The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel
Nine ways to score a free trip. They're not for everybody: Research, patience, good timing—and often a bit of luck and sweat—are required. But there's just no beating the price.
Finally, Rotary clubs organize some 8,000 youth exchanges per year, in which students 15 and up are hosted overseas in private homes and camps for stints of few days to several months. Room and board are covered, though airfare is not. Don't expect to jump on any Rotary-sponsored vacation right away, however. Competition for program openings is stiff, and involves a lengthy application process that can take up to a year. —Laura MacNeil
9. Home Swapping
Exchange houses and live like a local
The concept of home swapping is as simple as it sounds. You trade your pad for someone else's, and everyone gets a free place to stay. "If you have a sense of humor and go with the flow, home exchange will work for you," says T.T. Baker, co-author of The Home Exchange Guide, who has swapped homes five times. "If you have a narrow comfort zone, stay in a hotel." Checking references, talking over the phone with your counterpart, and having contracts clearly spelled out—especially when it comes to bills and damages—alleviate the anxiety.
The right situation may require months of planning and a dose of luck. It certainly makes things easier if you live in Miami Beach, or some other spot popular with travelers. Home exchange services charge $35-$110 per year, and by joining more than one club you obviously increase your chances. Reputable companies with listings worldwide include: digsville.com; gti-home-exchange.com; homeexchange.com; intervacus.com; ihen.com; and swapnow.com. —Sophie Alexander
Here's to the kindness of strangers
After joining one of these clubs, you'll stay for a few dollars or free at members' homes. Most clubs also expect members to host travelers. —Lee Uehara
- Educators 800/956-4822, educatorstravel.com, $36 annual fee
- Gays and Lesbians 011-49/30-691-9537, lghei.org, $40 annual fee
- Mensa Members 800/666-3672, us.mensa.org, $52 annual fee (plus $40 for intelligence test)
- Motorcyclists 877/408-0471, motorcycle-travel.net, $30 annual fee
- People Over 50 815/456-3111, evergreenclub.com, $60/single, $75/couple annual fee
- Tandem Bicyclists tandemclub.org, $15 annual fee
- Women 011-44/1494-465-441, womenwelcomewomen.org.uk, $67 annual fee