Pay Your Own Way

Earn Extra Cash While You Travel

By: Ben Lovell

Travel can be extremely costly.  From airline tickets to hotel rooms to restaurant meals, it’s easy to spend literally hundreds of dollars a day on the road, especially if you’re traveling alone. Traditional wisdom holds that you can afford to ‘splurge’ on travel only if you’re wealthy or if you live frugally throughout the year, saving for your vacation.  More recently (and in response to inflated travel costs), a big emphasis has been put on avenues for ‘shoestring’ travel – finding holes in the system that allow you to save money where others might spend.

I’d like to present another option for offsetting your travel expenses: earning money while you’re on the road.  With portable technology and a society increasingly accepting of freelance side-hustles, this is not as challenging as it may first seem.  Let me walk you through five easy options for paying your way as you travel.

#1 Earn & Use Travel Points & Miles

Like any other business, the travel industry is extremely competitive.  Airlines, hotels and other enterprises offer you incentives to keep your loyalty.  If you do your diligence and plan accordingly, you can take advantage of these benefits to save money on travel.  

Some of the biggest incentives offered by the travel industry are loyalty points (or miles, in the case of airlines).  The more you fly, drive, stay or eat with a particular group, the more financial benefit they offer in return. Therefore, I recommend figuring out the airline and hotel chain you can most likely patronize in your favorite destinations. Then, book with them as much as possible.  Don’t spread the love.

Loyalty isn’t the only way to earn travel rewards.  Credit Cards that are affiliated with specific airlines and hotel chains help you rack up points and miles when you spend (or just for signing up).  Some of the best credit cards for travel rewards can also generate cash-back or industry credits two or three times faster when you spend on certain goods and services.

#2 Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

In addition to offering travel benefits redeemable through airlines and hotel chains, many credit cards extend a sign-up bonus and cash back when you spend.  Often you are only eligible for the sign-up bonus when you build up a large balance within the first few months of membership. With this in mind, it’s generally better to sign up right before you plan to spend a significant amount in a short period of time… for instance on a trip.  

Do some homework before you enroll.  Check out the best credit cards from Chase and other reputable lenders. Another advantage to spending credit instead of cash is security.  Like the traveler’s checks of old, if your credit card is lost or stolen, you can report it and replace it without risk to your finances or your spending ability.

Finally, because I’m not a fan of high-interest debt, I never recommend maintaining a balance on your credit card.  I suggest you save up your cash, put expenses on the card, and then pay it off. That way, you can enjoy all of the savings on your trip without turning around and paying off interest when you return.

#3 Write Travel Articles

As a freelance writer, I feel like I need to point out that you can make travel money just by writing about traveling.  Of course, you can’t just write it and post it. There are several common strategies.

If you have an online presence, you can use it to write a travel blog.  Once you get a significant amount of traffic to your site, you can make money a variety of ways.  You can write articles about destinations that pay you for your reviews. You can sell advertising space on your site.  You can also link into affiliate sites (e.g. credit cards, travel gear, hotels) who pay you for click-throughs from your site to theirs.

If you don’t yet have much of an online presence (or don’t desire to generate one), you can write for hire.  This can take the form of ghost writing or writing guest posts with embedded links to your employer’s site. Finally, if you are skilled enough, you can write specific articles and try to sell them directly to the spots you reference. If you’re just starting out, freelancing sites like Upwork can hook you up with potential clients (for a fee).

#4 Loan Your Car

If you don’t take your car with you on your travels, you can use it to generate revenue while you’re gone.  Unlike traditional ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft, a relatively new company called GetaRound allows you to loan your car (without you in it).

Getaround clients utilize a device that allows them to unlock and borrow your car using a phone app.  The app also tracks and insures your vehicle. Clients pay the owner hourly (starting at $5/hour) to borrow the car.  You pass 40% of your earnings to Getaround, so it’s a slower way to earn money. On the other hand, it’s a completely passive stream of income that can offset your travel costs.

#5 Rent Your Place

While we’re talking about earning money with the vehicle you left behind, we can’t fail to mention using your home the same way.  Most people associate Airbnb with finding a relatively inexpensive (and unique) place to stay while they travel.  Don’t forget that it can work the other way too.

Like loaning your car, the idea can make some people squeamish… hosting strangers in your home.  While it’s not for everyone, Airbnb provides many checks to ensure the safety and tranquility of your home while you’re away.  This includes a platform for vetting potential renters (they do the work for you), up to $1M insurance and a way to completely customize what you offer.  You can set the availability, prices, rules (e.g. parties, pets, smoking), and decide whether you’re only going to rent out a room or the entire place.

The Bottom Line: Find Your Inner Gypsy

I love to travel.  I love the freedom it gives me.  However, I’m also an entrepreneur and a realist.  I know that this freedom only stretches as far as my finances.  Using income streams like the ones I’ve suggested and some informed travel strategies, I can usually make my way a little further than I expected.  I hope you can too. See you out there.

A firm believer that freedom of information improves business, travel, and life, freelance writer Ben Lovell is committed to sharing best practices.  Read more of his articles at the Gothic Optimist.

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