Is traveling while in debt a wise decision? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s discuss!
Traveling is what got my husband and me into the financial mess we are in.
While not all $83,000 in consumer debt is the result of traveling a portion of it is. We like to cruise. In the early years of our marriage, we went on cruises fairly frequently, at least yearly and sometimes twice a year. Living in Florida and being only a few hours from multiple ports making jumping on a cruise ship for a few days in the Caribbean super easy for us.
However, in 2015 when we started our debt free journey we put traveling on hold. We took a few weekend trips here and there but nothing extravagant. Fast forward to 2018 and we are gearing up for our second cruise of the year.
There is a big difference between where we were in our lives in 2015 when we stopped traveling and where we are now. We did not have a grasp on budgeting and we’re going deeper into debt each month. Once we figured out this whole budgeting thing and started making progress it was much easier for us to cash flow things.
We surprised my mother-in-law with a trip to the Bahamas for her 60th birthday in April (and also celebrated my 30th while we were there!) and cash flowed the whole trip. The trip was fairly cheap due to sharing a stateroom and living close to the port. There are perks to being a Florida resident! Now, we are planning a trip to Cuba and Cozumel for September of this year. This trip is also paid for in cash and took a little extra planning. We are going with my parent’s so coordinating rooms and excursions was a bit more work but there is one common denominator. We are paying cash for this trip.
So, should you be traveling while in debt?
It honestly comes down to personal preference. We did the strict budget things for a few years and needed a break. This year was that break for us. If you have the discipline to pay down debt while saving for larger purchases like a family vacation then you have my seal of approval!
It comes down to this – you need to do what is right for your family and for your budget.
Tips for Traveling While in Debt
Side Hustle Before Traveling
One of the best ways to fund your travel without touching your regular monthly budget is to add a side hustle. A side hustle is earning extra money on the side while still working your normal job. You can do anything from dog walking to selling items from your home on Craigslist. It is any way to make an extra dollar in your spare time. Side hustling will give you the extra cash needed to continue traveling while in debt.
Take advantage of travel hacking. Travel hacking is talked about a lot in the FIRE community (Financial Independence | Retire Early). While I haven’t explored all of the options yet and exactly how to do it I will link a few articles that will help you get started. Traveling hacking can help you save on airline miles and hotels. Of course, if you are anti credit card then this will definitely not work for you. You need to take advantage of the programs some credit cards offer to make travel hacking work. If you are using a credit card to book travel be sure to have the money available to pay off the balance before it becomes due! Don’t add unnecessary debt to travel.
How To Start Travel Hacking: Fly For Little Or Nothing—Even in First Class! by Money Under 30
How to Travel Around the World for Less than $1000 by Mad Fientist
How to Travel for Free: The Beginner’s Guide to Reward Cards by Club Thrifty
One of the best money-saving tactics for traveling while in debt is to be flexible with when you travel and where you travel to. If you have your heart set on one specific location during a specific week you’ll most likely pay more. If you can be more flexible you can find an amazing location for a lot less money. You’ll need to dig around a bit and price compare but it is definitely worth the time and effort to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on your trip.
Travel with Friends
Traveling while in debt can be made cheaper by sharing lodging with your friends. This will help cut down on the cost per person per day. Lodging is often one of the most expensive things we pay for and we spend the least amount of time in the room!
Reduce your Food Bill
If you rent a house or have lodging with a kitchen (even just a refrigerator) you can reduce your food bill by buying some groceries. We like to stock up on lunch meat and cheese to make our own sandwiches for lunch. We even pick up a few breakfast items that can be taken on the go or don’t take much prep work.
Also, if you do plan to eat out, look for local restaurants that may not be in the center of town. If you are going to the tourist areas you’ll likely pay more. Ask locals for their recommendations on places to try and venture out a little bit. You’ll find a better deal and may even enjoy more authentic food!
Plan Your Days
There are many beautiful places around the world that you can visit for free. You can enjoy national parks for free or cheap. You’ll need to do your research beforehand but setting up an itinerary of the places you want to see will help you save.
If you are staying at a hotel be sure to take advantage of the amenities offered. Most hotels offer game rooms, pools, and things for kids to do. You could spend the whole day at the hotel without ever leaving the property and spending a dime.
Be sure to take advantage of the local transportation like trains and busses. Using public transportation is always more cost effective than renting a car or taking an Uber. You’ll need to take public transportation into account when you plan your itinerary.
Traveling while in debt does not have to be expensive.
If you will be traveling while in debt be sure to always pay cash for your trips and remain goal focused. If your goal is to pay down debt don’t let traveling derail you from that goal. Be sure you are still reaching your financial milestones and enjoy that vacation you are taking.
Traveling while in debt has given my husband and I both the relaxation we needed as well as the motivation to keep going. I can honestly say if we didn’t take a trip at least once a year (even if it’s just a few days out of town) we wouldn’t be where we are today. We would be going stir crazy and would probably spend unnecessary money at restaurants or out and about just because we need a change of scenery. Going on vacation can do so much for mind and soul. Just remember traveling while in debt doesn’t have to increase your debt load. Be intentional and enjoy your vacation!
Are you still traveling while in debt? Why or why not? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments.