When people think about free travel, they mostly think about redeeming miles or points for free flights. But the truth is, the average person doesn't fly often enough or spend enough to earn free flights.
So what's a traveler with a light wallet to do?
Focus your efforts on other aspects of the trip, like accommodations. And the tips below can help you cut down on summer travel costs.
It started out primarily as a way for teachers on sabbatical to trade homes with each other and travel on the cheap, but the company now boasts 65,000 listings -- including primary homes and members' second homes. Here's how it works: You list your home, including photos, but with no exact address, plus details about yourself and what you're looking for in a renter. You can sit back and wait for people to contact you or be more proactive and reach out to people whose homes are located in places you're interested in visiting to see if there's a match.
Is it weird to have someone you don't know stay in your home?
"By the time the exchange actually takes place, they're not a stranger anymore," said Ed Kushins, founder of HomeExchange. "There's been multiple email exchanges and Skype conversations. Many people become friends and swap with the same people year after year."
On a personal note, I signed up for HomeExchange.com about a year ago and have had hundreds offers to exchange, including from France, Spain, Florida and Bali. Full disclosure: Living in New York City, said Kushins, gives me a major advantage: It's the most-sought-after place for home exchanges on the site. In other words, the more tourists your hometown attracts, the more inquiries you'll have.
There is no cost to exchange homes, but there is a $150 yearly subscription fee for the site.
Popular in Europe and gaining traction in the U.S., TrustedHouseSitter.com gives pet lovers the opportunity to pet- and house-sit while pet owners travel. The pet owner knows the pet will be happier at home instead of at a boarding facility and gets the service free of charge. The sitter gets to travel to a new place and have free accommodations for the duration of the trip.
A home with a swimming pool in Amed, Bali, needs a dog- and house-sitter for two weeks in August. Two kitties in Portland, Oregon, need someone to sit and stay for a month starting in mid-June. Or how about a stay in Tuscany, where you'll care for dogs, cats and an Alpaca?
Great for domestic road trips and for people who can travel somewhat last-minute, Transfer Car offers free -- or almost free -- one-way car and RV rentals. The vehicles, the site explains, need to get back to their home cities, and this is a cheap way for rental car companies to make that happen (otherwise, the cars have to go on a truck). In some cases, gas and insurance is included.
Transfer Car's chief marketing officer Pascal Languillon told ABC News there's often a lot of inventory between Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and between Florida and New York/New Jersey in both directions. The site is updated daily and "we usually don't know too far in advance exactly what we will have. So it's best for customers to register, subscribe to an email alert for their particular route of interest, and come back to check the website regularly."