8 Ways to Cut Costs on Your RTW

By Adam Seper on September 15th, 2016
When debunking the myths of RTW travel, the first thing mentioned is almost always money. As with most things in life, money is usually the first hurdle to consider. Buying a house, a car, getting your kids through college, going on vacation – all depend on how much money you can get your hands on.

When traveling RTW, money is the one factor that determines how long you travel, where you visit, and how fast you move on. Budgeting for a trip of this magnitude is difficult, challenging, and frustrating, and if you’re traveling with another person, quickly becomes the most discussed topic before, during, and after your trip.

At BootsnAll, we help travelers make the most of their trips. Whether it’s a week on a Caribbean island or a two-year long jaunt around the world, we like to give you all the tools necessary to put together the best trip you can. We want you to travel longer, further, and more productively than you ever have before.

When taking an RTW trip, trying to find ways to cut corners on your spending is a daily challenge. Finding free and cheap things to eat, places to stay, and no-cost activities to take part in is a victory for the RTW traveler. We’re always looking out for deals and ways to spend less so we can travel more. That’s why we put together this list of eight ways to cut costs and stretch your budget on your RTW trip.

Homestays/Cultural Exchange Programs

If you’re looking for a cultural experience that can save you a few bucks, then consider a homestay. Homestays are typically for high-school and university students in a foreign exchange program. However many language schools offer homestays to travelers of all ages.

An important part of an around the world trip is immersing yourself in the different cultures of the countries you visit. Learning the language is an important part of learning about a particular culture, and RTW travelers are encouraged to try speaking the language of the country they’re in. Taking language classes and staying with a local family, is a great way to accomplish both things.

“Travelers can really throw themselves into the culture during a homestay, save a few bucks doing it, and learn a new language while they’re at it.”

Many language schools will place students with a host family during their time in the school. While this isn’t mandatory at many schools, it really assists in the language learning process as the education extends far beyond the classroom. Typically host families are encouraged to only communicate in the local language, making learning the language faster, if also sometimes frustrating. Obviously, language classes are not free, but often room and board at a homestay are offered as part of tuition and costs less than staying in a hotel or vacation rental. Besides, travelers can really throw themselves into the culture during a homestay, save a few bucks doing it, and really get a chance to learn the language of the country they’re visiting.

Travelers can also take advantage of homestays by working abroad or simply staying with families while traveling. While homestays aren’t usually free in these cases, they can often be cheaper than other accommodation options, especially in expensive regions. They really give travelers a chance of connecting with the local culture. Many families not only cook and eat with the traveler, but will take him or her to their favorite restaurants, bars, and sites.

For more on homestays and cultural exchange programs, check out the following article and resources:

Home and hospitality exchanges

If you don’t like the thought of staying with a family that doesn’t speak your language, then you still have other options for low-cost and free accommodations on the road. If you’re looking to move to a new city for a while, then consider a home or hospitality exchange.

The basic premise behind a home exchange is two people, couples, or families swap houses for a predetermined amount of time. It could be a week, a month, or a year. A hospitality exchange is similar except each person, couple, or family will come stay with each other in more of a homestay than a swap. Then that same person, couple, or family will return the favor at their home.

This affords travelers the opportunity to live in a home instead of hotels or hostels to better get to know the culture of that country. Plus, it usually doesn’t cost anything. Most of the time, you simply agree on the dates of the exchange and go from there. Companies who help travelers find home and cultural exchanges may charge an annual fee, but it’s nothing compared to the money you’ll save by not having to pay for accommodations. A home exchange is great for families and travelers who want to travel slowly during their RTW journeys.

House sitting or caretaking

pet-sit for free accommodations on your travels

Another option for offsetting accommodation costs around the world is house-sitting. It’s exactly what it sounds like. People all over the world go on vacation and some of them want someone to watch the house while they’re gone. Enter you, the long-term traveler, who is on the move and always looking for a cheap, or even better, free place to stay. Some of these opportunities may involve taking care of pets, but if you aren’t a fan, have no fear as there are plenty of options sans animals.

A certain level of trust and open-mindedness is necessary, but reputable companies that set travelers up with vacant houses make it as safe as humanly possible. If you use a house-sitting service for placement, you may need to pay a small fee, and depending on the length of your stay in a house, you may also be responsible for some of the utilities and bills.

These arrangements will all be negotiated before finalizing any agreements, and if you arrange everything through a trustworthy site as opposed to something like Craig’s List, you’ll even have to sign a contract. Having a house and living amongst locals is a fantastic way to see a different side of a city and mingle with the locals.

Ready to Plan Your RTW Trip?

Working in exchange for room and board

Another popular option for getting a free place to rest your head at night is to exchange work for room and board. This can be worked out, typically under the table, at many hostels all over the world.

You may have noticed western-looking workers at hostels in Southeast Asia or Latin America. These workers are typically just travelers  who’ve worked out a deal with the hostel owner or manager. Sometimes a few hours of work a day, whether it’s cleaning the kitchen after breakfast or working the hostel bar at night, can be exchanged for a free bed and maybe even a meal or two. You simply work out an arrangement that seems fair to both parties, and you could buy yourself a free place to crash for anywhere from a week to a few months.

