Government Freebies: $300 in U.S.V.I. Vouchers
Budget travelers shouldn't be surprised that government freebies are offered more frequently these days in cities and countries around the world. These places already invest millions in tourism development. It only makes sense to provide valuable benefits to people who are willing to make a visit.
The problem is many budget travelers don't learn about these advantages and fail to take advantage of the savings.
It can be tricky business, as some of these enticements come as limited-time offers. Some of the promotions in this story might already be expired by the time of your reading. The key is to use these examples to think creatively about what might be available at the current time.
The following examples point to a growing trend. You just need to know where to look.
Your chances for a freebie increase in destinations that are celebrating a national milestone of some kind.
For example, the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands offered $300 in travel vouchers for those who visited during 2017, the 100th anniversary of Transfer Day, in which the islands were ceded from Danish possession to the jurisdiction of the United States.
The vouchers could be used to pay for tours focused on the history and culture of the area.
Sound boring? The definition of what qualified was quite generous, and the vouchers were accepted at 25 participating vendors. The activity list expanded beyond museums to include eco-tours, kayaking trips, and food expeditions. There were a few restrictions, such as a three-night minimum stay requirement.
It pays to look for anniversaries as you seek these freebies. Next, take a look at another place where celebrations included free admissions for budget travelers.
Government Freebies: No Admission Fees for Canadian National Parks
As the U.S. Virgin Islands are celebrating the centennial of Transfer Day, Canada marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Canada's priceless national parks become the birthday gift for budget travelers, as Parks Canada waived admission fees during 2017 for visitors who reserved the Discovery Pass online prior to departure. Bear in mind that other fees for parking or camping remained in effect during that year. In all, 147 national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas were covered in the offer.
Canada followed up this gift by extending free admission to all visitors under age 17, effective January 2018.
Clearly, Parks Canada's leadership wants to encourage visits to these places, because they know the first visits will inspire many more in the years ahead. Other countries are investing in that same concept, without the one-year deadline. Next, consider an offer for free travel health care that has been in effect for several years.
Government Freebies: Complimentary Travel Health Insurance in Panama
Panama is best-known for an engineering marvel that cuts shipping times significantly for the world's cargo vessels. But people here say emphatically that they offer more than just visits to the Panama Canal. They make an excellent point.
Panama is blessed with unspoiled beaches, mountain retreats, and big-city vitality within its relatively small landmass. Sadly, relatively few people think of Panama as a vacation destination.
To encourage new visitors to sample the beauty of Panama, the government in 2011 started offering free travel health insurance in Panama for visits of 30 days or less.
All you need is a valid passport stamp that signifies you've entered the country legally. The insurance doesn't cover injuries suffered during extreme sports, or treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse. But if you contract an illness or suffer an accident during your stay, you can collect on the policy.
Panama City offers excellent medical care. In fact, many Americans visit Panama to undergo elective surgeries, which are often far less expensive here.
It's great to see governments that are serious about making travel to their attractions as worry-free as possible. These perks are available to everyone, regardless of age. But some countries provide incentives by age group. Next, consider how your date of birth might lead to some added savings.
Government Freebies: Age-Related Perks
In many cultures, seniors are honored for their experience and the years they've spent contributing to society and raising families. The term "senior" sometimes is generously applied to include folks who might consider themselves middle-aged.
Quite a few countries honor senior travelers as a matter of policy.
A senior rail card is available in the United Kingdom that results in a 33-percent discount for many tickets. Spain, Italy, Canada, and many other countries offer such opportunities on their national rail systems. Naturally, each has its separate list of eligibility requirements. It's worth checking on these perks and taking full advantage, even if you don't necessarily embrace the title "senior traveler."
Amsterdam discounts admissions to its major tourist attractions for senior visitors. In Australia, they're quite forward about asking your age. Seniors enjoy a wide array of discounts for travel services, so answer truthfully and don't be upset by the question.
Not all travel discounts related to age are for seniors.
In Kenya, the government now waives visa fees for travelers less than 16 years of age. The idea is to encourage more travel. It's a good strategy for branding Kenya as family-travel friendly.
Next, consider one final government freebie: the world-class museum.
Government Freebies: Admission to World-Class Museums
Remember that many of the world's great museums do not charge admission. Novice travelers are often stunned by that statement.
When you visit an expensive city such as London, you can balance the pricey admission fees in some attractions with a day at the British Museum, where it costs nothing to enter. The same is true at the National Maritime Museum in nearby Greenwich. It's the world's largest maritime museum.
Visitors to Washington D.C. are often relieved to learn that once they pay for expensive hotel rooms and meals, they will catch breaks with cheap public transportation and free admissions to the various Smithsonian Institutions.
These are world-class exhibits under government control that are free for travelers to enjoy. Take full advantage!