Hero Guides

Hero guide to…trips that (almost) pay for themselves

Whilst I can’t tell you how to blag a totally free holiday, there are a few easy(ish) ways to make enough money while you’re away to cover much of the cost.


Stick you flat/house/room on Airbnb


Join 2+ million others worldwide and rent out your home while you’re away.  You might just cover the entire cost of your holiday.


You can let your property for anything from one night to several months via websites like Airbnb, Booking.com and HomeAway, which charge only a small commission (Airbnb typically charges 3% of whatever you make). You can rent out your entire property, or just one or two rooms if you’d prefer to keep some space (like your own bedroom) off-limits to guests. Placing a listing on sites like Airbnb is easy-peasy and as long as you – or someone you know – has a decent camera phone, you can add your own photos, so there’s no need to spend any money on advertising.


Renting out your home for a short period will be easier if you live in an area that attracts lots of tourists, or if you live close(ish) to a major sporting event, such as Wimbledon or the Grand National, in which case it would be good to plan to go away when there’s likely to be a lot of demand for your house. However, Airbnb features lots of properties in non-touristy areas and the owners still seem to attract bookings. That said, you need to be realistic when you price your property and don’t expect to make a fortune (unless you live in Kensington, in which case, meh, you’re probably not worried about saving the pennies anyway).


Need to know


Airbnb gives you the option of allowing it to select the optimum price for your room/property, claiming that it will increase the price when demand is high and reduce it to get more bookings when there is less demand. I would NOT take this option. I’ve found that Airbnb always sticks with the lowest price it can get away with. For example, when I advertised a room near Wimbledon, it only ever advertised it at the lowest price I’d agreed to – even during the tennis championships when demand is very high. I doubled the price manually for nights during Wimbledon fortnight, and I got bookings straight away.


When working out the nightly rate for your property, don’t forget to factor in costs such as cleaning, check that you have permission to accept paying guests with both your mortgage lender and your contents and buildings insurance provider, and if you’re home is leasehold you might need to get permission from the freeholder.


If you’re a tenant, you’ll also need to get permission from your landlord. If they refuse, it might be worth pointing out that it could be safer for you to leave the property occupied rather than empty while you’re away.


Note that in London, you’re only allowed holiday lets of up to 90 days a year without planning permission.


Your property doesn’t have to be in tip-top condition to attract paying guests and you don’t need to clear away personal items (although I would move out anything with high monetary or sentimental value). However, you must be honest in your description and you should make sure that it’s thoroughly clean, otherwise your guest will have cause for complaint and could be eligible for a refund.


You might think of Booking.com as somewhere to book hotels, but it also advertises private properties too. You can list your property for free on Booking.com at the moment, and your first 5 bookings are commission free.


Take the easy option


If this all sounds like too much hassle, there are several property management companies, such as GuestReady and Pass the Keys, who will let your home on your behalf, although some of them only accept prime properties in top locations and their fees start at around 12% of the rent.


Sell your photos


If you’ve got a great eye for a photo and a decent camera, you could sell your travel photos on website like Alamy.com. They need to be of decent quality and some sites have specific criteria, which you can check out for yourself, but the content of the images (within reason) is up to you. You don’t need to be travelling anywhere off the beaten track or exotic either – newspapers, magazines and websites often want good quality shots of popular holiday destinations, or just generic sun, sea and sand images. So snap, upload and sell! You never know, you might see your photo on the cover of a glossy mag one day!


Need to know

The quality of your photos is crucial, so make sure you’ve got decent equipment. Check out the various requirements of the sales sites before you upload and look to see what types of images are popular and where there might be a gap in the market.


Rent out your driveway


If you live near an airport, a train or tube station, a big event space or a city centre and you have an empty driveway, you could make hundreds of pounds a year renting out it out to drivers who need a parking space. If you usually park your own car there, you could rent the space while you’re on holiday – at the very least you might cover the cost of your own airport parking. There are several sites you can use to find customers, including JustPark, Parklet, yourparkingspace and parkonmydrive or Yourparkingspace, which offers free listings.


Need to know


You should make sure you have a contract with the person who is renting your space to cover things like theft from their car and accidental or malicious damage. Some of the websites mentioned above will provide one. You should also check with your house insurance, your mortgage lender or your landlord to make sure it’s allowed.



Rent out your car, avoid airport parking fees


That’s right, you can rent your car while you’re on holiday and not only earn some cash but also park at the airport for free. Well, in theory.


