Getting paid to travel might seem like some kind of idyllic fantasy, but it may be more within your reach than you realize. The line between working in travel and getting paid to vacation is a thin one, but there are a few creative ways to get paid to globetrot. While there's still no such thing as a free lunch, these opportunities offer the best chance to see the world while earning some dough in the process.
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Last updated: Oct. 12, 2021
Work as a Travel Writer or Photographer
If you have skills with a camera or the written word, you can look into how to publish some of what you create. This can not only earn you extra money (although rates tend to vary wildly), but help get you access to some top-of-the-line VIP packages offered by various hotels and resorts across the world.
"Writing and photography skills can translate into paychecks for world travelers," said credit card and travel expert Ben Walker. "As you travel to different places, you can write about your experiences while taking photos along the way. Certain clients might pay you for your unique take on a city, attraction or other experience - and other clients could pay for photos taken at popular destinations."
"If you already have a trip planned, reach out to different companies that might be interested in content from where you're traveling," Walker added. "Research blogs, websites and social media channels to see which content from companies aligns with the style of content you want to create or already create - then try to contact an actual person instead of using a contact form or general email address. LinkedIn and other resources (Hunter.io or Rocket Reach, for example) can help you find contact information."
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Teaching English abroad is another way to earn a salary while immersed in a foreign culture. The fastest route to a teaching job is obtaining a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certificate, which can be done by taking a short course. Although you can teach with a basic TESL/TEFL certificate, to earn a professional accreditation (and gain access to more opportunities and higher pay), you'll need to complete at least 100 hours of in-class instruction as well as 6-20 hours of live classroom practice. There are other teacher preparation certifications, but TESL/TEFL are the most universally recognized and accepted around the world.
You should also expect to invest anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a basic certificate to a few thousand for complete certification, which can take about a year to complete. When you're considering what country to teach in, make sure to take into account salary expectations compared to the local cost of living, which can vary widely by region. At the high end of the scale, teachers in the United Arab Emirates can make up to $5,500 a month, while in China you can expect to earn between up to $2,400 per month.
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Win a Trip
Building brand awareness and enticing new users to opt into email lists are important for the travel industry, and trip giveaways are a popular way to do so. While there are usually different entry requirements and prizes, at the most basic level, there are two different types: sweepstakes and contests. Sweepstakes are random drawings, whereas contests are skill-based, often focused on writing, video or photography.
Prizes can include anything from short tours of a single attraction to all-inclusive trips, sometimes with extra spending cash. You can help increase your chances of winning by reading the fine print and understanding the judging criteria -- things like creativity, social likes and shares or judge's personal preferences. Staying on top of contests like this is easy, just set up a Google alert for keywords like "trip giveaway" "trip contest" and "win a trip" and you'll be in the know whenever there's a new opportunity.
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Become a Social Media Influencer
This one might be easier said than done. Influencers typically have thousands or hundreds of thousands of social media followers, primarily Instagram or Youtube. Tourist destinations and hotels often court them with free travel, with the expectation that they'll share their experiences with their audience.
For influencers with large followings, these brands will also pay for content creation on top of providing free travel. Individual rates for sponsored posts vary dramatically. If your favorite Instagrammer has 100,000 followers, you can expect they're making in the neighborhood of $800-$1,000 per sponsored photo, while someone with fewer than 1,000 followers is likely to earn $100 or less. It may sound like easy money, but it can be hard work. Photographers and content creators can spend hours setting up and editing the perfect shot or video, along with the effort that goes into writing blogs to further engage audiences.
Work For a Company That Offers Paid Vacation, Not Just Paid Time Off
Getting paid time off is a common incentive of salaried jobs in the U.S. Some hip companies have started taking that a step further and offering to pay for their employees' trips as well. Back in 2019, before the pandemic, only 28% of workers planned on maxing out their vacation days. In order to encourage more Americans to use their time off, about 3% of employers offer a "vacation stipend," according to a benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. This can come in the form of a straight cash bonus, stipends for specific items like beer or hotel and flight reimbursements.
Work On a Cruise Ship
There are many jobs in the travel industry that will have you constantly on the go, but cruise ships have one of the lowest barriers to entry. It's a great job if your goal is to see the world for free.
Once hired, employees typically complete training courses for up to 13 weeks that cover various aspects of crew life, including safety and customer service. Contracts generally last for up to nine months, with the option of taking a six- to eight-week break during that time. Crew members also get time off between cruises, and often have the opportunity to visit different ports or enjoy crew-only amenities on the ship. Pay starts at an average of $23 per hour, with many crew members earning significantly more when gratuities are factored in.
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Participate In an Exchange Program
A unique opportunity available through Rotary International, the Group Study Exchange provides travel grants to young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 to study their chosen vocation in a different area of the world. For four-to-six weeks, teams of up to six people are brought together to learn about the cultural impact of their career in a host country. All airfare, meals, lodging and local transportation are covered as long as certain expectations are met, including attending events and making presentations. To qualify, you must be in the early stages of your career with a minimum of two years of work experience, speak the language of the country you hope to visit and live or work in the Rotary district sponsoring the exchange, among other qualifications.
Organize a Group Trip
While travel agents have become an underappreciated profession, they're still out there offering valuable travel tips and more. For anyone interested in a job in the field, a great way to dip your toes in the water is to plan a group trip for your circle of friends. Some tour companies will discount your trip as the leader if you get a certain number of friends to register with you. The best of the bunch will actually comp your trip and pay you a commission on top of that. YMT Vacations is one of the most lucrative, as it pays the organizer $100 per traveler for a group of eight to 11 people, and will actually give you a free trip if you convince 12 or more people to join. In short, it pays to be the planner of your social circle. Trying to decide what kind of trip to take? Take the journey of a lifetime with these around-the-world vacations.
Join the Peace Corps
While it may be a volunteer organization, serving in the Peace Corps has some benefits to serving beyond making a positive difference in the world. The organization pays for your transportation to the host country, and you receive a housing and a living allowance that's competitive for the local community you're assigned to, which also helps teach life skills for budget travel and living within your means. Upon completion of 27 months of service, you'll receive a stipend of $9,450 to use as you wish to help transition back to life in the U.S. In addition, volunteers qualify for certain student loan deferment and forgiveness programs and receive medical and dental benefits and two days of leave for every month served.
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Get Paid To Transport Goods
One way to travel while making cash that's gaining in popularity is transporting items along the way. Grabr, a peer-to-peer marketplace, connects travelers with shoppers looking to acquire items abroad or items that are too expensive to ship. Users make requests for specific products they want and anyone traveling to that country can accept the job. Earnings will vary depending on what you're transporting and how far, of course.
Lauren Monitz contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Get Paid To Go on Vacation - Here's How