If you’ve ever thought about free travel, you’ve probably thought about travel hacking with credit cards. There’s just one problem — you don’t have any credit cards!
You can travel hack without credit cards. You may just need some guidance on how you can save on travel without using credit card reward points. If you try hard enough, you may even be able to get to travel for free or for very little money.
Most of the information for people who want to travel hack (i.e. travel really cheap) revolves around credit cards. Usually, the story goes like this: you get an airline specific credit card or other branded card and then you get reward points for spending money with that card. Sometimes, you get points for using related services like hotels and rental cars, too. Either way, you can use the points you accumulate to go towards free travel.
The only potential problem is that having a credit card to get points can cause you to spend more money than you would without a credit card. Also, if you don’t use credit cards wisely, you can end up going into debt. If you don’t have a credit card or don’t want to get a credit card these are some ways that you can travel hack without one.
1) Book travel with discount travel apps
You might already know about discount travel search engines like Expedia.com, TripAdvisor.com, HotWire.com, Hotels.com, etc. but there are apps that you would normally use for referral income and surveys that also offer travel discounts:
2) Use AirBnb to cover your vacation
You might have gotten a great deal traveling with AirBnb (if not click here for a $40 Airbnb travel credit to try it out,) but did you know that you can become an AirBnb host as well?
This is a little-known vacation hack that can help cover your vacations. While you’re gone vacationing, why not rent out your home as an AirBnb host? You can earn money on spare rooms, converted garages and even tents!
Even if you aren’t ready to host, you can prepare yourself by finding out what you can earn in your city as an AirBnb host and going from there. AirBnb is great passive income that can add more money to your vacation fund or other financial goals. Apply to be an AirBnb host here.
Not ready to host? No worries, you can still save a ton of money by booking accommodations with Airbnb as a guest.
3) Book an AirBnb, then refer friends for credits
Though I mentioned hosting with Airbnb, it still bears mentioning that you can save enormous amounts of money renting a room, apartment or home with AirBnb for your next vacation. Not only can you save money on an AirBnb rental when compared to a hotel but you can also earn money by referring people to the AirBnb platform.
So, to recap:
You can save money by booking an AirBnb rental because it’s cheaper than a hotel and you can also stack up referral credits to cover your travel.
Ready to travel and people to AirBnb? Click here for a $40 Airbnb travel credit to get going.
4) Book vacation packages and pay over time
Not many people know this, but Southwest Vacations offers air + hotel packages to dozens of places. What’s more is that you can book a vacation and pay for it over time. Note: you can end up paying more because you are paying finance fees but at the end of your pre-payment, you’ll have a debt-free, paid-for vacation. This method works for some people who’d rather not put their vacation on a credit card.
Explore your options on Southwest Vacations here.
5) Start a travel blog
Since I’ve been writing about travel on my blog and other places like The Huffington Post I’ve been able to use past articles as leverage complimentary accommodations for things like hotels, local tours and even restaurants. On my recent trip to San Diego, I received press passes (read: free) to Sea World San Diego and the San Diego Zoo!
It’s really a win-win situation. If you’ve always dreamed of traveling anyway but don’t necessarily have tons of money to do it, writing about your travels are a good way to get complimentary accommodations and reduce your travel expenses. There are even things called pressed familiarization trips (FAM trips) that will cover your airline, hotel, meals and arranged activities.
FAM trips are great deals because you get to travel for free and there is the potential to sell articles related to your trip money. Breaking into travel writing is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. One way to get going is to start writing about travel (even local travel) on your own blog. You can start a blog for as low as $3.95 per month.
If you need help, I’ve got a free tutorial on how you can start your blog:
6) Use airline & hotel points
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to use credit cards to accrue airline and hotel chain-specific points, you can simply sign up with their loyalty programs and rack up points when you use their services. At one time, I used to travel somewhat frequently for clients when I was a database consultant.
Even though my clients made all the travel arrangements and did all the bookings for my travel, I was able to keep and use the loyalty points from the airline they used (usually SouthWest.) So you can choose an airline that you fly more frequently and you can get points just from using them to fly consistently. You can follow the same protocol for hotels.
