Planning your next trip or deciding your next place to move on to? The highest cost of travel is usually your flight, train ride, or bus ride but your accommodation can also take up a large chunk of your budget.
Find out how you can get free accommodation for travellers with these practical and money-saving travel tips.
Yes, you can actually get completely free accommodation as a traveller in certain situations. So long as you’re happy to be resourceful and willing to change up the way you travel a little bit.
Now let’s get one thing straight, I’m not talking about five-star hotel stays for free, I’m talking about creative options like house sitting, help exchange, or wild camping.
These free accommodation options will take up a little more of your time but ultimately will save you money, and most of them will end up being a fun experience too.
And sometimes if you’re backpacking or travelling long-term, we need to make that travel budget stretch
a little A LOT further, right?
So let’s dive in and learn how you can get free accommodation for travellers, around the world.
1. Get Free Accommodation for Travellers by House Sitting or Pet Sitting
Let’s get started with the best one first!
House sitting is ultimately the best way to get free accommodation when you travel, because you get an entire place of your own, for free!
House sitting is where a homeowner goes on a trip and leaves their home and pets in the care of a house sitter. This house sitter takes care of the pets and maintains the home, usually in exchange for free accommodation in the property they’re looking after.
I’ve been house sitting for 7 years now and it’s such an awesome way to get free accommodation as a traveller. Whenever I’m planning a trip, I always check to see what house sits are available in the place I’m visiting.
I’ve stayed in amazing places for free whilst travelling in Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast, Auckland, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. And staying for free in expensive cities like these can free up your travel budget to spend on experiences instead.
Most of the tasks involved in house sitting and pet sitting are usually very simple, such as walking dogs, feeding and cleaning out pets, bringing in the mail, mowing lawns, housekeeping and keeping the property secure.
There are all kinds of house sitting jobs you can choose from by signing up to house sitting websites as a house sitter.
So, here’s the thing, yes you do have to pay to join as a house sitter but look at it as an investment. You only pay once and it’s as low as $50 to join most of them. For the money you save every night on accommodation, it’s a very small price to pay.
Trusted House Sitters is my personal favourite for finding house sitting jobs worldwide, although there are many other worldwide and country-specific house sitting sites that you can try. For instance, right now, I’m getting heaps of house sitting jobs on Aussie House Sitters.
To learn more about which one to join, read my post on the best house sitting websites.
And if you’re completely new to house sitting, learn how to get started with my guide on how to become a house sitter.
If you want to get started right now, Trusted Housesitters is well-known as the best and most popular house sitting and pet sitting website, so browse all of Trusted Housesitters’ available jobs here.
2. Free Accommodation in Exchange for Work
As a traveller, I think you get a lot of benefits from this next option. And getting free accommodation in exchange for work is exactly as it sounds.
The basic model is, that you work for someone a few hours a day and instead of getting paid cash, you get free accommodation in exchange for your work.
Generally, the helper is expected to work 4-5 hours a day in exchange for free accommodation — and you can sometimes get bonus free things such as free basic food, free local produce or free tours.
This can be so valuable in places where you are staying for a long time, as it can offset the large expenses, freeing up your budget for other things. And lots of travellers take part in work exchange because they simply want the cultural experience or to gain new skills.
Using work exchange sites, I have worked in campsites, animal sanctuaries, hobby farms, cafes, kitchens, motels, and hostels for a few hours a day — all in exchange for a free room or cabin.
Here are just a few things you could end up doing at work in exchange for free accommodation opportunities, around the world:
- Learn about farm life by helping out on a farm stay
- Working on a sustainable project
- Pickup sailing skills on a boat work exchange
- Learn animal welfare at an animal sanctuary
- Contribute to an NGO
- Help out at a local school
One thing you should know is you will have to pay an annual fee to join most work exchange sites. But it’s less than the price of one night’s accommodation. So if you are getting work exchange regular placements, the money you’ll save on accommodation whilst travelling is worth the small payoff.
Here are a few work exchange sites where you can find free accommodation in exchange for work opportunities:
Workaway is probably the most popular community to find work exchange placements, offering the largest diverse range of work exchange listings.
