Traveling is certainly not a luxury exclusive to the wealthy. Exploring is our nature. We are programmed to expand our boundaries and pillage new paths. In no way shape or form are we designed to work, pay bills, and die. My goal for all my readers is to live the best version of their lives. One of the ways I intend to help you do that is to teach you to travel for free.
Nearly one in three Americans say they can not afford to take a vacation according to Skift. Then there are people like myself who have hacked the travel system so hard that my vacations end up virtually free. Yes! You can travel for free.
If you think about a vacation there are really 4 major financial costs involved. Before the trip, you have the two huge expenses of a flight and a hotel. Once you arrive at your destination you have the day to day expenses which include food and entertainment. The final expense to consider is the lost wages for the duration of your vacation. In this article, you will learn how to reduce or eliminate each of these expenses. Sound good?
Eliminate Flight Expenses
You can find thousands of articles suggesting ways to reduce flight expenses. There are certain days of the week and even certain times of day that supposedly have lower flight costs. You can sacrifice quality and book your vacation on a budget airline. If you don't care what dates or destination you travel to, you can use one of the tools I talk about in No Destination in Mind Travel Search. But none of the tips and tricks you can implement will ever beat the price of FREE.
In this step, you are going to pick the airline who will help you travel for free. Not staying brand loyal to your airline is similar to walking into a Nike store and expecting to be treated like a VIP as a result of all the Adidas gear you have purchased. Every airline will treat you better based on frequency and dollar volume of usage. But picking your airline isn't as easy as just saying, "My friend flys Alaska so I'll fly Alaska." Travelers have a unique set of goals and circumstances.
Decide which local airport or airports you are likely to depart from. Those airports will list airlines authorized to operate from there. Check the frequency of daily flights using Flights From. Now you know which airlines commonly fly out of your local airport that should be balanced against other priorities. Your priorities could include international destinations, direct flights to a specific city, free checked bag perks, or first class upgrade availability.
Based on flight frequency I chose the number 3 largest airline out of my local airport. The number one airline doesn't have enough ways to use miles for international travel, the number two airline doesn't believe in first class, so I opted to fly with the third largest carrier from PDX. Once I selected my airline it was time to learn their points system inside and out.
My Choice: Delta Airlines
After careful consideration, I selected Delta Airlines as my preferred company. Delta Airlines run on a miles system that is not tied to a dollar value. For example, I could fly from PDX to Paris four months from now by paying $1,612.43 or using 80,000 miles and a small fee of $87.73. Most airlines operate in such that 80,000 miles equals $800. That is not the case with Delta. By using miles you save 95.5% versus paying with cash. I basically consider that travel for free. (I should note that my account balance is so low because I came home 35 days ago from a multi-week trip to France, Italy, and Switzerland with my family of 4, entirely paid for with miles)
If your research results in selecting Delta Airlines then you should be using the Delta American Express. It's so interesting to me how people shut down when you suggest using a credit card reward program. Savvy frugal travelers could talk your ear off on all the ways to rack up miles and the most efficient ways to spend them. I have been part of numerous conversations where the person recommending a particular credit card or rewards program is happy that they are able to utilize it once every couple of years. I'll just tell you, I don't roll like that. I'll pay for cheaper domestic flights, but you will not catch me paying thousands of dollars to get across the pond, ever.
Eliminate Hotel Expenses
Hotels range in personality as much as a traveler's needs. You can get economy hotels that are just square rooms with beds and a bathroom or you can choose luxury hotels with full conference rooms and multiple bedrooms. What's great is that with hotels you don't have to pick just one level of service, on the contrary, you can have them all.
Free Hotel Rooms
Like the previous step, you are going to pick a hotel chain to stay loyal to. There is no sense constantly giving your business to new independent hotels who will never give you the exclusive level of service you deserve. Every hotel will value you as a returning guest based on your nights stayed. You can't base your entire decision on one amazing hotel you stayed in either. The hotel chain you pick will be based on locations in all your bucket list locations.
