How To Travel For Free
Growing up, I had what they called, the 'travel bug': the strong desire to travel and jet-sett across the world. I had dreams of exploring ancient temples & Irish castles, eating fresh sushi in Japan, making new friends from under the Eiffel Tower, and living out my life with a passport full of stamps. But my mother was smart and always told me from day one: "If you want to travel, figure out a way to do it for free." --so I did.
Now this is all coming from the mindset of a photographer-based solely on my personal experience. I'm sure there are other ways to travel abroad for free if you're not a photographer or blogger-this is just how I figured it all out.
1. Have something of value. You don't need to have thousands of followers online, you just need something of value to offer hotels, airline, brands etc. I am a photographer/blogger, so I hold value in offering photography services and promotional partnerships. Having a large Instagram following isn't the only way of landing partnerships with companies. In the very beginning of my career, I barely had any followers online-so I offered brands photography and traveled with influencers to make up for the marketing portion of our collaborations. You just need something to offer brands when you propose a collaboration. Which leads me to....
2. Setting up collaborations. That's right it's pitch email time. What I like to do is make a list of the expenses that I need covered. Which is usually: flight, hotel, ground transportation, food, and fun activities. Then I research all of the companies that would benefit from our partnership and send them a pitch email. You're basically offering an exchange of goods: "I will offer you ____ (photos, influence, video, etc) in exchange for _____ (flight tickets, hotels, food, etc)". I will get deeper into writing pitch emails in a later blog post-but just know that YOU HAVE TO ACTIVELY REACH OUT TO COMPANIES. Just by saying online, "Hey I'm traveling to Paris, who wants to collab?", isn't going to make companies flock to you. I spend weeks emailing companies in the hopes to land one free night's stay. But if you can make it work then you've just saved hundreds-if not thousands of dollars- on your traveling expenses. So! Email those hotels, airlines, car rental companies-whoever you think would benefit from a collaboration together.
3. Bring your work abroad. Ok, so you might not get a chance to cover all your expenses while abroad-that doesn't mean you can't make money while abroad to offset those costs. Personally, as a photographer, I am able to organize photoshoots with brands while abroad, and that pays for a lot of my expenses. If you're a blogger you could offer promotional posts/blog about another company's product while traveling. Just make sure you have time to do these projects and think they are worth it. The worst thing you could do is come back home to tell a brand you didn't have time to see through their partnership.
4. Pre-plan so your costs are low. Traveling can be soooo expensive!! I will go to the extend of googling: "cheapest days to fly", or "best websites for low-airfares", or even mapping out how far of a drive my hotel is from that super cute Instagram famous backdrop--JUST TO SAVE MONEY ON GAS!! I buy my flight tickets in advance, book my hotels as soon as possible, and even create a day-by-day itinerary. I will create a list of all of the places I want to visit-research how far away they are from each other- and then make an literary that helps me save time and gas money. (I've been using this site called Travefy to help me organize my itineraries. It allows you to break down your days by the hour and you can download a PDF version to save & print!) I've even scoured TripAdvisor reviews to find out if the park I want to visit charges for parking. All of these costs add up, but if you're prepared enough you'll be able to worry less about money and more about enjoying your time 😁
5. Make trades with friends. The first two trips I did to Europe were made completely by my amazing friends who let me crash their couches. I was lucky enough to have friends in beautiful places around the world-but even if you don't know anyone who lives in London or Paris-or wherever-there are websites that can help you! One popular website that I know of is Couch Surfing. It's a site that lets you crash on peoples couches for free or even host someone from another country! Also-don't just think about your contacts, think about maybe your mom's college friend who just recently moved to Spain! Or maybe your cousin's BBF is studying abroad in Germany! The point is-use your resources and don't be scared to ask for help! People are usually more than willing to help. There is always a way-you just got to do a little digging.
Now that you know all my secrets- go forth and travel!! 🙌 I hope this blog post was helpful-if you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me or DM me on Instagram @champagneunicorns 🦄 Happy travels!!