Yearning to travel, but too budget constrained to take a vacation? There may be a good alternative: Seasonal travel jobs.

Seasonal travel jobs, which involve working in camps, resorts, national parks and other tourist locations, are rarely highly paid. But they’re jobs with benefits — often free meals, discounted housing, and free or discounted access to an array of adventurous activities like horseback riding, mountain climbing, skiing and rafting.

“My first job was in Yellowstone, and I got meals and housing for about $40 a week,” says Dylan Morra, chief executive of VagaJobs, a job board for seasonal work. “One winter I worked in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I got to snowboard before and after work for free. It was a great perk.”

Seasonal travel jobs

These jobs are ideal for students, active retirees, and adults who have the flexibility to be away from home for months at a time. Morra, a hospitality graduate who lives in his van, says that while the jobs usually pay minimum wage or slightly more, your expenses are so low that you can save thousands each season. He works eight or nine months a year and travels for leisure the rest of the year.

You generally don’t need experience, either. Most positions require nothing more than a positive attitude and good people skills. 

Notably, in normal years, seasonal jobs can involve overseas travel. But pandemic-related travel restrictions have drastically limited the number of jobs available outside of the U.S. this year. International opportunities should reappear as countries open up to tourism again, but probably not for several months.

Job responsibilities

What will you be doing if you get one of these positions? The options span all aspects of hospitality. You could be working the reception desk in a hotel; waiting tables; cleaning rooms; organizing activities for kids; leading white-water rafting adventures; manning a zip line; or running a ski lift. One site is currently advertising for camp counselors, activities directors, cooks, housekeepers, bartenders, servers and front desk workers. Another is looking for tech experts to operate the resort’s website.

Finding travel jobs

There are several sites that will allow you to browse a variety of seasonal travel jobs and pick and choose the ones you like. Specifically:

CoolWorks is one of the oldest and best established seasonal travel job sites and is currently advertising for dozens of positions that are hiring now. These range from line cooks to transit bus drivers at resorts all over the country. A few of the positions are full-time and permanent, but most last three to eight months, spanning either a winter or a spring and summer season.

Xanterra, the primary concessionaire for several National parks, hires both full-time and part-time workers to staff facilities in California, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and South Dakota. For full-time staff, it looks for those willing to work at least 40 hours a week. It pays time-and-a-half if you exceed the 40 hours. And working more than 40 hours a week is highly likely during the summer’s peak season. Your pay is set by position and experience. However, it’s never less than minimum wage. And, the company provides discounted housing and meals. Some jobs also include an end-of-the-season bonus that can amount to as much as $1,000.

VagaJobs, launched just last year, already has an impressive array of job listings. Like the other sites, you can search for free. The resorts looking for workers pay to advertise. To differentiate itself from the other sites, VagaJobs offers a nice tool that creates a standardized resume that you can use to apply to nearly all of the jobs listed on the site. As a regular seasonal worker himself, Morra says he designed that tool because he found it exhausting to keep filling in the same information when he applied for multiple seasonal positions. 

“People are ready to make a big change in their lives,” Morra says. “I have had friends quit their 9 to 5 jobs making $80,000 or $90,000 a year to go work in Idaho for a summer. I think this pandemic is teaching people to do what makes you happy.”