Travel rarely is cheap, and lodging is one of the biggest vacation expenses — especially during these inflationary times.
Hotel and motel prices jumped 25.5% between November 2020 and November 2021, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wouldn’t it be nice to eradicate that hefty cost?
This may sound like a stretch, but it’s possible. And no, we’re not talking about a staycation.
Following are ways to cut your lodging expenses to as little as zero.
1. Use credit card rewards
If you have accumulated a substantial amount of credit card points, put them to use.
I’m not suggesting you sign up for a credit card you don’t need. But if you are shopping for a card anyway, consider generous introductory offers.
That’s how Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has scored free lodging:
“I got a big ol’ sign-up bonus. Then I put everything I could on the card throughout the year. Next thing you know, I’ve got enough points for a free week at a hotel.”
See our partners’ 0% APR credit card offers to search for the best card for you.
2. Trade in frequent-flyer miles
These perks, which are offered through airlines and select rewards credit cards, can also be redeemed for lodging in lieu of a free flight.
Some people frown on this approach. For example, The Points Guy says that using frequent-flyer miles for hotel stays is rarely a good idea, as you often have to use too many points to get the free room.
But this may be a good option for some people in some situations, even if you don’t get the biggest bang for your buck. Use your own judgment.
Don’t have enough miles? Try “3 Overlooked Ways to Earn Airline Miles.”
3. Accumulate loyalty rewards
Are you back on the road again after pandemic shutdowns? Sign up for a customer loyalty program with your favorite hotel chain and watch the points pile up.
If you love to travel, and love a deal, be sure to check out our travel deals page, powered by ShermansTravel, for discounted flights, tours, cruises, car rentals and more.
Homeowners who will be away for an extended period may have an interest in keeping their home occupied so burglars won’t get any ideas. If you take on that role in exchange for a place to stay, just be aware that extra jobs like pet care and yard work also may be your responsibility while you’re there.
Websites like Rover connect potential house-sitters and pet-sitters with people in need of such help.
You might be able to land a free stay in return for your work at a community event hosted by a nonprofit organization. And you might only have to volunteer a few hours of your time. I did this once with the Red Cross.
6. Crash with relatives
If loved ones have extra room, they may gladly welcome you into their home. Plus, they can provide firsthand insights about their area.
7. Swap homes
Are you ready to travel the world again? With this arrangement, you can give up your residence to another family in exchange for a chance to crash at their home for a specified period of time.
8. Join an exchange program
When you become a member of a hospitality exchange, you agree to let strangers crash on your couch — or in a guest bedroom — for a few nights. You also have the opportunity to do the same in the homes of other members of the exchange. This arrangement is ideal for those who are open to new experiences and don’t mind being generous.
9. Attend timeshare presentations
There’s a small price to pay for doing this. For example, you might have to endure a two-hour sales pitch from a company representative who desperately desires for you to make an impulse real estate purchase.
But if you persevere through the pressure, you may be able to stay at a luxurious resort for substantially less than what you would otherwise pay.
My family and I once took advantage of an offer of $99 for a three-night resort stay that would typically cost at least $750. Not free, but pretty darn close to it.
Just think twice about actually buying a timeshare. For more, check out “Is Buying a Timeshare Ever a Good Idea?”
10. Become a reviewer
Do you write or blog about travel? This may open the door to opportunities to review hotels in exchange for a free night’s stay. Just be sure to openly disclose the freebie in your review in accordance with Federal Trade Commission rules.