Air travel opens up incredible avenues of exploration. If you want to soar the skies and land in a faraway location, there's an airline that can get you there.

But the availability and convenience of such expansive coverage comes at a cost. Add in the price of fuel, maintenance, manpower and more, and air travel can quickly become cost prohibitive for many.

If you want to travel by air but don't want to pay the exorbitant cost, there are some inventive ways you can earn free — yes, free — transport. This article is the fifth in a travel series to show you how.

The Technique: Refer Others and Get Rewarded

If you have had a pleasant travel experience in the past, why not share it — and get paid to do so! Many reputable travel companies, especially those who focus on group tour packages, reward past travelers for referring new clients to their company. When the recruited travelers use your name or online referral link and book their trip, you can earn a percentage off future packages, monetary travel credit, or even a full free trip.

The Expectations: Your Responsibilities

Whether you are considering a trip for the very first time or have recently returned from a group tour, researching a company's referral program is an aspect of the travel experience you don't want to forget. If a company provides a referral program, its information can be found online; alternately, a telephone call to a company's customer service department can help you understand the specific requirements of a program.

When you serve as a referral, you not only function as a human point-of-entry for a potential traveler (who can help suggest the best packages, excursions and add-ons), but you can also help the new traveler navigate the booking process. In short, you become the person who says, "I've done this, so let me show you the best way." In exchange for your services of bringing a new customer to the company and helping him/her purchase a tour package, you get rewarded by the company!

Getting Started: Researching Some Options

Different companies have different referral programs, and lots of reward levels exist. Many large tour companies that specialize in large-group travel packages offer the richest, most attractive rewards. Here are some available options for tour companies that offer big monetary rewards and even absolutely free future trips for previous travelers who refer others.

  • Go Ahead Tours: This popular group travel company, which offers both domestic and international tour packages, has one of the most generous referral programs in the business — because there are no limits to the number of individuals you can refer! It's because they say, "When you pay the love forward, we pay you right back." And they pay back to the tune of $100 for the new traveler and the referring traveler. I've taken two international grand country tours with this company, and my third is planned for July. The personal attention, the value for the money paid, and the focused planning to ensure time well spent each day of the tour makes this company one I recommend to first-time as well as seasoned travelers. And if you refer a handful of friends who end up booking a group tour, your collection of referrals just might net you a free future trip.
  • Cultural Embrace: Cultural Embrace has a travel recruiter program that spans not only its company's group travel segment but its work, intern, and volunteer programs, as well. The math is simple on this one: refer one individual, and receive a 10 percent monetary discount on your next trip with Cultural Embrace. Refer 10 individuals, and your next trip is free! Some of the scenarios given by Cultural Embrace for instances where someone might want to take advantage of the recruiter program are as follows:
    • You recently returned from a trip abroad and want to earn credit towards your next travel adventure with CE.
    • You are signed up for a CE program and are looking to offset the cost of travel.
    • You are a student on campus looking for a sales internship that will allow you to gain credit towards a free travel program.
    • You want to organize a private group trip and you’d like to earn credit towards your own free travel.
    • You are a teacher or professor and would like to plan regular travel abroad trips for your students.
    • You already work in the travel industry and see promoting Cultural Embrace Travel Programs as an easy additional source of income.
  • Women Traveling Together: Maybe you are a woman who would love to travel but don't have friends who want to or family members who are able to go with you. If so, the company Women Traveling Together (the name says it all, right?) might be for you, as they offer group trips comprised of lots of like-minded, adventuresome solo female travelers. Then, after you travel with this fun group, you can spread the word to other girlfriends and earn future travel credits deposited into a member Travel Savings Account. Their referral program is different than other companies’, as it's based on travelers having a company membership (annual fee of $45), but travel dollars are earned for new recruits.
  • Grand Circle Tours: Grand Circle Tours specializes in group travel on land and on water; their river cruises are a popular draw to the company. After traveling with them, you can become a Vacation Ambassador (so official sounding!). Then, you have the option to take advantage of their referral program, which is self-promoted as one of the best in the business. They make it easy to see what you can earn. A free trip (normally costing several thousand dollars) can be yours with only eight referrals who book and travel within two years of your recommendation.

If you are interested in flying for free but aren't yet able to refer others to get rewarded, stay tuned! More articles are on the way to show you how you can make your travel dreams a reality!

More articles in this series:

How to Fly for Free: Organizing Group Travel

How to Fly for Free: Volunteer for a Later Flight

How to Fly for Free: Organizing Student Travel

How to Fly for Free: Be an Air Nanny

How to Fly for Free: Get Paid to Refer