While many people wish they could get paid to travel, it may feel like an unobtainable dream to most. The line between working in travel and getting paid to vacation is razor thin, but there are a few creative ways to get paid to play. Although there is still no such thing as a free lunch, these opportunities offer the best chance to see the world while earning some dough in the process.
Teaching English abroad is a great way to earn a salary while experiencing a different culture. The fastest route to a teaching job is obtaining a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certificate via a short course. Although you can teach with a basic TESL/TEFL certificate, to earn a professional accreditation (and gain access to more opportunities and higher pay), you'll need to complete at least 100 hours of in-class instruction as well as 6-20 hours of live classroom practice. There are other teacher preparation certifications, but TESL/TEFL are the most universally recognized and accepted around the world.
If you want to teach abroad, expect to invest anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a basic certificate to a few thousand for complete certification. When you’re considering what country to teach in, make sure to take into account salary expectations compared to the cost of living by country, as it can vary widely by region. At the high end of the scale, teachers in the United Arab Emirates can make up to $5,400 a month, while in China you can expect to earn between $1,300 and $2,700 per month. No matter how much you're getting paid, teaching English is a money-making skill you can learn in less than a year.
Win a Trip
Trip giveaways are common in the travel industry as a way to build brand awareness and entice new users to opt in to email lists. Although there may be different entry requirements and prizes, at the most basic level, there are two different types of giveaways: sweepstakes and contests. Sweepstakes are random drawings, whereas contests are skill-based, often focused on writing, video or photography.
Prizes can include anything from short tours of a single attraction to all-inclusive trips complete with extra spending cash. You can increase your chances of winning by reading the fine print and understanding the judging criteria — things like creativity, social likes and shares or judge’s choice. The best way to stay on top of contests that interest you is set up a Google alert for keywords like “trip giveaway” “trip contest” and “win a trip” so you’re in the know every time there’s a new opportunity.
Become a Social Media Influencer
Influencers are people with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, primarily Instagram or Youtube. Tourist destinations and hotels court them with free travel, with the expectation that they’ll share their experiences with their audience. If an influencer has a really large following or is especially good at negotiating, these brands will also pay for content creation on top of providing free travel. Individual rates for sponsored posts vary significantly. If your favorite Instagrammer has 100,000 followers, you can expect they’re making in the neighborhood of $800-$1,000 per sponsored photo, while someone with fewer than 1,000 followers is likely to earn $100 or less. It may sound like easy money, but it can be hard work. Photographers and content creators can spend hours setting up and editing the perfect shot or video, not to mention writing blogs.
Work as a Travel Writer
Travel writing is an umbrella term for anyone who writes about travel for a living. This can include publishing to a personal blog, working in-house for a travel magazine, or freelancing for a variety of publications. If you have an article you’re working on, you can pitch PR companies or tourism boards to allow you to attend press trips or familiarization tours or provide a media rate to allow you cheap travel to research your story. Rates for professional travel writers vary wildly, from a flat $25-$60 fee for web articles on sites like Matador up to $1 or more per word for longer pieces in established print publications. Plus, working as a travel writer means you'll get the VIP travel treatment you deserve.
Work for a Company That Offers Paid Vacation, Not Just Paid Time Off
Getting paid time off is a common incentive of salaried jobs in the U.S. Some hip companies are taking that a step further and offering to pay for their employees' trips as well. Designed to encourage more Americans to use their vacation days, roughly 3 percent of employers offer a "vacation stipend," according to a 2016 benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. This can come in the form of a straight cash bonus or hotel and flight reimbursements.
Work on a Cruise Ship
There are many jobs in the travel industry — like flight attendant and pilot — that will have you constantly on the go, but cruise ships have one of the lowest barriers to entry. It's a great job that lets you see the world for free.
Once hired, employees typically complete training courses for up to 13 weeks that cover various aspects of crew life, including safety and customer service. Contracts generally last for up to nine months, with the option of taking a 6-8 week break during that time. Crew members also get time off during sailings, and often have the opportunity to visit different ports or enjoy crew-only amenities on the ship. Salaries start at about $11 per hour depending on your position and experience, but many crew members earn significantly more when gratuities are factored in. On some lines, passenger gratuities are pooled and divided among staff members.
Participate in an Exchange Program
A unique opportunity available through Rotary International, the Group Study Exchange provides travel grants to young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 to study their chosen vocation in a different area of the world. For 4-6 weeks, teams of up to six people are brought together to learn about the cultural impact of their career in a host country. All airfare, meals, lodging and local transportation are covered as long as certain expectations are met, including attending events and making presentations. To qualify, you must be in the early stages of your career with a minimum of two years of work experience, speak the language of the country you hope to visit and live or work in the Rotary district sponsoring the exchange, among other qualifications.
Organize a Group Trip
If you’ve ever considered becoming a travel agent, a great way to dip your toes in the water is to plan a group trip for your circle of friends. Some tour companies will discount your trip as the leader if you get a certain number of friends to register with you. The best of the bunch will actually comp your trip and pay you a commission on top of that. YMT Vacations is one of the most lucrative, as it pays the organizer $100 per traveler for a group of 8-11 people, and will actually give you a free trip if you convince 12 or more people to join. In short, it pays to be the planner of your social circle. Trying to decide what kind of trip to take? Take the journey of a lifetime with these around-the-world vacations.
Join the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization, but there are some benefits to serving beyond making a positive difference in the world. The organization pays for your transportation to the host country, and you receive a housing and a living allowance that’s competitive for the local community you’re assigned to, which also helps teach life skills for budget travel and living within your means. Upon completion of 27 months of service, you’ll receive a stipend of $9,450 to use as you wish to help transition back to life in the U.S. In addition, volunteers qualify for certain student loan deferment and forgiveness programs and receive medical and dental benefits and two days of leave for every month served.
Get Paid to Transport Goods
One strategy to save on vacations is to earn money while you’re traveling. A peer-to-peer marketplace, Grabr is an app that connects travelers with shoppers looking to acquire unique cultural items abroad or items that are too expensive to ship internationally. Users make requests for specific products they want and anyone traveling to that country can accept the job. You can earn anywhere from $10 on knick-knacks and food products to more than $100 for delivering high-value products like iPhones and Apple TV systems.