The best things in life are free, or close to it — even travel. It's easier than you'd think to take a trip without cracking open your wallet, and plenty of savvy travelers know the tricks of the trade.
Lee Abbamonte, travel expert and entrepreneur who has visited every country in the world, says, "If you really put some effort in, you can travel for free often by maximizing miles and points, social media and other specials."
Try these strategies below to take a dream vacation without spending much, or any, money.
1. Use all your frequent flyer miles
Flying for free helps you get on your journey for less. If you have a stash of frequent flyer miles, use them now. Miles lose value every day and often expire, so redeem them for a free trip while they have value.
To get the best deal/reward ticket, Abbamonte says pay attention: "Check fares and redemptions on airline websites often to get the saver fares, and plan your travel around them." Airlines often promote deals and flash sales with low redemptions for mileage tickets exclusively in their newsletters.
The Points Guy, a travel site dedicated to frequent flyer points, regularly posts mileage deals.
2. Sign up for credit cards with travel rewards
"Credit cards are a great way, perhaps the fastest way, to earn free travel quickly," says Abbamonte. A sign-up bonus alone often equals a free trip. For example, Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card offers 50,000 points ($500 value), which can be used to purchase a flight almost immediately when you sign up.
3. Work in the travel industry
Free travel is a major incentive to work in the travel industry. Airline cabin crew, like pilots and flight attendants, get to see the world on company dime and other professions related to travel have the same perks, like hotel managers, travel agents and publicists at a travel PR firm.
4. Get active on social media
Content creators and bloggers with a large number of followers are known to get free travel, including hotel rooms, meals and often flights, in exchange for posts on various social media platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. "The beauty of the whole social media game is that anyone can do it," says Abbamonte, "and it's the easiest way for people with a following to leverage it for some publicity."
But, he warns, "you have to work it right and be genuine. PR folk are savvy at detecting scammers, like those who buy fake followers."
5. Get lucky in a contest
Companies often offer "dream travel job" contests for one lucky winner, like The New York Times' search for someone to travel the world researching destinations (the company received 13,000 applicants). ThirdHome paid one lucky winner $10,000 a month to travel to and stay in multimillion-dollar rental homes for their Best Job on the Planet contest last year.
Iceland's flagship budget carrier WOW Air is currently holding its WOW Travel Guide competition, seeking two people to make Reykjavik their home base this summer while taking short trips to 38 locations the airline serves. In exchange for creating digital guides, the duo will get $4,000 each in stipend, as well an apartment.
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