Yes, it’s completely true. You can travel without paying a dime. Nada. Gratis. It requires a bit of effort, but the rewards are worth it. Use the tips below to travel for free or very little outlay. You should already be saving and making money with the other guides in the Travel Funding Bootcamp series. Now there are absolutely no excuses for not being able to reach your travel goals. 

This guide will show you how to get:

  • free transport, including free flights
  • pay nothing for accommodation
  • the best free activities and
  • even how to get food.

All without any money exchanging hands.

travel for free with miles for flights

1) Transport

Free flights

The most common way to get ‘free flights’ is to accumulate airmiles. Airmiles are a points system that airlines use to reward customers for taking flights or buying other affiliated products such as car hire. The points or ‘miles’ can then be used to pay for flights with that carrier. You may have to pay a small fee or taxes, but these are usually minimal and far less than the full fare. They can also be exchanged for other rewards such as tours, hotel rooms, and even champagne but are usually best off when used to pay for flights. Always compare prices with what you would pay without using the miles to evaluate.

Most airlines (except the budget ones) have such schemes, and quite often they have clubbed together to form alliances. The trick is to rack up as many miles as possible in order to continually achieve enough for travel. So here’s how.

Firstly, it’s usually free to sign up for every airlines airmiles scheme, so make sure you have registered with the carriers from your local airport plus some of the major airlines in your country. For example, in the UK, I would advise you sign up for British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Qatar, Emirates, Swiss Air and Turkish Airlines for starters. In the US, Delta, American Airlines, and British Airways for international travel plus Southwest for domestic flights.

Next, apply for a credit card that gives you lots of miles as rewards. Some cards offer sign-up offers of bonus miles and others require an annual fee, so make sure you shop around and read all the terms and conditions before applying. Acceptance is based on your eligibility and it is worth checking this beforehand, in case it affects your credit score. You must also commit to paying off the card in full each month, or the rewards are cancelled out with the interest you pay on your balance. The easiest way to do this is by setting up an automatic payment for the full amount each month. Then you use the cards to buy all your regular purchases instead of using other cards, cash or cheques. Your spending accrues points which can be converted into airmiles.

You can also apply for additional cards for the same account, I suggest you give these to trusted people only – you will be responsible for the debt on the account! Another way is to refer other family members to sign up and you will receive bonus miles for doing so. They can also usually transfer the miles to your account if they don’t want them.

In the UK the best card deals at the moment the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card, the Virgin Airways Amex card and the British Airways Amex card. For US residents, check out the Capital One Venture Rewards cards, Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Discover it Miles and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. You want to make sure you look at the sign-up bonuses and what you need to spend, by when, to validate them, plus any annual fees.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

airmiles mean you do not have to pay for flights

You can also ‘boost’ your points by several different methods.

I add miles to my British Airways airmiles scheme knowns as ‘Avios’ by shopping at Tesco. Their loyalty scheme gives you vouchers for every shop and their ‘clubcard’ vouchers can be automatically be converted into miles each month. Technically I eat to fly! The same applies to fuelling up at Shell garages. They also give you extra reward cards, so give them to your friends and family who also shop at Tesco so that you collect even more miles!

I also add miles by completing surveys. Reward for thoughts and e-rewards both offer airmiles for a few minutes of my opinions. Excellent.

In the US you can boost your miles by buying satellite TV packages, flowers, and sports events tickets or eating out and even by paying your energy bills. They are all listed here.

Don’t forget to compare flights before you use your miles. It’s worth Googling which low-cost carriers operate from your departure airport and compare the cost. Use comparison sites such as Kayak and Momondo to find the cheapest options. It’s not worth giving up a whole lot of airmiles if the fare is only $12 or £10 etc. Don’t forget to factor in any additional charges from the budget option, such as checked baggage, food, and transport to the airport.

Always try booking well in advance and outside of school holiday and national holiday dates for the best deals.

Consider experiencing a layover, as sometimes these flights are cheaper. Plus, you could get a fabulous free city tour as part of your trip, for example, in Istanbul.

walking and public transport are the best options

Check out whether your hotel provides free transfers to the airport, whether there are usually good public transport options or try using the cheap airport transfer service Hoppa.

Once you have arrived at your destination there are also free ways of getting around. I usually like to walk, not only is it healthy and I can really explore the area, rooting out unusual places but it’s completely free of charge. Alternative low-cost options include cycling, public transport and sharing economy options such as rideshares and cheap taxis.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

camping and couch surfing allow are free accommodation options

2) Free Accommodation

The one thing that really makes or breaks a trip for me and that’s where I’m staying. But there are so many super cheap and free options now that you really can stay in fabulous places for absolutely diddly squat, zero cash.

