This is how I travel for free... and how you can too.
1. Subletting on Airbnb
This lovely photo is of my apartment in Santa Monica, CA. It's cozy, affordable, and twelve blocks from the beach.
It also allows me the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world and spend practically nothing.
By renting it on the life-saving website, Airbnb.com while I'm away.
Now before I get into this, I want to warn you that this concept is not for everyone. If you have a roommate, valuables, don't live in a preferred destination for travelers, etc. this may not be for you.
I live alone. I live near the Santa Monica Pier, Venice, Hollywood - all of which are prime travel destinations. I also don't own anything of value, other than my television (I bring my laptop and nice jewelry/clothes with me when I travel.) Thus, I can charge the same amount as most hotels ($100+ a night), which pays for the majority of my travel expenses.
Case in point:
- I paid $1800 for a 2-week trip to Thailand next month.
- I rented my apartment on Airbnb and charged guests $125/night.
- I made $1800 renting my apartment for 2 weeks.
- Thus, my 2-week trip to Thailand was free.
That, my friends, is how you travel for free.
I also want to point out that Airbnb has a five million dollar insurance policy. So if anything was ever stolen from your home, they'd reimburse you immediately. This only happened to me once, when the guest accidentally took my visitor parking pass and spare key. Airbnb reimbursed me for the parking pass via Paypal (the same day I sent them the receipt), and they offered to pay to have my locks changed since the guest had taken my extra key.
In a nutshell, they're pretty awesome.
If you're hesitant (which I most definitely was at first), you can choose to only rent to guests who have reviews from other Airbnb hosts that they've stayed with previously, to verify their credibility. You can have a phone conversation with them, Skype with them, meet them when they get into town, whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
On the flipside of that, you can also rent homes and apartments on Airbnb when you travel, which are usually three times the size of a hotel room and half the cost.
2. House sitting on TrustedHousesitters
The second website that changed my life is Trustedhousesitters.com. It's the most popular house sitting website, and has house and pet sitting jobs all over the world.
To sign up, you pay an $89 annual fee, and then you can build a profile and apply for any house or pet sitting job on the site. You can also have external references contribute to the reference section of your profile (if you've house or pet sat in the past, employer or character references, anything to build your credibility.)
Most of the jobs you don't get paid for, but in exchange, you get to travel anywhere in the world and stay in a home for free, as opposed to paying for a hotel.
Within the first week that I signed up, a local California resident contacted me to sit for her cats for ten days (she wanted someone nearby so she could meet them first.) Even though it was local, I accepted the job for three reasons:
A) Her apartment was twice the size of mine and had a pool, jacuzzi, gym, grill, and bar. Basically a mini-resort.
B) I rented my apartment on Airbnb while I stayed at her apartment and made an extra $1200. Score.
C) The more positive reviews you have, the more jobs you get.
The following week, I applied to a pet sitting job in Cape Cod, where my family lives, because I wanted to visit for Thanksgiving. After receiving a ton of applicants, the home owner picked me!
So now, I have a free home for 3 weeks while I visit my family for the holidays, and I made some extra money renting out my apartment while I'm away.
3. Free Airport Parking with Flightcar
Flightcar.com is a website that allows you to park at their airport location for free, provides a car
service that drops you off and picks you up at the airport, and rents your car while you're away (which you earn a percentage of.) Unfortunately, this only applies to the Los Angeles LAX airport, Boston Logan BOS airport and San Francisco SFO airport for the time being.
You earn .05 per mile, so it only totals about $3 per day. But they wash, vacuum and detail your car for you. And all you have to do when you land is check in on the app, and the driver is there within 10 minutes to pick you up. In a fancy town car. Ballin'.
They have a 1 million dollar insurance policy to cover you if
anything ever happened to your car. So it's kind of like Airbnb, you
have to pretty trustworthy to consider it.
I'm trustworthy. And my car isn't anything special. And I like free stuff. So it works for me.
Several weeks ago, I was searching for a one-way place ticket home from Dallas, TX. The majority of tickets were in the $135 range, but there was one ticket for only $90 through Spirit Airlines.
A $45 difference? Sold!
