The Broke Vacationer: 100 Ways to Get Free Stuff When Traveling

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 4:41pm by admin

Whether you’re traveling halfway around the world or just across state lines, travel expenses can add up quickly, especially with rising airline and gas prices. But you don’t need to break the bank to have a great time on vacation. There are many ways to get even the priciest of travel necessities at a great discount or even for free. Check out these tips and see if any can save you money on your vacation.

General Tips

These general tips can help you make your trip much easier on your budget.

  1. Surf the net for promo deals. The internet is chock full of travel deals if you know where to look. Sign up for emails and updates from comparison sites like Kayak and have the best promos sent directly to your inbox.
  2. Print out online coupons. There are many coupons online for hotels, dining, and attractions. Simply print them out and bring them with you when you go.
  3. Sign up for free travel contests. While there is no guarantee of winning, there’s no harm in trying. Who knows, you might get lucky!
  4. Go to timeshare presentations. While this isn’t for the weak-willed, time share presentations can be a way to get some pretty great stuff for free. The inexperienced can use this guide to keep from falling prey to the sales pitch.
  5. Contact local tourism bureaus. A simple letter or email to the local tourism bureau of the place you’re planning to visit can garner you some free coupons and maps of the area.
  6. Take advantage of discounts through work. Many businesses have corporate discount programs that can save you a lot of money on admission to a wide variety of attractions as well as hotels and transportation. Check to see if your employer has such a program; it can save you a bundle.
  7. Never be afraid to ask. If you want a discount on a price, just ask, otherwise you might miss out on a potential bargain.
  8. Be frugal, not cheap. While it’s good to be frugal with your vacation money, don’t skimp on important things. It may end up costing you more in the long run.
  9. Try to speak the language. Do your best to speak the language, otherwise you’ll peg yourself as a tourist and possibly get charged higher prices.
  10. Get cash at an ATM. Don’t exchange money before you leave home or at the airport. You will get a much better exchange rate by using your credit card at an ATM.
  11. Check out the rotary club. Rotary Club International offers free travel and accommodations for businesspeople on group study exchanges. You don’t even have to be a member.
  12. Make friends. Just like at home, having the right connections can go a long way towards getting hooked up with free stuff. So be nice, a smile may score you some free goodies.
  13. Be flexible. You’re more likely to get discounts and freebies if you’re willing to be flexible in your plans.
  14. Don’t be ashamed to drop names. Know someone who lives and works in the area you’re visiting? Mention their name; they might have friends in unexpected places that can offer you a deal.
  15. Volunteer. If you’re not opposed to working on your vacation, you can get free lodging in many scenic locations all over the world in exchange for varying degrees of volunteer work.

Flights

Flying can be expensive, but luckily there are many ways to help reduce the cost. Check out these tips to help you save on airfare.

  1. Extend a business trip. If your work has already paid for you to fly somewhere, why not spend a few days after your business is taken care of checking out the sights?
  2. Get bumped. Airlines reward passengers who are willing to be bumped with passes for free travel. While it might be a small inconvenience, it can save you lots of money on travel expenses.
  3. Cash in your credit card rewards. If you’ve got a rewards credit card, cash in the miles for free or discounted flights.
  4. Be a courier. If you’re willing to pack light, you can score free travel all over the world by working as a package courier.
  5. Ask friends and family who work with an airline. Often, employees of airlines can get family members and friends tickets for next to nothing.
  6. Use your miles to upgrade to first class. If you don’t quite have enough miles with your frequent flyer card to get free flights, you can use the miles to upgrade instead, and enjoy your flight from the comfort of first class.
  7. Bring your own snacks. Many airlines have cut out their free snack and beverage services and now charge a fee for those little bags of peanuts. Bring your own snacks and you can avoid having to buy them once you’re in the air.
  8. Complain if you receive poor service. While it isn’t common, occasionally you’ll have a really poor experience with an airline. If you feel you’ve been mistreated, send a letter to the customer service department. While you probably won’t get a totally free flight, you may get free upgrades or miles you can use.
  9. Check out rewards programs that give free companion tickets. Many credit card reward programs not only give you miles when you buy a ticket, but will also give you a free ticket for a friend to come along when you purchase a full-priced fare.

Accommodation

Hotels can be one of the biggest expenses on a vacation. Use these tips to sleep soundly without putting so much strain on your wallet.

