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To see the world for free you might not have to spend any money but you will likely have to exchange your precious time or do some work. However, where there is a will, there is a way. Here are six of my suggestions for how to see the world for free.
This category requires the most luck. As someone has has won a vacation to Hawaii, a $500 voucher from Expedia, and many other travel and non-travel prizes, I know that people do win. Matt Long of LandLopers, before he became a full-time and prominent travel influencer, won a trip to the Galapagos with Alex Trebek. Last year, Howard Blount of Backroad Planet, won a trip to Iceland through a Johnny Jet contest.
This is the first car I won in a contest. (Photo: Charles McCool/McCool Travel)
Perhaps the most popular way to see the world for free is redeeming points. Countless websites cover the intricacies of learn, earn, and burn: two McCool favorites are Pizza in Motion and Points With a Crew. I once flew for free for two years across four continents, using bumping, points, and other strategies.
I once flew for free for two years across four continents. (Photo: Charles McCool/McCool Travel)
Savvy travelers can leverage business trips to explore destinations. Since the company has already paid for your airfare, lodging, and meal allowance. Once the meetings are over, use your per diem meal allowance to eat where you want to. On your own, non-work time, explore parts of the city away from the business hotels. Suzanne Wolko of PhilaTravelGirl told me she would regularly add personal vacation time onto her business trips to London. “I knew going to Amsterdam with a return via LHR would be cheaper [than flying directly to London],” she said. “The company paid for the flights and I used points for the hotel stay [in Amsterdam].”
4. Free Lodging
I have Couchsurfed two times (Casablanca and southwest Florida) and know of people who have exclusively used Couchsurfing for long trips. Betsy and Peter Wuebker, of PassingThru, are permanent nomads and leverage house-sitting gigs to see the world for free. Betsy told me: “We’ve gone on to house-sit in England, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and China. Total time spent in the last 18 months on house-sits: about 9 months. You can certainly fit time in to discover the special things about a location, and you’re ‘living like a local.’” Another way to find free lodging is to participate in home exchanges. Stay in someone’s Tuscan farmhouse while they stay in your suburban house.
My Couchsurfing host in Morocco found this m local drink. (Photo: Charles McCool/McCool Travel)
What can you offer to companies in exchange for free travel? Last month I met a young woman on assignment for Viking Cruises. Travel writers regularly pitch destinations and travel suppliers for comps in exchange for coverage. Perhaps you are an art, auto, or sports blogger with a massive Instagram following. Offer to cover Basel, Daytona, or the Pro Bowl and you might find yourself in a sunny, warm destination in the winter.
Most travel companies will offer you free flights, spots, stays. or trips when you sell a certain number — not as a travel agent, but as a regular person. If you organize a trip to Europe for 15 people, you can sometimes negotiate to have your airfare and lodging for free.