Traveling the world inexpensively – is it really possible? With the right strategy and great timing, it can be. The biggest deterrent to travel, cost, is no longer the hurdle that it once was. By participating in loyalty programs and the sharing economy, the two most costly components of travel, flights and lodging, suddenly become virtually free. In fact, with enough planning, it’s even possible to turn a profit while exploring new destinations. Not every strategy will work for every traveler, but the secret to free travel lies in leveraging as many of these strategies as possible.
Use Frequent Traveler Miles & Budget Airlines
Ask several friends how much a standard round-trip flight to Europe costs and the most common answer will likely be between $1,000 and $2,000. A few might say it’s between $400 and $600. And there might even be a strange answer like 60,000 miles.
Who would be right?
Well, they all would be. Most airlines like American and United do charge somewhere in the $1,000-$2,000 price range for these types of flights with the occasional cheaper exception. However, budget airlines like Norwegian and WOW air often charge significantly less. The chart below, taken from wowair.com, shows a one-way flight from D.C. to London for only $198.96.
The cheapest return flight is going for about $250 for a total roundtrip cost around $450. Keep in mind, though, budget airlines insist on nickel-and-diming their customers. In this case, WOW air charges $48 for a carry-on bag over 11 pounds and $67 per checked bag for a total of $115 each way! Including all fees, the price ends up at $678.35 which is still very affordable but it’s important to be aware of all the additional charges that come with budget airlines. Not all search engines display all budget airlines. A great site to use to view all budget airlines is skyscanner.com.
Traveling the world inexpensively is often accomplished through the use of frequent flyer miles. Utilizing miles, a roundtrip flight to Madrid could cost less than $60 and 60,000 miles.
Of course, miles don’t grow on trees so using them for free flights depends on how quickly they can be accumulated. There’s 4 very simple ways to speed up the process.
- Frequent Flyer Programs – Each airline has its own program so make sure to sign up and collect miles from every flight.
- Credit Cards – Many credit card companies offer huge sign-up bonuses and then award 1-3 points or miles per dollar spent.
- Dining Programs – Register current credit and debit cards with an airline’s dining program to receive miles at participating restaurants and bars.
- Online Shopping – Take care of online shopping through an airline’s online shopping portal and receive miles for any purchases.
For a more detailed explanation of these 4 methods, you can visit travelpreneurial.com
Free & Cheap Housing
After arriving at a destination as affordably as possible, the next hurdle is lodging. The traditional options are costly, but comfortable hotels or cheap but cramped hostels are cost-effective alternatives. These 2 options still make sense in certain cases (like using points or miles for free hotel stays), but there are now a few more choices.
At this point, most millennials are familiar with airbnb.com where hosts rent out either their entire home/apartment or a single room. The benefit to the renter is a much more affordable stay than at a hotel (usually) without sacrificing cleanliness and comfort. This allows for an awesome opportunity for travelers to rent out their own home/apartment while they rent an Airbnb in a different city as a guest. If they charge more for their own rental than what they’re being charged while traveling the world, they can effectively create a profit on housing!
To take the above strategy a step further, travelers can use Airbnb to rent out their own apartment while house-sitting in another city for free. At a site like nomador.com, travelers can find free house-sitting opportunities all over the world. In some cases, the homeowner wants a guest to take care of their pets but in other cases, they simply don’t want to leave an empty house for too long. Either way, it translates to free lodging for the house-sitter.
Another option for the more adventurous traveler is to quite literally sleep on a stranger’s couch for free. Couchsurfing.com sets up hosts that have a spare couch or mattress with travelers looking for a free place to stay. It’s definitely not for everybody but for the penny-pinching traveler, it can be an attractive option.
Points & Miles
In the same way points and miles can be used for free flights, they can also be used for free hotel stays. Some loyalty programs are geared specifically towards hotels, some towards flights, and others towards both. Thepointsguy.com is a great starting point when researching loyalty programs and travel credit cards.
Profit From Airport Parking
Getting to and from the airport can be a hassle. Most people either make a friend drive them, pay for airport parking, or use Uber. The first option is inconvenient and the other two can be costly. A cool new service called FlightCar.com offers users free airport parking and a car wash. The catch? They try to rent out the cars and when they do, the car owner gets paid. Win-win.
Traveling the World Using All 3 Strategies
Planning, patience, and luck would have to meet for all of these strategies to work on the same trip but the result would be the most affordable vacation imaginable. After paying $60 for a flight to Europe with free housing and earning $700 worth of combined income from 7 nights of Airbnb & FlightCar rentals, $640 would still be available as spending money! If that’s not convincing enough, consider the value of that cash spent somewhere like Southeast Asia or parts of Latin America where $5 is enough for a full meal and a beer. In this scenario, not only is it possible to travel the world for free, it’s even possible to turn a profit. If this all sounds too good to be true, there’s only one way to find out for sure.