Contrary to many people’s beliefs, you do not have to be a millionaire or have tens of thousands of followers to travel the world. Sure, you may not get the convenience of a private jet or a five star villa with butler service. But honestly, adventure is more memorable and exciting than luxury anyway (at least you have better stories to tell when you get home – no one wants to hear your wealth-related humble boasts).
So how do you go about flying abroad without breaking the bank? There are actually more options than you might think. As a mid-20s creative, I know a thing or two about how to “ball on a budget.” In other words, I’m a broken bitch who does not let my humble life stop me from seeing the world. Will I eat oatmeal and ramen for a week straight? Most likely. But will I also dance at a music festival, party on a boat and fly alone to a foreign country? Absolutely.
Opportunities to save money and even get paid when you travel are out there, it’s just a matter of a little luck and finding the right option for you. Below I share with you 10 ways you can start traveling on a budget today.
Join the A Work Stay Program
If you want to do some work in exchange for a vacancy, you should consider joining a work placement program. “Work stays” are travel opportunities where you work for a family, farm or organization for a certain period of time in exchange for a place to live. Depending on the host, this can sometimes also include food (points!).
Work stoppage jobs often include tasks such as building and painting houses, gardening, hosting trips, taking care of pets and farming – including the occasional shoveling of goat droppings (still worth the free trip, IMO). This option is obviously best if you plan to stay at a given destination for more than just a few days to a week, as you will need to use your free time and weekends to explore.
Some reliable job exchange programs include Workaway, WWOOF, HelpX, HelpStay and Worldpackers.
2. Become an Airbnb Host
If you live in a popular tourist destination, it’s a great way to make money by being an Airbnb host when you’re away. People just like you are always looking for affordable places to stay on vacation. Upgrade your home with a little quirky decor, keep your space clean and take some high quality photos of your place. The great thing about Airbnb is that you can choose when and how often you want to rent it out.
List your home when you have upcoming travel plans. The money you earn from hosting can go directly to your own vacation rentals and adventures.
Read more about hosting on Airbnb here.
Stay up to date on travel deals
You do not have to search the internet daily to find the best travel deals. Instead, subscribe to weekly newsletters dedicated to sharing what’s new in the travel world. There are plenty of newsletters out there – Jack’s Flight Club, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Airfarewatchdog and TravelPirates are some notable ones – that ensure you never miss the chance to get discounted airline tickets.
It’s also worth following your favorite airlines, tourist advice, travel influences and travel agents to keep you updated on sales, discount codes and updates on airline tickets, hotels, destinations and more. Finally, if you do not follow Secret Flying on all social platforms, you will be ashamed.
Take advantage of airline points
If you are an avid traveler who does not benefit from least an airline’s reward system you seriously miss. When you join an airline membership, you can accumulate miles over time that you can eventually use for free or heavily discounted air travel. AKA, you can fly to Paris or take a trip to Bali mainly for free.
Most airlines will also reward you with a few extra points just for registering in the first place. In addition, you can earn additional benefits such as priority boarding, free seat upgrades and early check-in.
Tip: Do your best to stick to a single airline when booking flights to collect those miles faster and get more rewards. Personally, Southwest and American Airlines are my two favorite airline memberships.
There are incredible destinations around the world that are also in need of support. Is there any better way to look at the world than to give back at the same time? Whether you choose to volunteer with a conservation group, work in an animal welfare area, teach in underprivileged schools or build shelters in local communities, the options to volunteer as you travel are plentiful. And when you volunteer at a remote destination, meals and accommodation are most likely included in your trip.
When looking for volunteer opportunities in other countries, it is best to research a specific destination and the amount of non-profit groups in the area. For example, you can apply to Conservation Volunteers in Australia, Kibbutz Volunteer in Israel or Kaya Responsible Travel which operates in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America. Hell, you can even join the Peace Corps!
6. Start a blog
Do you like to take pictures, write and share your everyday experiences online? Then you might want to consider starting your own travel blog. Although it is a fairly saturated industry, literally anyone can start and grow their own digital audience. Whether you’re just posting on Instagram, creating a travel-dedicated TikTok account or launching a website with useful travel tips and hacks, there are opportunities waiting for you online.
When you start growing your audience, you can make money with digital ads and sponsorship. You can also use your blog and social media to get free accommodation and travel. If you are not sure where to start, it may be worthwhile to take an online course and follow other travel bloggers who inspire you.
7. Use Skyscanner
Skyscanner allows you to find the cheapest flights anywhere. You can search for flights anywhere in the world, and the database will retrieve the most affordable flight options from all available airlines. It will even mix and match airlines on your departure and return flights to give you the most budget-friendly choices. Skyscanner also lets you search for the most affordable hotels and rental cars at your chosen destination.
I have been using Skyscanner for several years, and it never stops helping a girl. You can book via the Skyscanner platform itself, but I like to search and book the results directly through the airlines to take full advantage of the airline rewards mentioned above.
Search for cheap flights and book your next trip with Skyscanner here.
8. Teach English abroad
Teaching English in a foreign country seems to have increased in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Most programs will provide housing in addition to a fixed salary. In other words, you get paid to live abroad and spend time with children – it sounds like a win-win. In addition, you will be able to take advantage of school holidays and paid vacations by going out to other nearby cities and countries.
Some trusted programs include Teach Away, Go Overseas and The TEFL Org.
9. Work in a hostel
As a budget traveler, chances are good that you’ve lived in a hostel or two. Although shared bunk beds and bathrooms are not the most extravagant of accommodation amenities, hostels offer affordable accommodation and an easy way to make like-minded friends along the way. If you are looking for a long term nomadic lifestyle, it is best to look for different hostel jobs. Not only will you get a free place to stay, but you will get an income that you can put on your daily adventures.
When you are looking for a job, it is a good idea to contact specific hostels directly. There are also databases like Hostel Jobs and Worldpackers that can help narrow down your search.
10. Become a Travel Writer
This was my preferred method of getting free and paid travel, although it probably takes the most time and effort out of the gang (mixed with a dose of passion and a hint of naive belief in oneself). If you love writing and are interested in approaching tourism from a journalistic point of view – finding unique stories, sharing destination tips, highlighting websites and restaurants that need to be visited in detail – then you may want to try travel writing.
Of course, a degree in journalism helps, but the truth is that anyone with an ability for words and adventure can do it. When you are new to the field of journalism, it is a smart move to take a course, hire another experienced journalist for a coaching consultation and read the author’s work at your desired pace.
Tip: Use your new blog as a way to showcase your talent and travel experiences to editors on publications you admire! That’s what I did, and here I am two years later, chasing my dream job at UPROXX.