Everyone wants to travel the world, but there is always one universal thing that holds a lot of people back: money. Money to travel to a destination, do all of the things on your bucket list, and ultimately make it a memorable experience.
The good news is—you don’t have to be rich to travel. It simply takes being frugal when you need to and taking advantage of all of the free things available to you. What free things you ask? Well, a lot of free items are not broadcasted by hotel staff, shouted from the rooftops by airlines, or even mentioned to you at all. The truth is, a lot of free amenities available to you will never be yours unless you ask for them.
There are a million and one ways to travel cheap, or even for free. You just need to know where to look and who to ask. Airports offer a lot more to its visitors than meets the eye, which is why you should always stop by an information desk. Hotel and hostel staff will do whatever it takes to make your stay an enjoyable one. Even travel companies and visitor centres will give free expert advice on the best ways to make the most of your trip whilst saving your pennies.
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no—and this saying holds especially true while travelling the world. The following are just a few of the things you can get for free in order for you to save money and stretch your travel time for as long as possible.
25 City maps: to aid exploring
Pretty much every type of accommodation will provide maps of the destination you are visiting. Hotels and hostels are a guarantee, as most have travel information desks where employees can suggest different activities for your trip. Also, Airbnb hosts frequently provide maps and your host will likely give you tips from a local’s perspective. If you didn’t get a chance to grab a map whilst at your hotel, stop by any travel booth throughout the city for complimentary maps and expert advice.
24 Free Wi-Fi at cafes and tourist spots
Data costs on your phone can rack up when you travel, since you are constantly using your phone to navigate yourself with maps and take photos of all of the attractions. A lot of cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, however they won’t advertise the password for everyone to see. But if you ask, they are usually always willing to hand over the password.
This is also the case for tourist attractions such as museums, galleries, and city centres—where Wi-Fi is free to connect for its visitors.
23 Extra pillows: because you can never have too many
We get it—you are used to having 5 pillows on your bed at home and now you are stuck with one measly pillow that is meant to do the trick. Think again. Well, the good news is that hotels are usually happy to provide you with extra pillows if you need them. Even some hostels will probably give you an extra one. All you have to do is ask!
Having a good night’s rest is kind of a hotel’s priority, so don’t feel weird asking.
22 Free transportation: ask a local or fellow traveller
Whilst you are travelling, there are a few ways that you can get free transportation and save a ton of money. Depending on where you are travelling, it can be relatively safe and quite common to hitchhike your way through a country.
There are also usually a ton of traveller groups on social media where people can post about ride sharing, travel tips, and where you can sometimes hitch a ride if the timing is right. It’s important to use your gut instinct and do this as safe and cautious as possible—ideally with a travel partner.
21 Hair styling tools: no bad hair days
Most hotel rooms are equipped with hair dryers, however a lot of people don’t know that hotels will lend you hair straighteners and curlers as well. They definitely don’t advertise it, as they usually don’t have enough of them to provide every guest, but they probably have a few lying around if you find yourself having a bad hair day.
You won’t be able to take it with you, but at least you will have one to use throughout your trip instead of taking up valuable space in your bag.
20 A free tour on a long layover: to make the most of your travels
Bored on an 8-hour layover? You don’t have to be! A handful of major airports around the world offer free city tours for those who have overly long layovers, in order to promote tourism in the area so that you might one day return for a longer stay.
Some airports in South Korea, Taiwan, Tokyo, Singapore, Turkey, and Utah offer these tours. It’s always a shame when you have a long layover in a destination and don’t have a chance to actually explore it, which is what makes these free tours so awesome.
19 Free fitness classes: to stay active on the road
A lot of accommodation options offer a gym to use during your stay, but a lot of people don’t take advantage of the various classes available. Most people don’t make it a priority to work out during a holiday, so your sunrise yoga class will likely not be super crowded. You may even get a one on one session with a trainer if you go in the middle of the day whilst everyone is exploring.
You are likely indulging in food whilst traveling, so take advantage of free workout classes with amazing backdrops.
18 Free breakfast: one less meal to pay for
90% of the places you stay around the world will likely offer some sort of free breakfast. Even the cheapest hostels offer coffee and basic breakfast foods in the early morning. If you stay somewhere more expensive, the breakfast options will probably be pretty epic—with everything you could ever want.
If you’re really on a budget, you could certainly get your money’s worth by stocking up on snacks such as bananas and granola bars for the day. You’re technically paying for it, so don’t feel bad about it.
17 Free bike hire: the best way to explore any city
Bikes are a great way to see any destination you are visiting—you will cover more ground faster and you don’t have to deal with public transport. No one enjoys riding in cramped buses or trains, and you’re getting some exercise as well. Your accommodation may offer free bike hire, especially ones that are a bit farther away from the tourist centre, since they want to entice people to stay with them. All you have to do is ask and the hotel or hostel staff will give you all of the options available to you.
