If you can avoid spending it, you'll have more travel budget for the future. You'll be able to travel farther, longer and more often which is what our Tuesday series on travel money is all about.
There's nothing that can save your budget more than free things. So I give you a list of travel freebies – things you can do that meet the ultimate test for frugal solo travelers. And they are all simple. There's no travel hacking involved. No calculating the best way to use points and no buying this to get that.
It's simple. These are freebies that are there for the taking. You just need to know that they're there.
Travel Freebies – Starting with Free accommodation
- Try a home exchange. This can save you big time on one of the biggest travel ticket items. You can live like a local and stay for free. Home Exchange has 65,000+ worldwide listings. To get a sense of how it's done read Free accommodation: try a home exchange.
- Housesitting options. Housesitting is a free exchange of services. The house sitter gets a place to stay and the house owner has someone to take care of their home, the mail, the garden and even pets while they’re away. Free Accommodation: House Sitting Tips for Sitters and Home Owner.
Free Travel Resources
- Learn the language for free. Before you leave learn a bit of the language with FSI Language Courses. The courses are free. They were developed by the Foreign Service Institute of United States government and are now in the public domain.
- Get a city map for free. Simply pop into any hotel or hostel and they'll give you one. I recommend that frugal travelers make a point of getting her or his map from a hostel because on the map itself will be more information on cheap things to do and inexpensive places to eat in the city.
- Google Maps offline. Save an area of Google Maps to your phone to use when you're offline. Here's how to do it for iphone and ipads. And here's how to do it for Android devices.
Free Activities that are Social
- Book a local greeter. The Global Greeter Network will help you find locals around the world who want to show you their cities. And it's free (though a donation to the city's greeter organization is appreciated). You book the greeter online and in advance. Here's my experience with a Paris greeter: Friendly Paris: exploring the real Paris with a Greeter.
- Use Meetup.com for people who have similar interests. Meetup.com is a website that is organized by city and by interests. There are meet-ups in cities all over the world on as many interests as you could possible imagine. I joined a hiking Meetup in Hong Kong. Read: Meetup.com Got me Hiking in Hong Kong: And it was #$@&%*! hard!
- Join a local running, walking or cycling group. These clubs will often welcome guests from out of town to join them for a walk, run or cycle for free. It's great way to hang out with locals for a while. Read Grace’s Nerdy New York City Adventure: a twenty-something travels solo to learn more.
Free Activities by Yourself
- Take a free guided walking tour. Most major cities have free walking tours. Some, like Paris, offer a number of free walking tours. Sandeman’s has free tours in 18 European cities. Simply Google “free walking tour” and your city of choice. A tip for the guide is appropriate.
- Go to parks, gardens and cemeteries. Central Park in New York City, the Cimitière du Père Lachaise or the Cimitière du Montparnasse (final resting places of intellectuals, artists and philosophers) and a variety of gardens in London are all free and relaxing.
- Go to a National Park – especially in Canada this year. Entrance to Canada's National Parks is free all 2017, the 150th birthday of Canada, if you order a Discovery Pass in advance. They'll mail it to you, also free, but it will take a few weeks so plan ahead. There are also certain days that the United State's National Parks are free:
- January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20: Presidents' Day
- April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
- Walk neighborhoods. Walking the neighbourhoods of major cities brings you into communities where you can see what makes the city really tick. London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver… all major cities have vibrant neighborhoods with distinct personalities. Seek out locations made famous in literature and film. Eat where the locals eat.
- Get an app for free self-guided tours. There are tons of free travel apps and many offer self-guided tours of cities and the like. Simply Google your destination to find one.
- Go to the museums when they're free. Paying museum admissions can really add up but most museums have times when their doors open to all for free. Here's a list of New York museums that are always or sometimes free. Most London museums are free for their permanent collections while there is usually a fee for special exhibits. There's the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and the Getty Center in Los Angeles that are always free. Again, Google is your friend for more specifics.
- Find the calendar of free events. Every city has a calendar of free events online or in their local arts paper. Google it and you'll likely find lots of options for activities. You can see what’s free in New York city at NYCgo.com.
Stay in Touch for Free
- Find great information, quiet time and free WiFi in libraries. Libraries, even ones in countries where English is not the primary language, are great sources of information. They always know what's free in the city and they always have free computers and WiFi.
- Stay in touch with home for free. Skype is a free app for your phone. It's also often loaded onto library computers. Use Skype with the library's free WiFi (or Skype on your phone with any free WiFi) and you can call home for free.
You'll also want to check out…
Affordable Paris Update! 32+ Free and Low-cost Tips
Affordable London Update! 32+ Free and Low-Cost Tips
Affordable Dublin: 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips
Affordable Kauai – 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips
Affordable Sydney: 32 Free & Low-Cost Tips
Affordable New York City: 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips
Affordable Nashville: 32 Free and Low-cost Tips
Affordable Toronto: 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips