My guide on travel hacking using SWAPD

So over the last few years, I’ve been using travel Instagram accounts to secure thousands of dollars worth of free hotel stays in hotels all over the world. Let me tell you how.

Before SWAPD, I’d have to do this manually, but now it’s literally 1000 times easier. In short, if you’re travelling or want to travel, get yourself a travel Instagram account here on Swapd. It might cost you a few hundred dollars to get an account >30k followers, but it’ll be very much worth it. The more you invest in an account with more followers, the better/more frequent you’ll get to eat and sleep for free.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Purchase an account with around 30-100k followers here on SWAPD, in the travel/photography niche. Make sure its US/Europe primary audiences (I’ve found that hotels prefer EU tbh).

  2. Rename the account something that is based on your first name. For example, Jonos_Travels in my case (made up). Over the next few weeks, start posting daily photos that look like they’re personal. So not so much the dumb stock photography stuff that it’d probably have had posted previously, but stuff that looks like you’re traveling, staying in hotels and so on. For example, hashtag search #maldives or #mandarinoriental and repost some of those photos with a caption that implies you’re staying there. If you’re feeling lucky, add a #ad hashtag to it.

  3. Make sure to keep the audiences engaged so you maintain a healthy like-per-photo. Engagement rate is important and try to have minimum 3-5%. If you’re not reaching that, buy some likes on the photos.

  4. Let’s say you’re going to New York for a holiday and want free accomodation/food/upgrades. Hire a guy on Upwork to scrape a list of PR/Communications manager/general manager of hotels that you’re aiming for. Go for a mix of boutique and large chains. Send them all emails saying that you’re a travel influencer come through NYC and looking to ‘collaborate’ with a hotel. You’ll take photos and post it in return for their hospitality. Make sure you do actually take some decent photos for them.

  5. Automate it if you’re doing it at scale (i’ll easily email 500 people on autopilot to get 1 stay in a 5 star hotel), and make sure to follow up 5 days later if they don’t respond.

  6. Most likely you’ll have people/PR agencies bite and want to set something up with you. You’ll make your money back in one trip from the original investment on the Insta account, and you can always sell it back on here again, or continue to grow it, build your brand and reach out and travel cheaply!

Boom! Enjoy! I got a trip to plan!


Thank you, nice write up. However, I was under the impression that businesses are being over-flooded with such requests, as everyone proclaims themselves as an influencer today just to get free (excuse my language) ■■■■. From what I’ve read online businesses are now declining such deals left and right. Could you give us a success rate of your attempts? I am sure not everyone complies, do they?


For sure, but that’s why you can’t go for the, but you need to be very precise in your targeting. Instead of web-scraping, I hire a guy to trawl LinkedIn Sales Navigator for people directly working with influencers. It’s also a matter of really spreading your efforts wide, going for tiny hotels as well as big ones. A lot of it comes down to the email you send too, you need to be confident and show that this is something that you’ve frequently done, and don’t overdo it. 1-2 nights MAX per hotel. I also go for restaurants which is a lot easier. In fact, I’ve met world-class chefs who come up to me welcoming me in their restaurants. In essence, it’s all about trial and error; It’s a volume game and you need to have enough volume to make the 1-2% win-rate worthwhile. I think most people are just emailing 5-10 people, and not treating it as a marketing campaign, if you catch my drift.

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Nice :smiley: As a person who travels a lot, I may try this :smiley: Thank you for the write up.

No problem! What’s to lose, right? :smiley:

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Just some commentary on this…these are business owners (especially small hotels and restaurants) and we want to be fair in giving back and not just trying to get stuff for free. Please try to take 5 minutes and review these businesses on Yelp/Google/TripAdvisor so that they get fair value back because the Instagram account is probably not enough.

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Same works with food accounts as well. I know many people who get free food just buy posting it on their story, same with hotels obviously.

I think there are even youtube videos from this people are doing it, pretty saturated but definitely works… just seems too much of effort, especially if you try to target 5 star hotels… you need some real decent account and constant updating and reposting images that will turn to a full time job eventually.

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Thanks for the write up.

By trade I am a travel photographer and I can tell you they are not fed up with actual content creators. If you offer imagery for social use only and an article on some travel blog or travel site (and have a record of doing it) they typically will give you a full itinerary with meals and activities.

What they are fed up with is entitled “fashion bloggers” and no real offer of anything in exchange except a post or two or some tag. An ask with nothing in return.

Its a great way to travel and more people do it than you think.

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What do you use in order to mass send the emails?