Traveling on the Cheap…
Everyone loves to travel. In fact, during this first year of full-timing (our one year anniversary is this August) that is what we heard most from all of you – “I wish I could travel more but I don’t have the vacation time or the money.” Well we can’t help with the vacation time but we do have great advice for traveling on the cheap. It’s no secret that one of the main reasons we started On the Green Road was to balance our work life and personal life. For us that meant spending more time together and traveling more. Not everyone is going to sell their home, remodel an Airstream and set off on a full-time RVing adventure (even though you might want to). So for everyone that simply loves to travel but wants to do it on the cheap I have put together this blog post for you. I pulled these tips from our own experiences, vergemagazine.com and iwillteachyoutoberich.com.
1. Work for accommodations
Caretaker’s Gazette – This is one of the most useful resources around. For the $30 annual fee, you will receive listings from around the world for people who are willing to offer rent-free living (and sometimes food too) in trade for your work. Work situations vary from house-sitting, to caring for the elderly, to farm work, campground maintenance, and beyond.
House Carers – If all you want to do is watch the house and walk the dogs, House Carers is for you. Basic membership is free, and the full meal deal is about $45. A majority of the listings are in Australia and New Zealand.
Organic Volunteers – For a $20 membership, you will find a variety of work-trade opportunities that are not limited to organic farming. It is an easy platform to use, and you can converse with hosts using their system to protect your personal information.
WWOOFing – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – As the most popular work-trade platform, you will find individual WWOOF membership plans for each country. After paying your fee (which varies from country to country), you will receive a booklet detailing the WWOOF hosts in the area and what they are looking for. It is recommended that you get your WWOOF booklet well in advance of your trip, as some are not fully online and will only mail you their listings.
Help Exchange – With a free basic membership (and a nominal premium membership which allows you to converse with hosts using their online platform), you can browse listings around the world which entail a variety of work-trade duties. The sky is the limit.
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2. Get free accomodation
Couch Surfing – Couch Surfing is arguably the most well-known hospitality exchange, although not the first. Your bed for the night can take the form of a couch, extra bedroom, or chunk of the floor depending on what your host can offer. You can browse online listings, learn about and converse with your potential host online, and make arrangements to meet. Safety checks are in place to ensure no dodgy travelers/hosts ruin it for everybody, but as with all the opportunities listed in this section, please do your due diligence and go with your gut instincts to be safe.
Hospitality Club – The platform is similar to Couch Surfing with checks and balances, and a wide variety of members can make this site an adventure to surf.
Global Freeloaders – If the platform or profiles on Couch Surfing and Hospitality Club aren’t doing much for you, then check out what Global Freeloaders has to offer. The only stipulation to membership is that you must be able to reciprocate and offer up your home to travelers within six months of signing up. So if you are on a long trip, best to wait until you get home unless you can host travelers before you leave.
Servas – With over 50 years under its belt, Servas is considered to be a pioneer in the hospitality exchange arena, and is recognized by the United Nations. The membership application process is more grueling, and requires a personal interview before acceptance. Fees vary from country to country, and many country listings are not yet available online (instead, they are mailed to you).
3. House-swap or rent out your home
If you do have a house to offer up, there are various websites that provide online classifieds for owners to advertise (homeexchange.com, homexchangevacation.com, swapyourhome.net or homebase-hols.com). Most require a registration fee, but then you can advertise your property for the entire year. The length of time for exchanges depends on the needs of the two parties swapping houses. Another alternative for those travelers lucky enough to be property owners is to rent out your home.
Staying in a home rather than a hotel usually has perks like an equipped kitchen, telephone and some may even have internet. And renting out your home while you’re away is a great source of cash; monthly rent from an apartment in Toronto, Vancouver or even San Francisco can go a long way towards covering your costs in Bolivia or Ghana. Be sure to screen candidates carefully before handing over your keys, otherwise you may not have a home to come back to.
4. Save on food
Next to accommodation and long-haul flights, food and drinks are going to be the biggest drain on your expense account while you are traveling. So although you don’t want to sacrifice quality of your vacation by limiting yourself, you can decide what is important to you and budget accordingly.
Do you like beer/wine? Then scrimping a bit on food may be a way for you to enjoy a night on the town without wondering if the next beer will put you over-budget.
Do you like food? Then drink water instead of premium drinks, and order that dish that makes your mom’s cooking look like slop.
Here are some more tips for saving money on food:
- If you don’t normally eat breakfast in a restaurant, don’t do it while traveling. Instead, save your money and buy some basic ingredients from the grocery store.
- Want a special meal out? Consider going out for lunch instead of dinner. You often get similar if not identical portions, but for a fraction of the dinner prices.
- Avoid hotel restaurants, especially for breakfast. They tend to be overpriced in the name of convenience.
- Does the restaurant have a beautiful view? If so, chances are you are paying for it with your meal. Instead, go to the restaurant around the corner (for better and cheaper food), and/or take a picnic to where the view is.
5. Trade labor at a hostel
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, consider approaching a hostel manager and negotiating a deal to exchange some work for your room—if they’re short of staff, you can barter your labor for a free place to stay. An alternative is to apply for a hostel job before you even leave home, especially if you’ve had experience in the hospitality industry. A number of websites list hostel jobs, like www.hostelworld.com which has a message board. Other sites offer listings on a country-by-country basis—see, for example, www.backpack.co.nz, which displays job postings within New Zealand. Some hostels may be apprehensive about hiring someone from abroad; depending on the place, some may require you to hold a working visa before your arrival.
As long as no money is exchanged, trading your labor for room and board is a good way to get around the visa issue of working in other countries. It can be hard labor. Be warned.
6. Pick up some casual work
If you’re looking to stay a little longer, then consider picking up some short-term work overseas. The options are plentiful: you can be an au pair (www.greataupair.com or www.aupair.com) or you can do something outdoors like fruit picking or trail maintenance (www.anyworkanywhere.com offers listings for fruit picking, but many smaller farmers will only advertise locally). Go Workabout (goworkabout.com) who will pre-arrange a seasonal job in Australia for you.
You can work your way around the world with odd jobs like these—it’s a win-win situation. Be warned – employers might expect you to work long hours, leaving you little time for sightseeing.
7. RV Specific
Harvest Hosts – a rapidly growing community of fun-loving winemakers, farmers and RVers who have joined together to create an exciting alternative to traditional overnight stops.
Host farmers and winemakers invite fully-independent (no services are provided) motorhomes, fifth-wheels, travel trailers and truck campers to visit their vineyards, farms and other agri-attractions and stay overnight free of charge. Note that this is for one night only. $35/year.
Work Camping – Work Camping, often referred to as “Workamping”, is one of the fastest growing trends in the American job market. In most cases, work campers (both individuals and couples) with their own RV offer their labor as a camp host maintaining a recreational facility in exchange for a free camping site plus wages. You can also check out http://www.work-for-rvers-and-campers.com/
Boondockers Welcome – At Boondockers Welcome you can connect with other RVers who have a location for you to dry camp for the night; it might be in their driveway or a field on their farm. The view may be of amber waves of grain or of the McDonald’s parking lot… but it will be a free place to park where you don’t have to worry about idling truck engines, security, or that dreaded knock on the window at 2 am.
Get out there and have some fun!!!
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PS – if you know of more traveling on the cheap tips, write us.