Slow Travel for Free

Do you believe a month-long trip to Europe is not in your budget? I’m here to dispel that myth. I have traveled to France for three months and have found a way to cover all my travel expenses so I’m paying little to nothing for lodging, a rent-a-car for the entire time, airfare and the occasional fine dining. Read on to see how I did it.

Mill house over the River Oust in Josselin, France.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know slow travel means staying in one location for a few weeks and living like a local. Slow travel is easier on your budget as weekly rentals can be 10 to 20 percent less and monthly rentals up to 15 to 60 percent less than nightly rentals. Staying in a home with a kitchen versus a hotel room allows you to shop the local markets and prepare some of your own meals — another cost saving versus eating every meal out. If you prefer to stay at five-star hotels and take luxury tours and cruises, obviously it’s going to cost more. But if you embrace the slow travel mindset, I think you’ll experience a richer and more rewarding vacation abroad. And to help fund your travels, try one of these five creative ways to fund your travels.


Do a Home Exchange

There are more than 10 reputable home exchange companies including Home Exchange, Home Link and Switchhome. The basic idea is that you post pictures and descriptions of your home and the times and locations you want to travel. The exchange doesn’t necessarily have to be for the same dates, as many companies use a points-based system where you stay in someone’s home now and allow someone to stay in your home at a later date.


Swapping homes essentially gives you a free place to stay. Plus, if you do a reciprocal exchange, you’ll have someone looking after your home while you are away. Often times, you’ll also swap cars as well, which is another huge cost savings. Most importantly, instead of staying in another generic hotel room, you’ll have an opportunity to live in someone’s home and experience life in that country as a native would. How exciting! I have yet to do a home exchange, but it’s on my bucket list.


Be sure to check with the home exchange company to see what type of insurance coverage they provide and check with your insurance agent to see if you need additional coverage.


House sit and/or pet sit

If you don’t want someone staying in your home, another option is to house and/or pet sit in the location where you want to travel. People who don’t want to leave their homes unattended while traveling will welcome a vetted house sitter. They may also have pets that need caring for during their absence. In exchange for your services, you’ll have a free place to stay during your European adventure. This is a great way to travel, especially if you love pets and would enjoy the comfort of a furry companion while you’re away from home.


You will need to pull together a few reviews and references, which can be tricky when you’re first starting out. But if you’ve watched your neighbor’s cats and walked your sister’s dog while she was away, you already have two references and reviews. You’ll also need a criminal records check which you can obtain from your local police or government website.


Then check out and sign up to the housesitting website of your choice. Some of the popular ones include Trusted House Sitters, House Carers and Nomador.


Rent or sublet your home by the month or long-term

Traveling nurses are looking for places to stay from eight weeks to 26 weeks with the average 13 weeks. That would be the perfect arrangement for renting your home and spending three months in Europe. Be sure to have a lease agreement and check with your city for applicable laws and regulations. If you are renting, check your lease to be sure subletting is allowed and talk with your landlord.


Whether you plan to travel for a month, three months or a year or more, renting out your home is a great way to finance your travels. Talk with your insurance agent as you’ll probably need a different policy for the time you are renting. You’ll also need someone local to manage any issues that arise while you are away. You may have a good handyman or handywoman, or a friend or a relative who can handle repairs or other emergencies.


Airbnb your home

This is what I did recently to fund my three months in France. My home in Portland, Oregon is a 700 square foot accessory dwelling unit available to book on Airbnb. Setting up a short-term rental requires more of an investment of time and money to meet the expectations of your guests. You’ll need a good supply of new towels, linens and other household items. However, short-term rentals can also reap the greatest financial returns, especially if you live in an area popular with travelers. Do your research to assess the potential return on your investment.


You’ll need to set up the business through Airbnb.com, follow local ordinances and pay a fee. If you are part of a homeowner’s association, be sure their regulations allow short-term rentals. You’ll also need to find someone to management the day-to-day operation and maintenance. And you’ll need a reliable house cleaner to turnover the accommodation in a timely manner. Although Airbnb does included insurance, check with your insurance agent to see if you need additional coverage.


Build and use your airline miles

I’ve been flying back and forth from Europe for decades and I have rarely, if ever, spent more than $100 for a roundtrip ticket. I simple use the airline miles I have accumulated from using my United visa card for everyday purchases. Investigate which airline has the best flights to Europe from your area. Then apply for one of their credit cards. Just by being approved for a new credit card, you can earn up to 70,000 miles. That’s more miles than you need for a round trip ticket to Europe from the US.


Be sure to sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer mileage program before your first trip and watch those miles accumulate. Nerdwallet does a good job of outlining the best credit cards for earning airline miles. You’ll receive additional benefits depending on the card, such as travel insurance, no baggage fees for your first checked bag and passes to the airline’s private lounge. Nothing better than having a snack and sipping wine while waiting for your flight to board.


I hope this article has inspired you to know your slow travel dreams are within reach. I am on my own journey to make my slow travel dreams a reality and I’m looking forward to sharing all that I learn on my journey. I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences. If you’ve ever rented out your home to travel, done a home exchange or house sitting, let me know in the comments below.

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Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.
 

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.
 

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

Please subscribe below and join me on a journey to find affordable ways to explore Europe in the slow lane and to live a more European lifestyle every day of our lives.