Travel Finance: Travel While in Debt
While actively paying off debt to be able to travel the world long term and still continuing to travel, many people ask us how we are able to travel while in debt. Many people believe that travel is a luxury that requires spending a great amount of money and should only be done if you’ve got plenty of money to throw around. We’ve even heard the latter from other family members before. However, travel does not have to mean emptying your bank account or charging the equivalent of next month’s salary to your credit cards.
Make Sure You Can Continue to Pay Off Your Debt and Travel at the Same Time
Even while working to become free of debt, you can still enjoy short term travel. (We believe to travel long term you should be out of debt.) There are many budget-friendly options to help you travel in your own state or to your dream destination. All while staying within your budget and continuing to pay off debt.
The most important thing to consider when deciding if you can still travel while paying off debt is if you can actually afford to do it. That means no more putting your travel on credit cards. If you can’t afford to pay for your trip upfront, in cash, and still pay towards your debt, you shouldn’t travel. It may also mean traveling different than you have in the past. If you can afford to pay for it with cash, while still paying down your debt, then by all means travel.
Research Your Travels
First things first, do your research. In order to travel while paying of debt, you are going to have to stick with a tight budget. It doesn’t matter your desired location, one of the most important parts of traveling on a budget is to do your research on your desired destination.
Think Outside the Usual Hotel Accommodations
For accommodations, be sure to look up at least four different travel sites to find out what the most competitive rates are. Don’t forget about renting houses or condos through sites like VRBO or Airbnb. Also, look up the prices at hostels. Hostels have come a long way with private rooms, and are usually available for a bargain price. You are only looking for a place to sleep; as long as the place is clean, it doesn’t have to be first rate. Another option is to try couch surfing.
Depending on where you are traveling to, camping may even be an option. You can camp for cheap in many coveted travel destinations for a huge fraction of the price. It costs less than $15 per night to camp on the island of Maui. If tents aren’t your thing, many state and national parks have cabins you can rent out for a great price.
Once you have your accommodations arranged, do the same for your travel transportation. Not only check with at least four travel sites, such as Kayak, but also check individual websites like Southwest and JetBlue because many companies’ prices are not included on travel sites. Be flexible, such as flying out mid-week, when making your travel arrangements and you could possibly save hundreds of dollars on your flight. Shop around and compare.
Consider Travel Hacking
For even cheaper rates, consider getting a travel rewards credit card. When you first sign-up for a travel rewards credit card you will receive a bonus that’s usually good for one round trip plane ticket. Use that travel rewards card to accumulate even more mileage. You have to spend money anyway, so put it to work for you while you shop, pay bills, and travel by getting you miles to travel more. We use this exact strategy to get us to Hawaii so often.
If your credit score isn’t doing so well these days, skip this step until it’s gone back up to at least 720. You don’t want to apply for a card, get rejected, and have it ding your credit report negatively. Only use the credit card with purchases you will pay off that same day. No more charging up new debt to be able to travel. You also do not want to do this if you have a proven record of not being good with credit cards.
Tap into Your Social Media Network
Before you leave for your trip, tap into your social media network. Post a status update on Facebook or send out a tweet on Twitter, letting your friends know where you are going and that you’d love their recommendations on the best cheap eats and free things to do. If your friends don’t have any tips to share with you, chances are they will know someone who does. We always get more suggestions than we have time for whenever we ask others for ideas.
Eat Like a Local
One of the biggest travel expenditures while traveling is eating. Especially, touristy destinations. To save your pennies, eat better, and have a truly authentic experience, eat with the locals. If an eatery is filled with local people, you can count on the food to be tasty and affordable.
Food trucks, carts, or wagons are another delicious budget option. They usually offer quick and local favorites at a fraction of the price. Look them up on-line to find out their hours and where they will be located. Many of them even tweet out their current location if they move around.
Another great way to save some cash is to pick up in-season foods at a farmers market or local markets. It’s the perfect way to put together a low-cost and easy meal. Buy a bottle of sparkling water, some fresh fruit, a baguette, and cheeses to throw together a gourmet picnic to take with you on your day of free sightseeing. Shopping at local markets will not only save you some green, but you will also be contributing to the local economy.
Walk and Take Public Transit
Spend your days walking and using public transit to see free sites and budget attractions. You don’t need to shell out the big bucks every day for a rental car or cab rides. Don’t forget to do your research on where you will be visiting to find out more about their public transportation system. Many places have inexpensive metros, trains, and bus options. You can even purchase all day passes for around $5 in most cities. That’s a huge savings!
You can learn a lot about a place without spending too much money. Visit the tourist information center in the area to find out what free attractions are in that city. To save money on attractions with admission inquire about city passes. They can save you a bundle and are often times just a little more than what the price of just one attraction would cost you.
Look up museums and other attraction on-line, before you go, to see if they offer any free admission days or other bargains. Check your credit cards to see if you get any free attraction deals for being a customer. Bank of America credit card customers get free admissions to museums all over the world on the first Saturday of each month. You can even set up a text alert to remind you when to head to the museum.
If all else fails, do a simple search on-line for free things to do in that area. You’ll have a lot more fun sightseeing by foot locally for free than from behind the expensive glass of a tour bus. You may even get the opportunity to meet a few locals who can point you towards even more things to do for free.
With some research, a little planning, and the above tips, you can still travel while paying off debt. Start your research, read up, pick a place, and get to planning. All you need to do now is check your budget to make sure you can pay for your travels in cash and then pack your bags!
What do you think about traveling while in debt?
All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2014.