How to score FREE travel accommodation

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No, don’t worry, you read that title right. Today marks the third day of our Where Will I Sleep Week, and we’re diving into territory uncharted by most part-time tourists and nine-to-fiver vagabonds.

Today we’re talking free travel. Free as in no dollar signs attached.

And no, this isn’t too-good-to-be-true. This is too-good-to-share-with-worldwide-vagabonds-because-they-might-steal-all-the-travel-bloggers’-secrets-good.

Before we get down to business, let’s not forget our AirBnB giveaway drawing. Make sure you’re eligible to win by subscribing to TMWY, then answer today’s question on Twitter or Facebook using the #wherewillisleepweek hashtag to get another entry:


Where Will I Sleep? Week Question #3:

What would you do for free travel accommodation? Volunteer? Housesit? Sleep on someone’s sofa?

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #wherewillisleepweek

(The more questions you answer the higher your chances of winning, so if you missed the first few questions, go back and answer question one and two now)


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Now back to free travel. Excited yet? 😉 You should be.

For free or “free”?

Free accommodation opportunities can be broken down into two broad categories: staying for absolutely no work or money on your part, or receiving accommodation in exchange for some work on your part. One is not better than the other – in fact, many long term travelers enjoy the volunteering aspect of the latter much more than simply receiving a free place to crash. We’ll start by exploring the first option, in which the place you stay is absolutely free in every sense of the word.

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Absolutely Free Travel Accommodation

Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is a popular site which allows wanna-be hosts and travelers to place listings. Hosts can invite travelers into their homes, and travelers get to make friends with locals in the city they are visiting. It costs nothing to use the site, and offers a fantastic opportunities to befriend locals. Couchsurfing may not afford all the ammenities of a hotel, but it offers a taste of local life that many tourists never get to experience.

However, many travelers are coming to resent the implication that Couchsurfing is “free” simply because it costs no money – meaning that hosts sign up wanting to spend time with and get to know their guests, not simply offer their couch or guest room as a free hostel. Couchsurfing is a relationship, which tourists should never abuse. Read this article for an enlightening look at a possible downside of Couchsurfing, from the host’s perspective.

And not to step around the big question that many traveler’s worry about: will I be safe? Couchsurfing actually has an entire section of the website devoted to answering this question. Short answer? Yes, Couchsurfing is safe as travelers have ample opportunity to do their homework. In other words, travelers can rate hosts after staying with them, and vice versa, so both future hosts and travelers know what they’re getting into. Only stay with verified hosts with good reviews.

Couchsurfing AlternativesThough Couchsurfing’s the largest site of its kind, a few other similar sites deserve a good look when you need a place to stay: check out Be Welcome and Hospitality Club.

Sleeping in an airport: Not a joke! Many major airports have lounging areas intended for travelers with long layovers. Why not book your layover overnight to save the price of a hotel? Check your airport website to see if it has lockers available to store your belongings while you get a few Zzzs. Maybe not the most luxurious accommodation, but with a good pair of earplugs, a night in the airport could save you a good deal of money.

free travel accommodation home hospitality stay

[Practically] Free Travel Accommodation

Home Exchanges: There are numerous different sites that promote trading homes with other travelers for a chance to stay somewhere else in the world. (Yes, this is for real, and not just in the movie Holiday).

Home Exchange and Love Home Swap and Home Link are great places to list and start looking for available house swaps. Some sites do require a fee for listing your home – though many travelers consider this quite worth the cost, considering the hundreds of dollars saved on travel accommodation.

Hospitality Exchanges: Other sites, like Global FreeloadersTrampolinn, Nightswapping, and BeLodged, work like Couchsurfing in that the home-swap need not happen simultaneously. Instead, you earn points by hosting other travelers in your home. Once you have earned enough points, you can “spend” them on staying with a different host.

Housesitting: Why not take care of someone’s house while they’re on vacation, and score a free place to call home in the meantime? This is a great method for long-term travel. Housesitting positions can be competitive, so make sure to set up a nice, informative profile on a reputable housesitting site, like Trusted Housesitters, House Carers, or Housesit Match.

