Exploring House Swapping, House Sitting, and Local Stays
How to travel for free? That’s the ultimate dream for us all isn’t it?
I don’t have the complete answers to this but I have found lots of ways to minimise your travel spending by cutting out one of the biggest expenses for travel- accommodation. As a full time travel family on a budget, we are always looking at ways to cut out expenses.
So, check out the suggestions for free family travel, or at least low cost options to stretch your travel budget even further. If you think I have missed any, send me a message and I’ll add the details.
Work Exchange With Kids – Workaway
Workaway opens the door to a global adventure, linking wanderers with hosts in 180+ countries. Workawayers can exchange their labour for free accommodation and meals, while hosts gain valuable help with their projects or businesses. This unique arrangement offers travellers the opportunity to experience new cultures firsthand, immerse themselves in local communities, and gain new skills and experiences. Workaway is your ticket to a unique blend of volunteerism, cultural immersion, and affordable globetrotting. There are lots of opportunities for families too. We worked on a farm in Italy with Indi and recently fruit picked in Portugal.
Here’s why it’s a game-changer:
Diverse Opportunities: From farm gigs to eco-projects, Workaway caters to all passions and skills.
Budget-Friendly: Ditch accommodation and food costs, stretching your travel budget further.
Cultural Dive: Live and work with locals for an authentic plunge into customs and traditions.
Skill Boost: Gain hands-on experiences, polish language skills, and unearth hidden talents.
Global Community: Forge connections with fellow Workawayers, creating friendships and travel buddies.
- Sign Up: Create a free account to browse opportunities and connect with hosts.
- Find a Fit: Search for hosts aligning with your interests and travel plans.
- Connect: Reach out to potential hosts, introducing yourself and discussing details.
- Plan It Out: Coordinate with hosts, plan your itinerary, and pack smartly for your tasks and the climate.
- Maximize the Experience: Immerse yourself in local culture, engage with the community, and be a positive force in your host’s project or home.
HelpX, or Help Exchange, represents a resourceful avenue for individuals seeking cost-effective means of travel. This platform operates on the premise of hosts providing accommodations and meals in exchange for a specified number of work hours per day.
Participants engage in a variety of tasks, ranging from organic farming to contributing to the operations of hostels or assisting with household responsibilities. The ethos of HelpX is rooted in a modern barter system, fostering cultural immersion, and enabling travelers to extend their journeys on a constrained budget.
- Sign Up: Kick off your HelpX journey by creating a free account, enabling you to peruse listings and connect with hosts.
- Find Your Match: Explore host profiles aligning with your interests and travel plans. Dig into details like work type, accommodation availability, and location.
- Reach Out: Use the HelpX messaging system to connect with potential hosts. Introduce yourself, express interest, and delve into arrangement specifics.
- Plan Your Adventure: Confirm host details, chart your itinerary, and coordinate your arrival. Pack smartly for your tasks and the local climate.
- Maximize the Experience: Immerse yourself in local culture, dive into community events, and be a positive contributor to your host’s project or home.
WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is your ticket to a global movement connecting eager hands with organic farms in exchange for room and board. Here’s why it’s a game-changer:
WWOOF fosters a tight-knit community, urging volunteers, or WWOOFers, to mingle, swap stories, and learn from diverse experiences providing you with the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, soak in local traditions, and connect with folks from various walks of life.
WWOOFing slashes accommodation and food costs, stretching your travel budget for more globetrotting. Through a movement supporting sustainable farming and organic agriculture.
How to WWOOF:
- Join Up: Become a WWOOFer by joining your country’s WWOOF organization. Membership usually runs between $20 to $40 yearly, granting access to a farm-rich database.
- Farm Hunt: Browse farm profiles within your WWOOFing nation, matching your interests and travel plans. Get the lowdown on location, farm type, work details, accommodation, and host preferences.
- Reach Out: Use the organization’s messaging system to chat with potential hosts. Discuss placement, clarify expectations, and ensure a win-win setup.
- Plan Your Adventure: Once your hosting is confirmed, lock in travel details, from transport to accommodation and any necessary permits. Pack right for the job and the local climate.
- Seize the Experience: WWOOFing isn’t just about work – engage with hosts, join local happenings, and explore the surroundings.
WWOOFing stands as a golden opportunity for those craving cultural immersion, sustainable learning, and a chance to nurture the planet. By working alongside organic farmers, WWOOFers gain practical know-how, acquire new skills, and form bonds that last a lifetime plus you get to help your budget.
