For many people, one of the biggest hindrances to traveling is the cost. Sure, there are plenty of budgeting tips out there, like the best way to find cheap flights, enrolling in a frequent flyer program that’s right for you, comparing hotel rooms vs Airbnbs, and looking for free or inexpensive activities to do at your destination. However, one TikToker thinks she has completely cracked the code to not only have her travel be paid for, but to be paid for traveling.
Jennifer Hayes, who goes by the social handle @smartypantsfinance, uses mystery shopping to go on completely reimbursed vacations and make some money while she’s at it. Mystery shopping is when a company pays you to show up somewhere looking like a regular customer and then provide feedback on the experience. While you typically have to pay for the experience up-front (to look like a regular customer), the company reimburses you for the expenses.
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“So the first thing I do is, I go to mystery shopper websites that I’m registered with and I look at their list of available assignments,” Hayes said. “There may be an assignment in New York City or one in Chicago or one in Cancun, and I just pick the ones that I’m interested in doing. If I get one of the hotel jobs, then the next thing I do is start looking for airline mystery shopping assignments.”
She then explains that the hotel job will typically pay for flight reimbursement, but if she also works an airline mystery shopping assignment, the airline can reimburse her a second time. She’ll also try to find an airport assignment where she’s flying out to get paid for that experience. These are less common, but there are sometimes opportunities to review airport services or lounges.
“The next thing I do is look for assignments at my destination. I’ve evaluated stores, restaurants, even trolley [tram] tours while I’m at a destination, and I add that onto my trip. By the time I come home, my trip has been completely free and I’ve usually made some money on top of it.”
The TikTok video now has over 28,000 views. While this hack may require a little bit of work, it seems like the benefits may outweigh the cost of labor if you have the time to invest and are looking for a way to see the world.