While many people might be grounded right now now due to the pandemic, Covid will be gone one of these days and we’ll be able to start traveling the world again. But are you worried you won’t be able to afford to go on vacation after everything we’ve been through? Here’s some good news: There are a number of companies that will help you travel the world for free—and some that will actually pay you to travel.
Mind you, there are very few things in life that are truly free. But if you’re willing to do a little work while you’re on vacation, a number of companies will give you a stipend or a salary, putting a new spin on the phrase “business trip.”
A note: If you’re planning to travel or to go to any of the places in this story, you should be aware that travel during the pandemic might be restricted or challenging in some of these locations. You should always check the regulations for wherever you’re headed and take precautions to protect yourself and others.
Read on for 21 companies that will help you travel for free and some that will even pay for your travels.
Get a Seasonal Gig
Have you ever wanted to be a ski bum or a beach bunny? The website CoolWorks.com will be your bible. It lists cool jobs in great places, whether it’s working at a ski resort in Colorado, a beach hotel in Florida or a national park—just to name a few. Some jobs are full-time, some are just short-term postings for vacationers in search of a free trip. Many of the gigs include your room, food, activities and even a stipend. Other companies with similar resources for seasonal workers include ResortJobs.com, SeasonWorkers and AdventureWork.
Volunteer (And Maybe Get Paid for it)
With the company Workaway, you not only travel for free and sometimes get paid for it, you can truly immerse yourself in a culture and give back to to the communities and places you visit at the same time. Here’s how it works: A wide range of companies in need of help, ranging from hotels to NGOs to families, post on the site. They could be looking for extra hands for gardening, creative projects with the kids, housesitting, charity work, building, teaching a language—the list is endless. Generally, you will be expected to help around five hours per day in exchange for food and accommodations. Some hosts may give you a paid allowance to make sure that they are offering at least the minimum wage in their country.
Travel With Your Talent
In 2016, Nicolás Jurado Allende spent a few weeks volunteering at a crumbling chateau in the Dordogne region of France with a group of friends. He quickly realized that this wasn’t a one-of-a-kind opportunity, since many other businesses around the world have similar needs. So he founded Dotrotter AB, a marketplace where users can publish projects where they need help and travelers can apply to volunteer. In exchange, the traveler gets free accommodations and food, local experiences and myriad ways to improve their career just by paying with their talent.
Work on an Organic Farm
Willing to get your hands dirty? You’ll like the sound of WWOOF, an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The idea is simple: Farm owners around the world post help-wanted ads looking for volunteers to do everything from making cheese to gathering herbs. You’ll work a few hours a day, then have time off to do your own thing. In return, the farms subsidize your room and food. WWOOF has farming opportunities everywhere from Costa Rica to New Zealand.
Help the Planet and its People
In 2008, Shannon O’Donnell decided to ditch it all and travel around the world for a year, volunteering along the way. During that time she came up with the idea for the site Grassroots Volunteering, which offers service-minded travelers easy ways to support the places they travel by taking part in ethical and sustainable projects that give back. The result: meaningful connections between travelers and local causes and communities. Plus, many of the companies will provide travelers with free accommodations and food in exchange for their work.
Teach English Abroad (And More)
If you’re willing to teach English as a foreign language to non-English speakers, the world is your oyster. TEFL.com is one of the most popular English language teaching job platforms, offering people access to a unique selection of international teaching gigs around the globe. Positions generally range from nine months to two years, so it’s a great way to have an extended paid vacation. In addition to English teaching jobs, the site also lists positions in marketing, lecturing and more. There are remote positions, as well. Another great resource for job hunters looking to teach English around the globe is Dave’s ESL Cafe, which was founded by Dave Sperling. After teaching around the globe and completing his MA in Linguistics in 1995, he created the company as a meeting place for ESL and EFL teachers and students from around the world. The ESL Cafe has listings everywhere, as well as dedicated job boards for Korea and China.
Speak English Abroad
Here’s another opportunity for English speakers: Pueblo Ingles, which offers free vacations to English speakers who are willing to travel to small villages in Spain and Germany and help foreigners practice their language skills. You’ll spend most of the day chatting away and get “paid” with free accommodations, group dinners, parties, theater performances and more. Another company with a similar concept is Angloville, which runs trips for English speakers to various locations in Poland.
Take a Road Trip
Want to do a big road trip? Think about signing up with a company like Auto Driveaway, which will pay you to transport a car—and possibly stuff, too—to a destination. It’s easy: The car will have a tank of gas and you are given a certain amount of time to get to the destination. Auto Driveaway is always looking for qualified drivers to move its customers’ vehicles throughout the country and has over 40 locations across the United States and tens of thousands of trips per year.
Organize a Group Trip
Here’s an awesome way to get a free vacation: Plan a trip for a group of your friends. Many travel operators will cover your costs if you function as a trip leader, and Contiki is one of them. For example, the company recently launched a new trip to Greece called “Senior Year Gets a Second Chance (in Greece)” after the lockdown put a damper on many graduation trips. For a college grad who is bringing a group of 10 friends, the trip leader could travel for free. Other companies offering free trips to group leaders include YMT Vacations and Grand Circle Cruise Line.
Plan An Educational Trip
Calling all teachers. After you’ve taught your students about the world, why not show them the world—and get a free trip at the same time. There are several educational travel companies that will give free trips to teachers who host trips for students. (Some even provide a free training trip beforehand.) The best outfitters with benefits for teachers include EF, CHA Educational Tours and Explorica.
Become A House Sitter
Here’s a great way to get a free place to stay while you’re on vacation: Take care of someone else’s house or their pet in the place where you’re headed. Companies like Trusted Housesitters and HouseCarers connect travelers and people in need of sitters around the world.