9 ways to score free or cheap lodging when you travel

Here are a few travel tricks that can cut the biggest line item from your budget.

Pixabay | davidlee770924

According to the U.S. Travel Association, Americans spent more than $683 billion on leisure travel in 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly one quarter of those costs goes to lodging.

If you dream of traveling but don’t believe doing so fits your budget, why not discover some ways to minimize expenses? There are dozens of travel hacks that can save you major cash. Consider this: where would you go if you didn’t have to worry about paying for a hotel? Check out these tips that could help you score cheap—and in some cases even free—lodging around the world.

1. Be Critical

Hotel critics and reviewers not only receive free lodging; they may even receive payment for staying at and reporting on hotels and other luxury accommodations. Although this approach takes some effort, planning and, frankly, luck—such as landing a job with a company that advises wealthy clients or running a travel blog that has an extensive following—the perks could be well worth it.

Pixabay | Startup Stock Photos

2. Be Mysterious

You may think mystery shoppers only visit retail stores, but in fact, these secretive customers are often paid to check out hotels, motels and restaurants as well. It’s important to note that these services typically reimburse mystery shoppers, so you will have to pay upfront for your room. Be sure to look for a reputable mystery shopping company.

Pixabay | Ryan McGuire

3. Couch Surf

Would you be willing to crash on a stranger’s sofa if it meant free lodging? Services such as Couchsurfing.com hook up travelers with hosts around the world who have space available—anything from a comfy couch to a bedroom or guest house—typically free of charge, simply because they want to interact with people from different countries or improve their language skills.

Pixabay | wokandapix

4. Earn Miles

You can often redeem frequent flyer miles from major airlines for hotel stays. If you fly often for work or leisure, those miles can add up quickly. Even if you don’t fly, you can earn miles with a co-branded airline credit card. Check the fine print to see what purchases will net you miles that you can transform into free lodging.

Pixabay | StockSnap

5. Get Your Hands Dirty

If the idea of seeing the world while making a difference appeals to you, consider signing up for volunteering abroad. “Voluntourism,” as it is known, lets you do just that. Some opportunities cover costs, such as food and lodging. If they don’t, you may be able to claim your expenses as tax deductions.

volunteering photo
Flickr | danielthornton

6. Listen To A Pitch

Timeshare properties sometimes offer a free or cheap short-term stay in exchange for your time at one of their high-pressure sales presentations. If you meet the criteria, which typically includes being over a certain age with a specific income and credit score, you can snag free lodging in a nice room. However, unless buying a timeshare is something you really want to do, be prepared to say no, firmly and repeatedly.

audience photo
Flickr | Kennisland

7. Make A Trade

Home swapping allows you to experience life in another location while someone else discovers what your corner of the world is like. Some services help you set up a simultaneous exchange with someone who lives in a place you’d like to visit while others cast a wider net. As always, read the fine print to find out what, if any, expenses are involved.

houses photo
Flickr | oatsy40

8. Rack Up Freebies

Many hotel and motel chains have loyalty programs, which reward members with free or discounted rooms. Signing up for these programs and earning points whenever you travel for business or leisure is one way to earn points. You can gain more by shopping online through specific portals, referring friends, connecting with companies on social media and more.

hotel photo
Getty Images | Vittorio Zunino Celotto

9. Work While Away

What if you could travel for a whole year and still hold down a job? Companies such as Remote Year make it a possibility, and even handle lodging on your behalf. Looking for something more short-term? You can work on a farm for a week or two in exchange for food and accommodations.

gathering eggs photo
Getty Images | David Silverman

Whether you’re okay with staying somewhere rather humble or prefer something on the posher side, these lodging hacks can help you afford to fulfill your travel dreams.

[h/t: Smarter Travel]

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