  1. Stay with family and friends. If you have family or friends that live near where you’re traveling, see if you can stay with them for a few days. It could save you a lot of money on hotels and you’ll get to spend time with people you care about.
  2. Get motel coupons. For the frequent road-tripper, motel coupons can be an invaluable resource and the Motel Coupons website has discounts for places all over the US. You’re sure to find some for motels near your destination.
  3. Swap houses. If you’re looking for totally free accommodations and have a good amount of trust in your fellow man, swapping houses can be a great option for cheap travel. There are many services that can set you up with other people who want to do a swap and may be more reliable than those you find elsewhere.
  4. Become a hotel critic. For the price of a written review, you can earn a few nights in hotels all over.
  5. Stay in hostels when possible. While most are not entirely free, they are usually extremely cheap, especially if you’re traveling in a group. Many will even provide free breakfast.
  6. Be a house sitter. In exchange for helping someone keep their home and pets safe and sound while they’re away, you’ll get to stay cheaply in places all over the world. Check with some of the larger and more reliable organizations that can set you up with a home that needs watching.
  7. Find free hotels. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Many travel sites guarantee that they have the lowest price. If you find your hotel cheaper somewhere else, it’s on them.
  8. Hotel rewards cards. Many hotels have partnered with credit card companies to create rewards cards. These cards can get to free stays at the hotel, so use them for everyday purchases and cash in the rewards when you travel.
  9. Check out work to stay deals. There are many programs worldwide that offer free lodging in exchange for some help around the house or farm. While it may not be as relaxing as lounging on the beach, it can take a hefty chunk out of the cost of your vacation.
  10. Become part of a guestroom program. Believe it or not, there are people all over who are willing to allow travelers to stay in their guestrooms. Check out a program like the Guest Room Network to see if you can find a free room at your destination.
  11. Share hotel rooms. If you’re traveling with a friend, cut costs in half by sharing a hotel room.
  12. Arrange group travel. If you’re good at planning, you can score free travel by arranging group tours for others. As a reward for bringing in a paying group, companies like GlobeTours give the organizer the same trip for free.
  13. Take part in a sister city exchange. Sister Cities International is a nonprofit network that partners hundreds of U.S. cities with similar international sister cities. Many groups travel overseas to these cities and the cost is usually covered by fund raisers and the host family. Of course, be advised that you will have to host other travelers in exchange.
  14. Crash on a couch. Odd as it may sound, there are international networks designed just for the traveling freeloader. You’ll find listings for couches you can sleep on all over the world. You’ll get free lodging and hopefully make some great new friends.
  15. Camp out. There are few ways to sleep cheaper than camping out under the stars. In some places you may be able to camp for free, but in national parks and campgrounds, fees are usually very reasonable.
  16. Learn Esperanto.While in the eyes of many Esperanto may not be the most useful of language skills, it can land you some free lodging through an exchange program. You’ll be able to reduce travel costs and get to practice speaking another language.

Dining

Dining out when you’re at home may just be a special treat, but when you’re traveling it may become a necessity. Try out some of these ideas to help reduce the cost of your meals.

  1. Look for restaurants where kids eat for free. If you’re traveling with kids, you can often cut costs by eating at places that let kids eat for free. You’ll save money that you can put towards other vacation expenses.
  2. Get free breakfast at your hotel. If your hotel offers free breakfast, take advantage of it. It’s one less meal you have to pay for out of pocket.
  3. Bring your own coffee mug or water bottle. Buying coffee and bottled water every day can get expensive quickly. Save money by brewing coffee in your hotel room or refilling your own water bottles.
  4. Purchase restaurant gift cards. Gift cards to restaurants can often be purchased on eBay or sites like Restaurant.com for less than their face value, allowing you to eat at your favorite place and still save money.
  5. Get meals comped. Staying in Vegas? Use your high-roller status to get some free meals.
  6. Make lunch your main meal. Dinner menus might be more extensive, but lunch prices are almost always cheaper. Fill up at lunch so you can spend less when dinnertime rolls around.
  7. Make the most of freebies. If your hotel is giving out free snacks or breakfast, take a little something and save it for later.
  8. Bring your own food. While it isn’t always an option, bringing your own food along on a trip can save you tons of money, especially if you’re vacationing in a place with high food prices.
  9. Flirt shamelessly. There is no guarantee of a free or discounted meal if you flirt, but there is no harm in trying if you’re really hungry and low on cash.
  10. Join a diners club. Members of diners clubs often get special discounts on restaurants which can add up if you will be eating out frequently.
  11. Sign up for emails from your favorite places. Restaurants often send out special coupons and deals in emails, and sometimes you’ll even get gift certificates for free food when your birthday rolls around.

Transportation

Getting around in a foreign city can be hard enough without having to worry about how much it’s costing you. Try out these methods for saving money seeing the sights.

