Loren Christie on free March Break travel options
Canada AM travel expert Loren Christie
Published Friday, March 2, 2012 8:30AM EST
Want to travel but don't have the budget for it? Good news…you have some options.
For the average person, the best and easiest way to take advantage of travel opportunities at a discounted or complimentary rate is to organize a trip for a group of friends or family. You can also do this around your favourite interest or club. By being the "pied piper," or the person who works with your travel agent or tour operator to organize the holiday and coordinate all the details, there is an opportunity to earn the equivalent of the cost of the trip.
Air Canada Vacations offers a variety of group promotions and tour conductor fares for clients. The specials, and the number of people required, are dependant on the hotel chain and the destination. For example, if you bring a group of at least 20 people along with you to a Sandals and Beaches Resorts, you and your guest will receive complimentary air, hotel and transfers. You only need to pay the taxes. At AMResorts, it's the eleventh and twelfth passengers who receive complimentary air, hotel and transfers.
Many cruise lines, such as Expedia Cruise Ship Centres, offer similar types of deals.
Volunteering very rarely means a free trip. But overseas charitable organizations often offer basic room and board in exchange for your time and energy. Additional costs vary depending on how much of your vacation is "vacation" and how much you are actually working.
Tour companies generally sell the experience of volunteering, but still provide you with the food and accommodation you would find on a regular holiday package. Ultimately, your costs will end up being similar to a regular vacation.
Another option is to offer your knowledge or skills as part of the enrichment staff on a cruise. Much more than just dance partners for single women, cruise lines are always looking for lecturers (destination lecturers and special interest lecturers), ballroom dance instructors, bridge (card game) directors, arts and crafts instructors, naturalists, face painters, balloon twisters and belly dance instructors.
You shouldn't expect a completely free ride, but you can expect a discounted one.
The booking parameters and perks provided vary by cruise line. The number of programs that the enrichment staff will provide depends on the length of the voyage. For example, on a seven night cruise you would be expected to offer three programs during the sea time of the cruise. (Visit the webiste for Sixth Star Entertainment & Marketing and complete the online application form for "enrichment staff" under the Cruise Enrichment Programs.)
Lastly, don't underestimate the chances of winning a trip. It seems a little crazy, but there are so many contests out there on travel websites, magazines and on many generic sites that offer travel as prizes. Enter them all! Ten years ago I won a trip to France in a raffle for my swim team.
Check out Capital One's Canadian Facebook page for a simple, fun and interactive contest. All you have to do is spin a digital basketball on a digital finger. The top prize is a trip to the NCAA for four to New Orleans, with tickets to the games, accommodations at the W Hotel and a thousand dollars in cash. The total package is worth $15,000.