How to Travel for Free (no, really!)

By: Shelley Seale
Financial planning on travel and coffee cup on table top object still life. twomeows / Getty Images

If you’ve followed Shelley of Trading Places for very long, you know that she travels extensively — sometimes for weeks or even months, with several globe-trotting trips a year. If you’ve really read much of her stuff, you know that most of the time she travels for free; i.e., not spending any more money than she would have if she’d just stayed home.

In today’s post, Shelley shares a quick-and-dirty Top 5 ways that she does this — and offers a free 30-minute instructional video telling you much more!

I really do love all my “Trading Places Village!” Followers, fans, fellow travelers, foodies, lifestyle & wellness junkies…you are all my people! Today to show the love, I’m sharing some of my TOP 5 TIPS for traveling a lot more, on a LOT less money.


1. Don’t Pay for Fights

There are so many great ways to rack up airline points, from credit card and banking offers to dine utilities or just everyday purchases. Put the money you’re spending on bills anyway work for you to earn free flights!

2. Get Free Places To Stay

I very rarely pay for accommodations – and that’s not because I’m a travel writer! Most of the time, I stay for free in one of four ways: exchanging homes, house sitting, work-trade, or using income from renting my place out to pay for lodging (swap $).

3. Go Local

Some destinations are more expensive than others, but in pretty much every place there are plenty of low-cost or free things to do. And the more local you can get (versus on the tourist trail), the more free fun you’ll find.

4. Network

When you’re planning a trip, put your destination out there on social media, in groups, among friends and colleagues, etc. You might be surprised at how many tips, offers, resources, and help you’ll be offered!


5. Get Creative

I travel all over the world constantly, and I rarely spend more money than I would if I’d just stayed home. That’s because I don’t book travel the way most people do, and I don’t even look at it the same way. I think creatively about how I can travel in free or low-cost ways, like some of the ideas above. What about couch surfing? Doing a 3-month work project, sabbatical, or volunteer service somewhere? Don’t limit yourself!