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How to Travel Without Paying for Accommodation

If you have no money and no pets, read this.
Just an image of a generic mansion that probably isn't available for free. Image via Shutterstock

Life sucks right now, doesn’t it. It’s cold, wet, and there’s no public holidays until Christmas. Your boss is a dickhead, your housemates are unwashed introverts, and all your friends are staying home because “it’s cold.” You know you need a holiday, but all options are expensive. Maybe you could afford a flight somewhere—but once you factor in accomodation and all the rest—you can't.

Or this was how I was feeling about travel, until I did some googling and found some little hacks to cut costs on accommodation. And they're not even that complicated.


Option one is via pet sitting. Sydney-based couple Steph Bacelic and Jonny Deacon, have enjoyed free accomodation for almost 12 months, simply by looking after other people’s animals.

After moving to Sydney from London last year, Steph, originally from Melbourne, and Jonny, originally from Glasgow, were thoroughly sick of searching for, booking, and paying for short-term accommodation. Instead they used TrustedHousesitters to live in homes rent-free, in exchange for babysitting pets.

“In the beginning, it wasn’t something that we planned to do for a long period of time,” Steph explains, adding, “We thought it would be a good way to see different places and a way to set ourselves up. It didn’t end up like that though.”

Steph and Jonny's current place

At the start they intended to have a two-week sit, but Steph and Jonny came to really enjoy pet-sitting, and have since stayed in 10 houses over 12 months. They‘re now staying in a big place in Centennial Park for six months, relocating to another house in the Blue Mountains next month, then to the United States where they plan to look after more pets next year.

They both admit that looking after pets can be a challenge, but through trial and error they've found it's easiest keeping them in the same routines as their owners. And of course, all the cats and dogs are generally cute AF and it’s a pleasure being around them.

“These guys snore like louder than most humans and bark ridiculous amounts when they walk, but they’re dogs. We love them.” Steph tells me.


Steph gardening in some free house somewhere

More diplomatically, Jonny adds: “You’re in that situation where we absolutely love the pooches, but we’ve found three months is a sweet spot.”

Steph and Jonny think that by skipping rent they’ve managed to save around $50,000 in the past year. And although TrustedHousesitters is a pretty nice way to do this, it's not the only option.

It might feel like a mid-2000s thing, but Couchsurfing is still going strong. The site allows you to sleep for free on host's couches, so long as you're willing to reciprocate with your own couch. And then there’s the added benefit of staying with a local, wherever you’re travelling. And these people can often double as tour guides.

While you're here and thinking about travel, check out our doco on partying in Ibiza:

Then for something more long-term, you can always become a live-in nanny, which is a program otherwise known as Au Pair. This basically means babysitting kids, in exchange for free long-term accommodation and amenities.

On top of this, there are so many other ways to travel for cheap, if not free. So many websites offer cheap flights along with so many apps to help you find deals to get things like free food. Or alternatively you can always just move back in with your parents, which is unfortunately what a bunch of young people are doing.

Either way, if you need a holiday or just want to travel, then you should just stop whining about it and just do it.

“Even if you’re not thinking of travelling, just do local ones or find a cool place that’s near where you are. Just stay for the weekend,” says Steph. “Once you take the first step, it makes it so much easier. Just stop talking and do it.”

And that's what Steph—who hasn't paid rent in a whole year—says about that.

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