  1. Find a ride. Websites like RideSeek and Ridester make it easy to find and share a ride to your destination, helping cut down on your travel costs.
  2. Get a free gas card. There are many offers you can sign up for that will give you free gas cards. Some hotels even give them out as bonuses for staying with them.
  3. Check out AAA discounts. If you’re a member of AAA, it’s likely that you can get a number of discounts on rentals and services by using your card.
  4. Take public transportation. Most big cities have pretty good public transportation systems and often there are substantial discounts if you buy several passes at once.
  5. Use your own two feet. While it isn’t always possible to walk everywhere you want to go, when you can, do it. It can save you money, give you some exercise, and allow you to spend time exploring a new place.
  6. Bring your bike. One way to avoid having to pay for transportation is to bring your own. Biking is a great way to see the sights, not to mention good exercise.
  7. Avoid toll roads. Tolls can add up quickly, especially near cities. Use an online mapping program to provide you with an alternate route. It might take a few minutes longer, but you’ll save money and get to take in the scenery.
  8. Don’t rent a car unless you need one. If you only really need a car to get from the airport to your hotel, don’t bother renting a car. You’ll save not only on the rental fee, but gas and parking as well.
  9. Research free public transport. Many big cities, in an effort to cater to tourists, have some kind of free public transport between big tourist attractions. Check out your destination city to see if you can save a walk or cab fare with a free ride.
  10. Become a preferred renter. Most rental car companies have preferred renter programs that can save you big bucks when you go to rent a car. While most programs have fees, they will usually waive it if you send them a request.
  11. Use good driving habits. Save yourself valuable gas by using good driving habits like accelerating slowly and always keeping your tires properly inflated. If you’re driving a long distance the savings can really add up.
  12. Work from your RV. Rising gas prices have driven up the cost of an RV vacation, but you can get some of it back by becoming a workamper. There are a variety of jobs to choose from that allow you to bring in income while still enjoying the comforts of an RV vacation.
  13. Take part in a driveaway. If you’re going on a road trip, there may be a way to do it for free. Many people who move don’t want to have to move their cars themselves hire companies like this one to do it for them. You can participate in these programs, and get free travel between many different locations.
  14. Charge your rental car. Many credit cards that specialize in travel have free insurance included when you use them to pay for travel expenses. So even if you don’t purchase the additional insurance, you’ll still be protected.
  15. Hitchhike. While it isn’t the safest option, it is free. Use extreme caution if you plan on doing it.

Entertainment and Shopping

You wouldn’t be on vacation unless you were seeking fun and relaxation, so take advantage of these ideas on how you can save money while still enjoying yourself.

  1. See if second day free passes are available. Many amusement and water parks offer free or half price passes for a second day of admission which can save a lot, especially if you’re traveling with your family.
  2. Ask about tickets through your hotel. Many hotels offer free or greatly discounted tickets for nearby attractions as a bonus for staying with them. Ask at the front desk to see if you can save some money.
  3. Visit free attractions. You can often have a great time at places that are totally free like state and national parks and the beach.
  4. Look for free entertainment. Most big cities offer free concerts, parades, and special events especially during the summer months. Before you go, check to see if any pique your interest.
  5. Check out a TV show taping. Get free tickets to the taping of your favorite show with TV Tickets.com. You’ll get entertainment and a chance to get close to your favorite TV stars.
  6. Find out about museum free days. Most big museums have at least one day of the week when admission is free, so take advantage of the savings by planning your visit around those times.
  7. Don’t pay tax. If you’re traveling in Europe, you may not have to pay tax on the items you purchase if the store you shop at participates in the Global Refund program. Simply get a refund cheque from the store when you purchase your items, have it validated when you go through customs, and collect your cash back at their office or through the mail.
  8. Check out student discounts. Many attractions popular with tourists have special prices for students as long as you have a student ID.
  9. Be a trail guide. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you can enjoy a free vacation by becoming a trail guide. Show other hikers through trails at the Continental Divide or along the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Online Applications

The internet is one of the greatest resources for travelers looking for a bargain. Give these free sites a look before you take your next trip.

  1. Travlang For those traveling abroad, Travlang can be a great resource for translating and helping you learn the language.
  2. gas buddy.com If you’re driving to your vacation destination, check out gasbuddy to help you find the cheapest prices for gas anywhere you go.
  3. points.com Chances are good that if you’re a member of several frequent flyer and rewards programs, you have trouble keeping track of all those miles. Points.com makes it easy by tracking your points from multiple programs.
  4. WebFlyer WebFlyer is a great resource for frequent flyers. Keep track of your rewards miles, get special promotions and more at their website.
  5. Inspector Trip Not sure you’re getting the best deal on your flight or hotel? Use Inspector Trip’s comparison tool to find out what you should be paying.
  6. FreeTrip FreeTrip allows you to create a customized road itinerary and map.
  7. Flightview FlightView can help keep you up to date with your flight, let you know if it will be delayed, and get you information for almost any airport in the United States.
  8. Traffic.com Don’t let traffic jams ruin your trip. With Traffic.com you can keep track of where the problem areas are and figure out alternate routes.
  9. ParkatMyHouse Finding a place to park when you’re away from home can be difficult but ParkatMyHouse does the work for you and finds you reasonably priced parking.
  10. TripAdvisor TripAdvisor can give you advice and reviews for thousands of hotels, airlines and attractions all over the world.
  11. VirtualTourist Get photos, tips, and reviews for travel destinations all over the world with VirtualTourist.
  12. 3DTracking Keeping track of your family at a crowded attraction can be difficult. 3DTracking is free app that lets you know where everyone’s at.
  13. TripTie Not sure what to do once you arrive at your destination? Get some ideas by looking at other people’s travel itineraries on TripTie.
  14. TravelPod Make an online journal of your travel adventures with a free blog at TravelPod.

