Free Accommodation Hacks, Part 1

07.08.2017 |

Episode #8 of the course How to travel long term/full time by Nora Dunn



We’re getting there; we’ve planned and prepared for long-term travel, arranged our finances, and looked at a few ways to earn money while traveling. The last step to making this long-term travel adventure financially sustainable is to creatively save money on travel expenses! Free accommodation is something I stumbled on early in my travels, and it has changed the way I travel and even see the world.

What’s your biggest expense when traveling? Accommodation! So, if you can get it for free, you’ll save a bundle.

In 2011, I took this strategy to extremes. For the entire year, I spent $173 on accommodation—and that was a two-night splurge at the Hilton in Stockholm! For the other 363 days, I enjoyed free accommodation in 13 countries.

Let’s look at my two favorite ways to get free accommodation around the world:



This is the first form of free accommodation I discovered when I started traveling full time. A woman who bought my couch when I was selling everything asked if I’d be doing any WWOOFing.

“What?” I asked. (I thought she’d sneezed.)

“WWOOFing. Worldwide Work On Organic Farms. It gives you free accommodation in trade for volunteering.”

Although I’m not an “organic farm” kind of girl, some online research revealed a whole world of volunteer possibilities that yield free accommodation.

Over the years, I’ve done the following in trade for a place to stay:

• Milked goats

• Painted murals

• Designed marketing plans

• Assisted video producers

• Led eco-treks on llamas

• Landscaped

• Cleaned

• Managed hostels

• Cooked at conference centers

• Managed retreat centers

. . . and more!

In addition to the inherent advantage of free digs, these experiences provided community, connection with locals, and often free meals as well. They were extremely rewarding and educational on many levels.

Some popular resources to find volunteer gigs include Caretaker Gazette, HelpX, Workaway, Helpstay, and WWOOF.

No two volunteer gigs are equal, so it’s important to examine the work requirements, location, and facilities and speak with the host to ensure a good fit. Also, cast the net wide and apply for many gigs, since popular volunteer centers often have a waiting list of applicants.



After a few years of volunteering and struggling to balance volunteer hours with developing my online career, I discovered house-sitting, which was perfect for me.

House-sitting involves caring for other people’s homes (and often, pets) while they travel. Gigs can last from days to weeks, months, and even years.

As a full-time traveler, it’s fabulous for me, since I can enjoy the comforts of home (somebody else’s home, that is!), a slice of local life abroad, lots of time to work, and a new world to discover at every doorstep.

I’ve house-sat for free accommodation in England, Canada, Australia, Grenada, Switzerland, Panama, Ecuador, and Japan. Every experience has been different and very rewarding.

Popular house-sitting resources include Trusted Housesitters, Caretaker Gazette, House Carers, Mind My House, Nomador, Housesitting World, and Housesit Match. Although many are worldwide resources, some are more focused on certain areas than others.

Similar to volunteering, it’s important to apply for many gigs (since there’s a lot of competition) and do your due diligence to ensure a good fit for both you and the homeowners. Every gig is very, very different.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at three (!) more ways to get free accommodation.




Recommended book

International House Sitting: How To Travel The World And Stay Anywhere, For FREE by Nat Smith, Jodie Thompson


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