A good example of a great rewards program is Southwest Rapid Rewards and the IHG rewards club.
7) Become a travel writer
This is along the same lines of starting a travel blog. But if you don’t necessarily want to start a blog, travel writing is another viable option when it comes to getting complimentary accommodations.
You may have to finance your first couple of trips on your own and then write about them in some place like the Huffington Post, Medium or another outlet that will accept contributions without vetting. Once you build up your portfolio, you might be able to submit inquiries (story pitches) for some of your travel writing articles.
Again, once you build a reputation for being a quality travel writer, you’ll start to get those coveted press familiarization trips. Plus, it’ll be easier to reach out to places like restaurants or other venues for complimentary accommodations with the idea that you will write about them once you’ve experienced them.
My friend Holly of Club Thrifty travels as much as 12 times per year as a travel writer. She just launched a course to teach others how to break into freelance writing called, Earn More Writing along with another course called Earn More Travel Writing. These courses could help you start your travel writing career.
8) Work for accommodations
Would you like to work at a surfer’s paradise in Costa Rica or on the French Riviera in exchange for free accommodations? Dream no more, this is a real possibility with the popular website WorkAway.info. You can visit hundreds of places all over the world in exchange for completing small tasks for your host. Check out Work Away for more information on how to sign-up.
9) Couch surf
Couch surfing is just what it sounds like- staying on people’s couch (or air mattress, text, etc.) while you travel. But since we are in the internet age, there’s a website to match you up with the perfect couch in the perfect place: www.couchsurfing.com. You have to be ready for an adventure, but for a free stay, maybe you’ll find it’s worth it.
10) House sit
This is another adventurous, free travel hack that is worth exploring. There are sites like Normador.com and MindMyHouse.com that will match up house sitters and homeowners on a global level. You can make arrangements that suit your situation from free to paid, though mostly you will be house sitting in exchange for freeboardingg.
11) Use mistake-fares and hidden-city websites
Sometimes, airlines publish mistake fares and still honor them. It might be a typo or error in currency conversion. Whatever the case they may still have a ridiculously cheap fare for you. Secret Flying, AirFare WatchDog and Skiplagged are good websites for this.
For example, I had to change a reservation on a recent trip to San Diego and Southwest was going to be almost $2,000 to change on such short notice. Skiplagged found tickets for less than half the price. You can use it on your desktop or your smartphone. It’s a great tool to find the very lowest fare quickly and easily.
Tried all these and want more free travel options? Use credit card rewards
If you’ve tried all of these options but want to dive deeper into the world of travel hacking, consider getting some cards that offer reward pointed you can redeem towards travel.
I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and my Chase Ink Business Preferred to earn reward points, then combine them in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal where I can redeem them for hotel and plane tickets with many travel partners like Southwest, Holiday Inn, Delta, American Airlines and many more.
Chase Ink is especially nice, as I get 3x points on my social media spend and 2x on dining and travel and 1 point on everything else I spend on for my business.
This means if I spend $1,000 a month on Facebook ads, I’ll get 3,000 points! This can add up quickly with all the spending I do for my business.
No business? No problem!
You can open a business credit card for any side hustle!
Side-hustles count as businesses!
If you need help choosing a side-hustle, please check out my article, 19 Streams of Income You Can Start Now.
If you aren’t quite ready to start a business, you can start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred to begin earning free travel.
If you decide to sign up, both cards have AMAZING sign-up bonuses (at the time of this writing):
Be sure to read the fine print so you understand how to be eligible for the bonuses.
Happy spending and traveling!
NOTE: ONLY USE CREDIT CARDS IF YOU CAN PAY THE BALANCE OFF IN FULL EACH MONTH! NEVER EVER CARRY A BANLCE OR PAY INTEREST. EVER!
IF YOU ARE IN DEBT AND ARE TEMPTED BY HAVING CREDIT CARDS, PLEASE DO NOT GET ANOTHER CREDIT CARD!
Want more ideas on saving, earning extra money and just getting your finances together in general? Check out my free guide, Money Hacks 101: 50+ Ways to Find, Save and Earn More Money.
Click here or the image below to get instructions on how to access it: