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You've probably seen bloggers and Instagrammers who are constantly talking about how they get to travel for free—or at least with huge discounts and perks. Some of their methods can seem too good to be true: Pay with credit card points (that probably cost more in debt than just buying the ticket) or apply for a hyper-competitive remote year or a study abroad opportunity that only one in a million ever land. But you don't have to win a contest or become an influencer to take a free trip (or three). Instead, consider these five ways that regular folks can not only travel for free but also get paid to travel.
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Rax Suen is a travel writer and host of the Chat with Nomads podcast. He's seen globetrotters do a lot of things to keep the income flowing while traveling the world, but he recommends reaching out to a reputable travel media company and asking to go on press trips.
"Working with established names reduces the chances of getting scammed, and there is a better chance that they have had ample experiences organizing these collaborations/partnerships," says Suen. "For example, Matador Network is a well-known website that offers opportunities for creators and writers to take press trips to produce interesting and useful content throughout the trip experience." Newbies might find it useful to first try a travel affiliate program to gain some credibility and to price their proposals before reaching out directly to pitch a travel and tourism board.
Conferences don't run themselves. Instead, organizers have to staff everyone from the caterer to the keynote speaker—who could very well have been flown in from another town or country. Public speaking, like travel blogging or influencing, requires industry experience before paid gigs will materialize, but once you establish a track record of engaging crowds, it can become quite easy to arrange lucrative opportunities that require travel.
GigSalad.com allows people in North America to register to find leads on their website, which aims to connect people and institutions with talented performers, actors, and speakers for a variety of events. Their jobs aren't exclusively about giving speeches; voice-over actors, character actors, and impersonators are also welcome. Also, the best-paid speaking jobs can be arranged through a speakers bureau, so it is best to look into membership with the National Speakers Bureau or the International Association of Speakers Bureaus before cold-calling conference venues or organizers out of state.
Seasonal jobs are a great way to get paid to travel to some of the most scenic and adventurous sites in the world. Coolworks and VagaJobs help seasonal workers find jobs in hospitality, food and beverage, service, and more. Whether you want to be a gondola operator in Mountain Village, Colorado, or an ecology educator in Saco, Maine, these jobs offer many travel perks. Most cover meals and lodging, and limited guest services can also be available to staff.
These opportunities are ideal for someone looking for a paid internship or a complete change of pace. Given the labor shortages in the service sector, seasonal job seekers could cash in now more than ever by working in hard-to-reach or understaffed locations. This tough employment market should make landing a role in high-end resorts and exotic destinations more attainable than ever.
If you love children, being an au pair is a fantastic way to earn money and experience the globe. These live-in child-minder roles usually come with a bit of housework as well. In exchange, au pairs have a paying job, private room and board, and a world of adventure waiting for them wherever they land. Travel costs are covered, and work weeks are predictable enough for au pairs to enjoy nights and weekends exploring their new hometown.
Like seasonal work, au pair, nanny, and childcare roles are particularly needed right now. There are lots of au pair placement companies out there, so it's best to do your due diligence to learn about fees and expectations. AuPairWorld can help.
While you could teach nearly any subject at an international school abroad, people who want to get paid to travel often find that the most in-demand subject is right under their nose: the English language. Fluent speakers are courted for opportunities all around the world. So many people have done it by now that there are even rankings to help aspiring educators decide between countries: Go Overseas shared its top 10 countries to teach abroad for 2022.
Spoiler alert: The United Arab Emirates is rated best for a high salary, and Spain is rated highest for work-life balance. The cost of living and the minimum qualifications for teaching prerequisites vary by country, but this is a great option for someone looking for cultural immersion and a lasting impact. Even visa fees and flights are typically part of the compensation package in many of the low-cost-of-living destinations.
If English teaching isn't for you, there are companies and teaching abroad job boards out there that can help you search for math, science, early childhood education, administrative, and leadership roles too.