Each year we round up a list of fabulous freebies, valuable offers with few or no strings attached. This year's list is packed with more something-for-nothing deals than ever. Here are our favorite travel freebies, including free flight perks, free stuff on the road and free tour guides.
For our complete list, see Fabulous Freebies 2014 (opens in new tab).
Free Flight Perks
Domestic airlines are stingy with giveaways, but some airlines still offer a few freebies for fliers. Southwest lets you check two bags for free -- that can save you $120 per person round-trip when compared to Delta, for instance -- and JetBlue lets you check one bag free (plus gives you access to free TV, satellite radio and all-you-can-eat snacks.) American, Delta, United and US Air also allow the first and sometimes second bags to fly free to most international destinations.
Traveling with kids? You deserve even more freebies. Children under age 2 can fly domestically on most major airlines, or ride Amtrak, free of charge when they sit on a paying adult’s lap. Also, watch for kids-cruise-free and kids-ski-free promotions, and ask the cruise or resort in advance about free supervised kid programs so you can have some much-needed grown-up time.
If you have to fly, you may as well earn extra credit for it. Sign up for the airline’s frequent flier program to accumulate points toward free flights and other goodies.
See the “Program Guide” at WebFlyer.com (opens in new tab) for the lowdown on each airline’s rules. Or, use the Head2Head feature to compare both airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Free Passport Photos
You’ll pay about $15 at the post office to get your picture taken for your passport. Instead, take your photo with your own digital camera, then upload it to ePassportPhoto.com (opens in new tab), which will help you size it properly before printing on your home printer. The best part: You can redo your picture as many times as you like. After all, who wants to get stuck with a bad photo for the next ten years?
Free Language Lessons
Prepare for your international getaway with the free foreign language lessons online at FSI-language-courses.org (opens in new tab). Or go to Openculture.com (opens in new tab) for a list of lessons around the Web that you can download to your MP3 player. Your public library may also offer courses or software to help you prepare for your travels.
Free Stuff at Hotels
You can find free breakfasts at a number of hotel chains, and we aren't just talking coffee and bagels. Country Inns & Suites, Homewood Suites, SpringHill Suites and Holiday Inn Express are just a few chains that offer a hot morning meal. Some hotel chains, like Marriott’s Residence Inn or Embassy Suites by Hilton, hold nightly receptions with free heavy appetizers or light dinners.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab the famous free chocolate chip cookies when you check in at a Doubletree. Visit Priceline.com for a searchable list of hotel freebies (opens in new tab), including free parking and Wi-Fi.
Parents can save even more on hotel costs by booking hotels where kids sleep and eat free. Choice Hotels allow children 18 and younger to stay free when sharing a room with their parents or grandparents. Kids 19 and younger stay free in their parents’ room at Holiday Inn Hotels, while up to four children aged 12 and younger eat free off the hotel restaurant’s kids’ menu.
Free Price Watcher
Don’t you hate it when you pay for a flight, and then the price drops? Enlist the help of Yapta.com (opens in new tab), which tracks your flight’s price after you buy your ticket. If the fare drops, it will notify you and help you collect a refund or travel vouchers from the airline. (Note: Yapta only kicks in if the price drop exceeds the ticket-change fee you’d be obligated to pay.) Yapta does the same for hotels too. For rental cars, try AutoSlash.com (opens in new tab).
Free Tour Guides
To get a real feel for a city when you’re traveling, team up with a local. The Global Greeter Network (opens in new tab) organizes volunteers in several cities worldwide to show you around, give you the inside scoop and answer your questions. Tours can last a couple hours, and there’s a strict no-tipping policy.
Prefer to explore at your own pace? Browse the free audio walking tours available for download at iTunes.com (opens in new tab), Audisseyguides.com (opens in new tab) and iAudioguide.com (opens in new tab). You can also search the Web for walking tours of your destination. In our simple search, we found free audio tour downloads from Boston and Chicago to Dublin and Jerusalem.
Free Credit-Card Perks
By simply carrying a credit card, you may be entitled to some cool travel freebies. Many airline, hotel and travel rewards cards (opens in new tab) offer no foreign transaction fees, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital one Venture Rewards. Some also offer free rental-car insurance, and some will cover the cost of your vacation if you have to cancel your trip. Call your card issuer to find out what perks you qualify for.
Some airline rewards cards offer one free checked bag, lounge access or both.
Anyone interested in visiting a U.S. national park should plan their trip around the system's free admission days. The National Park Service holds a number of these events throughout the year, like on Presidents Day Weekend and Veterans Day. Find the complete list here. (opens in new tab)
You can also have free fun in many cities by checking out free museums, or looking out for free museum days. Also, Smithsonian magazine's Museum Day Live partners with museums across the country to make them free for a day. Just visit the website (opens in new tab) to get your free ticket.
Avoid hotel fees altogether by house swapping or house sitting, couchsurfing, or farming.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (opens in new tab) (WWOOF) allows travelers to stay and eat free on an organic farm in exchange for a few hours’ help each day. (The only cost is a small fee to join WWOOF.) Similarly, engaging in a house sit or exchange (opens in new tab) allows you to stay in homes all over the world for just the cost of a membership.
More adventurous types can arrange to sleep on a local’s couch (or guest bed) for free through Couchsurfing.com (opens in new tab). Just create an online profile, and look for available crash pads in your destination.
This Week in Cannabis Investing: Safe Banking Act in Focus During Lame-Duck Session
Marijuana advocates are hoping the outgoing Congress will take action on the Safe Banking Act, legislation that will improve cannabis companies' access to finance.
By Morgan Paxhia • Published
Kiplinger's Weekly Earnings Calendar
stocks Check out our earnings calendar for the upcoming week.
By Karee Venema • Published
How to Make The Most of a Travel Insurance Claim
More travelers are buying insurance. If your trip is canceled, take these steps to increase your chances of recovery.
By Susan J. Wells • Last updated
10 Things to Know About Hurricane Insurance Claims
Becoming a Homeowner Hurricane damage? Know what’s covered, what isn’t, and how to make the most of your policy if you need to file a claim.
By Kimberly Lankford • Published
The Most Expensive Natural Disasters in U.S. History
Economic Forecasts Wind, water, fire and drought have all wreaked havoc on the United States. What’s been the worst?
By David Muhlbaum • Last updated
Great Deals on Family Friendly Trips
Travel From camping excursions to cruises to tropical adventures, these vacation ideas are perfect for the entire family—or a special treat for just you and the grandkids.
By Emma Patch • Published
Despite Cancelled Flights and Short-Staffed Hotels, Americans Are (Sort of) Traveling Again
Business Travel Thanks to high gas prices, cancelled flights and labor shortages across the sector, the post-COVID travel recovery looks uneven.
By Sean Lengell • Published
Amazon Prime Day 2022: Some of the Best Deals from Kiplinger Editors
Amazon Prime Amazon Prime Day is here. We’ve identified some great values on products and services, a number of which we’ve used ourselves.
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance • Last updated
10 Tax Deadlines for April 18 (Today is Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline Between requesting a tax extension, making IRA or HSA contributions, and meeting other tax deadlines, there's more to do today than just filing your federal income tax return.
By Rocky Mengle • Last updated
Alternatives to Amazon Prime for Free Shipping and More
Amazon Prime You don’t need to pay Amazon Prime’s juiced $139 annual fee to find a wide swath of products online at different retailers.
By Bob Niedt • Last updated