A Wisconsin-based teacher and author with a passion for Spain, Abbey Algiers looks for inexpensive ways to take trips on her summer holidays. So when she discovered Diverbo, she couldn’t believe it. Diverbo offers free vacations for English speakers willing to spend a week mingling with foreigners in Spain or Germany to help them practice their language skills.
“It’s the best-kept secret on the planet,” she says.
Algiers spent a week chatting, enjoying Spanish tapas and wine and bonding with fellow travelers. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect: La Alberca, a tiny village four hours west of Madrid. The best part? Apart from paying for the flight there, the trip didn’t cost her a cent.
Algiers loved it so much, she has done Diverbo two more times and is currently traveling in Portugal with a friend she met on her first trip. “This is a legit way to make lifelong friends from around the world,” she says.
Diverbo is part of a growing trend: companies that are giving new meaning to the phrase “business trip.” If you’re willing to do a little work while you’re on vacation, these companies will help you get most — if not all — of your travel costs covered. Some will even pay you a stipend or a salary. It’s a trend that is taking off, especially among young female travelers who are new to the workforce and looking for affordable vacation options or for millennial women in search of ways to give back while on vacation.
A free trip and a chance to see the world? Sign us up! Here are 10 ideas and 23 companies to check out right now.
Speak English? You’re in luck. Diverbo recruits English speakers to help foreigners in Spain and Germany practice their language skills. Even better: Diverbo prefers if you don’t speak Spanish or German. There’s not much downtime — you’ll spend most of the day “working” in small villages near Madrid, Munich, and Frankfurt. But it’s not a hardship: There are group dinners, parties, and even theater performances. There’s also an offshoot of Diverbo for teens.
Work On A Farm
Sue Coppard was a London secretary who volunteered on a farm with some friends back in 1971 and thought the idea was so great that she turned it into a business: WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The company has recently been rediscovered by a new generation of travelers that craves getting dirt under their fingernails. Here’s how it works: Farm owners post help-wanted ads on the site, and you can apply to do anything from sowing seeds to making cheese to gathering herbs. In return, the farm pays for your accommodations and food (you usually need to cover the flight). Volunteers typically work a few hours a day, then get time off to explore. There are opportunities everywhere from Costa Rica to Cambodia.
Are you willing to put in a little sweat equity on your next vacation in exchange for free meals and accommodations? The sharing economy has resulted in innovative resources for work-exchange programs. Workaway and HelpX connect travelers with locals around the globe looking for volunteer help. You could find yourself working for people like Alex and Allie, who own an eco-lodge in the Northern Thai mountains near Chiang Mai where they rescue elephants and support human rights. Or Pamela, who has a house in Provence and wants assistance gardening and cooking. Or there’s Rick and Lindy, a couple who needs workers for their cattle farm in New Zealand. Generally, volunteers work four or five hours a day, five days a week, then have the rest of the time to themselves. It’s a great way to affordably see a new place and live like a local.
Work In the Adventure Space
Want to spend a week or two skiing and snowboarding — and get paid to do it? The website AdventureWorklists jobs in the adventure space, some long-term postings but others for vacationers looking for a free trip. For instance, PGL hires ski reps at its resorts in France, Italy, Austria and the U.S. to accompany school groups. In exchange, PGL covers your room and food, in-resort expenses, lift passes, board hire and gives you a small stipend of $229 (£175).
Organize A Trip
Now here’s a sneaky way to get a free vacation: Plan a trip for a group of your friends or family. Many travel operators will cover your costs if you function as a trip leader. The rules change depending on the company, but as an example, YMT Vacations will give you a free vacation if you enlist 12 people to take a trip with them; if eight of the guests book their flight through YMT, your airfare is also covered. Other companies offering free trips to group leaders include Grand Circle Cruise Line, Select International Tours, All Abroad Travel and Merit Group Travel.
Host An Educational Trip
Are you a teacher who wants to take your students on a trip so that they can immerse themselves in what they’ve just studied? A number of educational travel companies provide free trips to teachers in order to get them to host trips for students. (Many will even throw in a free training trip beforehand, so that you can learn the ropes of hosting and guiding.) Some of the best outfitters include EF, CHA Educational Tours, andExplorica.
Explore Your Roots
Are you lucky enough to have roots somewhere else? Your home country might want you to come back and connect with your culture. For instance, the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation runs ReConnect Hungary to get young Hungarian-Americans ages 18-28 to take a two-week trip to learn about their history and traditions. The program covers airfare from New York to Budapest and two weeks of accommodations, meals, transportation, entertainment and programming. Countries with similar programs include Heritage Greece, aimed at accomplished college students of Greek heritage. Birthright Armenia reimburses expenses for Armenians ages 20-32 who will intern or volunteer for at least two months for a variety of organizations, including media outlets and NGOs. Love Boat Study Program is for people of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, ages 16-27. And Birthright Israel has helped over 500,000 Jewish young adults travel for free to Israel sincethe company was founded in 1999.
Take Your Nursing Skills On The Road
If you’re a nurse, you can go mobile and travel for free to places like Florida or Hawaii — and get paid for it. The site TravelNursing.org offers opportunities around the country, with assignments lasting eight to 26 weeks. Compensation varies based on your skill level and the type of position you’re filling, but a traveling nurse can make as much as $10,000 a month, with food and housing often covered.
Become A House Sitter
Are you open to taking care of someone’s home – or even their pet — while on vacation? You might have a free place to stay for offering your services. Companies like Trusted Housesitters and HouseCarers connect travelers and people in need of sitters around the world.
If you’re willing to teach English as a foreign language to non-English speakers, you can pretty much write your ticket. Some of the best resources for job hunters include TEFL.com and ESL Cafe, which list salaried jobs across the planet in search of your skills (typically, you don’t need to speak the home language). This isn’t something you’d do for a week-long vacation: Postings generally range from nine months to two years. Still, it’s a great way to have an extended (paid) vacation.