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Posted on Oct 17, 2013 | 22 comments

Travel Finance: Pay Off Debt or Travel

Travel Finance: Pay Off Debt or Travel

Many people come to AfterGlobe asking if they should pay off debt or travel. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to travel while having debt looming over your head. It keeps you from traveling where you really want to go and for longer amounts of time. Once debt is a part of your life, it becomes a constant until you’ve finally paid it off.

We tell ourselves every day that we don’t have money to pay off debt or travel or whatever it is that we’d like more money for. But, the truth is, we find the money for what we really want. You just have to make the conscious choice to put your money towards those things instead of eating out all the time, going out to drink, buying another pair of shoes, or getting that latte every day.

Don’t Accrue More Debt Just to Travel

If you really want to pay off your debt and travel, you will find the money to do it. You will notice that I say pay off your debt AND travel. It’s not one or the other. You will need to do both.  If you are in debt, you need to take care of that first before you travel. Traveling while in debt will only create more debt, stress, and that money you owe, will always be in the back of your mind. Not to mention that debt will only grow bigger the longer you take to pay it off. To make sure you can enjoy your time traveling without stressing about debt you must pay off your debt first. You should never rack up more debt, simply to travel.

We, too, have debt we need to pay off before we can travel long term. Debt is usually the main issue many people have that stops them from traveling. We believe it needs to be conquered with a plan in place before you can travel.

Pay Off Debt or Travel

You should never go into more debt to travel.

Make a Plan

You will pay off your debt by making different choices on how you spend your money for the next year or two. If you think about it, a year or two of hard work and sacrifice is such a small price to pay for a life free of debt and the opportunity to travel long term.

Paying off debt is hard work and so is affording long term travel. Your debt didn’t build up overnight, so don’t expect to pay it off overnight either. It’s going to take time to make a plan to get out of debt and travel with reasonable expectations.

It really won’t be any huge sacrifice on your part. Although, sometimes it will feel like it is. You’ll still have all your basic needs met and you won’t be at home all of the time with no electricity eating uncooked ramen. If you really want to pay off your debt and travel, you will.

Having a dream is a great step in the right direction, but the preparation to get to the dream is where the real work is. Steps can’t be skipped and it can be a long difficult process at times. With determination and will power, the dream to pay off your debt and travel can be achieved by anyone.

Stay Motivated

Constantly remember your dream to get out of debt and travel when you’re working too hard or feeling down. Don’t let yourself get sucked into more debt. It’s easy to lose your momentum and motivation if you spend all of your time thinking about what you are giving up instead of focusing on what you will gain in the end. We’ve heard from many people how they want to get out of debt and travel, only to give up within a month and stay trapped in their day-to-day job for years.

You can travel and achieve your debt-related goals, but you’ll need to stay motivated and stick to the plan you developed. I have beautiful photographs of some of our happiest days traveling and a travel manifesto on the wall of my office to help remind me what we are constantly working towards.  If your circumstances change, it makes sense to revisit your plan and realign your goals. Remember, life is constant change.

Now go pay off your debt and get out there to see the world! Good luck and safe travels!

Do you think you can pay off debt or travel or do you agree that you need to pay off debt before you travel?

All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013.

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About Kimmy Hayes

Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.


  1. Great post Kimmy! I agree that it is important to pay off debts first. It is just far too tempting once you are on the road to increase your debt. When we left the UK we still had our mortgage, but luckily the rent we get for it exactly covers our monthly payments, so we can still pay it off even though we are traveling.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted…Me vs. the leeches – Mountain biking in the Chi Phat jungleMy Profile

  2. Great post! I think it depends a lot on the kind of debt. I’m traveling despite my student loans debts, but fortunately, these have a very low interest rate. Making my monthly loan payments is just part of the budget every month.
    Jessica recently posted…Baring It All at a Japanese OnsenMy Profile

    • I agree that student loans can be though of differently. I’m in the IBR loan payback program, so I don’t include them in our debt. The payment are so low, that its not a concern.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Airlines Review: Hawaiian AirlinesMy Profile

  3. As always, a very good article! I’m traveling with student loan debt looming over my shoulders and it’s SO stressful! Amid emails with airplane booking #s are emails reminding me that my next loan payment is due. It’s also very difficult for me to make payments abroad. AH! I’m hoping to have some money saved up by the time I get home to cover a good chunk of the loans. I’ll follow your advice and stay MOTIVATED! :)
    Karisa recently posted…A Taste of Celebrity in MyanmarMy Profile