In addition to working at hostels for room and board, you can also check out any number of organizations that set up work in exchange for a bed deals between travelers and the local community. Sometimes there are local families looking for babysitters for their children, locals hoping to learn English or those who own farms and need temporary workers. All are options that travelers can opt for to save some cash on accommodations.

Have a look at the following sites to find the right opportunity for you:


stay for free when you volunteer for an ONG

Volunteering is on the minds of many RTW travelers, particularly those who don’t plan on working while on their trip. Volunteering in the local community gives travelers the chance to give back.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to leave your job to take off on an epic RTW adventure, it only makes sense to take some of your time to do something great for one of the local communities you are visiting. There are a plethora of options out there for volunteer work, and you can set these up before leaving home or wait until you arrive at a specific destination.

While this should never be the main reason for someone to volunteer, the perk is a good one and could keep you traveling longer while doing something great for the local community.

Larger volunteer organizations typically charge volunteers to work, which may seem a bit backward, but many are non-profit organizations who have to pay volunteer service organizations to find volunteers for them. Most will usually take care of room and board for volunteers, so if you do have to pay, it’s for a good reason most of the time.

In addition to getting an extremely rewarding experience, volunteers also get a free or inexpensive place to stay and some meals. While this should never be the main reason for someone to volunteer, the perk is a good one and could keep you traveling longer while doing something great for the local community.

If you don’t want to pay much or set something up before leaving, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to volunteer just by turning up in a new city and asking around. If you are traveling in developing countries, volunteer opportunities are endless, and it’s common to come to a fair agreement that will benefit both parties. Just remember that you’re there to help, not just to get a free place to crash.


Couchsurfing was (and perhaps still is) the best way to save cash on your accommodations and get an awesome cultural experience. Those who have never done it before are a bit skeptical, and rightfully so, as crashing on a complete stranger’s couch in a foreign city sounds like a recipe for disaster. But the Couchsurfing community can’t speak highly enough about this service that pairs travelers with hosts all over the world.

Many think Couchsurfing is only for young, college-aged students, but there are plenty of people of all ages who are part of the community. Even couples can join in on the Couchsurfing fun, and there are many times when travelers end up with their own rooms instead of just a couch. They have a great search function, and you can search by things like age and gender, giving travelers plenty of options. There is a massive variety of hosts out there, and chances are you will have no problem finding someone that matches what you’re looking for.

Couchsurfing has gone through a lot of changes over the past few years, including making the move to for-profit. Many who have been in the community for a while have been extremely critical of the changes and what it means for the future of the site and for travelers. Here are our best tips on making Couchsurfing work for you:


WWOOFing for a free place to sleep on your travels

WWOOFing, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is another option for working in exchange for room and board. The difference is that WWOOFing is restricted to working on organic farms around the world. The organization has been around since 1971, when it was started in the UK by Sue Coppard. She wanted to help out in the organic farming movement but didn’t have the means to do so, so she had the idea to offer her work in exchange for a place to sleep, meals to eat, and the opportunity to learn about organic farming. Shortly thereafter, WWOOFing was officially born.
The possibilities really are endless, as there are small farms, huge farms, and farms all over the world. Volunteers have the chance to choose the situation that’s perfect for them.

Now it has spread to over 30 countries, and for those RTW travelers on a tight budget, WWOOFing gives them the opportunity to work and experience expensive-to-travel-in regions of the world. WWOOFing is possible in developing countries as well, and it provides the opportunity not only for free accommodation but also education. Learning a life skill like organic farming is invaluable and will benefit you for years to come. The possibilities really are endless, as there are small farms, huge farms, and farms all over the world. Volunteers have the chance to choose the situation that’s perfect for them.

More about WWOOFing:

Get a rewards credit card for airline miles

Every single airline has partnered with credit card companies to offer rewards cards. It’s a simple concept – you open a credit card which offers airline miles, and you get a certain number of miles for every dollar you spend. If you plan this far enough in advance, you could get a few flights for free or a greatly discounted cost. Explore all your options – check to see which airlines you may be flying most on your trip, research credit card companies and what they offer, and choose the best one.

Many companies offer a certain amount of bonus points for signing up and then spending a certain amount within the first few months. If you think of this when you first start planning your trip, you can start paying for everything with your credit card. Bills, groceries, gas, going out, everything you can think of.

But if you have the discipline to pay it off each month and not make frivolous purchases, you can build up thousands of miles before you even take off on your trip.

You’ll obviously be on a tight budget in the months and years leading up to the trip, so you’ll have to be disciplined and only use your credit card for things you would normally buy. Then you have to pay it off each month so you’re not carrying a balance around and being charged interest. But if you have the discipline to pay it off each month and not make frivolous purchases, you can build up thousands of miles before you even take off on your trip. This can save literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars when it comes to purchasing airline tickets.

Learn about rewards cards:

Travelers, especially long term travelers, are always looking for a way to save a few bucks while on the road. When you take off on for a long trip, all those nickels and dimes you save during the course of your trip really do add up, and if you can turn those nickels and dimes into dollars, you can set yourself up to save enough to make your trip even longer.

Have you ever taken advantage of any of these opportunities? Which ones? How did they work out for you? Comment below to share your story or read more about budget travel:

Photo Credits: Shutterstock.com,  Konstantin Aksenov /Shutterstock.com,  Africa Studio /Shutterstock.com, Freedom_Studio /Shutterstock.com,  Daxiao Productions.