Here at Thrifty Traveler finding cheap airfare is our thing, but what about the rest of the trip? If you’re willing to put in a little extra (rewarding) work, you can eat and stay for free all over the world.
Recently, I took advantage of a TT premium deal which allowed me to take a trip to Iceland. I booked a roundtrip flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik for only $230 on United! I was stoked but Iceland, like many Scandinavian countries, is not cheap. Instead of spending my money on staying in hotels and eating out, I took advantage of working in exchange for food and accommodation.
When I was in Iceland, I volunteered at a local farm (pictured below) in exchange for food and lodging. I had a great experience. I cleaned the Airbnb rooms each morning, helped with the dishes, weeded the garden, and planted some lettuce all with great company and the background of a beautiful Icelandic mountain.
I actually enjoyed the work, so for me, this was all a part of my Iceland experience. There were other volunteers from all over the world and we became fast friends. After the morning work, we'd all take off to go sightseeing together.
Hosts from around the world are in need of volunteers for their projects, whether that’s on an organic farm, babysitting, non-profit work, or building a fence. By using your valuable skills, you can find an awesome place to stay that will also provide free meals.
The benefits of this go beyond staying and eating for free, however. We got to experience the country through the locals who hosted us. They gave us all the best tips on what to see and what to skip, made us amazing authentic meals, and became lifelong friends. We left feeling proud that we volunteered our time helping out and we learned many new skills ourselves.
How to Find Hosts
Several websites exist to connect hosts and volunteers. I used Helpx to connect with my hosts. A few others that are good options include WWOOF, WorkAway, and HippoHelp.
You can create a free account on each of these sites, but this just allows you to look around. In order to contact a host, you will need to purchase a volunteer account. For a two year membership on Helpx, I paid 20 Euro.
The exception to this is HippoHelp, which is completely free but has fewer hosts. No matter which site you choose, you're sure to see that hosts all over the world are looking for help, and no experience will be the same.
Hosts from around the world are in need of volunteers for their projects. You can exchange your skills for a free place to stay and meals to eat.
Every host expects different kinds and amounts of work, so communication is key to making sure you’re able to balance working and sightseeing. Be sure to check the reviews from past volunteers. Their experience can help you make sure you're staying with a reputable host. I found that choosing to volunteer for room and board was an incredibly rewarding experience.