Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Yes! You read that right – A free holiday! You know the feeling, particularly in these pandemic times: you see someone on Instagram having a wonderful island retreat or city break and you think, “I need a holiday!”
We can’t all afford a holiday, and for some it’s been years since they escaped the confines of their job and sailed into the sunset. For some it’s just not an option, but what if there was a way you could access a holiday for little or – let’s face it, this is why you’re here – NO money at all? We found fifteen ways in which you could possibly have a free hol…
Okay, so the first one isn’t exactly free because you’ll have to spend money on travel, food, insurance and so forth BUT your accommodation will be free if you’ve offered to exchange like for like, and let someone stay in your house.
House swaps are exactly what they sound like – you exchange houses or flats with someone for a few days, weeks or even months. They enjoy everything your home has to offer while you enjoy theirs (Yes, it’s exactly what Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz did in 2003 classic The Holiday).
This one really can be free, travelling aside, because you’re doing the owners a favour by watching over their house/contents/pets while they’re away, so your stay will only set you back the food and entertainment you’d require if you were in your own home. It’s unlikely the owners will charge you for heating bills either, since you’re housesitting for their peace of mind and your own holiday.
A lot of people think they have no chance of winning anything, let alone a holiday, but the truth is that you have as much chance as anyone else… IF you enter!
We’ve won everything from DVD box sets to mini-breaks just by applying to anything and everything that popped up online or on social media, and odds are that you’ll come up trumps once in a while.
Some cashback sites offer flights in exchange for a certain amount spent on their site, which is similar to Airmiles in that when you’re shopping online, buying fuel or insurance, you can collect a point per pound spent. Like anything financial, a small but constant amount put aside can really mount up, and some companies even offer flights in exchange for loyalty. Have a Google around: if you sign up to or already use a certain cashback or similar service, it’s only a matter of time before pounds become points and points could become paradise…
Becoming a volunteer can bag you a free stay at UK festivals, where you’ll be given a camping pass, much better toilet options and possibly even free food.
In return, you’ll help volunteer at the event as a steward at festivals such as Glastonbury, Latitude, Reading, Leeds and Bestival. A great atmosphere, lots of hard work and excellent music drifting into your ears as you make your way round the site.
You can also volunteer as a whole family with needy communities in places like Peru, Fiji or Kenya. There is a holiday part to this, even if it sounds like hard work, as you get to explore some stunning parts of the world completely away from your own life, and gain some perspective on the world. Also if you’re doing this kind of work – which may involve some cost – you could think about raising the money by running a fundraiser to gain support.
Before you pitch your tent in England or Wales, bear in mind that all land is owned by someone, so it’s not as freewheeling as you might like (though check out Dartmoor National Park) but there are so many campsites and areas offering low or no price camping, depending on the areas.
In Scotland you are allowed to wild camp however, so it’s usually a matter of turning up somewhere nice-looking and pitching your tent.
Tents aren’t for everyone, and neither are bothies to be honest, a bothie being a basic hut – but they’re free!
A bothie doesn’t require booking and if there are people already using it, the idea is that you share. There are bothies all over the UK and we’ve stayed in ones in the Lake District, which in summer are perfectly cosy and usually hidden in stunning woods or mountains, with fantastic scenery all around for walks. If you pack well and you’re up for it, this could be a great holiday.
If you’ve built up a sizeable audience of followers for your blog, you can use it to get yourself a free holiday when you review somewhere – a hotel, a resort, a swimming pool, whatever you can think of – as an exchange for your use of the facilities. The more you’ve worked on gaining followers for your blog, the more influence you’ll have and therefore the better holidays you can possibly bargain for. Your words will reach your audience and serve as free advertising for the holiday companies.
Think about or ask around your family: surely you’ve got a family member living in a comparably exotic world location. For example, we’ve got cousins in Sydney for one thing, so that would be free accommodation while we enjoyed our surroundings, got to know our family a bit better and cooked meals together. Sounds great, doesn’t it. Ask someone in your family if you have any relatives willing to put you up. Don’t ever just turn up obviously.
Not every travel job comes with free holidays but for example, my sister was a travel agent for over ten years and one of the perks was a free holiday or two every year. She went to Chicago, Greece, New York, Jamaica, Spain and just about everywhere in between. Have a look around the travel job market because if you’re someone who enjoys travelling the world, the pandemic has altered the travel business to the point where it’s looking to attract holidaymakers in new ways: perhaps you could be a part of it.
Everyday shopping trips can net you enough Airmiles to pay for a free holiday. Places like Tesco and some banks and building societies offer 1 Airmile for every £1 spent or invested, which can quickly mount up. The website also has a calculator which shows what you need to spend to get a free flight, so for example a few hundred quid spent over a year can get you a free European holiday. Worth taking your time!
There are thousands of farms where you can woof (work on organic farms) including 300 in the UK, where you can muck in with the pigs and chickens and stay for free. If that sounds a bit smelly and messy, there are gardens you can help renovate and beautify as part of community projects, all while having your accommodation taken care of.
On couchsurfing.com you can sign up for free to be part of a huge community of people offering a free place to crash for a few nights while you explore the surrounding area. On this site you can also read reviews about the kinds of people you can stay with, to make your choice based on location, style of home and what there is to do in the area: a real cut-price holiday smorgasbord!
Buddhist centres and temples offer short and longer term retreats where you can have yoga and meditation classes for free, with a suggested donation.
If you’re not bothered about the lack of meat, alcohol and cigarettes that constitutes the law in these places, retreats are ideal for getting away from the chaos of life for a while, and having a bit of peaceful reflection and space to yourself.
If you have a little budget, but not alot – we take a look at cheap holidays here.