If traveling more is one of your New Year’s goals, but you never got around to checking off “win the lottery” from this year’s list, there’s no need to freak out. Even if the Internet makes it seem like you need to be a millionaire to get around, there are plenty of ways to book flights and find a place to stay for free — or almost for free. Here are five tips that travel insiders swear by.
Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card
If you’re not accumulating points on a travel rewards credit card, you’re basically throwing away free flights. Although you may prefer to stockpile miles on one airline’s card to get the perks from being a preferred customer, the Chase Sapphire Preferred allows a little more freedom with where you book. You can redeem your points on basically any airline through Chase’s own travel-booking site. Just remember to spend responsibly and to pay off your balance in full each month so you don’t accumulate debt.
House Swap or House Sit
If you don’t mind welcoming strangers into your home, a house swap guarantees you a free place to stay. Although some sites like Home Exchange and HomeLink charge an annual membership fee, GuestToGuest is free as long as you’re willing to host guests at your home.
If you’d rather not have strangers in your home, offer to house-sit for your friends and family the next time they go out of town. Once you have a few references, try signing up for a house-sitting website to expand your travel options. Although they all have membership fees, TrustedHousesitters.com, MindMyHouse.com and Housecarers.comare all good options to explore.
Volunteer With WWOOF
In exchange for working on an organic farm, WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) will offer you free accommodation, food, and the opportunity to learn a few new skills and about a new culture in the destination of your choosing. Although you won’t have to budget for room and board, keep in mind you’ll be responsible for covering your travel costs, plus a small subscription fee (usually less than $75).
If you have anywhere from nine months to two years to spare, you can get paid to teach English abroad. Being TEFL certified isn’t required in many countries to teach, but it’s highly recommended to prepare you for the job. Ready to look for opportunities? TEFL.com is one of the most trusted resources for online postings.
For people with less time on their hands, Diverbo sends groups of 15-25 English-speaking volunteers to villages around Spain and Germany for weeklong programs to help locals practice their language skills. Although Diverbo doesn’t cover your flights, it does provide full room and board during the program.
Drive Someone’s Car Across the Country
If you don’t own a car or have the funds to rent one, you can still go on that American road trip of your dreams by offering to drive someone else’s vehicle from point A to point B. To drive for Auto Driveaway, the largest vehicle-relocation company in the U.S., you need to be at least 23 years old and have a valid license. After putting down a $350 security deposit (returned upon delivery), you’ll be paid a negotiable rate — either flat or per mile — and gas will be charged back to the owner.