At least this was what I thought.
I had never flown Spirit Airlines before, but after having the single worst flight experience of my life, I have since found out the following:
- Spirit does not allow a free carry-on bag. If you pay for your carry-on online (prior to 24 hours before your flight), you will be charged $35. If you pay when you arrive at the airport, you will be charged $50. If you try to sneak your bag on and are forced to check it at the gate, you will be charged $100.
- If you do not print your boarding pass at home, you will be charged $10 to print it at the airport.
- If you would like to select your seat, you will also be charged $10.
- In addition, you are not served any complimentary beverages or snacks on the flight, and the seats do not recline.
So, in hindsight, the supposed $45 I saved could've actually cost me an extra $60 and upwards.
I've since done my homework and read all the horrible Spirit reviews. I only wish I had read them before I bought my ticket, but hopefully, I can save one of you from making the same mistake.
Moral of the story: Don't fly Spirit Airlines. Just don't. Whatever money you think you're saving will equal the price of the other airlines. And you'll get a free beverage and a reclining seat.
Having said that, I'm the best effing tour guide you'll ever have in the city of Los Angeles. So much so that I'm going to have to break this one down into categories:
On the Cheap:
For those of you on a budget, here's a great way to navigate around the wonderful city of lost angels without breaking the bank:
The W Hotel: Every Sunday night, the W hotel in Hollywood hosts jazz night, where there are live music performances (sometimes surprise guests) and burlesque dancers in their lounge area known as The Living Room. There is no cover charge, and it's a great show. www.stationhollywood.com
Twilight Concerts at the Pier: If you happen to be visiting LA during the months of July-September, every Thursday night there is a free concert at the Santa Monica Pier from 7pm-10pm. Bring your booze, snacks and a blanket and catch some tunes on the beach. http://tcs.dola.com/
Malibu Wines: If you like wine-tasting, be sure to check out
Malibu Wines on Mulholland. It's a great place to bring your own lunch
and spend the day. They have picnic benches, live music, fire pits and a
great vibe. You can either buy a bottle of wine from them or buy a
4-wine flight tasting for $16. http://malibuwines.com/
Cinespia Movies: If you're visiting between May-October, every Saturday the Hollywood Forever Cemetery features a movie night with a photobooth, DJ's and usually surprise special guests from the movie itself. Again, bring blankets, munchies, drinks, chairs, etc. Tickets are about $14, but get them early because they sell out. http://cinespia.org/
BYOB: If you want to bring your own beer/wine without paying a corkage fee, Gaby's Mediterranean on Venice Blvd in West LA is a great spot with an outdoor wooden patio, heat lamps,
hookahs, and really good, affordable Mediterranean food. Not
to be confused with their takeout locations, this restaurant is located at 10445 Venice Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90034.
Pearl's: Pearl's Liquor Bar in Hollywood has free movie night every Sunday night at 8:30pm on the roof deck with champagne, popcorn and candy (Just be sure to make a reservation a few days prior.) They also have live music on Mondays from 8pm-10pm. http://pearlsliquorbar.com/
Cha Cha Chicken: An adorable outdoor BYOB tiki restaurant next to Santa Monica beach with good home style caribbean cooking. http://chachachicken.com/
If you're out and about in Hollywood, I'd highly recommend:
Davey Wayne's: A 70's themed bar with velvet couches, classic records, old soda cans and cigarette packs hanging on the wall, hammocks, 70's music, roller skating shows, and a bar made out
of a trailer that serves alcoholic snow cones! To enter the bar, you go
through a secret entrance in their 70's themed garage (a fridge!)
Perch: A French restaurant/bar that has live music, art painting and jewelry sales on their roof deck, which overlooks all of downtown Los Angeles. www.perchla.com
(And in the winter, they have ice skating next door at Pershing Square for $8.)
iPic Movies: A
few miles east of Santa Monica is Westwood, where the new iPic luxury
movie theater just opened. For $25 you get to watch a movie in a suede
reclining couch with blankets and your own personal waiter, who serves
you anything from their full dinner menu and full bar. And you get free
popcorn. I'll never go back to a regular movie theater again. https://www.ipictheaters.com/showtimes-and-tickets.aspx?cinemaid=0503
Desert Rose: My favorite restaurant in the Silverlake/Los Feliz area (and maybe of all time). Red lights, couches, fruit and cheese plates, champagne drinks, you name it. www.desertroserestaurant.com
My three favorite things about Florence: shopping, sunsets and significant amounts of nightlife. Granted, my days in Florence happened to fall on a weekend, so I'm sure that was a contributing factor, but regardless, Florence was F-U-N.
