The global economic crisis is biting hard, making travel seem more and more like a luxury. But there are still ways you can take off for your well-deserved break without breaking the piggy bank. Here are a few simple ideas:
Swap your house
Have you seen the movie The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz's character swaps her flashy mansion in Hollywood for Kate Winslet's cute little farm cottage in England? Okay, so swapping homes is little more complex than the movie makes out, but the basic plot is the same: you simply choose your ideal destination, find a match, then swap your house for theirs and you both get to stay for free. Naturally, you'll need to check references and should make out a contract that covers bills and damages. Also while some home exchange websites are free, many charge a small joining fee, running from around $60 to $250 (AUD). For starters try Intervac and Home Exchange. For more information see my article: The first timers' guide to house swapping.
Crash on a couch
Crashing on a stranger's couch in a foreign country or welcoming someone you've never met into your home might sound like a crazy idea, but as thousands of people have discovered Couch Surfing is a great way to meet new people and see the world for free. With a choice of more than 260,000 couches in some 216 countries, you'll never be short of somewhere to stay. As either a host or couch crasher, you can choose your pairing based on profiles that include languages spoken, location, and interests. Other networks include Global Freeloaders and the Hospitality Club.
Volunteer your services
Taking part in a volunteer holiday program is a great way to save money and do something positive for the environment at the same time. While some volunteer programs charge participants for the chance to work without pay, there are still those that will happily accept anyone willing to work and don't charge a cent. From working with disadvantaged kids in South Africa to clearing hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains, there are plenty of opportunities available. In most cases you'll usually only pay for your flights and transfers to a destination, with your accommodation and meals generally free.
For other ideas check out my Top 10 tips for saving money on holiday costs. Apart from that, cross your fingers let's hope this recession doesn't last long! (Just for the record Australia hasn't yet slipped into a recession, though it may not be far off if tonight's news update is correct.)