  • I have used the house sitting website Mindmyhouse to score almost three weeks in London for free. I had the pleasure of looking after two cats, which was super easy and the run of the house to myself. Couldn’t get any better! Just sign up (there’s a small annual fee but this is massively outweighed by the benefits) and start applying. There are homes looking for people to look after them from Mexico to Australia via Italy and Buenos Aires. Here’s a guide on how to land a home or pet sitting job.
  • There is always the option to join Couchsurfing. This is where you literally are able to stay at someone’s house and sleep on their sofa, blow-up mattress or even a real bed for free. It’s a great way to meet local people where you are traveling and gain insight into the best places to go, activities to do and places to eat. You can also sign up to be a host yourself. As for every trip, you need to follow basic safety guidelines when deciding to couchsurf or host. Check the reviews, make sure you know how to get out of the situation and be prepared to find an alternative.
  • If you have a lightweight tent then camping for free is another great option. Just make sure you are not breaking any laws and have permission from the landowner and pitch up for a fabulous sleep without any charge.
  • Quite often you can be given board and lodgings when volunteering or participating in work exchanges. Teaching, au pairs, sailing crews etc., can all get accommodation as part of the deal. This does mean that you may be in one area and not necessarily travelling around so much, but by taking advantage of days off or short-term contracts and this can be an ideal solution for the longer term nomads.

If you can’t find free places to stay there are plenty of low-cost options:

  • Hostels
  • Budget hotels
  • Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway etc.

It’s worth looking at a comparison of all three, as sometimes it can be cheaper to stay in a hotel slightly out of town than a hostel in the city centre. Check what the reviews are like for each type of accommodation, for example:

  • Is it a party place?
  • Can you get a private room?
  • Are the facilities shared?
  • Are there nearby good transport links?
  • What are the levels of cleanliness?
  • Is there helpful staff?

It’s quite easy now to find an array of places to bed down for the night that cost nothing or close to very little.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

one method of acquiring free food is by foraging

3) Free Food

You may be surprised but yes there are even ways to find free food! I’ve listed a few here to get you started:

  • Be at one with nature and get foraging for feasts! Finding wild fruits, mushrooms, herbs, shellfish etc. is great fun but only if you can positively identify them so that you do not poison yourself. Additionally, do not decimate an area completely so that local wildlife are left starving and get permission to take the items from wherever you are foraging. I myself had quite a few nice bramble smoothies during the late summer this year after collecting a few during my rambles. There are loads of guidebooks to help you and also courses you can take with an expert so that you can find free food wherever you go.
  • Sign up for a free food app, such as Olio. Safer and simpler than foraging, this is a system where if someone has food to give away, they list it on the app and you can come and collect it. So the person who made an online shopping slip-up or the massive apple orchard owner can recycle their groceries and produce with ravenous travellers.
  • Some bars offer free nibbles if you buy drinks. Look out for deals such as this in Spain and other European countries.

These are the main methods to obtain free food, but there are also plenty of ways of keeping the costs of sustenance down.

freedom to travel further

  • Self-catering is a great way of eating for less. There are usually cheap noodles, bread, eggs, soup, local fruits etc., for sale in local shops and markets that can quickly and easily be made into a meal. If you haven’t heard of extreme couponing then get in on that money-saving cult. There are lots of sites that feature all the coupons you need to reduce the cost of your shop, it’s amazing how much you can save. 
  • It’s worth considering taking some lightweight options (cereal bars, packet pastas etc.) with you if you are going somewhere super expensive. However, do check the laws as some countries are very strict about bringing in food stuffs.
  • Street markets can also be fabulous finds for those thrifty and starving. In many countries, these snack shacks can whip up delicious delights for very little money and really enhance your trip. Be sure to visit the stalls recommended by locals, that seem popular, busy and clean to reduce any potential stomach issues.
  • If you do venture towards a restaurant then again, apps are your friends. Many major chain restaurants and fast food suppliers offer freebies to customers who sign up for their own apps, so sign up now. They also usually have offers advertised in their newsletters and in newspapers so keep an eye out for those.
  • There are also discount apps that can help lower bills, for example, in the UK you can usually get a decent percentage off your meal by using Vouchercodes or Vouchercloud. It’s worth noting!
  • Sometimes you can get lucky and people are handing out sample giveaways in malls and outside restaurants, which won’t constitute a full meal but can be a welcome snack for any hangry travellers.

So, there are quite a few options to make your meals super affordable wherever you go.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

trips can be low cost if many activities are free

4) Free Activities

There are soooo many free things you can do when you are travelling. It’s worth doing a little search of where you are heading for some one-off events or seasonal festivities that are completely without charge. Here’s a list to start with of all the types of free activities you can fill your time with:

  • Free walking tours
  • Hiking
  • Parks
  • Viewpoints
  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Religious buildings (Churches, Mosques, Temples)
  • Swimming
  • Beaches
  • Markets
  • Street theatre
  • Concerts
  • National celebrations
  • Parades
  • Traditional festivals
  • Cemeteries and catacombs

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

dont skimp on travel insurance

5) Travel Insurance

Although travel insurance isn’t free, it’s the one item you should pay for just in case something happens. You may be the healthiest, safest and luckiest person on the planet, but that doesn’t mean the weather, thieves or bad drivers won’t destroy your trip or worse. Political situations can change rapidly, diseases are indiscriminate and airline cancellations can end up costing you a fortune. If you have saved a lot from my tips then a small outlay on insurance will at least cover your ass and your assets.

I recommend that you try World Nomads where you can easily find more information and obtain a quick quote.

Stay safe and happy travels!

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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