Make a list of a dozen or so places you plan on visiting. Head on over to Expedia.com to check on hotels in each of your desired cities. If you only ever want to travel to large cities you might consider Hyatt. If you might want to mix in some places off the beaten track you could look for Hilton or Best Western. For a range of high-end luxury to family, economy check out Marriott.
The next romantic vacation my husband and I will go on is to the Maldives. I had checked years ago to make sure the hotel chain I picked had those hut villas that extend over the water. Most major chains do have those as an option, I just remember that being an important factor. I also needed multiple local hotel options since I regularly rent out my house to travelers for $500+ and go stay at budget ~$100 per night hotels.
My Choice: Marriott Hotels
Ultimately, even though I have really enjoyed many Hyatt and Hilton properties around the world, Marriott had the most diversity of options for my needs. Marriott includes luxury options such as the Ritz Carlton as well as budget options such as Residence Inn.
If your research ends with you choosing Marriott Hotels than you should snag the Marriott Bonvoy American Express. Just like with the last credit card I suggested it is imperative that you never carry a balance from month to month. You will never owe interest if you simply use it to accumulate points and pay it off every month. You'll see a future blog post from me about how to use credit responsibly.
Eliminate Day to Day Expenses
While you are on vacation there are day to day expenses and I told you this article would teach you to travel for free. You need to feed yourself, you'll most certainly spend money on entertainment, and you may even want to purchase some gifts along the way. Day to day expenses require spending money.
Earning Spending Money
I do not want you to go out and get another job. The last thing a busy person needs is to be spending more hours working. Instead what I suggest you do is head on over to Airbnb and check how much money your house could earn you while it's sitting empty. While I am on vacation I always have renters staying at my home.
Last July I went to Cabo San Lucas for a week with my husband. We had renters check in a few nights before we left and a group left a few days after we got home. All in all, we had three groups of renters surrounding our Mexico vacation. The three separate payouts were $1,614.08, $2,540.43, and $1,586.92. In total, we had $5,741.43 of spending money for Mexico. I was already getting to travel for free because I earned the vacation from my side hustle Pure Romance.
If you are willing to clean up your house and post it on Airbnb, you could be setting yourself up for cash in your pocket. In fact, I teach an entire e-course about how to turn your primary home into a passive income stream so you can vacation more! Anyone can start by setting up a listing and giving it a try. Your house does not need to be perfect. Two years in and my house is still just a normal house with dings in the door, chipped paint, dead grass, and unfinished projects. You can check out what my house looks like > my totally normal house.
Replace Lost Wages
The last major expense that nobody considers when planning a vacation is lost wages. For everyone I associate with, losing a week of wages can most definitely create a financial burden. Unless you have multiple streams of income there is really no way to ever earn back the money you lost while on vacation. Or is there?
Earn Money During Your Vacation
If you have never heard of affiliate marketing here's your brief introduction. Affiliate marketing is when you suggest a product or service to someone and you get a kickback when that person purchases. So let's say you used your airline miles to travel for free to Spain and while there you used your hotel points to sleep in a hotel. Additionally, you followed my advice and rented out your house while you were gone and had your day to day expenses covered from Airbnb payouts. You'd be a walking talking testimonial for the Homeowner Hustle E-Course.
You could replace your lost wages by earning money promoting the Homeowner Hustle E-Course as an affiliate. Each new student enrolled in the course would create a 25% kickback to you as passive income. You roam around Spain on your free vacation and post on social media how you got to travel for free. People are shocked and jealous of your new found methods, so they enroll and you get paid. Easy right? You can join the Homeowner Hustle affiliate program by filling out this form: Homeowner Hustle Affiliate.
Travel for Free
As I travel the world for free I am reminded of a quote, "Today I will do what other's won't, so tomorrow I will do what other's can't." People spend a lot of time saying what they want to do or what they will do in the future. I have come to love talking about the experiences I've already had. Living the life I want is significantly better than dreaming about it. I wish everyone would dream less and live more.