How To Travel For Free Using Referral Codes On Hotels, Flights, Tours & More
How I afford to travel without a trust fund and how you can too! Keep reading for my no-BS tips that have made it possible for me to travel to over 20 countries without spending a fortune.
No, I'm not rich. I don't have a sugar daddy. No trust fund, either. Mommy & Daddy would laugh if I asked them to fund my travels(or any other aspect of my adult life). So what's the secret?
HOW CAN I AFFORD TO TRAVEL SO MUCH? HOW, SWAY? HOW?
This is the number one question I receive and understandably so.
I never thought I'd have the opportunity(or money) to travel the way I do now. It didn't seem within the realms of possibility for someone like me. Then, I discovered the secret. I discovered that normal people without trust funds & rich parents were traveling the world too - just in a different way.
The travel industry has touted travel as something luxurious & extravagant, but it doesn't have to always be that way. The real secret is that travel can be affordable if you're willing to get resourceful.
I shared my tips on twitter and they went viral, reaching over 6,000,000 people. To my surprise, this information wasn't common knowledge. It helped many see that travel can be affordable. Check the responses below to see that these tips are legit.
So, I'm bringing these tips to the blog! As always, I'm here to show how you can travel too! Here's how I afford to travel without a trust-fund and how you can too:
Being aware that there are affordable flights, accommodation options, etc. plays a crucial role in your ability to afford travel - in both the short term & long term.
Like I said, I had no idea about these options until I did some research for myself. This newfound awareness got me thinking - "Hm, maybe I CAN actually make this happen for myself!". After that, I was able to save & budget accordingly. If I assumed that this was out of reach, I wouldn't be traveling today.
If you make it to the end of this article, I encourage you to open up a tab & test these tips out for yourself. You might be surprised!
BE SMART ABOUT LOCATION
Where are you going? Places like Australia, the US, & Western Europe will be way more expensive than Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, South East Asia, Eastern Europe & parts of Africa.
Your money will stretch much further in certain countries, allowing you to travel for comfortably, for longer periods of time, or simply save more in the long run. The location could make the difference in whether you can afford to take the trip or not.
For example, You can travel to Thailand and live, eat, sleep & have fun for a month on what people in the US pay for a month's worth of rent. The cost of living varies greatly from country to country. Consequently, countries with lower cost of living will likely be more affordable to travel to.
FIND CHEAP FLIGHT DEALS
USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS
This flight search engine is seriously the greatest of all time. I could go on & on about it. The features are unmatched and it's extremely user-friendly. Here are some of the best features:
If you don't know where to go, it will provide you with suggestions & related prices. Before entering a destination, you can view a variety of cities with suggestions of what to do once you get there i.e, hiking, museums, etc. Perfect if you want to travel but have a hard time deciding where to go. It will also give you suggestions & prices if you enter "everywhere" or a specific country into the destination box without specifying.
- You can view prices by the day. This feature is ICONIC. Once you enter a destination, select a departure date and a calendar view will pull up for you to see the price for every single day going forward. From here, you can view which travel dates are cheapest or you can see if you'd be overpaying by selecting a certain date. The lowest prices will be highlighted in green.
- Set price alerts and you will receive emails/notifications when prices drop.
SEARCH FAR, WIDE & OFTEN
Use multiple search engines to search for flight prices. Different sites will show different prices. Look at @skyscanner @kayak @agoda & direct airline sites! Set price alerts so you know when prices drop with @hopper.
Flight prices change every single day. There's no method to the madness. Searching often will help you to know if you're overpaying or getting a good deal.
In order to score the best flight deals, flexibility is key. Flexible dates, airlines, locations, etc. If you aren't obligated to fly into a destination by a certain date, search for flights FIRST and schedule your vacation/trip around what price works best for you.
Search engines can track your search history and increase flight prices. To avoid this, search in incognito mode on Google Chrome, private browser mode on Safari, or clear your cache & cookies
FIND AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATION
Airbnb is an accommodation site that is great for really unique places, a local feel, and just an overall better range in prices for the budget traveler to the luxury traveler. Plus you can give friends your code for a discount on your next stay! Sign up now to receive $45 off your first Airbnb stay!
You may be interested in: My Best Airbnb Experience Yet!
