smart spending

5 offbeat paths to foreign travel deals

  Agritourism: Work on a farm in return for room and board.
  Volunteer travel: Immerse yourself in a new culture with most expenses paid.
  Home swaps: All the comforts of home at no cost to you.
  Hospitality networks: Share your life experiences with hosts in 125 countries.
  Ambassador programs: Professional and educational exchanges plus travel.

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Agritourism
Work on a farm in return for room and board.
Sample organization:World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Where: More than 80 countries.

   How it works:
You provide the brawn, they provide the benefits: WWOOFers agree to help their hosts with farming duties for an agreed-upon number of hours each day (usually about four hours), and in exchange, hosts provide meals and sleeping quarters. Activities may include typical farming activities such as weeding and harvesting; it also may involve minor construction work or other tasks. Operations range from small hobby farms to commercial operations.

   Benefits:
You'll likely see a part of the country few tourists visit, and learn a lot about organic growing. Since WWOOFers often stay with families, they can get an inside perspective on an area and tips about the places locals love to visit when they've got free time. If you come at harvest time, you can expect to have some fantastic meals.

   Drawbacks:
Though there's a huge range among the farms, don't go into your stay expecting four-star accommodations. "If you're not comfortable at a youth hostel, you might not like this," says WWOOFer and retired college off-campus studies director Margit Johnson. "It's pretty close to the earth." Some farms may require you to stay in a tent.

   Costs:
You pay for access to the list of WWOOF hosts in a given country; costs range from about $15 to $70. Once you've found a farm that fits your needs, there's no money exchanged between hosts and guests.

   Other notes:
No farming experience is required to WWOOF, though an interest helps. In general, the WWOOFing crowd tends to be 20-somethings eager to explore the world.

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   Also check:
Agritourism World offers updated listings of farms around the world that are open to the public. The farms offer everything from you-pick-'em apple farms to dude ranch vacations. For the most part, expect to pay for the privilege of working.

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