16 Free shuttles: from the airport and throughout town
Before you pay for an expensive cab or Uber to get to your hotel from the airport, look into which hotels offer free airport shuttles. There is a big chunk of them that do, so it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask—you could save a ton of money by doing so.
The shuttles will usually run during business hours, although some run throughout the night at weird hours as well. Hostels will also sometimes offer free lifts from bus and train stations - all you need to do is ask!
15 Free seat changes: for an enjoyable flight
A lot of times when you check into a flight, you have the option to pick your preferred seat for a small fee. However, if you wait until you arrive at the airport you can usually request a specific seat without paying anything. If it’s available, the airline crew is usually happy to accommodate you.
You can also ask a flight attendant to move when you are already on the plane, as long as it’s not completely sold out and there are seats available.
14 Free pet therapy: to ease travel stress
What is better than spending time with a fluffy friend while waiting for your next flight (especially when you miss yours at home)? Absolutely nothing! Many airports are starting to hop on the therapy dog bandwagon in hopes to help anxious passengers and unpleased, tired children.
San Francisco International Airport even had a therapy pig at one point to help travellers relax, while Denver had miniature horses. To find out what’s available during your time at the airport, just ask!
13 Free toiletries: for when you forget your toothbrush
Most people are aware that hotels offer a ton of free amenities. If you’re smart, you will stock up on all of the free things available in order to get your money’s worth. The amenities are built into the cost of the room after all—so why wouldn’t you take advantage?
You can get a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair products, face products, grooming tools, and pretty much anything else you can think of that one would forget to pack for a holiday.
12 Free water bottles: to stay hydrated
Don’t be buying those expensive $5 bottles of water when you can get them for free! Little expenses on vacation add up quick, and no one wants to spend money on something as simple as water. A lot of hotels will provide complimentary water bottles in your room, as well as small takeaway juices at breakfast. If they don’t offer it, just ask and there’s a chance that they will give you a few bottles anyway. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
11 Free public transport: see more ground faster
In an effort to cater to tourists, a lot of major cities offer some kind of free public transport between popular tourist attractions. This is usually in the form of a hop-on-hop-off bus that is free for visitors to get on and off as they please. It’s the perfect way to see everything you want to see without spending a ton of money in cab fare in order to get from place to place.
One particular city that offers this is Melbourne, Australia, where the driver provides audio information along the way regarding the history of the attraction.
10 Free travel coupons: discounts and 2-4-1 deals
If you ever visit a tour company or travel desk whilst on vacation, they will likely give you some coupons for discounted meals, attraction admission, and two-for-one deals on a variety of things. This is especially true if you are travelling as a backpacker on a budget, as a lot of travel agents that book excursions for you will provide you will a card that gives you discounts at a ton of places. If you ever visit one of these stores, always ask if they have any deals or coupons to give you, because they probably do.
9 Free accommodation: volunteer your time
If you are travelling as a backpacker, there are a lot of opportunities to earn free accommodation whilst travelling from place to place. Hostels are always looking for travellers to fill job vacancies for cleaning, bartending, or front desk, to work for accommodation.
You can stay for 6 months or 1 month and volunteer a couple hours of your time each day in exchange for a free bed. A lot of hostels won’t advertise that they are hiring, since there are so many people interested in volunteering—so always ask to make sure!
8 Free flights: sign up bonuses for credit cards
While no one is actually giving you a free flight, certain credit cards offer sign up bonuses that give you a significant number of points. You can cash these points in for a flight and save some considerable money on your next holiday. If you are planning on travelling or travel often, talk to your bank about the best credit card option for you that will allow you to capitalise on all of the money you are spending.
There are also credit cards that offer free travel insurance when you sign up, which is another huge money saver.
7 Free expert advice: stop by the visitor centre
Almost every city has a visitor centre for tourists to visit in order to get the lay of the land and learn some insider tips. It’s almost like a travel company, except these people aren’t trying to sell you anything—they genuinely love the destination and want to make sure you have the best time possible.
They’re always happy to tell you about the city, and it’s a good idea to ask about freebies if you are staying for more than a day or two.
6 Towels: to save room in your suitcase
Save some room in your suitcase and leave the clucky towel at home, since most hotels and budget accommodation offer free towels to use or for a small fee. It’s an item that is one of the most annoying things to travel with, especially if you are frequently moving from place to place and have to lug around a damp towel. Your hotel room will be equipped with towels upon arrival, but you can also request extra if you wish. However, hostels will rarely give you one unless you ask for it.