We stayed at the Best Western Hotel River, right on the Arno River, which was probably my favorite hotel of the trip because of the rooftop terrace with an incredible view (a-hem, see above), and the location. It's super close to Piazzale Michelangelo, Basilica of Santa Croce, Bargello Museum, and tons of little shopping areas. Florence is the best place for quality souvenirs and purchases at a great price (leather purses, jewelry, etc.).
And the sunsets are incredible. Check out this sky. WUT.
Just across the Arno river is a zoo of nightlife. We crossed the bridge over to the other side, where we found a huge party on the river, and a ton of bars lining the street. We ended up having drinks at Zoe Bar and met some locals who showed us around.
On our last night, we walked over to Kitsch, which I adored. The decor was RAD. Pink walls, purple velvet couches, leopard chairs, Christmas lights, mirrors and quirky lamps everywhere. LOVED it.
Here are a few things I learned as a first time Coachella go-er:
1. Rent a locker! – The great thing about Coachella is that it’s in the desert, so you can rock a bikini all day every day because it’s about 90 degrees outside. The not so great thing about Coachella is that the temperature drops about 30 degrees at night, so it gets into the 60’s, and let’s face it: no one wants to lug around a sweatshirt all day long. The lockers sold out before we even got there, so next year I’ll be remembering to rent one ahead of time. (http://lockersonline.com/)
2. Plan a meeting place – The most frustrating thing about the weekend was that there is barely any phone service inside the empire polo club where Coachella is held. Sure, your phone will say you have 5 bars, but you’ll be wondering all night why your friends haven’t responded to your texts, until you leave and all of a sudden, you have 20 texts at once from everyone wondering where you are and why you’re not responding to them. My advice? Plan a meeting place with a certain time to meet everyone when you get separated (and believe me, with 75,000 people, you will get separated at some point). My landmark was the ferris wheel.
3. Buy a shuttle pass – We rented a house in Palm Springs about 15 minutes from the festival, and Valley Music Travel provides a shuttle that leaves from the Embassy hotel 3 miles up the street and takes you to and from the venue and bypasses traffic. Its 90$ for the weekend, but worth not having the hassle of sitting in traffic or worrying about drinking and driving. http://valleymusictravel.com/coachella_shuttles.php
4. RSVP – Make sure you RSVP if you want to attend the pool parties! The Saguaro Hotel and Ace Hotel in Palm Springs are the typical party spots, but a little bit of a drive from the festival.
6. Bring water - If you're going to camp, bring lots and lots of water! I camped last year and we all ran out of water our first day. It is a very long walk to the festival, and water is very expensive. Stock up.
7. Download the set list – Beware, there are numerous different stages and tents, so be sure to download the schedule ahead of time so you don’t miss any favorite band performances!
8. Pregame or Die (or bring a flask) – Another annoyance for us attendees is that you’re only allowed to drink inside the “Beer Garden,” so in other words, you can’t drink and watch a show at the same time (at least up close). My advice is to have a few drinks ahead of time if you want to have a nice buzz going while dancing to your favorite jams on stage. Or you can do what I did and bring a flask. I brought mine last year and they didn't take it. I poured my drink into it at the bar, placed it back in my purse, and brought it to the stage so I could drink and watch the show at the same time :)
9. Plan accordingly - Buy tickets, shuttle passes and lockers ahead of time! All 3 sold out, so a few of us were scrambling trying to get tickets and make sure our friends could get to and from the venue. Preparation is key.
10. Misc - Other randoms: bring a comfortable shoulder bag, stock up on water (you can bring unopened bottles), sunblock, and anything else you may need.