How to Vacation Anywhere for Free

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You don't have to spend more abroad than you do at home.

I travel a fair amount, and I often get this response:

"I'd love to travel more, but it's just too expensive," says everybody.

There are plenty of things that make it impossible to travel: jobs, children, promises to go to your friend's stand-up show next month. But money isn't one of them. I've traveled to Portugal, Morocco, Colombia, Spain, Ecuador, Oregon, Georgia, Israel and Los Angeles, all without spending more money than I'd spend at home. In many cases, I've saved money or traveled completely free. And if you're willing to be flexible, you can too.

Stay somewhere free

You can stay in just about any country for free. WWOOF is an organization that connects travelers with small farms around the world. You work about four hours a day. In exchange, you get free room and board. I did this in Ecuador, Spain and Los Angeles. Not only did I experience a new place for free, but I also found myself instantly plugged into a community, meeting both locals and fellow travelers.

Workaway is a similar organization that lists small farms, hostels, arts and crafts stores, schools, NGOs, animal rescues and tons of other places. And before you say, "That sounds like a thing for childless 20-year-olds," I've worked alongside moms and people in their 60s.

Couchsurfing lets you stay on a stranger's couch for free, no work required.

And there's always history's most reliable free option: camping. There are plenty of lovely, free campsites around the world.

Stay somewhere cheap

Maybe you don't want to spend half your vacation working or avoiding mosquitos. That's fine. You can find inexpensive places to stay throughout South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East by asking around town. You can also check out Airbnb, which frequently lists rooms (and sometimes whole houses) for $10 or less a night.

And if you're saying, "But Ilana, that's not free," then I recommend you ...

Rent out your home

Whether you have a room, apartment, treehouse or igloo, you can rent your home on Airbnb. I've rented out my room on Airbnb while renting a different room for cheaper on Airbnb, thus breaking even.

Buy food where the locals buy it

It's easy to overspend when you eat at tourist restaurants. Even grocery stores in tourist areas tend to be overpriced. So ask a local where they get inexpensive food. If you shop there, chances are you won't throw down more than you'd spend at your neighborhood grocery store.

Make local friends

Locals know how to get good entertainment without breaking the bank. If you make local friends, you might even get invited to gatherings that are both more fun and less expensive than hitting up pricey attractions.

And if you're still saying, "But I want to stay in a fancy hotel and go shopping every day and eat all my meals at restaurants," then maybe free vacations aren't for you.