How to travel for free… or almost

Discover all the tips and tricks you need to travel for free or with the minimum necessary. You’ll see that anything is possible!

Travel is for the young, as the old saying goes. But what it doesn’t say is that travel is often very expensive. Fortunately, there are solutions for traveling with little or no money. From experts who juggle credit card promotions, to optimistic travelers, to new sharing and exchange sites, we give you all the tips you need to travel for free… or almost.

Use credit or loyalty cards

How do you go on vacation for free, especially to exotic or faraway destinations? One tried-and-tested technique is to plan your trip months in advance, taking advantage of premium credit cards that allow you to accumulate loyalty points. These points can then be converted into « miles » for a free plane ticket. These cards are quite expensive, but the first year is often free and comes with a miles bonus when the contract is opened. All you need to do is have several of them to take advantage of these benefits at the right time, and remember to cancel them before the end of the first year!

Scott Keyes, for example, is one of those smart guys who takes advantage of the credit card system to travel for free. It’s a good technique, but one that requires a great deal of organization. In a similar vein, Ben Schlappig has flown around the world 16 times for free, « beating the airlines at their own game » in his own words, by skilfully playing with his various loyalty cards.

Ben Schlappig, compagnies aériennes

Photo credit: Instagram – onemileatatime

These little geniuses are grouped together in an association called the « Hobby ». So much so that it’s become a personal challenge and even a passion! Ben has become so well known in this milieu that he now gives conferences, maintains a blog where he distils his best practices and even advertises the merits of bank credit cards, which he has bypassed to travel for free! It’s amazing.

One last anecdote – but the chances of it happening again soon are pretty slim – this Canadian offered a free round-the-world trip to the woman with the same name as his ex. Jordan Axani and Elizabeth Gallagher had justbought the plane tickets to go away with his girlfriend, but the couple had split up. So he searched for a Canadian woman with the same name as his ex-fiancée, to avoid losing the plane tickets. In the end, a namesake showed up and got a free trip!

Travelling without flying

This is obviously the easiest way if you’re not in a hurry. For the more adventurous among you, there’s nothing to stop you hitchhiking. From one stage to the next, you’ll be able to cross a large part of Europe with your backpack, and you’ll certainly meet some interesting people if you take a minimum of precautions.

For the more sporty, it’s time to get out your bike and think big. Some even make the trip from Paris to Beijing by bike, an increasingly popular adventure. All in all, it takes 4 to 5 months, riding six hours a day at an average speed of 15 km/hour. But you can take more time to visit and stop along the way.

If you don’t trust your bike, the easiest way is still to walk! Yes, it’s certainly not the fastest, but here too it’s an experience to be lived, depending on your desire and motivation. Just think of the thousands of people who make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela every year. Given its popularity, there’s nothing totally unachievable about it. You just need to be motivated, organized and at least a little prepared!

Another option is the story of Graham Hughes, who crossed the world’s 201 countries without ever taking a plane. This Englishman’s journey lasted three years, but with just 12 euros a day in his pocket, he managed to circumnavigate the globe by boat, bus, train and cab. A feat that also requires a good dose of nerve and an adventurous spirit!

Optimistic travelers

The story of Milan and Muammer could inspire many a traveler. Aged 27 and 38, they circumnavigated the globe in 80 days without spending a single penny. Their miracle recipe? Rely on people’s generosity, negotiate, smile and be patient. These « optimistic travelers » have even written a book, and give one lecture after another to talk about their experience.

In the same category, we can also mention the very media-savvy Antoine de Maximy with his program « J’irai dormir chez vous » (« I’ll sleep at your place »). Respect, listening, smiling, welcoming… here we find the quintessence of what makes a successful trip. If he can do it, why can’t you?

Good plans to share

Collaborative websites can be a real goldmine for those who want to try something new for less. Like Blablacar or Airbnb, you can find good deals just about anywhere on the Internet.

With Campe dans mon jardin or Gamping you can pitch your tent in the garden of a private individual who welcomes you for one or more nights at a very modest price. It’s the perfect way to meet new people and enjoy a vacation at bargain prices. In the area of accommodation, CouchSurfing is a great way to sleep for free on a sofa in France or on the other side of the world. All you have to do is register on CouchSurfing.org, and thanks to the comments of Internet users, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and make the most of good encounters.

If you want to visit a place, a town or a region with local enthusiasts, free of charge, the Greeters community is a must. On Greeters, for example, you’ll find all the information you need about France. There are greeters all over the world, whose only aim is to make you love what they love. Not a bad idea, is it?

Finally, another good idea, this time in France, is Wwoofing. The concept is simple: we offer you room and board in exchange for half a day’s work (or more) on an organic farm. On wwoof.fr you’ll discover all the values of this interesting concept for travellers who also want to travel in a useful way!

Main photo credit: Wikimedia – KoS