Mooching can be an art. Sure, it’s lacking in dignity, but it can be quite effective, as anyone with, well, relatives knows. Travel mooches can be a particularly canny way of not just saving money, but having real adventures when one hits the road. Here are some of my favorites:
1) Free beds: Beyond hitting up friends and family, there are now organizations of uber-social people who love hosting guests. So why not take them up on it, and join either GlobalFreeloaders.org or CouchSurfing.com? Often in addition to the place to sleep, the people in these organizations will share their social networks with you while you’re in the destination. Party! Tip: Give a small donation to these organizations before requesting your first stay. The fact that you did so will appear on your profile page, making you look less like a sponge.
2) Airport Lounges: Many airlines allow their first class and upper-tier loyalty members to bring a guest with them into the lounge. So dress up before heading to the terminal and hang out near the airline lounge doors so you can schmooze with folks who are entering and, hopefully, convince them to let you be their guest. Tip: Women can approach both men and women, but men will likely do better only approaching other men.
3) Cocktails and hors d’oerves: If you’re heading to a city with a thriving gallery scene, look at the publications that cover art in the destination (these tend to be online nowadays) and see if there are any openings while you’re in town. At many of these events it’s simply assumed that those who show up are on the guest list, and you should meet darn interesting people as you gulp down your white wine and whatevers-on-toast. Tip: Wear black so you can fit in and make sure to memorize the name of the artist (or artists) being feted.
4) Meeting the Pope: When he’s in town, Pope Francis greets the crowds at the Vatican, often stopping to personally chat with a few pilgrims—especially if they’re under two-feet-tall. Yup, this Pope is baby-crazy, so if you can manage to stand near a couple with a baby or better yet, hold a baby, you have a much better chance of getting face time with Francis. Tip: Bring a burp cloth.
5) Business trip tagalongs: If your spouse or best buddy is heading somewhere intriguing for work, why not suggest yourself as a travel companion? The company will foot the cost of the hotel room, and in many cases, the meals you share with your companion, and whomever they’re in town to meet. Tip: To make sure you get invited along on the next trip, too, make yourself useful. Research fun places for you both to explore when the workday is done; and find out a bit about the business at hand, so you can slyly talk up your traveling companion’s status as an expert/mover-and-shaker/miracle worker.