A new company, ForestCar, is about to launch a service at Manchester Airport to encourage passengers to rent out their cars rather than leaving them in the car park while they’re away. If you’re flying from Manchester and you’re happy to hand over your car keys to ForestCar, you’ll get 20% of any rental fees they make and you won’t incur any parking charges, even if no-one hires your car. ForestCar promises vehicles will be fully insured and returned to their owners clean at the end of their holiday. They’ll also be fitted with trackers while rented to check up on how and where they’re being driven, it says.


Need to know


The service expects to start taking bookings from September. Note that ForestCar is a start-up, so has no reviews so far and there’s no guarantee this service will get off the ground, let alone prove a success.


Only cars of up to 10 years old will be accepted. To be honest, if I had an old banger, I’d definitely sign up for this service but if my car was worth more than a few quid, I’m not so sure I’d want to risk it.


You’d need to check with your existing car insurance that you’re allowed to hire out your car via a third party and that ForestCar’s insurance is legit.


ForestCar is launching only in Manchester initially, but there are plans to extend the service to Gatwick and Birmingham if it’s successful.


Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)


Take a TEFL course and you could work your way around the world teaching English as a foreign language. You don’t necessarily need any previous teaching experience (although this is a requirement for some TEFL jobs) and you can choose to take a job in a summer camp for just a few weeks or pick up a permanent position anywhere in the world.


Need to know


TEFL courses are available in England throughout the year. You can choose to learn online or in a classroom. The basic qualification costs less than £200.


TEFL.org advertises jobs online to help you get started.



Deliver an item


So the idea is that you get paid to drop off or pick up an item for a third party, who will pay you a (small) fee for your services. The items are generally personal things, such as a tin of their favourite brand of baked beans that they can’t get hold off overseas, or products that are sold much cheaper in your intended destination.


Sign up to a site like Grabr, enter the details of your trip, and you’ll see the details of other users of the site who want a particular item delivered to or collected from your destination. They might want you to pick up an item they’ve already bought, or they might want you to buy the item and you’ll get reimbursed for the cost, plus your “award”, which you agree beforehand. Once you’ve agreed to collect the item, the seller pays the money into an account, via Grabr, where it’s held securely until you drop it off.


Need to know


You’re unlikely to cover the cost of your flights doing a single pickup or drop off, but if you acquire several items on one trip, you just might make a few hundred quid. However, it’s down to you to make sure that the item you’re buying or carrying isn’t illegal in the country you’re travelling to (see courier flights below). I saw one person on Grabr requesting a traveller to buy in the US and bring back to the UK cannabis oil tablets, which may or may not be legal in the UK, you’d need to check.


Piggybee is another site like Grabr, but you log your flight details and wait to be contacted by third parties who might require your services.


These sites seem to be used predominately, but not exclusively, by people in Latin America (mainly Brazil) requiring goods brought from Europe or North America.


Why haven’t I mentioned traditional courier flights?


Just a note here on courier flights, in case you’ve heard of them in the past and are wondering why I haven’t listed them as a great way of travelling for free. The thing is, they’re not really a thing any more. Courier flights used to be a way of getting a free or cheap seat on a flight, in return for using your luggage allowance to transport goods from A to B as this was quicker and cheaper than sending them as cargo. However, few (if any) airlines offer courier fares any more – I haven’t been able to find any operating within Europe.


The reason courier flights in Europe have all but disappeared is that freight companies have become much more efficient at shipping items and getting them processed faster at airports; also, the cost of air traveller has fallen so much that you can now get seats cheaper than those available to couriers.


That said, a new company – Airmule (yep, dodgy name, right?) – is planning to launch courier flights between the UK and the US, sometime soon. It already pays couriers up to $150 to transport goods on flights between the US and China and some other countries in Asia, and the process sounds pretty simple: you log your flight on its websites and if they’ve got something that needs transporting at the same time, to and from the same airports, they’ll arrange for the package to be delivered to your departure airport and you hand it over to a contact at your arrival airport.


However, if and when it does launch in the UK, I’d check Airmule’s terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re allowed to see what you’re carrying and also that you wouldn’t be liable for any of the contents, just in case.


Need to know


Many countries have very strict criteria about what you can bring into the country and carrying seemingly innocent items, like bacon, baby milk and over-the-counter everyday painkillers, might land you in trouble (by which I mean jail) in some places, so make sure you know what’s in the box and if it can be imported to your intended destination.


Do you have some tips to make money while you travel? Please feel free to share, using the comment button below.



Full disclosure: some articles on this site contain affiliate links to companies that pay me a small fee if you buy from them, but I only include links to sites that I have tried and tested myself and can hand on heart recommend because I believe they offer good value. However, this site doesn’t offer financial or legal advice so if in doubt, you should seek professional advice before buying a product.

Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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