Summer is all about hitting the beach, sightseeing in Europe, and road tripping, right? Maybe for those with a few extra zeros in their bank accounts. For everyone else, summer travel — the industry’s peak season — can get pricey. And with a record 234.1 million travelers expected to fly this season, costs aren’t getting any lower. But what if you barely had to pay for transportation or a place to stay? It doesn’t take hours of hacking flight-booking techniques or playing the credit-card points game to book travel on the cheap. These are some of the best — and most unexpected — ways to save major cash when hitting the road.
1. Pet-sit. Puppies and a free place to stay? No, this isn’t a dream. TrustedHousesitters.com links travelers with pet-sitting opportunities in places like the U.K., Australia, and beyond, and all you have to do is pay a membership fee of $10 a month. The site says some users have loved this service so much that they’ve given up their permanent addresses and used pet-sitting as a way to travel around the world.
2. House-sit. If you’re not into animals but still want free digs, house-sitting is another way you can score a free stay — in this case, in exchange for doing simple chores like watering the plants or bringing in the mail. Check out sites like MindMyHouse.com and Nomador.com, where $20 or $90 a year gives you access to thousands of homes. The accommodations aren’t so bad either — think an adorable studio apartment in the historical center of Sicily or a chateau near Bordeaux, France.
3. Let someone stay in your home. Sites like the booming HomeExchange.com have made house-swapping across the world super easy. They have an inventory of almost 65,000 homes in 150 countries, making it easy to find a place to stay wherever you’re headed. It’s not just a great way to land free lodging — you’ll also get the experience of living like a local in a residential neighborhood.
4. Try a monastery. Look for a local monastery or religious guesthouse to crash for a few nights. Lodging in monasteries or other religious institutions can sometimes be a bit more bare bones than a typical hotel, but you can often stay for a nominal fee or small donation. Plus, breakfast is often included, the accommodations can be in historic, centuries-old buildings, and the onsite staff are great local guides. How do you find one of these gems? MonasteryStays.com is a good place to start.
5. Drive a car cross-country. Have you always dreamed of taking a road trip, but just don’t have the cash for gas, hotels, and attractions? Auto Driveaway will actually pay you a negotiable rate — either flat or per mile — to transport people’s cars all over the U.S. and Canada. There are several trips that you can take from California to New York, Florida to Washington, Arizona to Delaware, and Toronto to Vancouver. You just have to be 23 years old and put down a deposit of around $350, which is refunded on delivery. Bonus: Tolls are covered, and your first tank of gas is free (remaining fuel is charged back to the owner). But you have to cover lodging and other charges, and you must pass all Department of Transportation, Insurance, and Client requirements.
6. Stay on an organic farm. Luxury hotels charge extra for their top-notch organic meals, but if you’re willing work a few hours on an organic farm, you can score free food and accommodations. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms hooks up travelers with farms that need helping hands in exchange for free overnights. There are tons of farms, from China and Australia to Brazil and France. Just pick a destination, be willing to get a little dirty, and you won’t have to worry about paying those fancy hotel costs.
7. Drive deliveries or pets across the country. The new app Roadie will put some extra cash in your pocket if you’re willing to make deliveries across the country. Earn $8 to $650 depending on the size, distance, and urgency of the delivery. Want some furry company? Earn even more transporting pets — the company has partnered with the National Canine Cancer Foundation to raise funding and awareness for needy dogs and their families. You just need to be at least 18, have a valid driver’s license and car insurance, fill out an application, and pass a background check to get started.
8. Be a travel nanny. This is a babysitting gig on steroids. Adventure Nannies hooks up traveling families with responsible nannies (that’s you) for the duration of their trip, which means you could be jetting off to Greece, London, or anywhere else a family decides to vacation. Sure, you’ll be on kiddie duty, but your trip will be paid for (usually including meals and transportation), and you’ll likely have some free time to explore — plus, you can always extend your trip after. The process to get signed up is pretty in-depth and includes an application, phone interview, in-person or Skype interview, and reference and background checks — but once you’re cleared, it could be your ticket to that far-off destination you couldn’t otherwise afford.