How to travel the world for free!

Gina Henry-Cook is a speaker, writer and tour-guide, who makes the rounds of community schools teaching a one-evening program on traveling free. She covers everything from the obvious -- saving money on airline tickets and hotels -- to funding your travel with air courier flights, teaching, writing and mystery shopping. I bought her booklet, "Free Vacations" and it's one of the very few things that I go back to over and over again, plotting my eventual travels. Published by GoGlobal, Inc., the booklet is stuffed with real information and hundreds of website addresses.

Henry-Cook advises using one airline credit card (every $1 charged equals one mile) purchasing everything from big ticket items to things you normally buy -- groceries, restaurant bills, gas, clothes, stamps, etc.) on that credit card. This tip is only for those of you who can trust yourself. She rotates the card annually to get the free miles on sign-up (with no annual free, of course). Another suggestion -- dress like a business or first-class traveler and be first at the gate, in search of a free upgrade to Business or First-class. Improve your chances of getting "bumped" (for a future free air ticket) -- an offer you can make at the same time you let the attendant at the gate know that you're looking for the free upgrade.

The booklet also covers Mystery Shopping assignments (getting paid to evaluate services, cleanliness and quality at hotels, restaurants and other businesses) which can mean free meals, flights, hotels stays, car rentals and merchandise -- and contact information for mystery shopping companies.

If you're a photographer and/or writer, a magazine or newspaper assignment can offset the costs of an upcoming trip and the booklet has a wealth of valuable contact information. Cruise ships offer expense paid trips for lecturers and speakers, health experts and instructors of all sorts.

English is the world's business and travel language. If you have a college degree, some knowledge of a second language, and are serious about long term travel, you may want to look into certification for teaching English as a second language. Even without going that route, you can sometimes give English lessons to hotel staff -- especially at upscale destinations -- in exchange for complimentary room and board, particularly during the low-tourist seasons.

With the falling dollar challenging international travel, "How to Travel the World for Free" can bring destinations back into the realm of possibility for many of us.

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