Nearly Free Travel: 9 Tips To Save Big on Worldwide Travel Costs

7 min Read

lechatnoir / Getty Images

Traveling the world is a bucket list dream for many people, but most don’t do it because of the high costs associated with travel. But traveling internationally doesn’t have to be out of reach if you know some unique strategies and tips, are willing to be flexible, can step outside your comfort zone or be creative in your approach.

Here are 10 ways to hack your travel costs while traveling the world.

Travel in the Offseason

Andrew Helling, a seasoned traveler and editor of Travellersworldwide.com, recommends traveling in the offseason to save big on flight costs. He said, “I bought airline tickets from Omaha, Nebraska to Bali for $350 on Singapore Airlines, a ticket that would have been over $2,000 in peak season.”

Helling traveled during February, historically the wet season. He added, “I’ll happily wait out a shower here and there if it means that I can save 85% on my ticket.”

Travel With Points

No matter where you travel, or how frequently, it’s always good to open up a travel credit card to earn reward points on travel, said Rebecca Safier, who runs the travel blog, Remote Bliss.

Make Your Money Work for You

“Some cards offer introductory bonuses that can cover part or all of a plane ticket. Plus, some come with useful travel benefits, like trip cancellation insurance and car rental insurance. As long as you pay off your balance each month, you won’t have to pay interest charges on the amount. I’ve purchased several plane tickets through credit card points alone.”

Seek Low Cost Locales

If your bar for lodging is only five-star hotels, your accommodation costs will always be high. Instead, Helling suggests travelling to locations that have a low cost of living.

“My wife and I visited Chiang Mai, Thailand, where a five-star hotel room costs $40 per night, and you can get a full meal — drinks included! — for only $5. In locations like Bali, Thailand, India, and Vietnam where labor is abundant, the cost to produce goods and services is reduced, thereby offering a better value for travelers.”

In Australia, where hotel costs were steep, they stayed at a youth hostel where costs were $11 per night. Hostels do mean sharing living spaces without much privacy, but Helling said he and his wife enjoyed meeting people this way.

Make Your Money Work for You

Stay Longer, Return to Locations

Dawn Pick Benson, a “transformational travel coach for 40+ women” with her company GLOBESTORY, said, “I opt to stay longer so I can get multiple month discounts on my lodging. This also makes food less expensive, as you can shop for multiple weeks and make food at home when you prefer not to go out.”

Additionally, she often returns to the same regions, “so I can use my network to find local apartments often not advertised. Negotiating directly allows you to avoid the extra fees many companies add.” She also travels to more inexpensive locations, such as Eastern Europe.

Staying longer enables you to take advantage of cheaper transportation, according to Claire Ramsdale, a self-described full-time nomadic traveler with The Detour Effect, who lives on $30,000 per year.

“When I do a long stay, a lot of other things become cheaper too. I can often get a weekly or monthly metro pass if I’m in a city, for instance, like the Navigo Pass in Paris. When I am abroad I always get an eSIM instead of paying my at-home cell provider for international roaming. Verizon would charge me $10 per day for a Travel Pass, but an eSIM might be $10-30 for an entire month.”

Make Your Money Work for You


Between hotels and hostels lies another lodging variation, known as the homestay. Sort of like an international Airbnb, individual families rent out rooms to host travelers. Milosz Krasinski, an avid traveler who has visited over 65 countries, said, “Not only are they often cheaper, but they also offer the opportunity to meet other travelers and locals.” Locals can also give you advice on sightseeing, dining and other tips.

House Sitting

Another way to save money on lodging is to register as a house sitter through services such as TrustedHousesitters.com. Ryan Gleason and his wife Alex Duo of the travel blog Ryan + Alex Duo Life have used this service to visit such countries as Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico. They said it includes “staying in beautiful homes and sometimes looking after dogs and cats,” added, “We lived for free, saving between $600 and $1,200 a month on rent, and the homes were far more comfortable and well-equipped than any rental.” 

One caveat about these situations, according to Madolline Gourley, a traveling petsitter with One Cat at a Time, is that you may have to obtain a work visa to do this or you could get into legal trouble.

Make Your Money Work for You

Seek Educational Opportunities and Jobs That Travel

One way to travel the world without paying for it — and in fact, possibly get paid to do so — is to seek jobs that involve travel.

Heather Funk Theodoridi, Director of International Programs and Student Services for the American College of Thessaloniki, lived in Spain for a year as a study abroad student. “Then I became a teacher and took my students on trips through Explorica,” she said. “Then I decided to become a tour manager for Explorica myself and spent 7 years traveling the world and showing people some of the most amazing places.”

In her current job, she travels all around Greece with college students.

Teach English Overseas

Learning to speak English is a coveted skill in many countries, and might be a way to get paid to travel, according to Safier of Remote Bliss, who has visited nearly 30 countries on an extremely tight budget.

She moved to Spain through the country’s Auxiliares de Conversación program, which provides English speakers with part-time positions as language assistants in Spanish public schools. “Although this program doesn’t pay a ton, it was enough for me to establish a home base in Spain and travel around Europe throughout the year. Once you’re in Europe, you can find super cheap flights to visit other countries — think $50 or less on budget airlines like Ryanair.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Volunteer or Work Exchange

Travel blogger Sibu Szymanowska, who runs Go Global With Sibu, has been living and traveling around the world for 15+ years.  She recommends several unusual ideas for low-cost travel:

While there are few ways to truly travel for free, a combination of these tips can help you come close. Safe travels!

More From GOBankingRates