Getting paid to go on vacation sounds like a dream job, but for these women, it’s a reality. Read on to learn their secrets so you can start earning too!
Get paid to review fun vacation spots
“About 15 years ago, I was a single mom looking for ways to make extra money. I was working as a mystery shopper in stores and restaurants, and when I learned that companies also need mystery shopping on airlines and in airports and hotels, I knew it would be a great way to make money and score free travel.
“To get started, I filled out an application at Data Quest and a few other market research firms, then I signed up for assignments when I was available to work. In the past few years, I’ve traveled to most major cities in the US, plus Mexico, Istanbul, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and Germany.
“For airline assignments, I may observe customer service and take note of procedures and the cleanliness of the plane. In airports, I evaluate the restaurants, bars, and club lounges. At a hotel, I’m usually asked to order from the restaurants and bars or order room service or poolside service, participate in on-site activities, visit the spa, and get valet service.
“Before a trip, I make a schedule so I have time to complete the tasks, write a report and sightsee. Sometimes I bring my kids. An assignment can last from one to three nights, and the companies pay $50 to $150, plus they cover my expenses, like meals, and activities. Overall, I score about $12,000 in free travel every year! The money I make is put into savings or pays for fun activities with my kids.” — Jen Hayes, 45, Santa Ana, CA
Sell crafts across the globe
“I used to work full time in product development for the theme parks in Orlando, Florida, but it was getting hard to juggle the demands of working full time and being a mom. I had taught myself how to make jewelry, so I decided to travel to vintage markets and art festivals in Florida on the weekends to sell my wares. After a while, my business started growing, so five years ago, I quit my job and made the leap into selling jewelry full time.
“I sell bohemian and classic jewelry, which I price between $25 and $65. As my kids got older, I was able to expand to other markets. Now I travel two weekends a month in the spring and fall to big cities in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Vermont. The markets I sell at attract tens of thousands of customers and are marketed to women as a girls’ weekend or a fun day out. I purchased an RV on Craigslist and set up a 30-foot by 10-foot area that looks like a mini boutique. I pay $600 to rent out the space for each show. I market my business on my website, Beaux Studios, and on social media with hashtags, but the market promoter also handles a lot of the marketing.
"I love this work because I get to explore new cities and have an escape for a few days. I also meet hundreds of women and see many of the same sellers at the shows, so there’s a lot
of camaraderie. I make $12,000 to $25,000 at each show — money that pays the bills, goes toward my kids’ sports and for fun family trips!” — Cheerah' Johnson, 42, Orlando, FL
Become a travel director
“I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and a few years ago, I took a trip with a tour group, met the travel director and realized I could do the same thing! After the trip, I did some research and decided to take a two-week course through the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), which certified me as a tour director. It’s not necessary to take the course, but I wanted to learn everything I could. I also attended ITMI’s annual symposium, where I met with potential employers and interviewed with Trafalgar, a company that hosts vacations and tours all over the world. I was hired right away.
“Today, I direct bus tours in the Western U.S., including California, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest. I lead groups of 50 people and educate them about the places we go, including national parks, and monuments. We also offer experiences like dining with a local family in their home.
“Each tour lasts eight to 15 days. I create the commentary, manage the budget, and schedule and interact with guests and vendors. I do this full time for most of the year, but Trafalgar also hires travel directors for part-time or single tours.
“I love this work because I have the amazing opportunity to lead travelers from all over the world and show off our beautiful country. I earn an hourly rate, plus gratuity. My earnings vary from $50,000 to $80,000 a year— money that pays my bills and for personal trips!” — Mary Lee, 45, Houston, TX