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Travel on Someone Else's Dime: Tips for Crowdfunding Your Trip

posted Nov 12, 2014, 12:16 AM by J Shaw   [ updated Nov 12, 2014, 12:30 AM ]
Get your trip funded by a lot of people. (Photo: Corbis Images)

 If a lackluster bank account is cramping your travel dreams, don’t despair.  Hop online and ask for the money. That’s what Tod Hoeckel did.

The 42-year-old father turned to crowdfunding site GoFundMe to help finance his dream of spending six monthswalking the entire 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. So far, he’s raised more than $2,700 of his $3,500 goal.

“The generosity has been amazing,” says Hoeckel, who recently retired from the military and will be making the journey with his 19-year-old son. “We just want to go for a walk in the woods and hope it will change our lives.”

Crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo have become go-to sources for resourceful wannabe travelers and have proven successful when leveraged strategically.

These sites allow you to create an online fundraising platform to raise money for a specific project, activity, or special cause, contingent on the rules of each individual site. Think of it as a 21st century version of the poster and donation box, only with more digital bells and whistles and less of a social stigma. 

Using Kickstarter, for instance, one couple secured $16,000 to travel the world to generate inspiration for an art exhibition, and a photographer crowdfunded $23,000 for a trip to Chernobyl to document the infamous disaster site and surrounding community.  


Your dream trip might just be a few key strokes away (Photo: Corbis Images)

But don’t think it’s as easy as posting a travel wish then sitting back and watching the donations roll in. The better the backstory and incentive to contribute (as most sites allow the creators to provide “perks” for specific donation levels), the better your chances of being funded. 

“It’s definitely the reason behind the trip,” says Mark Karimov, CEO of Trevolta, a crowdfunding site that helps people finance travel endeavors. “It’s not really about the destination. It’s about what you’ll do once you get there. What inspires people to give money to strangers is when there’s an emotional connection.”

Hoeckel believes that his donors, many of whom are strangers who discovered his story when it was posted by a relative on YouTube, are moved by the father-son bonding aspect. He also plans to write the names of each donor on his backpack to honor those who are making his dream possible.

“Now everybody who donates feels like they’re going with us, like they’re connected,” he says.  “And when we meet people along the trail, we’ll have a story to share.”

Beyond tugging at the heartstrings and enticing potential donors with tangible gifts, the most successful fundraisers are social media savvy.  Although most crowdfunding sites do a certain amount of online outreach on behalf of each campaign, it’s really on the creator to stimulate the rallying cry across his or her community and social media networks. This starts with friends and family.

“If you can’t get family and friends to support you, how can you expect strangers to support you?” says Karimov.

When a crowdfunding project goes viral, however, small contributions from a large number of people can quickly add up — and ultimately send you on an all-expenses-paid trip of a lifetime.

For Hoeckel, that’s exactly what’s happening.

“I was skeptical at first,” says Hoeckel. “I really didn’t think we would raise any money. As it keeps going up, I just can’t believe it.”

We’ve rounded up a list of some crowdfunding sites that can help your travel dreams take flight.

1. Kickstarter


This photographer used Kickstarter to fund his tour through Southeast Asia for his photo book. (Photo: Chris Koing/Kickstarter)

This is the godfather of crowdfunding sites, having funded more than 73,000 projects and generated more than $1 billion in pledges since it launched in 2009. 

Kickstarter requires that all projects “create something to share with others.” In other words, no willy-nilly travel wishes. Travel aspirations need to be attached to creative goals such as writing, filming, photographing — the production of something tangible.

The cost: Kickstarter has an “all-or-nothing” policy. If a project is successfully funded, the fee is 5 percent of the money raised. If the project is not successfully funded, then nobody is charged.

2. Indiegogo


This woman is turning to IndieGogo to raise money for a charity trip to Ghana. (Photo: IndieGogo)

This site is more flexible than Kickstarter, as you can raise funds for any legal activity without the caveat of producing a darn thing. 

Travelers have leveraged the site to fund honeymoons, family vacations, and volunteer trips. Current travel-related campaigns include studying abroad at Oxford University in England, taking a charity trip to Ghana, and hitchhiking from Berlin to Istanbul.

The cost: Users have two options. The first is the all-or-nothing “Fixed Funding” setup, through which Indiegogo gets a 4 percent fee if you meet your fundraising goals; if you miss your goal, neither Indiegogo nor you see any money, and the donations are returned (not counting third-party fees like PayPal and credit card transaction fees). The second is the “Flexible Funding” setup. Again, Indiegogo gets a 4 percent fee if you reach your goal, but if you fall short, you keep what you raised and Indiegogo takes 9 percent. In both cases, there is an additional processing fee of 3 percent to 5 percent.

3. GoFundMe


Anything goes on GoFundMe. One campaign aims to send a sick 11-year-old girl, Beth, on her bucket list adventure. (Photo: GoFundMe)

This is the No. 1 crowdfunding site in the world, with 6,000 new campaigns launched each day. As with Indiegogo, anything may go on this site, as long as it’s legal.

Browse GoFundMe’s Travel & Adventure section for inspiration.

The cost: GoFundMe deducts a 5 percent fee from each donation received. Plus, WePay deducts 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per donation.

4. Trevolta


Rhinos Without Borders: one mission being funded by Trevolta  (Photo: Trevolta)

This crowdfunding site, which is specifically dedicated to travel, launched in January 2014 with the tag line: “Plan an extraordinary trip and get it funded by inspired people, amazed friends and generous sponsors.” 

As long as the mission involves travel, this crowdfunding site is fair game.  It even embraces missions that don’t necessarily involve the travel of humans. One current campaign aims to raise $500,000 to move rhinos to safe havens in Botswana.

The cost: Users have two options. The first is the “Fixed Funding” setup (4 percent if the goal is met; nothing if it isn’t). The second is the “Flexible Funding” setup (4 percent if the goal is met; 9 percent if not). In both cases, there is an additional processing fee of 3 percent to 5 percent, depending on the payment platform.

5. CrowdRise


The Citizen Foundation builds schools in Pakistan.(Photo: Crowdrise/Citizen Foundation)

This is a crowdfunding site for Good Samaritans. Launched in 2009 by four people – actor Edward Norton among them – Crowdrise requires that all campaigns be tied to a specific charity or personal cause.

So if you’ve got a volunteer trip coming up or will be traveling to a distant city to run a marathon for a charity, this is an appropriate place to raise the funds to get you there. 

The cost: Fees range from 1 percent to 5 percent of the money raised, contingent on whether it’s for personal use or for a specific charity. There is also a credit card transaction fee of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per donation.

6. FundMyTravel


(Photo: Italy Study Abroad/FundMyTravel)

This crowdfunding site caters to those seeking funds to study or volunteer abroad. 

The cost: You keep everything raised, but FundMyTravel deducts a 5 percent fee from each donation received. There is also an additional WePay or PayPal fee, depending on the payment platform selected.

7. Honeyfund


Honeyfund allows your gift to go towards the couple’s honeymoon. (Photo: Getty Images)

Brides and grooms who favor experiential travel over fancy glassware can crowdfund their honeymoons using Honeyfund, through which couples have raised more than $239 million since the site launched in 2006.

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