Their website is user-friendly and the listings have photos and/or videos of the place you could be staying in. And you’ll also find authentic reviews from other Workaway-ers, which can help you decide if it’s right for you.
Workaway also enables you to connect with other travellers and make travel buddies for future trips.
Whilst travelling around New Zealand, we did a Workaway placement at a holiday park in the remote coastal region of the Catlins, which is full of rugged beach wilderness and stunning views.
In exchange for our 4 hours a day of work, we got to stay for free in a cosy cabin and during our time off, we were able to hitch rides with other Workawayers to see nearby attractions.
Wwoofing stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms” or “Willing Workers on Organic Farms”, and the word ‘woofing’ is often used to refer to the act of work in exchange for accommodation.
The Wwoof website is the most established and well-known work exchange platform and originally started out in the 1970s, linking workers with organic farms.
These days, you can find a huge range of farming-related opportunities, such as:
- Working on forest farms
- Helping out on lifestyle blocks
- Medicinal herb farms
- Learning permaculture and sustainability practices
- Staying in off-grid communities
Wwoof is organized nationally so when you join, select the country you’re interested in and go from there.
HelpX is another cultural work exchange platform that lists working for accommodation opportunities on organic farms, lifestyle blocks, homestays, lodges, motels, hostels, and even boats. The same model applies, you work 4-5 hours a day for the host and in exchange receive free accommodation.
Their website is simple to use and lists all the details you’ll need on a host, although I find their website not as visually appealing to use as Workaway. Despite that, I found way more available work exchange listings on HelpX when I was travelling in New Zealand and Australia.
Using HelpX, we have done work exchange placements at a hedgehog sanctuary in Auckland and a motel in Milford Sound, whilst travelling in New Zealand, and as personal housekeepers at a house in Perth, Australia.
And HelpX is the cheapest of the popular work exchange sites to join at only $20 for two years of membership.
A few other work exchange websites include:
3. Free Accommodation by Couch Surfing
Couch Surfing is a hospitality exchange and a social networking site, where a traveller requests to stay with a local host at their destination. This host generously offers their couch or spare room for free for a few days and usually offers to show them around the area.
Hosts can offer any length of stay and it’s usually a couch, futon, spare bed or if you’re lucky, a whole spare room to yourself. Couchsurfing hosts usually share a passion for travel and love to culturally connect with travellers, including showing them around their local area.
As it’s a friendly hospitality exchange the expectation is that in the future, you will also host them in your hometown, if they request it.
And because Couchsurfing is free, it is only polite and decent to either do something nice e.g. cook your host a meal or buy them a gift, to show appreciation for your free stay and their hospitality.
Favoured by solo travellers, Couchsurfing is very well known globally and is an excellent way to get free accommodation for travellers, whilst making a few friends along the way.
4. Work as an Au Pair
If you love kids, working as an Au Pair whilst you travel, could be the job for you. An Au Pair looks after a client’s children and does some housework duties, in exchange for free accommodation and expenses.
Because you’ll be working and living with your Au Pair family in their home, your accommodation, food and household expenses are free.
Au Pairs take part in the family’s everyday life and are included as part of the family unit. So you could end up receiving other perks for free too, like eating out, visiting tourist attractions or outdoor activities.
Working as an Au Pair is a great cultural exchange too as you can learn more about your host country and improve your language skills.
There are lots of places where Au Pair jobs are advertised, try Go Overseas which specialises in organising overseas work programs for travellers. Or you could try Au Pair World, a dedicated Au Pair platform which will guide you through the process of finding an Au Pair job.
5. Sleep for Free by Camping
Have you ever heard of free camping or wild camping? Traditionally, camping is a cheap form of accommodation as you usually have to pay to park your campervan or to set up your tent on a campsite.
However, there are lots of countries where you can camp in your van or in a tent completely for free.
The practice of free camping or wild camping is where you camp for free in dedicated free campgrounds or locations. So you can sleep in (and wake up in) nature and embrace the outdoors.
Due to the free nature of these locations, you’re unlikely to also find free luxe facilities like Wifi or hot showers. Although a lot of free camping sites do have potable water, toilets, cold showers, and a public barbeque on site that travellers can use for free.
