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No More Hotels: Travel for cheap, or even free.

Updated on September 15, 2016

Bye-bye Airbnb, Hello free, free, free

Be willing to add a few simple components to your vacation. Advice on traveling for cheap is a headline often used right around peak travel season to grab people's attention, then you click and find the same old tired information like traveling during off-peak seasons, using fare alerts and how the world of hostels and backpacking is not too shabby. Lucky for you this isn’t one of those recycled articles. As I type this I am sitting in a beautiful suburb of Australia, in a house with two floors, 3 bedrooms, 2 full and 2 half-baths. There’s a laundry room, a two car garage, a beautiful fenced in backyard, and oh, did I mention I’m mere feet from a lake, about a 20 minute walk from the ocean and right across the street from a golf course? How much did I pay for all of this space, including the hi-speed internet and very capable housekeeper that comes once a week? Zip. Zero. Exchanged no dinero. Want to know how? Keep reading!

Traveling for free in the way I'm going to share with you is good for singles, couples, even families. I’m sharing the love because, well one I’m a writer and two, because travel costs have become so prohibitive for so many and I think that should change. Our knowledge of the world has become so huge, and yet financially many are confined to living vicariously through videos and pictures. Not anymore!

What do you have to trade?


Bartering Is Back In Style!

Before societies stopped carrying around actual gold, silver and jewels as payment, and started reducing their currency to paper money, there was another way of doing business.

Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. A cup of flour for a 1/2 dozen eggs. Everyone was happy and no one had to use American Express. The barter system is no longer used for several reasons, one being that as people traveled more the world just got too big, but now it’s been shrunken with the advent of the internet. There are things you can exchange to get free room and board.

Couch surfing isn’t immediately mutual, it asks people to pay it forward, providing a service now with the hope they’ll receive one later. Providing shelter to a traveler in exchange for being able to one day avail yourself of the same services. Imagine how different Christmas Pageants would be if there’d been an app for that in Joseph and Mary’s time!

Some sites request a designated amount of hours of work, 20-25 hours a week, so it’s almost like having a part-time job. This works better for those looking to backpack their way around a region for a long period of time for cheap since meals are often included, or if you want to immerse yourself in a new language. Others, like the one I use Trusted House Sitters, are more flexible and give plenty of free time.

Pick a pet, any pet

The choice is yours.

There are pets to care for, but after taking care of their needs your time is your own. If you really like animals the work you put in can be part of the vacation and adventure. I've seen homeowners who need assistance with chickens, sheep, even horses. A family with young children can eschew the cost of horse riding camp and choose to care for a full-on ranch with something to offer for the whole family.

You can choose from all types of homes, and locations from apartments in the middle of a city to a house in the rural country. Rural locations require transportation. My current assignment only has a sturdy bike to make use of but both my previous and next one included vehicles to drive.

Don’t have much experience with animals or simply don’t want to be bothered while vacationing? There are some listings with fish only and some with no pets at all. Those usually require more extensive housework though, like a lawn to mow, garden to tend or a pool to keep clean. Homeowners in these no pet cases may even ask for you to pay the monthly utilities during your stay. I’ve seen ads for people who need someone to live in their home for up to a year! I’ve met other house and pet sitters who live and work in the area where they are sitting, saving money on rent. If willing to be somewhat transient a couple could save money to purchase a home this way. Where are these opportunities? Surely they can’t actually be places someone would want to vacation. That has to be why it’s free, right?

I've been exploring Australia all summer long, not once in a hotel.

Melbourne, Australia:
Melbourne VIC, Australia

get directions

Gold Coast, Australia:
Gold Coast QLD, Australia

get directions

Bonbeach, Australia:
Bonbeach VIC 3196, Australia

get directions

I may never stay in another hotel!

You couldn’t be more wrong! Most of the people who have these pets, pools and gardens and can afford to take the entire family on month long vacations are financially well off and live in decent locations. I’ve stayed in the heart of Melbourne, famous for making number one on the list of most livable places in the world six years running. I have seen listings in all areas of the United States, Australia, the U.K., Spain, Italy, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, New Zealand and many others. If you have a car and want to drive across America, what better way to do it?

There are things you need to know about housesitting, and you can check out my article “The Ay, Be’s and See’s of Housesitting”. While I don’t currently know of any ways to barter your way onto a plane or cruise ship you may want to take this time to subscribe to my blog in case I discover any.

While on vacation, choose your companion.

Which animal would you prefer to take care of?

See results


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