Traveling the world is great, but it certainly isn’t cheap, especially if you’re already dealing with credit card debt.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average domestic round-trip airfare was $432 in the second quarter of 2017. Add on the average nightly cost of a hotel (around $123, according to Statista), and you’re looking at shelling out over $500 for a one-night trip.
But don’t let this deter you from indulging your wanderlust. There are many ways to have an adventure without going broke that don’t involve flight-booking hacks or racking up credit card points. Here are actual side hustles that let you travel the U.S. and the world for practically nothing.
1. Transport goods and pets
There’s no better classic getaway than a cross-country road trip. Unfortunately, between gas, hotels, and food, your costs can add up quickly. But what if you made deliveries along the way to cover your costs?
That’s exactly what the app Roadie offers for those who want to hit the open road and get paid to do it. Columbia University student Thomas Scheiter wanted to drive his car from Los Angeles back to school one semester, so he signed up for the app in hopes of making some money along the way.
“I had a Prius and knew it would cost me about $200 to $350 worth of gas to drive it cross-country,” Scheiter said. “I figured out how many deliveries I needed to make to cover that cost, and my trip was paid for.”
On average, a Roadie driver can earn $8 to $650 depending on the size of the delivery, how far it’s going, and how quickly it needs to get there. You get paid even more for transporting pets. For example, Scheiter said he made $300 to $400 delivering a dog from New York to Denver.
“I’ve done many pet gigs, and they pay well,” said Scheiter. “In fact, it can cover my trip halfway across the country. I once drove a dog from New York to San Francisco and made $600 for that alone.”
You also have the option of loading up the car with other items that need to be transported. On that trip from New York to San Francisco, Scheiter did just that and made $2,000, minus the cost of gas.
The downside to this gig is that you don’t get to have a leisurely drive since you’re on a deadline.
“This gig is good for people who don’t mind driving many hours in a day and making a cross-country journey in about four or five days,” said Scheiter. He will sometimes drive 10 hours a day and take naps on the side of the road rather than pay for a hotel.
The upside? “You get to see cool parts of the country and meet interesting people you would never have without the job,” said Scheiter.
To apply for Roadie, you must be 18 or older, have car insurance, have a valid driver’s license, complete an application, and pass a background check.
Unless you plan on camping, you’ll need accommodations during your travels. That expense can add up quickly if you’re looking at an average $123 cost per night in the U.S. Head to a European hot spot like London, and you’re looking at spending around $252 a night for a hotel and $144 for an Airbnb, according to Business Insider.
Those high costs are why Josie Schneider and her husband, Conrad, housesit when they travel.
“We had a wonderful five-month housesitting run through Europe where we didn’t have to pay for accommodations,” said Josie. “This has saved us a ton of money on our travels.”
During the couple’s first six-week housesit in Copenhagen, they spent $2,400 on living expenses, including food, transportation, sightseeing, and more. They calculated that if they had stayed in a hotel and eaten every meal at a restaurant, their cost would have been closer to $13,000 for the entire trip.
The couple also loves the cool experiences they’ve had through housesitting.
“The variety of housesitting assignments are incredibly wide,” said Josie. “One time we received 10 days’ free lodging in exchange for helping with a family’s olive harvest in Tuscany. We’ve stayed in a multimillion-dollar home on the beach in Sydney, Australia, and on a ranch in the Australian outback, all for free because we looked after the homes and animals.”
Although you can stay in cool places all over the world for free, you’ll likely have to complete some chores such as collecting the mail, watering the plants, or sometimes, watching an animal. You also can only stay as long as the owners need you, so their schedule becomes your schedule.
3. Become a travel nanny
Babysitting or taking on a part-time nanny job is a great way to make some extra cash on the side. But if you love kids and want to travel, consider becoming a travel nanny.
The company Adventure Nannies connects families who are planning travel with someone to help look after the kids on the trip. That means you get paid — plus free meals, accommodations, and transportation — while traveling the world. The trips are for set periods of time too, so you can plan ahead with your time off from work or a school vacation.
For example, two musician moms on the site needed a nanny to travel with them on tour for a couple of months. They offered to pay $20 to $25 per hour with a guaranteed six hours of work per day.
Adventure Nannies promises you’ll make a minimum of $15 per hour, plus overtime. The company also recommends parents pay $150 to $250 per day for nannies on travel placement.
Keep in mind that because you’ll be working, you won’t have entire days free to explore. Still, there usually is downtime, and you can always extend your trip after completing your commitment.
To sign up for the website, you’ll need to:
- Fill out an application
- Go through a phone screening
- Do an in-person or Skype interview
- Provide references
- Pass a background check
Once you’re cleared to start work, you can begin applying for gigs on the site.
4. Clean toilets
When Stevo Dirnberger and Chanel Cartell set off on a trek across the globe in March 2015 after quitting their jobs, they knew their savings wouldn’t cover all their costs. To stay on the road, they took up many odd jobs and wrote about them on their blog, How Far From Home.
The couple did a series of jobs in their first year of travel, ranging from working with huskies, chopping wood, and cooking for guests in Norway to scrubbing toilets and building jungle gyms in Sweden.
“Scrubbing toilets in Sweden was probably the weirdest side hustle we took on,” said Dirnberger. “When we signed up, we knew we’d be helping with tourists but had no idea that meant doing laundry and scrubbing toilets. It was tough, but with work only lasting one hour per day and a free car to explore, we managed to see Sweden’s wilderness for an entire month, not paying for anything except the night trains to get us there.”
Although the couple didn’t get paid for their work, they got food and accommodations for their time. In addition to cleaning toilets, they helped out at a dog-training facility in central Italy, cooked for a family in Iceland, and pet and housesat in New Zealand and Canada.
In one blog post, the couple revealed they’ve “tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, two tons of rocks shoveled, 60 meters of pathway laid, 57 beds made,” and they couldn’t remember how many wine glasses they’ve polished.
All of their work saved them big bucks. Staying in a wooden cabin in Norway for an entire month would likely have cost them anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500. They also estimated that the cost of three meals a day for two people for a month would’ve been between $4,000 and $6,000.
The same can be said for their six-week stay in a gorgeous treehouse in New Zealand with a free car. The couple said renting a property like that could cost upwards of $2,000, plus an additional $2,000 for the car rental. But all they paid for that month was for food and a flight to New Zealand.
With these four side hustles in mind, you can have an adventure-filled vacation at practically no cost. All it takes is a little creativity and a little work on the side.
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