5 ways to travel for almost free
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5 ways to travel for almost free

Stuart Pearce/Getty Images/Cultura RF

This story originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

If you think you can’t afford a big trip this year but have an excess of unused vacation days, it may be time to get creative with your travel plans. These five sites and apps can help you find free (or almost-free) transportation or lodging across the country. If you’re planning a road trip and have some extra trunk space, the Roadie app can connect you with a neighbor who will pay you to transport their side table, covering the cost of travel. If you’re a pet-lover who wouldn’t mind looking after a dog as you lounge poolside, TrustedHousesitters can hook you up with free housing in exchange for your pet-sitting services. Whether you decide to exchange homes with a local, sleep out under the stars, or drive an RV down the coast, these affordable travel opportunities make for the most memorable trips. After discovering how easy it is to travel on the cheap, you’ll never want to go back to paying full price for a vacation.

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1. Best for: Summer Road Trippers

The Roadie App. If you’re planning any road trips this summer and have an extra seat in your car, you may want to download the Roadie App. The app will connect you with neighbors who are looking to pay travelers to haul their belongings (from cell phones to bed frames) across town or hundreds of miles across the country. Agree to tow the items along with you and deliver them to their destination, and the money you make can cover the cost of gas. A quick search on the app revealed a book drop-off from one side of Portland, Oregon to the other for $17 and a 563-mile bed delivery from Williamsburg, Virginia to Marysville, Ohio for $140.

2. Best for: Pet Lovers

TrustedHousesitters. A cross between Airbnb and Rover, TrustedHousesitters helps pet-loving travelers find free vacation rentals, in exchange for caring for the homeowners’ pets while they are away. A free place to stay and a furry friend to hang out with for the week? This sounds like a win-win situation. A membership to the site costs about $10 per month, but once your dues are paid, you can pet-sit as often as you like. Ratings help pet owners feel confident that they’re hiring a trustworthy sitter, while prospective sitters can make sure they’re choosing the right match for them. With members in more than 130 countries, you can find a free vacation rental around the world.

Related: How I finally learned to let go of overplanning on vacation

3. Best for: RV Vacationers

iMoova. If you’ve ever dreamed of retiring early to drive around the country in an RV, the site iMoova could help make your dream a reality. When RV and car rental companies need a vehicle relocated from one rental office to another or from the manufacturer site to its owner, they list the trip on iMoova. Oftentimes, the company will offer to pay for at least a portion of the fuel costs, and the trip may be completely covered. If the thought of wheeling around in a bulky motorhome doesn’t scare you and you have a clean driving record, an RV relocation could cover both transportation and lodging along your family road trip.

4. Best for: Outdoor Adventurers

Campendium.com. While Sweden recently listed its entire countryside for free on Airbnb, it isn’t the only country to offer no-cost camping. Finding free camping sites in the U.S. may be a little more difficult, but sites like Campendium.com can help. Search by state or zip code and the site will pull up a map with nearby no-fee camping locations, along with photos to help you pick the most scenic spot. Another trick is to camp for free in National Forests and Grasslands. Dispersed camping (aka, camping outside of designated campsites, without amenities like toilets and showers) is typically free, but will require following the Leave No Trace guidelines. Use the National Forest Locator Map to find a forest near you.

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5. Best for: Those with Beautiful Homes

HomeExchange.com. If you’ve ever seen The Holiday, the Nancy Meyers’s movie in which Cameron Diaz’s character swaps her L.A. mansion for Kate Winslet’s quaint English cottage via HomeExchange.com, then you’ve likely already thought about using the site to trade homes (and lives) with a stranger for a week. After paying a $150 annual fee, you can exchange homes as many times as you’d like for one year. The site lists more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries, so you’re sure to find a match (and if you don’t land one within the first year, the site offers a second year for free). If you’ve ever dreamt about trading in your big-city apartment for a tiny home in the country—here’s your chance.

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