If you’re planning a trip OS, then you’ve probably done the maths. Apart from flights, accommodation is one of the biggest savings-suckers when it comes to travelling abroad, but unfortunately it’s something you can’t avoid, right? Wrong.
There are a range of ways you can access free accommodation, from couch surfing and house sitting to volunteering and WWOOF-ing. Like to know more? Here are five ways you can get more bang for your holiday buck.
Picture this … you’re overseas in an idyllic wintertime location in front of a roaring fire with a comfy-as-anything pussycat on your lap. Sound like a holiday fantasy you can only daydream about? Not if you consider house sitting.
This win-win scenario enables you to get free accommodation and explore the delights of your culturally intriguing surroundings, all while enjoying the amenities and comforts of someone else’s house! House sitting sites like Mind My House and HouseCarers allow you to build up a suitable profile and offer much-appreciated services to homeowners while they’re away travelling.
Companies like Trusted House Sitters even offer services where you get to take care of the family fur baby as well!
Not only is accommodation free, but you’ll also save on eating out as you cook up a storm in their (no doubt) fabulous kitchen. And as long as you’re not a complete slob or partial to free-for-all house parties, your hosts will be over the moon at the fact that you’ve kept their pride and joy (whether that’s the house or the cat) safe and sound.
Ok, so it’s a no-brainer, but one of the best ways to get free accommodation is by tracking down someone who actually lives in a location you’ll be travelling to and taking the old couch surfing option.
Couch surfing’s not just sitting on a couch and surfing the net on your lappy, it’s also the perfect way for savvy travel hackers to get some free shut-eye at a local resident’s digs. Plus, you’ll gain the benefits of their regional knowledge (in order to dodge the boring tourist spots) and have someone cool to hang out with at the same time!
One of the biggest sites in terms of active communities is Couchsurfing. The goal of the club is to help travellers not only save on accommodation, but also learn about the local culture, language and food … and of course enjoy super-fun social activities as well!
But now for the boring bit … you still need to keep your wits about you when choosing a host. They should have a full profile including a photo, have received positive reviews from past guests, and have the necessary verification. This can range from referrals and credit card details to obvious things like a mobile number and an actual address (which also means you can check them out on Google Maps).
And if you’re a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to staying with a stranger halfway round the globe, it’s also comforting to know that people who are willing to open their homes to strangers tend to be very open-minded and are often travellers themselves.
Once you get used to it, you’ll probably find it’s all part of your bigger picture adventure and not only have more money to spend on travelling, but meet heaps of cool peeps from around the world too!
Volunteering overseas can be super-rewarding, allowing you to meet like-minded travellers, learn about different cultures and contribute to communities that are in need. It can also save you a great deal of money on your travel budget, particularly when it comes to accommodation.
There are a whole range of fascinating volunteering opportunities all over the world that suit a wide variety of skills and interests, from marine and wildlife conservation to working on arts, construction, sports or healthcare projects. Imagine the inspiration you’ll gain by working alongside a local community and doing your part to make the world a better place. Nawww…
However, when it comes to volunteering overseas, you need to be cluey about it as well. Organisations should be officially registered and operate within local and international child protection and environmental regulations. For more information, download the brochure on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website.
Love to get down and dirty? Consider WWOOF-ing! World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a program that connects volunteers to host families that yep, live on a working farm. Farmstay-type opportunities generally involve working outdoors, and can involve everything from sowing seeds and gathering herbs to making cheese or mucking out the dairy sheds.
The expectations of your working day will differ depending on your host family. However, WWOOF-ing generally involves working five days a week, but having the rest of the time to explore your surroundings.
Accommodation is provided FOC and you’ll also probably live in the family’s home and share mealtimes with them. It’s definitely an affordable travel option to consider if you love living and working on the land (and of course animals as well!)
If you speak English (tick!) then you’re in luck, because organisations like Diverbo are constantly on the lookout for people to help foreigners in Spain and Germany practice their language skills.
Diverbo offers week-long programs to volunteers who will spend their time living and ‘working’ in small villages around Munich, Madrid and Frankfurt in exchange for engaging in conversation with non-English speaking locals. What a great way to nab free accommodation, get off the beaten tourist track and enjoy culture, conversation and connecting with people from all walks of life!
And if you’re aged between 18 and 30, an Australian, UK or New Zealand citizen and love being around children (or ideally have some childcare experience), then consider an overseas stint as an au pair.
Agencies like Dream Nannies offer a range of programs to suit all experience levels, and you’ll also get the perks that go with living in a child-friendly family – we’re talking healthy meals, fantastic accommodation and (if you’re lucky!) all-expenses-paid family holidays!