If you’re open, give hostels a try! Hostels are a big reason many people can travel. Why pay hundreds for a hotel when you can pay $10-$25 a night or less in most cases? If you're not too keen on sharing a room with strangers, you can book a private room but still get the benefits of a communal environment! Although I don't love hostels, I have to admit that they've played a huge role in my being able to travel so much. They're also perfect for solo travelers!
Some hostels even allow you to volunteer for 4-5 hours a day in exchange for a free stay. Simply send an email asking if they're looking for volunteers or see the next tip for more info!
You may be interested in: 7 Reasons To Stay in Hostel
I typically use Booking.com to search for great hotel deals. Get 10 percent off bookings using this code!
Check @HotelTonight for last minute hotel deals.
Couchsurfing is a website where people offer to host you in their home for free. In a way, it's similar to shared Airbnb. Some might find this creepy! Why would anyone host people in their home for free? Many travelers on the site have experienced the kindness of strangers that have hosted them & simply want to give back to the CS community.
VOLUNTEER IN EXCHANGE FOR ACCOMMODATION
You can even volunteer around the world in exchange for a place to stay. Check Workaway, Worldpackers, & WOOFING for random jobs that will give you a room & possibly meals for working 4-5 hours a day! You just need to book the flight!
I saved $450 by volunteering on a 5 day sailing trip from Panama to Colombia.
TRADE SKILLS FOR ACCOMMODATION
Are you a photographer? Writer? Blogger? Videographer? Think about what skills you can offer to hotels or companies in exchange for accommodation! Be resourceful!
Sometimes a semester exchange is actually cheaper than your school's tuition. For example, my university had partnerships with schools overseas & the semester tuition abroad was usually cheaper than our school's semester tuition. You'd just need to cover flight & accommodation costs, which also may be affordable than it would be in your college town!
You never know until you ask! I worked at my university's business school & was heavily involved in our Center for International Business(study abroad office). There are SO many opportunities that students miss out on simply because they aren't aware these scholarships or programs are offered.
I studied abroad in South Africa, Panama, and India. While I received partial academic-based scholarships, I also worked 2 & 3 Jobs to save up for those programs. This was probably the best decision I made in college! As a matter of fact, these experiences are what prompted me to start this blog and lead the lifestyle I do now. :)
You may be interested in: 5 Reasons You Need To Study Abroad
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDENT STATUS
NEVER forget your student ID on trips because a lot of museums & other activities are offered for free or discounted for students!
Also, check flights like Student Universe and STA travel for student exclusive discounts on flights, hotels, tours & more. You don't even need to be a student for member access - you only need to be under 26. These sites constantly offer deals available nowhere else, like a recent deal for $100 off all roundtrip flights to Chiang Mai from the US at Student Universe!
Get $20 off your next booking at student Universe by clicking here
Avoid taxis - take Uber(Uber Pool is even cheaper!) or local transportation. Taxi costs can add up very quickly no matter where you are! You can also rack up referral credit, allowing you to ride for free!
For example, a taxi from the airport in Paris cost around $50, Uber cost around $30-40, local bus $5 & less.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHEAP CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVEL
If you live in or plan to visit a European country, you've got it made! Country hopping can be really affordable with Airlines like RyanAir and bus companies like Flixbus make it possible to travel nearby countries for under $20. Not to mention, a high number of affordable accommodation(i.e. hostels) options that just aren't available to US citizens just yet!
I've paid less than $6 to fly from one European country to another using RyanAir! This is unheard of in the US.
TRY BUDGET AIRLINES
Airlines like Ryan Air, Frontier, & Spirit make it possible to fly at really affordable prices. These kind of budget airlines are best for those who pack light because baggage space is sold at an additional price. All terms are stated on their website!
Don't forget to pack light to avoid additional fees! Please don't play yourself!
Think about all free or low-cost activities you can do abroad:
Live street music
Visit white sand beaches
Wander through cobblestone streets
Hike a volcano
Go on a street art tour
Go for a bike ride around the city
Go to happy hour
Once you get to your destination, you can always find ways to enjoy yourself at a low cost!
Eat local! Go to the local markets OR just walk a few streets back from the tourists' spots for cheaper & usually more authentic food!