English Immersion Programs: Ever wish someone would let you stay in Europe . . . for free? If you are a native English speaker willing to hang out and participate in fun tourist activities with European professionals, volunteering in an English Immersion Program may be perfect for you. English speakers are given free room and board in exchange for their time and conversation with adult English language students. Check out Diverbo and Vaughan.

Working at a hostel: Many hostels provide room and board to volunteers in exchange for working in the hostel. Duties may include hotel positions like checking guests in and out, reception work, maintaining the website, and kitchen or janitorial work. Search Hostel Travel Jobs or Hostel Jobs for a directory of opportunities.

Working as an Au Pair: An “au pair” is a domestic assistant – basically someone who lives with a family working as a nanny (as well as completing some light housework). Au pairs earn roomand board with the family, as well as an allowance. To find jobs as an au pair, search Au Pair World, Great Au Pair, or Au Pair.

Boat Stay: Want to see the world . . . by sea? Search Find A Crew for opportunities working on a sailing vessel in exchange for room and board.

Volunteering: Earn room and board by working in a variety of volunteer positions around the globe. From farming and development to wildlife and education, the type and commitment of opportunities are massively diverse. For a giant list of the most reputable volunteering abroad opportunities, check out this post.

What would YOU do for free accommodations? Let me know in the comments below – and don’t forget to answer the Daily Question for our #wherewillisleepweek giveaway.

wherewill i sleep week daily question

P.S. 10 questions you need to ask before booking travel accommodation and 10 booking hacks to score the cheapest hotel

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20 comments on “How to score FREE travel accommodation”

  1. Patricia says:

    I had no idea there were so many ways to find free and “free” accommodations! I like the idea of couchsurfing, but I am one of those people who might not be bold enough to attempt it because it doesn’t feel safe (even though it seems very often perfectly so). Things to think about. Thanks!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      I hope you find some useful free solutions Patricia! Glad you liked it 🙂

  2. Wow! I’ve never heard of couchsurfing. I’m so used to hotels and airbnb that I haven’t looked into other types of accommodations. Next time I travel, I’ll definitely look into all the other options that are out there.

    1. Take Me With You says:

      Yeah! There’s SO many amazing opportunities – this only scratches the surface!

  3. Tonya says:

    Great list Sierra. I’ve been looking into WWoofing for a while now and had a friend who had a lovely stay in Canada working in her garden.

    1. Take Me With You says:

      Thank you! That sounds like a great experience

  4. Ivy says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of people talk about ‘au pair’ these past few weeks and I have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. Thank you for the explanation, I finally know! I don’t think I’m brave enough to try couch surfing but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      I’m glad you found it useful, Ivy!

      I know – the random foreign/travel lingo thrown around can get confusing. 🙂

  5. Vicki says:

    Great list of ways to keep accommodation costs down when travelling – I have used the layover in the airport to save money before now – and probably will again! Thanks for the extra ideas too!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      Of course, Vicki 🙂 I’m glad you liked the ideas!

  6. Eva Lamot says:

    A great summary of ways to get free accommodation! Apart from the housesitting, I already knew a lot of options you sum up.
    I’m saving this for my big trip soon!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      Awesome Eva! Glad you enjoyed it. Where are you headed for your big trip?

  7. Tiana says:

    Very interesting! I’m a bit spoiled so I wish I could get free 5 star hotels haha

    1. Take Me With You says:

      Hahah, don’t we all Tiana? 😉

  8. Taylor says:

    I have still yet to try couchsurfing…I think it’s something I’d want to try with a friend first to make myself a bit more comfortable. And great idea about the English immersion, I never thought of being able to do that!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      I know – so many great opportunities out there!

  9. I love couchsurfing! I use it religiously when I travel. For me it’s mostly about the experience with the locals too.. the free stay is just a plus!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      True! It is an awesome way to meet people 🙂

  10. Rosemary says:

    What a great list of “free” and free accommodations. Had no idea there were so many options out there. I have heard about some but from your post learned about boat stays and English immersions. Thanks for the detailed options!

    1. Take Me With You says:

      I hope you find all the options useful! Happy travels!

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