So, you’re going on vacation.
You have a little debt left or you’ve just finished paying it off, and you score a super cheap flight to that place you’ve always wanted to go. Great! But the flight price isn’t the only thing you have to consider, of course. Nightly accommodation prices add up quickly and I find that (along with transportation) they can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. I’ve compiled a list of the best ways to find free accommodation while traveling. Drop a comment if you have any other ideas!
Where to Look for Free Accommodation:
- Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is a website and an app that allows you to find free accommodation with locals. You can send out messages to individuals or make an announcement that you’ll be in a certain city at a certain time. Some people may be concerned with the safety of this; however, if you know what to look for you’ll have some of your best travel memories with fellow Couchsurfers. Some of my favorite times in Europe were spent with Coushsurfing friends! I recommend going through the list of hosts to find someone with good references and a well thought-out profile. Send a message and get a feel for the person. If someone’s profile is blank and they have no reviews, then pass on them! As a solo female traveler, I typically only reach out to other females. Common sense and following your intuition are your best friends.
- Couchsurfing, the old school way: What better way to find free accommodation then by staying with someone you already know or have a connection to? The world is getting smaller every day, so it is likely that a friend of a friend or your sister’s coworker’s cousin lives in the city you’d like to visit. In this type of situation, you definitely don’t want to overstay your welcome. As with Couchsurfing (the website) I think two to three days is a decently non-awkward amount of time. If the host offers for you to stay longer and you feel good about it, treat them to a nice dinner or a gift to thank them for their generosity.
- Housesitting: Several websites exist to connect homeowners going on vacation with housesitters. Oftentimes, these homeowners have pets that need care or maintenance work that needs tending to, so they will offer free accommodation in exchange for a set of agreed-upon duties. You will likely need references and/or a background check, as people don’t want just any random human in their home. The housesitting platforms charge a fee to become a member of (to weed out creeps, presumably). Check out Trusted House Sitters, Mind My House, or House Sitters America. Other websites exist, but these ones seem to be among the most popular.
- Free campsites: If you are traveling around the US by car and have a tent and sleeping bag, you may want to check out these free campsites! Note…Always check your surroundings and make sure you feel safe and make sure there are no signs prohibiting camping. These listings may be old and you don’t want to be woken up by the police in a random place!
- Volunteer exchange: There are a number of websites that help connect volunteers with organizations or individuals who need them. You can find work on organic farms, volunteer at a hostel, teach English to a family’s children or provide a number of other services. In exchange, you will get free accommodation and in some cases even free meals. Also, you’ll typically get at least 2 days off a week to explore the area! These opportunities are available around the world.
Check out WWOOF, HelpX, Workaway or Hippohelp, among others.
- Make use of referral bonuses: Some booking websites offer a referral bonus when you invite a friend to the platform and they make a booking. This can work out really well if you are staying with a friend or a group of friends. For example, on booking.com you can invite your friend, your friend can make the booking, and then after your stay you’ll both get $25! In some countries that’s a couple nights of free accommodation! Airbnb offers a referral bonus as well. (Note: if you are using airbnb, check local laws to assure airbnb is legal where you’re going.)
If you haven’t used booking or airbnb before, please feel free to use my referral codes. You and I both get a discount if you do. Booking.com Airbnb.com
Let me know if you have other ideas or if you’ve tried any of these options in the comments below!
With a little searching, you can cut the costs of your travels with these free accommodation options. Happy travels everyone!