you. If you are looking to house-sit, there are online boards where you can advertise your services. Check out: housecarers.com, mindmyhouse.com for postings in several different countries, or national boards such as Australia’s happyhousesitters.com.au or aussiehousesitters.com.au. You can also put the word out and look for homes in need through university communities (on general message boards, in residences, in university newspapers), church communities or community centres. Sites like craigslist.org and Facebook are also worth a try.

Ever considered volunteering on a development project? One of the great things about devoting your time to help a worthy cause overseas is that it may allow you an opportunity to fundraise to support your work. Some volunteer organizations may help you out with room and board, and occasionally flights. Most organizations that do this require a significant commitment of time (one to two years) as well as specialized skills and experience. An alternative is to join a shorter-term project and fundraise. Schools, employers, community organizations, family and friends are all great sources of moral support for most volunteers, and most are happy to help out with a good cause. Some local organizations that support this kind of work include your local Lions Club (lionsclubs.org), Optimist Club (optimist.org) or Rotary Club (rotary.org).

You can get on board with someone going in the same direction, or if you have a car, you can look for people to join you—thereby offsetting fuel costs. Carpooling usually requires some advance planning, as travellers will look to fill their car way in advance of their departure. Some travellers advertise on travel forums (thorntree.lonelyplanet.com), and there are websites specifically dedicated to this kind of ride sharing like erideshare.com and compartir.org. Rides can also be advertised at hostels and other venues where travellers congregate. While it requires slightly more planning than hitchhiking, carpooling is likely a safer option. You can meet the person in advance of the trip (preferably in a public place), as well as check their references, photo ID and phone numbers. Though of course, in some parts of the world, such as Cuba, hitchhiking is just part of the way of life.

You don’t need to know your port from your starboard in order to help crew a boat. Knowledge of seamanship might make you a shoo-in, but culinary, mechanical or navigational abilities could score you a paid position on board, and often an extra set of hands is enough to earn you working passage on a yacht. If you want to get a feel for the kinds of options available, check out UK-based Crewseekers International: crewseekers.net (Note: A membership fee applies). Crewseekers lists many opportunities, including paid positions, shared contribution voyages and working passage trips.

In a nutshellA much less adventurous way to travel at sea, in some respects. But there are about a zillion different jobs available on cruise ships. The best option for short-term contracts is to offer an area of expertise for the education or entertainment of the passengers. There are many websites that offer listings of cruise ship jobs—some of which are fraudulent—but most cruise companies list available job opportunities directly on their websites. Get started at carnival.com or royalcaribbean.com.


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