Traveling is fun, but it’s also one of the fastest ways to drain your bank account. According to MSN, U.S. travelers spent $100 billion on summer vacations in 2017 and 2018. That’s a lot of money. That’s also why we’ve rounded up some of the coolest events around the world that don’t cost a cent. While it’s difficult to eliminate all the costs of a vacation — you’ll still have to pay for airfare, lodging and food, and optional expenses such as souvenirs — with these trips, the main event is completely free.
Festival of San Fermín (Pamplona, Spain)
While many people opt to pay for a nice hotel and get a birds-eye balcony view, you can also attend the San Fermín festival for free. The festival includes the running of the bulls and takes place in Pamplona, 250 miles north of Madrid. During the festival, the bulls are run through the streets in the old quarter eight times, once a day from July 7 to July 14. Besides the bulls, the festival also includes fireworks each night; the Parade of Giants (this happens every morning and consists of larger-than-life papier-mâché figures dancing through the streets); and the Closing Ceremony, where locals light candles and walk from the Plaza de Castillo (main square) to the church. While observing the festival won’t cost you, be prepared to buy food such as fish, paella and tapas during it. It’s all so delicious, you won’t want to pass it up.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square (New York, NY, U.S.)
There’s no cost to watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and no need to buy tickets. However, if you want to get a good spot, you’ll pay with time. Get there early! The best places to see the ball are along Broadway, from 43rd to 50th Street, and along Seventh Avenue. Make sure to dress for the weather — which will probably be cold. Enjoy a free concert, grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant and count down to midnight with the rest of the crowd. More than one ton of confetti will be dropped.
Notting Hill Carnival (London, England)
The Notting Hill Carnival is a huge street festival that takes place in London each August, and there’s no need to pay to enjoy the festivities. The festival celebrates Caribbean heritage through two primary methods: dance (reggae, meringue, calypso, rumba and zouk music) and food (seasoned jerk chicken, callaloo — a dish made of leaf vegetable — and goat stew). Enjoy tropical rum-based drinks, too. The festival also includes plenty of live music. Catch the opening parade and the subsequent Children’s Parade, with costumed children dancing through the streets. Plan on doing lots of walking and wearing sunscreen. In addition to food, you may want to purchase accessories such as jewelry or hats.
Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)
You can choose to buy a ticket and reserve a spot in one of the Oktoberfest tents. Or, if you like to live on the risky side, go sans reservation and cross your fingers that you can get a seat. If you’re planning to attend Oktoberfest in the morning or early on a weekday, you’ll have no problem getting a seat — but on the weekends, opening day or closing night, you will need to pay for a ticket. Just what do you get to enjoy at this Munich-based festival? In a word: beer, beer and lots of beer. You can also partake in the carnival show, roller coasters and Ferris wheel. But we all know the Bavarian beer — and the pretzels and bratwurst to go with it — is the real attraction. Of course, you do have to pay for those, so it's really the revelry that's on the house.