By: Matt Meltzer
There are careers you get into for the money, like plastic surgery or whatever it is Warren Buffett does, and there're jobs you get into for the free swag. And while pretty much every job in the travel industry falls into the second category, some perk-filled travel jobs are more flush than others. Just ask any airline employee who flies standby for free.
But which travel jobs dole out the greatest benefits? How hard are they to get? And what kind of crap are you gonna have to put up with if you're lucky enough to land them? Our quick primer will help you decide which career in the travel industry might be your quickest route to free adventure.
Credit: Flickr user www.bluewaikiki.com
7. Car Rental Agent
Best perk: Free rental days every year (number varies by company)
Other benefits: Discounted rates, free weekend rentals on certain holidays, and take-home rental cars if you're in upper management
How hard to get: Easy... Almost too easy.
Tradeoffs: Expect to work fifty hour weeks at a subpar salary and travel no farther than the parking lot, all the while dealing with people who believe the $250 hold you're putting on their Capital One card is your own personal scam. One former agent we spoke with noted that the work environment was more respectful in her previous job -- dancing on a pole!!!
Credit: Flickr user 03Marine
6. Theme Park Worker
Best perk: Free admission to the park
Other benefits: Friends and family passes, as well as discounts on food & retail items
How hard to get: Very easy. Theme parks are always hiring.
Tradeoffs: If the thought of visiting a theme park in the heat of Summer, surrounded by crying children and disgruntled parents, terrifies you... then, enough said.
5. Cruise Line Employee
Best perk: Cruises for as little as $10 a day
Other benefits: The occasional invite on inaugural cruises, as well as free lodging and food if you're working on a ship
How hard to get: Depends. Working aboard a cruise ship is much easier than scoring a corporate job in, say, the cruise line's advertising or marketing departments. Onboard entertainment is an even easier gig to land, but you've still gotta be good.
Tradeoffs: Your base salary, on its own, should pay for that "authentic" hat you got at the Nassau straw market... and that's about it. Yes, "tips, tips, tips" is the motto. Also, you're living in the same confined space with the same confined people for months at a time, which sounds a little too close to jail/the navy for our liking. Corporate pay isn't a whole lot better.
4. Hotel Staff
Best perk: Free or highly discounted hotel stays (especially if you work for a chain)
Other benefits: Free upgrades on hotel rooms and hotel "trades", where two different hotels trade free nights in one destination for gratis nights in another
How hard to get: Easy. The hotel industry is fast-paced and always looking to hire
Tradeoffs: There are guests -- one or two, perhaps -- who might complain about something. Also, you may find yourself working overnight shifts, where it's generally best not to investigate the noises coming from the floor above you.
Credit: Southwest Airlines
3. Flight Attendant
Best perk: Free domestic and international flights on the employer's airline (based on available space)
Other benefits: Discounts on hotels, cruises, and tickets on other airlines
How hard to get: Difficult. Airlines only hire flight attendants every once in awhile, and when they do, the pool is competitive.
Tradeoffs: That passenger who's giving you attitude while trying to fit his fifty-pound bag in the overhead bin? Well, you have to deal with him. And these people. Oh yea, and flight attendants only get paid based on hours of in-flight service.
Credit: Flickr user Jetstar Airways
2. Airline Pilot
Best perk: Free flights on your own airline (based on availability) and jump seats (those foldable seats often in the cockpit used by individuals not operating the aircraft) on any airline for free, including FedEx and UPS.
Other benefits: Free or reduced rate domestic and international flights on the employer's airline, and discounts on hotels, cruises, and sometimes restaurants.
How hard to get: Extremely difficult. Pilots are required to graduate flight school, log a certain number of in-flight hours, get certified to fly a commercial airliner, etc. Many pilots come out of the military as well, which is a minimum of eight years.
Tradeoffs: Ping-pong balling flights from Des Moines to Akron over, and over, and over again probably isn't the exotic world travel you were envisioning when you signed up. Routes are usually doled out by seniority. Traveling across state lines -- or commuting to your departure airport using the aforementioned jump seat -- because the city you're based out of is too expensive for your commuter airline salary, probably not what you imagined either.
Credit: Flickr user Platform London
1. Travel Agent
Best perk: Familiarization Trips (FAM), where travel agents are offered all-expenses-paid tours of a destination in their niche market.
Other benefits: Heavily discounted or complimentary hotel stays.
How hard to get: Depends. It's easier to do well if you have a specific market/area of expertise, rather than offer a broader array of services.
Tradeoffs: A travel agency is basically the Premier Properties of travel; agents work on commission and have sales goals. If the economy's in a downturn, hearing "Third place, you're fired!" isn't gonna sound nearly as awesome as, "No way, you get free trips around the world?!?" at cocktail parties.
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