    • Thanks, Karisa. I really appreciate that. You should try looking into some of the new government student loan payback programs. They helped me a ton and are no longer a worry. They will be our one debt while traveling, but because the payments are so low now and there’s the potential to be forgiven after a certain amount of time, I no longer worry about them.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Recipe: Hawaiian Sweet Bread French ToastMy Profile

  4. Debts are the worst… I can not count how many times I have stressed over spreadsheets of incomes and outgoings to clear our monster £7000 debt. However, in just 7 months we have cleared the best part of £5000 and by the time we leave we will have saved enough to pay off the remaining £2000 as we travel. We chose to save the money to pay our monthly direct debit as we travel incase our income on the road was unreliable. In just one paydays time, we will no longer be in minus numbers!
    Zoe recently posted…Macmillan bake-off: Spalding, EnglandMy Profile

  5. This is a really great article! It is frequently a difficult decision to make when you are racking up debt on credit cards in order to purchase those ‘cheap’ flights or take spontaneous road trips. I think if you have a plan in mind and are well organized in terms of calculating your debt to income ratio etc. I think it’s ok to go ahead and use credit to your advantage.

    I am certainly not encouraging folks to spend way more than they are able to pay back. I for one have several credit cards and sometimes you just have to take that risk and make a purchase you may be better off leaving for another month!

    Great job guys!
    A Brit and A Southerner recently posted…Interview – Dan and Casey (A Cruising Couple)My Profile

    • If you can afford to pay what you put on right off, I don’t think it’s a problem. Plus, it’s a great way to rack up miles! I just don’t think you should travel instead of paying off your debt or go into a great amount of debt to travel.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Travel Tips: Staying Healthy While TravelingMy Profile

  6. Definitely worth it to pay off your debt before traveling. Totally agree…especially if you plan to do long term traveling. Reminding yourself of your goals is always reassuring and helpful.

    Having that rain cloud following overhead could really put a damper on things. Not to mention the accrual of even more debt if you do attempt to travel while you’re already in the red.

    Nice post! Stay motivated :)
    Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand recently posted…First Impression of Chiang MaiMy Profile

  7. Nice advice!

    Personally, I think student loans and mortgages are another category completely from credit cards. Student loans and mortgages, depending on how I use them, could be an investment toward the future. As long as I’m sure I can pay the installments as I travel, they’re okay. Credit card debt is usually unnecessary spending and is not okay.

    I think of it this way: I’m gonna have to pay one way or another, sooner or later. Would I rather pay the actual amount only or that plus interest?

    Unless I borrow the money from a generous family member, I most likely have to pay about 7% (for lines of credit) or 20% (for credit cards) per year for that debt. That’s a lot of interest that could otherwise go toward a future trip!
    Deia @NomadWallet recently posted…Home Exchange Sucks (but It Can Save You Lots of Money)My Profile

  8. Here ‘s the rub: I think that if you say you’ll travel only after paying off your debt, then you may never travel. You may always have some form of debt. Paying high interest debt first before hitting the road is a good idea if you can manage. But I just find that Americans put travel off for so many reasons and eventually they realize they never actually did it. I didn’t pay off my debt before I left the US, and sometimes I struggle with whether that was a good decision. But it was low interest and if I had stayed it was hard to know how long I would have needed to pay it off. I also love this post about a guy who has been traveling for 12 years straight, even with loads of debt:

    • I have to disagree, Holly. This is exactly what we are doing, right now. We have done more than just talk about that we are going to pay off our debt and have a full plan that we make progress on every month. There’s no way we could travel while still in debt. It’d be too costly to pay off our debt and pay to travel long term each month, at the same time. For now, we focus on paying off our debt and look forward to our leave date.

      I don’t think it really matters what one’s excuse is to not travel. You can fill in the blank with all kinds of things. If someone doesn’t really want to do it and doesn’t make it a priority in their life, they will always find something to stop them from doing it.

      Thanks, for visiting AfterGlobe. I appreciate your opinion, Holly.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Interesting Facts about KauaiMy Profile

  9. I’m so grateful, that education in Switzerland is sponsored by the state, which allowed me to never have debt at all. I also read an article recently, which asked, whether studying something ever pays off money-wise.
    It’s a complex subject. For me debt is only ok to get education or a house. Anything else are just objects, you don’t really need, to prove to others, that you can afford it too.
    Wish everyone a lot of interesting travel adventures! :-)

  10. This is an awesome post. Agree with you Kimmy- if you want to travel without stress just pay your debt.


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