1 - Couch Surfing Couch surfing is a phenomenon which took off in the early 2000s. The concept is easy and free: the website gives home owners the opportunity to host travellers in their home (sometimes on the couch). Why did no one think of this sooner? In this mutually beneficial relationship, home owners hear travellers' stories and learn from them in exchange for the traveller receiving free accommodation. You may think, 'is this system safe?'. Whilst safety is a concern for many solo travellers, male and female, Couchsurfing provides a messaging system to talk directly to your host along with verifying their payment method, address and phone number. Each host's profile will also have references from past 'couchsurfers' just like Trip Advisor so you'll know what to expect. There are millions of registered users on CouchSurfing so why not give it a go! You may get a local's perspective or even make lifetime friends.
2 - Working Holiday Abroad
An overseas working holiday is a great way to travel for free whilst earning a small income. Depending on the job you get, some jobs, for example working in a UK pub, even offer free accommodation and board in exchange for work. There are so many available options in hospitality, summer camps, admin, ski resorts and theme parks. The friends you work with will no doubt become lifetime family who you visit all over the world. Check out The Global Work and Travel Co. for working holiday inspiration and packages. They also offer volunteering, au pair and teaching experiences.
3 - House Swap
How does it work? Swap your home for someone else's and make a holiday out of it! Once you set up your listing and add photos, you can search for properties you would like to stay at and contact owners. Then, once an agreement has been made on dates and other details, both parties sign an agreement. Whilst this is not completely 'free' as such (you do have to own a home and pay a small registration fee), the benefits abound. You get free accommodation as long as agreed upon and you get to live like a local!
4 - Join the Club
Frequent flyer programs can be a great source of 'free' travel if used to their advantage. I say 'free' because you have to spend money to make money. My tip is to stick to one or two preferred frequent flyer programs, mine are Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Velocity. I have my Qantas account linked to my credit cards so every time I make purchases, which I do on necessary items every day, I get points. When I signed up for my credit card, they also had a signing bonus of 50,000 points. My other tip is to know how you can earn points because this does not have to be just on flights. With Qantas for example you can earn points on shopping at Woolworths, Priceline, David Jones, eBay and Rebel Sport to name a few. You can also earn through your Vodafone plan, dining out or joining their wine club epiQure. To find out more see Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Velocity.
5 - TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
TEFL is a learning experience both for the students you teach and yourself. You will learn from them and you will learn more about your native language. Yes, you do need to do a short course to be eligible but this is a small price to pay for the freedom to travel wherever you please. Depending on where you are placed you are generally given a place to stay and an allowance to cover other expenses. TEFL can take you to some pretty exotic places, different to your typical working holiday in the UK or USA. Locations include China, Japan, South Korea, Colombia and even Uruguay. i-to-i offer internships where you can combine the course and a placement in either China, Vietnam or Thailand.
6 - Hitchhiking
Only for the brave and persistent! Hitchhiking is a great way of hearing people's stories and getting from A to B on roads you may not have travelled on on a traditional tour bus. Hitchhiking does have its challenges though and is not for the faint-hearted.
Check out Tomislav Perko's tips on hitchhiking here.
7 - Student Exchange
I can not encourage this enough! Student exchange was the driving force between my love for travel and was an experience I will never forget. As a sixteen year old, only having ventured to Fiji with my family the year previous, my mind was set to go on student exchange to Italy. After researching, I found Student Exchange Australia and my two month journey began. Having loved this experience so much the first time, the following year I worked my butt off to win an Italian language scholarship which meant I could go back for another month and stay a boarding school with four other students from Brisbane. And as luck would have it, this 'Convitto' was in the same region I had stayed the previous year. If you ever get to travel to North-Eastern Italy (in particular Udine and Cividale) say hi for me! This experience not only taught me the Italian language, it strengthened my self-confidence by facing everyday challenges and gave me lifelong friends and family (one of which I have hosted in Brisbane since).
8 - Volunteering
Whilst volunteering essentially means working for free, some volunteer programs offer free board in exchange for volunteering your efforts to their project. You can help others and do something you are passionate about at the same time. GVI Australia offer some great projects at a small participation fee, however, there are always small organisations looking for volunteer assistance.
9 - Become a Travel Agent!
As a travel agent there are lots of perks. The main one being 'famils' or familiarisations where hotels, airlines or tour companies essentially host you for a trip so you can 'experience' their product and recommend to clients upon your return. Having only been a travel agent for two years, my first 'famil' was November last year when I was lucky enough to go to Singapore and the Maldives, hosted by Six Senses, Singapore Airlines and our ticketing consolidator. I am told this is a very rare 'famil' in which there is more relaxing than constant hotel inspections and jam-packed days. Other perks include winning trips at event nights, discounted products and handy industry contacts.
10 - Become a Travel Blogger!
Whilst I am fairly new in this industry and I am yet to reap the rewards of having a successful, high traffic blog, I do hope to someday be at that level. There are many great travel bloggers out there who travel for free (and work damn hard for it mind you). My favourite would be World of Wanderlust.