Are you a military, AAA, or AARP member? Check for discounts EVERYWHERE, on car rentals & hotel bookings!
Time is money, so let’s talk about time. A 3-day trip is better than no trip. Use 2 weekend days & 1 vacation day. Take a quick road trip or visit the next town over! ANY change in scenery could be super beneficial & also low cost.
JOIN A TOUR GROUP
Planning a trip yourself will likely be cheaper than booking a tour. If you don’t have the time or know how to plan - check Groupon, Ef College Break, or Geckos Adventures for affordable group trips!
After graduating, I knew I wanted to do a big Eurotrip. I didn't have the skills or confidence to plan a long-term foreign trip alone, so it definitely paid off for me to travel with EF College Break. Sure, costs could have been lower if I planned it myself but I honestly wasn't ready for that. Their program offered a competitively low rate, especially in comparison to my a similar program that my university offered at double the price.
PUT YOUR PHONE ON AIRPLANE MODE
International roaming costs are expensive. Put your phone on airplane mode while you travel & take advantage of free wifi offered at restaurants, hotels, public parks, etc. You can use wifi calling, iMessage(if you have an iPhone), facetime(audio & video calling), facebook messenger(to call & message), WhatsApp & many other apps with wifi alone.
If you're from the US, TMobile offers free data usage & texting in nearly every country. I have Tmobile, so I always take advantage of this while traveling.
USE REFERRAL CREDITS
Many of the resources I've listed here offer referral credits which could ultimately lead to free travel. Referral credits could cover any of your major travel costs. You can use referral credits that other people share and you can also share your referral code for others to use. It's a win-win for both people!
Lyft - Get $15 off your next ride
Perfect for group trips, because they can cut costs for you AND your friends!
TRAVEL WITH FRIENDS
I'm a solo traveler at heart, but I'll be the first to admit that one of the biggest downsides to solo travel is paying for everything alone.
With group travel, you can split taxis, meals, hotel rooms, Airbnb, etc. Costs are cut in half or more.
GET A TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
I just booked a flight to Southeast Asia for FREE with my Chase Sapphire Rewards Credit card. This card gave me 4 free flights in 2017 alone and it just keeps giving. Free global entry sign-up, lounge access, TSA pre-check, travel insurance, $300 yearly travel credit are among some of the amazing benefits this card has to offer.
Due to a high annual fee, I'd only recommend this card if you plan to travel multiple times a year. I'd also only advise a travel credit card if you have the cash to avoid going into debt. You can use this to make everyday purchases and then immediately pay the card off to avoid interest.
You can use points to book flights, hotels, car rentals, and even activities!
Apply here - You will receive an offer for 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
This is what I am currently doing!
This option isn't available to everyone, but it's one of the greatest ways to save on travel. When you hear about people quitting their job to travel, they're likely taking advantage of long-term travel benefits. This may include saving a big chunk of money, selling all belongings, giving up rent, etc. Instead of paying for rent, car payments, etc. all of their money goes directly into their lifestyle of travel. It's also possible to cover a lot of ground using this method because you can take advantage of traveling to nearby countries without a time limit. Instead of paying for flights to go back & forth year after year, you can pay for one flight and cover an entire continent.
For example, many people I know pay over $1200 in rent alone. This doesn't even include all other monthly living costs. That amount of money can cover food, accommodation, & activities in so many countries around the world.
THINK ABOUT WHAT TRAVEL MEANS TO YOU
Finally, think about what travel means to you. Is it about luxury? That’s fine, but understand that it may be a little more pricey! If it’s simply about meeting people, learning about cultures or languages, stepping outside of your comfort zone, you can definitely make it happen on the low!
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance can cover many things - illness, infections, theft, injury, missed flights, death, etc. It's not ideal to imagine that these things happen while traveling, but they do all of the time. In the past, I never got it. However, it was a lifesaver on my recent trip through Central America. My belongings were stolen and $1000 was reimbursed to me through my travel insurance. You never just never know. Travel insurance can save you a lot in the long run!
I use world nomads travel insurance, which you can check out here!
So, there you have it! These are the strategies that I, and so many others, have used to travel on a reasonable budget. I encourage you to give them a try for yourself!
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