There were a few times in my life when I wanted to travel as cheaply as possible. I was young, and the first time around, I was working in China, on a low (but manageable) salary that really only translated to traveling in Southeast Asia.

The second time, I had my job offer in NYC, but I hadn’t started working yet. So I was trying to travel on as little money as possible, because I didn’t want to dip into savings at all.

Want to see how I traveled for super cheap, and some other ways to travel for free? I bet you can’t wait to see these ideas.

Do stuff for free every day

I’d like to think I’m an expert at doing things for free. I’ve had a lot of fun, on a lot of trips, in tons of parts of the world, just by walking around cities, seeing how people live and of course, watching pretty sunsets from rooftops or bodies of water.

I’ve paid for excursions along the way too, and sometimes, the price is not worth the experience. When I was in the Dominican Republic, a group of friends of ours hired a party boat and spent an afternoon on a catamaran for a pretty penny per person. Dan and I chose to take a local bus for $2 and saw a pristine white sand beach, for $0. See? You can have fun with no money.

I am constantly telling anyone who wants to visit my hometown of NY that if they have the means to get there and stay there (for cheap), that you can look at all these free things to do in NYC and travel for nearly nothing.

Travel in budget destinations

If I want to travel for almost no money, I know I have to go to a super budget-friendly travel destination.

Going places like India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam have meant that I can eat meals for $2, take tuk-tuk rides for $1 and get a huge bang for my buck when it comes to accommodation, experiences, shopping and even just having a coffee.

Traveling in cheap places has been the best way for me to see the world when I’ve had no money. The best part of my Central America trip before I started my full-time job was spending time in Panama, where I ate cheap meals, stayed in cheap hostel accommodations, paid just a few dollars for a bike rental to head out to pretty beaches and went on free hiking trips.

Some of my other favorite crazy cheap travel experiences have been in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Myanmar, the Philippines and Cambodia. Some of these places have become my most favorite places to travel, and the fun part is that I had barely any money when I was traveling in them!

Stay in hostel dorms

The first time I stayed in a hostel dorm, I barely knew what to expect. Now, though, I’m basically an open book and an expert on how to book a hostel.

If I want to travel for cheap and I don’t want to touch my savings, I stay in a hostel dorm bed. I’ve done this in China for $5, and in Nicaragua for $7 a night. If this doesn’t sound like a lot of money to pay for accommodation, it’s because it’s not!

It’s true that prices are constantly going up in accommodations all over the world, but hear me out for my hottest tip: filter on by using the price filter, and keep going until you find a hostel dorm bed that fits your budget. That’s the way to travel for insanely cheap!

Use points and miles for free flights

Have you heard of how to get free flights? I wasn’t always familiar with how to do this, but luckily, in the past few years, there are tons of resources available on how to get free flights with your miles.

If you’re in the US, there are quite a few credit cards that can help you get a free flight. For example, and just as a quick story, I got the United Explorer credit card for $0 annual fee, and with the spend threshold completed in the first few months, I got 40,000 bonus miles.

This is a free flight, to somewhere! Sure, it’s not a free flight to anywhere, but if you have no money, you can’t be so picky, either.

Learning about these hacks for getting free flights is one of the most important parts of how to travel for really cheap. Flights can be a huge expense on a trip — if you’re traveling in a cheap destination, a flight can be even MORE than the money you’ll spend while you’re there!

It’s super exciting to get your first flight for free, like I did, with a travel credit card. Find out more here at our travel hacking guide.

Get a job abroad

I lived in Shanghai, China, for two years. Some people would call this traveling for two years. And I’d agree.

Getting a job abroad got me a few perks and benefits that made my life abroad very cheap, if I didn’t spend much extra money.

My job gave me free housing during my first year (sure, it was WAY outside the city center, but it cost me nothing). I also got free breakfast AND free lunch, every day, from the school cafeteria (OK, sure, it was Chinese cafeteria food, but if you’re on an extreme budget, you can’t be picky!).

Having a job abroad and being based in China meant I could take trips to places like Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia, and the flights were WAY cheaper than they would’ve been if I had been home in the US planning the same trips.

In this way, I could say that getting a job abroad (like teaching English at a school, which is what I did!) let me travel for super cheap, because I was already based in the region I wanted to travel in, for two years.

Work in a hostel

When I was in Panama, I made some great friends. They were the guys working in the hostel! I stayed at Mamallena Boquete, and I liked it so much that I wanted to stay longer. The two guys who became life-long friends of mine were spending months working shifts at the hostel in exchange for staying for free.

This is a great way to keep your travel costs down. You can look into hostels that offer this type of exchange if you want to plan to take a long-term trip.

There are some starter opportunities at sites like Worldpacker.

Offer your skills as an exchange

Dan and I have lessened our travel costs over the years by exchanging our skills with hotels and tour companies. Some would call it how to get paid to travel, but we also call it a skill exchange.

We’ve offered professional photography, social media services and blog reviews to hotels in Portugal, the Netherlands, Mexico and Colombia. We’ve worked with tour companies in Vietnam, Taiwan and Estonia. It has been a lot of fun! While time is money, and our work is hard work, offering our skills in exchange for ways to travel for free has helped our trip budgets.

Are you a photographer? Check out our guide on how to make money as a travel photographer and pay for the costs of your trip that way.


Volunteering abroad seems like it would be a free thing that may get you free housing, free food and free perks. After all, you’re volunteering in another country, right?

Not so. Volunteer programs for countries across the world often cost money. And if they cost in the thousands of dollars, this is far from traveling on the cheap. “Volunteering” can be a misnomer.

I have good news, though. If you want to volunteer AND keep your costs of travel very low, like if you are broke, check out the following sites for free or cheap volunteer opportunities in other countries:

My main idea and my tip to you, for having your eye on volunteering, is to make sure all the costs are laid out. I’ve heard of a lot of friends who pay to volunteer (and I myself took a volunteer trip to India that was higher-cost, in my later years), so if you have no money and you want volunteering to be your way to travel, do all the research possible.


My friend Alex and Ryan famously house-sat in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for three months. They loved it. They proved to me that if you are low on funds, or even if you just want to save a ton of money while traveling, to try out housesitting.

The way housesitting works, on sites like Trusted Housesitters, is travelers get matched with homeowners who wish to go away for an extended period of time. They’re looking for someone to watch their house, so that it doesn’t look empty. Here’s how to find a house-sit, and I recommend reading Alex and Ryan’s how to use Trusted Housesitters guide.


If you are an animal lover, there is a way to travel for cheap that you need to know about: pet-sitting. In the Remote Year Slack group I am in, lots of people post pet-sitting opportunities in exchange for staying at their place in San Diego, or Barcelona, or Denver, or Mexico City. Imagine staying for free in cool places like these, and only having to feed someone’s cats or walk someone’s dog, every day!

Pet-sitting means you may get free accommodation, or it might (note here) be very low-cost. Some pet-sitting offers are for steeply discounted places to stay or live, rather than totally free. Regardless of this, it’s a way to have your accommodation expenses mostly taken care of if you’re traveling on an extreme budget.

You can use Trusted Housesitters to find a pet-sit.