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Four ways to travel for next to nothing

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May 10th, 2017
Group of tourists being led by a tour guide.
Being a tour group leader can bring discounts to your travel expenses.

At the top of most retirees’ wish lists is to travel. But the cost of plane tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, and sightseeing really adds up fast. Fortunately, if you’re willing to think outside the box a little, you’ll find many ways to travel for very cheap—possibly even for free! Here are four cool ways to see the world for next to nothing.

1. Work on a cruise ship. 

Do you have a special skill or simply an outgoing personality? If so, you may be able to land a gig on a cruise ship as “enrichment staff,” which Katie Collins of CruiseShipCareers.com says are short-term employees of the entertainment staff. Enrichment staff get their cruise for free and can usually bring a companion. “For example, retirees with strong public speaking skills and expertise on specific topics, such as former teachers or professors, may be able to cruise affordably as guest speakers,” Collins says. “The subjects that cruise ship lecturers can speak about vary among cruise lines, though controversial topics are best avoided. History, world affairs, nature, wildlife, theater, music, and geography-related lectures tend to be popular.” 

2. Lead a travel group.

Jacquie Whitt of Adios Adventure Travel (facebook.com/adventuretrips) says the cost per person goes down when people travel in groups. If you organize a group of friends to take a trip, you may be able to get a deep discount for yourself. “Teachers know this and schools and universities will take advantage of this travel industry practice,” Whitt says. “Retired people who want to travel are in a position to benefit greatly.” The travel group leader typically serves as a point of contact with the tour company and helps to provide documents and disseminate travel preparation information to group members, but once the group arrives at its destination, the leader can relax and enjoy the vacation.

3. Housesit overseas.

Housesitting for your next-door neighbor doesn’t sound very exciting, but what about housesitting in Paris or Prague? Sites such as Nomador.com and TrustedHousesitters.com connect homeowners with house sitters. Travel blogger James Cave of Portugalist.com says budget-conscious travelers can find housesitting opportunities all over the world. “Retirees make great house sitters because they’re reliable and are often able to spend more time with the pets than nonretirees who may have other commitments,” he says. “Usually they’ll have been homeowners themselves and so will be more capable of looking after a property.”

4. Work for your room and board.

If you’re willing to spend a few hours a day doing volunteer work, you may be able to get free lodging and meals. Workaway (workaway.info) connects families and organizations in need of help with people willing to work for their room and board overseas. Assignments range from gardening, babysitting, cooking, boat sitting, and teaching languages, and travel volunteers are expected to work about five hours per day. In addition to nearly free travel, Workaway volunteers also have a unique opportunity to get to know a country’s culture and language because they are living with a local family.


Know of another way to travel inexpensively? Tell us in the comments section below.

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