Let’s take a wild guess – you’d take to take a lot more vacations each year if they didn’t cost so much, right? And however good a deal you get on flights, or accommodations, the ensuing taxes and extra charges are often times a killer.
But it is possible to stay for free. You won’t get any five star hotels, but if you’re all for experiencing a different culture rather than sticking to your own, only with a nicer beach, then you should love these ways of staying free. And of course, if you’re not shelling out for lodging, you can spend more on your flight – think going further, or even treating yourself to an upgrade to first class.
Couchsurfing: There are a few websites along these lines now, but as the original, Couchsurfing.com is one of the best. The idea is that it’s a global network of nearly 2 million people over 236 countries, with spare rooms, blow-up beds and sofas, who agree to a reciprocal arrangement – come to my town and you can sleep at mine, and vice versa. It’s free to sign up, you correspond with each other before you settle on a stay (so you can both decide if you like the other) and members vet each other, in order to keep things safe.
House-swapping: Your home’s going to be empty while you’re on holiday, so you may as well let it pay its way by doing a house swap. It may not be as glamorous as The Holiday (you may not get Jude Law or Jack Black thrown in with the house, for a start), but there are plenty of websites which offer house swapping services. Generally you pay a sign up fee, then choose a place or a home that you like the look of, and take it from there.
Working holidays: It’s an old-fashioned idea, working for a few hours a day in order to receive free accommodation, but it’s one that’s enjoying a comeback with the current belt-tightening circumstances. Sites like Workaway set you up with hosts who expect you to do around five hours of work a day – helping with the housework or the business – in return for board and lodging. You pay about $25 to register for two years, and book placements through the website.
Exchanges: You know those signs as you enter towns that talk about where they’re twinned with? You probably read them, smirk if you know the twinned town in question, and move on. What you may not know is that many towns operate exchange programs between the countries. Find out who deals with the exchange program (probably the town council or the city’s office) and ask if they have any trips planned. If they do, you’ll often be put up by host families. (Did you know that Las Vegas is a twin city with Phuket City, Thailand?!)
Farming holidays: Similar to Workaway, Wwoof.org is a leading website for placing you with small farms around the world, on which you’ll work in return for board and lodging. But they’re not just any farms – they’re all organic, and they all require you to be interested in the organic movement. And you definitely won’t need to hit the gym mid-holiday with this one.