Travel Necessities

There are some things that even the most frugal traveler can’t do without. Give these suggestions a whirl to help you shave off a few dollars from your basic travel expenses.

  1. Bring along free sunscreen. Whether you’re hitting the beach or the slopes, you’re going to need to bring sunscreen along. Get a free bottle from Quality Health when you fill out a survey.
  2. Take advantage of online travel guides. Even big names in travel guides like Frommers have gone online. Why pay for the book when you can get the same info online for free?
  3. Buy luggage at a discount or thrift store. There is no doubt that suitcases are some of the most expensive necessities for travelers. Save money by getting one at a discount online or at your local thrift store.
  4. Make the most of free wi-fi. Some hotels will charge you to connect to the Internet. Of course, there’s no reason to pay for it when you can go around the corner to the local coffeshop and get it for free. Make the most of free wi-fi in the area and save some money on expensive hotel connections.
  5. Score free passport photos. If you need a new passport normally you’d pay anywhere between $10-15 for the photo, but JetBlue customers can take advantage of this free photo offer.
  6. Get a free luggage tag. If by some ill stroke of luck your luggage gets lost, make sure it has your name on it so it can get back to you. Sign up for this free one through Cutter and Buck.
  7. Order free maps and atlases. There are numerous maps and atlases you can get send to you free of charge just by taking an simple online survey.
  8. Get free vacation photo prints. If you take a lot of digital photos, you can get free and cheap prints of them by using an online printing service like Adorama or Snapfish. Some offer 50 free prints just for signing up!
  9. Buy travel guides and maps on eBay. If you are in need of travel guides, don’t pay full price. Get them for cheap using eBay and when you get back, sell them!
  10. Send e-cards. It’s fun to get mail from all over the world, but you can save money on stamps by sending e-cards instead of postcards. Simply scan in or upload one of your photos and send them in special emails to your family and friends.
  11. Pack light. Save yourself baggage overage fees and hassle by packing light and simply doing laundry at your destination once you run out of clothes.


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12 Comments »

  1. I just want to confirm that it is useful to learn Esperanto for travel. It’s not just the free or low-cost accommodation which attracts me. It’s really great to get to know local people, who can show you the sights and are usually far better informed than any tourist guide. I’ve used Esperanto in Finland, Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria and Croatia. It really works. Take a look at ww.esperanto.net

    Comment by Bill Chapman — April 16, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  2. Wonderful tips! I could use a lot of these great tips. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Amy @ The Q Family — April 22, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  3. Wow! This is quite a list! There are a few ideas that I’ve had, but a lot of this list is very unique.

    Comment by SavingDiva — April 30, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  4. Those tips are moronic.

    Comment by Jake — November 21, 2008 @ 5:14 am

  5. This is a very good research and i get to learn alot but i have found that if you are booking the flight for lagos http://www.flightstolagos.uk.com the has the best prices

    Comment by Cheap Flights To Lagos — October 27, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  6. Here is another way, its a site where you watch vids for points towards free stuff “www.lockerz.com” if you need an invite just email lockerzfreestuff@live.com (the website is invite only)

    Comment by bill marks — July 16, 2010 @ 6:56 am

  7. woah! what a great list! this can be a really great guide for me. Thanks a lot and I will take your advice to save more on my next vacation trip… :-)

    Comment by free gas card — February 14, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  8. its very nice post great job and thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Oye Just Chill — September 16, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  9. Great Site, your plugins are very useful and save me a tonne of time.hrtyht

    Comment by replica jewelry — January 28, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

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    Comment by cutest animals — November 9, 2013 @ 3:34 am

  11. Try searching for cheap international air tickets and domestic US flights at Tripdollar.com here you can compare airfares and book hotels, as well as find some additional travel tips.

    Comment by Nonstop flights from Pittsburgh to Orlando — December 24, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  12. Interesting tips! Some of these tips can be really good guide for a pleasant memorable journey.

    Comment by San Antonio Auto Transport — April 11, 2014 @ 10:47 am

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