Traveling the world is its own form of education, but for students or graduates saddled with student debt, even road-tripping can seem financially out of reach.
However, there are ways to travel the world for free, or nearly free, if you are willing to work for it. Enter part-time gigs, side hustles and other methods that allow you to travel and stay in the U.S. or abroad for next to nothing:
1. Transport goods and even pets 2. Housesit or pet sit your way into a vacation stay 3. Become a travel nanny 4. Do domestic work (and blog about it) 5. Get your hands dirty (on an organic farm) 6. Learn about your heritage and travel for free Plus: Other ways to see the world more cheaply
1. Transport goods and even pets
There’s no better classic getaway than a cross-country road trip. Unfortunately, between gas, hotels, and food, your costs can add up quickly. But what if you made deliveries along the way to cover your costs?
That’s exactly what the app Roadie offers for those who want to hit the open road and get paid to do it.
On average, a Roadie driver can earn $15 to $650 depending on the size of the delivery, how far it’s going, and how quickly it needs to get there.
You also have the option of loading up the car with other items that need to be transported, too. The downside to this gig is that you don’t get to have a leisurely drive since you’re on a deadline.
The upside? You get to see cool parts of the country and meet interesting people you would never have without the job. To apply for Roadie, you must be 18 or older, have car insurance, have a valid driver’s license, complete an application and pass a background check.
2. Housesit or pet sit your way into a vacation stay
Unless you plan on camping, you’ll need accommodations during your travels. That expense can add up quickly, depending on the time of year and the location you travel in. For example, the average cost of a U.S. hotel room is roughly $135 per night.And if you are headed to London, you could spend upward of $231-$241 for a hotel or an average of 80 euros ($89) for an Airbnb stay.
If you have friends, consider a house swap, or check out sites like MindMyHouse and Nomador, an international housesitting community.
Sign up for between $20-$89 a year (depending on the service) and receive access to thousands of potential gigs. While you will likely have some chores like collecting mail, watering plants and maybe even feeding pets, you will have access to places around the world to stay for free.
3. Become a travel nanny
Babysitting or taking on a part-time nanny job is a great way to make some extra cash on the side. But you can use those same skills to see the world if you work as a travel nanny.
Adventure Nannies connects families who are planning travel with someone to help look after the kids on the trip. That means you get paid — plus free meals, accommodations and transportation — while traveling the world. The trips are for set periods of time, too, so you can plan ahead with your time off from work or a school vacation.
Adventure Nannies suggests that you’ll make a minimum of $25 to over $40 per hour depending on the job. Adventure Nannies does not take a cut out of their nannies pay, and you can set your own rates for travel placement.
Keep in mind that because you’ll be working, you won’t have entire days free to explore. Still, there usually is downtime, and you can always extend your trip after completing your commitment.
To sign up for Adventure Nannies, you’ll need to:
Fill out an initial application Do an initial FaceTime or Skype interview Go through a phone screening Provide five references Undergo a social media and internet screening Write an in depth essay/application Pass a background check
Once you’re cleared to start work, you can begin applying for gigs on the site.
4. Do domestic work (and blog about it)
When Stevo Dirnberger and Chanel Cartell set off on a trek across the globe in March 2015 after quitting their jobs, they knew their savings wouldn’t cover all their costs.
To stay on the road, they took up many odd jobs and wrote about them on their now well-known blog, How Far From Home. Fast-forward to 2020, and Dirnberger and Cartell have turned their blog into a brand complete with an online retail shop and virtual classes on how to travel the world. In addition, the pair offer their services as travel photographers, film production, even travel wedding planners.
The couple did a series of jobs in their first year of travel, ranging from working with huskies, chopping wood and cooking for guests in Norway, to scrubbing toilets and building a jungle gym in Sweden.
If you wanted to do the same, for example, renting a wooden cabin in Norway for an entire month would cost anywhere from $1,200 to over $2,500.
Although they didn’t get paid for their work, they received food and accommodations in return. In addition to cleaning toilets, the pair helped out at a dog-training facility in Italy, lived on a private island in Iceland and housesat in New Zealand.
All of their work saved them big bucks and they founded a whole new chapter in their careers centered around traveling the world.
5. Get your hands dirty (on an organic farm)
If you love working with your hands in nature, check out World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) or WWOOF-USA, the American branch of the organization.
Besides individuals, couples, friends and families can participate in a WWOOF program together. Volunteers can choose from thousands of jobs all over the world from Togo to New Zealand. Help farmers harvest crops, feed animals, even assist with cheese and winemaking, among other jobs.
The agreement? The farm will cover your meals and accommodations, workers can work for usually four to six hours a day and then have time to themselves for travel.
6. Learn about your heritage and travel for free
For those who apply and qualify, a “birthright trip” is a free or nearly free way to experience the country of your heritage with your peers.
There are birthright trip programs to Ireland, Cuba, Israel, Armenia and Greece, among other countries. Most of these trips are offered by nonprofit organizations that provide a packaged tour of a home country.
Typically when you are selected to go on a birthright trip through a nonprofit, your meals, lodging, classes and transportation are all paid for by the organization. You may want to bring spending money or cash for tips, but otherwise, the trips are free to those accepted into them.
Plus: Other ways to see the world more cheaply
Besides these, there are ways to shave money off your travel expenses.
For example, a rewards credit card that racks up points for miles can help you pay for plane tickets and even hotel stays. Just remember to stay within your credit limit while you maximize your use of the card to earn points.
Meanwhile, for affordable stays abroad, try a housing swap. Stay in someone’s home in Kenya or near a loch in Scotland by becoming a member of HomeExchange, which has members in 187 countries, or via HomeLink, a popular exchange program. Founded in 1953, the program has members in over 70 countries.
By using a housing-swap program, you can explore hundreds of thousands of potential homestay vacations around the world.
Even if your discretionary income isn’t much after student loan payments and living expenses, there are ways to travel without a hefty travel budget. With these ideas in mind, you may be able travel the world for free, or nearly free, and all it takes is a little creativity and research.
Maya Dollarhide contributed to this report.