How To Save Money (And Maybe Even Earn Some) While Traveling

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a millionaire or have tens of thousands of followers to be able to travel the world. Sure, you may not get the comfort of a private jet or a five-star villa with butler service. But honestly, adventure is more memorable and thrilling than luxury anyway (at the very least, you’ll have better stories to tell when you get home — no one wants to hear your wealth-related humble brags).

So how does one go about jet-setting overseas without breaking the bank? There are actually more options out there than you might think. As a creative in my mid-20s, I know a thing or two about how to “ball on a budget.” In other words, I’m a broke bitch who doesn’t let my humble living stop me from seeing the world. Will I eat oatmeal and ramen for a week straight? Most likely. But will I also dance at a music festival, party on a boat, and fly to a foreign country alone? Absolutely.

Opportunities to save money and even get paid while traveling are out there, it’s just a matter of a little luck and seeking out the right options for you. Below, I’m sharing 10 ways you can start traveling on a budget today.

1. Join A Work Stay Program

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If you’re down to do some labor in exchange for a free place to stay, then you’ll want to consider joining a work stay program. “Work stays” are travel opportunities in which you work for a family, farm, or organization for a certain period of time in exchange for a place to stay. Depending on the host, this may sometimes also include food (score!).

Work stay jobs often include tasks like building and painting houses, gardening, hosting tours, taking care of house pets, and farmwork — including the occasional shoveling goat shit (still worth the free trip, IMO). This option is obviously best if you plan on staying in any given destination for more than just a few days to a week, as you’ll need to use your off time and weekends to explore.

Some trusted work exchange programs include Workaway, WWOOF, HelpX, HelpStay, and Worldpackers.

2. Become An Airbnb Host

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If you live in a well-frequented tourist destination, becoming an Airbnb host is a great way to make a buck while you’re away. People just like you are always looking for affordable places to stay on vacation. Upgrade your home with some dope decor, keep your space clean, and snap some high-quality images of your place. The good thing about Airbnb is that you can choose when and how often to rent it out.

List your home whenever you have upcoming travel plans. The funds you make from hosting can go directly to your own vacation accommodations and adventures.

Learn more about hosting on Airbnb here.

3. Stay Updated On Travel Deals

You don’t need to scour the internet on a daily basis to find the best travel deals available. Instead, subscribe to weekly newsletters dedicated to sharing what’s new in the travel world. There are tons of newsletters out there — Jack’s Flight Club, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Airfarewatchdog, and TravelPirates are a few notable ones — that ensure you’ll never miss the chance to snag discounted flight tickets.

It’s also worth following your favorite airlines, tourism boards, travel influencers, and travel agencies to stay in the loop on sales, discount codes, and updates regarding airfare, hotels, destination excursions, and more. Lastly, if you don’t follow Secret Flying across all social platforms, shame on you.

4. Take Advantage Of Airline Points

If you’re an avid traveler who’s not taking advantage of at least one airline’s reward system, you’re seriously missing out. When you join an airline membership, you can accrue miles over time that you can eventually use for free or majorly discounted flights. AKA, you can jet off to Paris or take a trip to Bali essentially for free.

Most airlines will also reward you with a few extra points just for signing up in the first place. Plus, you can earn additional perks like priority boarding, free seat upgrades, and early check-in.

Tip: Do your best to stick to a single airline when booking flights in order to rack up those miles quicker and gain more rewards. Personally, Southwest and American Airlines are my two favorite airline memberships.

5. Volunteer

There are incredible destinations all around the globe that are also in need of support. What better way to see the world than by giving back at the same time? Whether you choose to volunteer with a conservation group, work at an animal sanctuary, teach at underprivileged schools, or build shelters in local communities, the options to volunteer while traveling are abundant. And when you volunteer in a far-out destination, meals and housing are most likely included in your trip.

When searching for volunteer opportunities in other countries, it’s best to research a specific destination and the variety of non-profit groups in the area. For instance, you can apply to Conservation Volunteers in Australia, Kibbutz Volunteer in Israel, or Kaya Responsible Travel operating in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America. Hell, you can even join the Peace Corps!

6. Start A Blog

Like to take pictures, write, and share your everyday experiences online? Then you might want to consider starting your own travel blog. While it’s a pretty saturated industry, literally anyone can start and grow their own digital audience. Whether you post solely on Instagram, create a travel-dedicated TikTok account, or launch a website with useful travel tips and hacks, there are opportunities waiting for you online.

Once you start to grow your audience, you can make an income with digital ads and sponsorships. You can also leverage your blog and social media to gain complimentary travel accommodations and trips. If you’re not sure where to start, it may be worth taking an online course and following other travel bloggers who inspire you.

7. Use Skyscanner

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Skyscanner is an excellent source for finding cheap flights fast. You can search for flights anywhere in the world, and the database will pull the most affordable flight options from every available airline. It will even mix and match airlines on your departing and return flights to provide you with the most budget-friendly choices. Skyscanner also allows you to search for the most affordable hotels and car rentals in your chosen destination.

I’ve been using Skyscanner for years, and it never ceases to help a girl out. You can book through the Skyscanner platform itself, but I like to search and book the results directly through the airlines to reap the full benefits of the airline rewards mentioned above.

Search for cheap flights and book your next trip using Skyscanner here.

8. Teach English Abroad

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Teaching English in a foreign country seems to have grown in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Most programs will provide housing in addition to a fixed salary. In other words, you’ll get paid to live abroad and hang out with kids — sounds like a win-win. Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of school breaks and paid holidays by venturing out to other nearby cities and countries.

Some reliable programs include Teach Away, Go Overseas, and The TEFL Org.

9. Work In A Hostel

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As a budget traveler, chances are you’ve stayed in a hostel or two. While shared bunk beds and bathrooms aren’t the most extravagant of accommodation amenities, hostels make for affordable lodging and an easy way to make like-minded friends on the road. If you’re in search of a long-term nomadic lifestyle, looking into different hostel jobs is your best bet. You’ll not only get a free place to stay, but you’ll gain an income that you can put towards your daily adventures.

When searching for jobs, it’s a good idea to reach out to specific hostels directly. There are also databases like Hostel Jobs and Worldpackers that can help narrow down your search.

10. Become a Travel Writer

This was my preferred method of acquiring free and paid travel opportunities, although it probably takes the most time and effort out of the bunch (mixed with a dose of passion and a hint of naive belief in one’s self). If you love writing and you’re interested in approaching tourism from a journalistic point of view — finding unique stories, sharing inside destination tips, highlighting must-visit sites and restaurants in detail — then you might want to give travel writing a try.

Of course, a journalism degree helps, but the truth is that anyone with a knack for words and adventure can do it. When you’re new to the journalism field, it’s a smart move to take a course, hire another experienced journalist for a coaching consultation, and read the work of writers in your desired beat.

Tip: Use your new blog as a way to showcase your talent and travel experiences to editors at publications you admire! That’s what I did, and here I am two years later, chasing my dream job at UPROXX.