A significant amount of everyone’s travelling budget always goes on accommodation, especially if you want somewhere half decent to stay. But what if I told you there are several ways you can get free accommodation whilst travelling or living abroad? This is actually how I have been able to afford to live abroad and travel continuously for the past 5 years.
I have been able to live, work and travel across 3 different continents without paying for accommodation! And no, I definitely haven’t been slumming it in hostels or a tent. I have always had my own generously-sized private room and sometimes even a whole apartment to myself! Below are all the different ways that have enabled me to get free accommodation around the world. And bonus, none of these jobs required me to have any mandatory training or any particularly specific qualifications prior to applying for them. So they are certainly achievable if you wish to do them too!
The different ways I got free accommodation whilst travelling:
House sitting is an excellent way to get free accommodation. You get to have a whole house or apartment to yourself in exchange for looking after the owner’s pets whilst they go on holiday. This is actually the way I am able to afford to travel around Australia currently: I am housesitting my way across Australia for a year! I use the website Trusted Housesitters – if you sign up using this link you will get a 25% discount off the membership fee! The website is really great and there are thousands of sits from all around the world listed on this website!
The savings on accommodation you can make are huge in return for caring for the owner’s pets. Sometimes even a fridge full of free food or the use of their car is included too! At the minute I am on a 5 week house sit in Brisbane looking after a gorgeous Jack Russell Terrier. The spacious apartment is right in the centre of the city with stunning riverside views and a huge balcony. Whilst I’m not getting paid to look after the dog, I don’t have to pay rent or bills which certainly helps me save money! Also having your own kitchen means you can keep your costs down by cooking at home instead of always eating out. Plus I get a furry friend as a companion which is great!
House sitting allows you to spend an extended amount of time in a certain destination and really slow down your travel and get to feel at home somewhere. I have been house sitting for a couple of months now, both in UK and in Australia, and I can say it is definitely my favourite way to get free accommodation! Please only apply if you love animals though.
My first job abroad was working as an au-pair for a year in Italy. An au-pair lives in a family home for free in exchange for looking after the children for a few hours each day and helping them to improve their English. Usually au-pairs work about 25 hours per week, often in the evenings after school and sometimes before school or for a couple of hours on a Saturday.
In addition to getting free accommodation, the au-pair also gets meals included and some cash at the end of the week. The amount of money varies but usually it’s around €80 each week. Even though it is not a lot of money, seeing as your meals and accommodation is paid for, it’s certainly enough money to enjoy your days off and explore new places!
An au-pair has their own bedroom and often the families who can afford to have an au-pair are pretty well off so the houses are quite big. The family I lived with had a huge property so I actually had a whole apartment to myself which was great! Being an au-pair is a great way to work in a different country without being able to speak the language as the family expect you to speak in English at all times to the children.
My au-pair year was one of the best years of my life and I made some life-long friendships with other au-pairs living nearby. Click here to read about my au-pair adventures! Having lots of free time in the day also gave me the chance to learn Italian really well. Read my top tips for learning a foreign language!
The most popular au-pair website is Au Pair World and I really recommend it. This was the website I used to find my au-pair family.
Working as a flight attendant is a really great way to get free accommodation when travelling! Not only will you get your hotels paid for on your layovers, but in a handful of airlines you are also given free accommodation in the city you are based!
I worked as a flight attendant in The Middle East for 3.5 years. I was based in the UAE and whilst in some respects living there had it’s challenges, ex-pats are looked after pretty well there. Flight attendants are given free accommodation, often in a very spacious and modern apartment and share the flat with just one other flight attendant.
Note though that globally, free accommodation for flight attendants is not that common. For example, no airlines based in the UK or USA will give you free accommodation. Airlines based in The Gulf countries (such as Saudi Arabia and UAE) however will give you free accommodation or even an allowance that covers your accommodation costs. This is definitely something to bear in mind when you are considering which airline to apply for.
Even if you apply for an airline that doesn’t cover your accommodation, they will all cover the cost of the hotel on your layovers (the airline choose the hotel though!). So even if you pay for your accommodation in your base, being a flight attendant is still a great way to travel without having to pay for your accommodation when visiting new places. Click here to read more about being a flight attendant!
As I work as a travel writer, often I get complimentary stays in hotels in exchange for writing an article about the hotel and giving them exposure on my Instagram account. Now whilst staying in luxury hotels sounds very relaxing, hotel collaborations can be far from it. Whilst all the other guests can relax by the pool all day, you’ll need to be taking pictures and filming to promote the hotel. Plus afterwards writing up the detailed blog post, editing all the pictures and promoting the hotel on social media takes me one or even two days! Whilst it is great that I have stayed in some incredible boutique hotels for free, there is a lot of work that goes into a successful hotel collaboration. Click here to see the latest boutique hotel I collaborated with!
Hotel collaborations are only a short-term way to stay in accommodation for free for a couple of nights. This is different to all the other options mentioned above where I have been able to stay in places for weeks, months or even years at a time. Obviously doing hotel collaborations is not possible for everyone as you’ll need a good social media following and preferably your own website. If you do have both of those, however small your audience is, read my article How I got my first press trip with only 6k Insta followers for some inspiration and tips! Also download my email template and media kit (the exact ones I use for collaborations) for guidance.
Another great way to get free accommodation when you are travelling is by Couchsurfing. Although I have only done it a couple of times, Couchsurfing is a really popular way for people to get free accommodation. A local person will put you up in their home for the night for free so you get to save money and interact with the locals. They will often will show you around the area and show you places where the local people go that often aren’t in any guidebooks. It is a really authentic experience and you can make some good friends this way. Often the kind of people who open up their house to couch sitters are really nice people who are former travellers and are excited to show you their city.
As you can see there are many ways to get free accommodation whilst you are travelling and living abroad. If you are open to trying new things and saving some cash (let’s face it, who isn’t?) these are great options to get accommodation for free. Accommodation can often be the most expensive part of a trip along with flights. Therefore the less you spend on accommodation, the more money you have to do activities and get to enjoy the destination! Happy travelling and let me know in the comments below if you have tried any of the options I have talked about!
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