Housesitting or Petsitting
When you search for house sitting, Trusted House Sitters is likely the first site to appear! It’s a top-rated platform, well-managed by a professional team, and boasts an extensive, global database. The site is straightforward and user-friendly. On the flip side, an annual fee of $119 USD/£99/ might seem steep, and securing your desired house-sitting gig can be competitive due to its popularity. While their aggressive marketing approach may give a vibe of corporate growth over customer satisfaction, it’s important to remember that they still offer a quality service! So not quite free family travel, but this really is a great way to save money.
Want 25% discount for Trusted Housesitters? – Click here
Aussie/Kiwi House Sitters – House Sitters America
Introducing three fantastic geographically specific house-sitting platforms, all sharing the same user-friendly interface, run by the same dedicated team. We have Aussie House Sitters, a widely-used choice for Australia, its sister site, Kiwi House Sitters caters for New Zealand, and House Sitters America serves the United States. These countries are currently the hub of house-sitting activities. I haven’t used either of these.
An annual membership fee of $84 AUD applies for both Aussie House Sitters and Kiwi House Sitters, while for House Sitters America, it’s a more modest $30 USD, which reduces further upon membership renewal. The platform’s navigability is designed to provide a seamless search experience. Plus, homeowners eager for a house sit can proactively reach out to you.
House Carers is one of the earliest websites in this niche, so they are an established partner. Their annual fee is $50 USD. Although they are not the most up to date looking website, they have an amazing international database. One of the best sites out there, apparently!
One of the unique platforms for those dipping their toes in house sitting is Nomador, where your initial three applications won’t be chargeable. Subsequently, a charge of $35 USD is applied each quarter or $89 USD annually for unrestricted access. While Nomador’s overall appeal is outstanding, including a modern and user-friendly website, it’s worth mentioning that, being relatively new, its global database is still in the process of expanding.
Mind my house
With a history that stretches back many years, Mind My House represents a worthwhile consideration for prospective house sitters. The platform’s annual fee is a super low $20 USD, which can, understandably, lead to competitive listings. Despite this, you can find house sitting opportunities in various parts of the globe, particularly in the US and Europe.
Best sites for house swapping
Have you ever heard of house swapping or home exchange? It is a great way to have free accommodation while living in a fully equipped house and feeling like a local. The concept is you get to live in somebody’s house and discover their city or environment, while at the same time they live in your home and do the same. House swapping can be a great opportunity, although you need to prepare it well and make sure you have made the right agreements with the swapping candidates.
Meeting other people who are interested in doing so, is made easy through house swapping websites. Some of them even provide insurance in the membership fee to cover any problems during the house swap. But for the rest, you will have to talk to the other party. Study the pictures of the house carefully. Does it suit your expectations, such as your family situation, hobbies…? What about utility bills? Do you also swap cars? Do they have pets? With the right questions and agreements, you will have an amazing house swapping experience! Here are some great websites to find possible candidates.
Homestays with Kids connects families with hosts who offer accommodation and meals in exchange for help with tasks around their home or business. The website is designed for families with children who are looking for a unique and affordable way to travel.
Here are some of the key features of Homestays with Kids:
- Homestays with Kids has a large network of hosts in over 100 countries, so families can find a homestay in almost any destination they want to visit.
- Homestays with Kids hosts include families, couples, single people, and even businesses. This means that families can find a homestay that is a good fit for their needs and preferences.
- Hosts on Homestays with Kids are flexible in the types of work they require from their guests. This means that families can find a homestay that fits their schedule and children’s ages.
- Homestays with Kids is a more affordable option than hotels or vacation rentals. Families can save money on accommodation and meals by staying with a host.
If you are looking for a unique and affordable way to travel with your family, I encourage you to check out Homestays with Kids. You might be surprised at all the benefits that it has to offer.
Love Home Swap
This is the biggest and most established home swapping sit out there. Love Home Swap has an amazing community of trustworthy members living all over the world. You have a 14-days free trial, which is great for exploring the possibilities and making your first contacts. After that, you pay $13 USD per month (billed annually) for the full package. That price is absolutely worth it, as you will save a lot more when you are staying in somebody’s home while travelling.
A great feature of the site is the Swap Points System which gives you more travel flexibility. You can either go for a direct swap, which is the original concept of you staying in somebody’s home while they stay in yours. Or, you can offer your home to the community when it is empty, and you get points in return. These points can be used to stay in another member’s home when they are away.