Always check and follow each country’s rules for Free Camping, as there may be some conditions. For example, in New Zealand you can camp in some beautiful places however, you can only free camp if you are doing it in a certified self-contained vehicle.
You can free camp in a lot of European countries including Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Scotland, and many more, as part of their ‘Freedom to Roam‘ policy.
For more information on the travel rules for free camping in Europe, check out Camperguru.
In the U.S. you can free camp on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), on National Forest land, National Parks, or National Wilderness Areas. Travellers can also get free accommodation in the parking lots of Walmart or Costco if they have a self-contained vehicle.
Camping apps are a great way to find these free camping locations, here are some of the most popular camping apps:
- Wikicamps – for campsites across the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand
- NPS.gov – for camping land under the National Parks Service in the U.S.
- FreeRoam – for boondocking and camping resources
- Boondocking – for free campsites without extensive amenities
- CamperMate – for your nearest campsite, caravan park, petrol station, supermarket, public toilet, or rubbish dump
Just download the one you think will be most beneficial for your destination and explore the app to find out where the free camping spots are. Campers can also leave reviews on each free camping site and the amenities it offers.
Where ever you are camping in the world, make sure you respect the beautiful environment and wildlife around you, by following the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles.
6. Home Exchanges or Home Swaps
If you own your property, Home Swaps or Home Exchanges are a great way for travellers to get free accommodation.
How it works, is you simply swap homes with another homeowner who also wants to travel and you both get to explore a new destination and get free accommodation too.
You stay in their house and they stay in yours and you both get a vacation in a new place, all the comforts of home whilst also slashing your travel budget.
Home Swaps are perfect for families who would normally spend a large amount of their travel budget on accommodation.
7. Work in a Hostel for Free Accommodation
Have you ever checked into a hostel in a new destination and loved it so much, that you wished you could stay longer? Well, you can.
Simply ask reception if they have any opportunities to work for accommodation and you could score yourself some free accommodation for the rest of your stay.
Working for free accommodation in a hostel usually involves cleaning for 2-3 hours a day in exchange for your bed. Tasks include changing bed linen, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, and sometimes checking guests in on reception.
Volunteering is another option where free accommodation is often included as part of the deal.
Most organisations offer will free room and board in exchange for your help. Sometimes non-profit organisations will ask for a small contribution towards costs, but it will still be much cheaper than paying for accommodation.
Global Work and Travel can fully plan out your volunteering trips or can set you up with working holidays or seasonal jobs.
9. Collect Reward Points for Free Stays in Hotels
If you have a favourite hotel chain, then join their rewards programs and collect as many points as you can. Then cash in your reward points to book hotel stays and get free accommodation.
Most hotels run loyalty or rewards programs and some of the best ones are Hyatt, Wyndham, Accor, IHG, Choice Privileges and Marriott Bonvoy which also includes 30 other brands like Ritz-Carlton, Westin and St. Regis.
Accommodation booking platforms such as Booking.com and Expedia also have rewards programs where points turn into discounts on your next booking.
10. Get Free Accommodation by Sleeping in Airports
This option might surprise you and although it’s only a short-term fix, this is a viable way for travellers to get a couple of nights of free accommodation.
Most international airports will allow passengers to spend the night sleeping in the airport terminal. Some airports have designated rest areas, whereas in other airports you may have to just find a couple of chairs or a free spot on the floor.
You’ll have to keep your luggage with you, as you won’t be able to check it in, so sleep up against it or secure it to your sleeping spot somehow. On long journeys with layovers, I always take a cheap gym mat or camping mat to lie on, it’s much kinder than the floor!
Also, most airports keep the air conditioning system on ‘the arctic extreme’ setting, so also take a hoody or score an aeroplane blanket so you can stay cosy.
As you know, even pre-covid, airports can have all kinds of different rules for where you can sleep. So for the ultimate guide to where you can sleep in each airport and where the comfiest quietest spots are, check out this super helpful blog Sleeping in Airports — the information on here can be an absolute lifesaver on long travel days.
And that concludes this post on getting free accommodation for travellers. I hope the tips in this post make your next trip easier and help you stretch that travel budget even further.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any other free accommodation travel hacks.
Happy and Safe Travels