4 Free (But Totally Legal) Ways to Get Vacations
It may take awhile before you decide to go on another vacation again. But post-coronavirus pandemic travel will happen sometime, and you’ll likely want to be part of it.
Money may be an issue, however, especially if you’ve lost your job or saw your income drop from whatever job(s) you have.
Some vacations can be free. Or at least partly free.
We’ve got four ideas for free vacations, and they don’t include attending a timeshare presentation where you’re sold part ownership of a condo for a week a year.
1. Swap Homes
This may not sound appealing in many ways, such as during a pandemic, but exchanging homes with someone can save you a ton of money on lodging and covers what is often the biggest expense of vacations.
Websites such as HomeExchange can help you virtually meet other people who want to swap homes.
A good way to find a swap is to look for homes similar to yours and in similar areas. If you live in a house in a suburb then an equal exchange with someone who lives in the suburb of another city is more likely to exchange homes with you than someone who has a huge apartment in the center of a large metropolitan city.
Look for homes that are close to public transportation and are 30 or so minutes from a major city you want to visit. It helps if your home is in a similar location with easy public transportation to the city center.
Saving on hotel or home rentals will help you pay for your flight, or will give you more money to eat out and visit the local sites. It could also give you more money to have a longer vacation, such as four weeks instead of two.
2. Pet and House Sit Abroad
Free house and pet sitting can be a fun and free way to see the world.
The site Trusted Housesitters connects homeowners and pet owners with people to watch both for them while they’re on vacation.
You can search for a house to sit by location, dates, duration, pets, local attractions and other filters.
It’s important, of course, while on this free vacation to be at the house when the owner requires it to take care of their pet. It can be as simple as a morning and evening walk and meals, or may require taking care of puppies for most of the day.
3. Sign Up For an Awesome Rewards Credit Card
We’re not going to recommend specific credit cards, mainly because offers change all of the time, so we’ll leave that task to you.
But chances are you can find a better rewards card than you already have. Many cards offer bonus airline miles to new customers, which can add up to at least a free flight. The main requirement is spending $2,000 or so in the first few months of having the card, and then 50,000 or so free airline miles are added to your account.
Plan on using the free miles soon if you can. Airlines regularly increase their mileage requirements for free flights, so the 25,000 miles needed today for a free flight to your vacation destination could be increased to 35,000 a year from now.
Try to find a card without an annual fee, and pay off the balance each month. Otherwise, the fee or interest charges will eat up the value of the free flight. If you must pay an annual fee, it will likely come in the second year of card ownership, when you should make sure other card perks outweigh the value of rewards you earn.
Combine this option with a home swap and almost all of a vacation is free.
4. Rent Out Your Home
This is a slight variation of our first tip, though the work should be a lot less than exchanging a free swap with someone else.
Renting out your home may not sound appealing during the coronavirus, but eventually we’ll get there and listing your home for rent on Airbnb or somewhere else will make sense again.
To be clear, we’re only recommending a short-term rental while you’re on vacation. If you own a second home and want to rent it out full time, then a property management company can help you set it up.
For a vacation rental, the point is to rent your home out for most or all of your vacation. Ideally your house is near major attractions, though it doesn’t have to be. Focus on what’s great about your area and why someone would want to stay there for a week or longer.
Make sure your home is safe, you’ve cleared away everything but the basics, and it’s as clean as it has ever been. A welcome basket is a good addition too.
A Final Tip
Lastly, we have a tip that won’t make a vacation free, though it may seem like it: start a vacation fund.
You can pay for most of your annual vacation ahead of time by starting a savings account that you contribute to each month through a direct transfer from your checking account or paycheck. Divide the expected cost by 12 and each month put that amount in the account.
Use the money to buy plane tickets on sale, make room reservations when they’re cheap, and buy boat trips and other adventures at discounted prices before you leave home.
It’s nowhere near a free vacation, but it’s prepaid and the financial pain comes a little at a time every month of the year. Combine it with any of the above tips and you won’t have to worry about a huge credit card bill when you return home.