Home Exchange – Guest to Guest
Home Exchange and Guest To Guest are now one and operate together under the Home Exchange website. They have a huge database of over 400000 homes in more than 180 countries. Because they have such a big group of houses, there is a perfect home for everyone anywhere in the world. Just like Love Home Swap, they have a point system to make it all more flexible. The annual fee is $150 USD, but you can also choose to pay $15 USD per year if you want to try it out or will just have a short stay. Another plus is they have the most amazing support team. The website is very user-friendly and has lots of easy filters or extra information on the listings.
HomeLink has been around since 1953, which makes is the oldest and most established home exchange network out there. The amazing thing is they have local offices or people in 24 languages, which makes the chance quite big they can help you in your mother tongue. It is smaller than the bigger sites such as Love Home Swap and Home Exchange, but their members really are loyal and love this community. They charge an annual fee of 102,5 EUR. They currently have a thirty day free trial.
Green Theme International
This site is a little bit special. Green theme International really wants to promote eco-friendly houses and eco-travelling. They give you an 80% discount on your house swap if you can prove to them you are travelling or living eco-friendly. The pricing is $20 USD for 3 months, $30 USD for 6 months and $40 USD for a year.
People like us
Another great site, People Like Us operates worldwide.People Like Us is a community of over 100,000 members in 190 countries. People Like Us is $28 per year for an individual membership and $44 per year for a family membership
Here are some of the key features of People Like Us:
- Access to a database of over 100,000 homes in 190 countries
- Search filters to find homes that match your specific needs and preferences
- Direct communication with hosts to arrange house swaps
- Online community forum for members to connect and share experiences
- Discounts on travel and home products
People Like Us is a great option for those who want to travel affordably and experience the world in a unique way. The website’s large database of homes and its focus on community make it a great way to meet new people and make lasting connections.
Best sites for staying with a local
One of the most memorable experiences during your travels will be when you meet up with locals. If you can even stay with them, you’ll get so much more out of it. You learn about local habits, meet amazing people or even friends and truly get to soak up a destination. Sometimes staying with locals will be free, more often it offers you cheap accommodation. Here are some great options and sites to explore if you are looking for an amazing experience with locals during your travels.
Homestay is a great platform, connecting local hosts with the world. They have over 30000 homestays in more than 160 countries. You can even filter on hobbies, making it possible to end up with a local sharing the same interests as you.
Airbnb is, of course, one of the pioneers. Millions and millions of people have either stayed in an Airbnb or have listed their homes. We use it all the time. The original concept of Airbnb was locals renting out a room or even a couch. Since its popularity, more and more people have listed properties such as complete houses and apartments, sometimes even rooms in hotels or resorts. But you can still find great places that will allow you to mix up with the locals.
We love the concept of Couchsurfing. Locals who would like to meet up with travellers can offer a couch, mattress or even complete room to them. The site allows you to filter on the number of people you are travelling with, if it should be kid-friendly or not, if you want a separate room or not, etc. It has become very popular over the years, with millions of members in cities and villages all over the world. The only downside, a lot of people have a property listed but are not active anymore. So, check out how long ago they were online on the site.
Although some monasteries will charge you quite a lot, there are also a lot of them that only ask for a donation or are just completely free. Which makes staying at a monastery an absolutely amazing experience, albeit back to basics. Monastery Stays is the website for finding the best options.
This platform has over 260000 members and wants travellers to have a more authentic and budget-friendly experience. Bedycasa offers couches, rooms and complete homes all over the world.
HomestayIn is present in over 80 countries, mainly Western ones. They offer both very budget-friendly as a little more expensive homestays. Their site is very user-friendly and they have some great reviews!
Free family travel – Conclusion
We have shared some serious gems that can turn your travel dreams into a reality without burning a hole in your wallet. House swapping, house sitting, and local stays have emerged as the unsung heroes of budget-friendly family travel.
Consider these not-so-secret weapons in your travel arsenal. It’s not just about the savings; it’s about the connections made
Hopefully, we offered you a few sites you didn’t know yet and will enable you to get free or cheap accommodation. But even more important, an amazing local experience you will never forget! If you have reviews of any of the sites or other sites we should include in this list, please drop us a message and let us know.
Meet the author
Lisa is the founder of Boston Tribe Travels. She has lived and travelled abroad for the last 15 years, visited more than 30 countries and has done most of that with her husband and two children. As a full time travel family, they like to travel slow, worldschool and seek new adventures. From living in Borneo for 5 years to backpacking South America, Lisa shares a wealth of travel experience to empower more families to travel and learn together.