Traveling to distant places is a bucket list item many people have. For those who are considering taking a big trip, deciding to go or stay home can be dependent on existing debt. Whether exploring the globe or a few nearby states, finding great deals is a particularly exciting prospect for the debt-conscious traveler. However, with student loans or other debts, it can sometimes feel difficult — even irresponsible — to justify spending any amount of money on a trip.
A vacation can be both physically and mentally restorative, offering a refreshing perspective that alleviates the "debt fatigue" that can arise when it feels like every extra dollar is going toward paying down loans. While the importance of paying loans off on time can't be emphasized enough, it's possible to enjoy adventure and stick to your long-term budget.
Before you book your next trip, make sure you can:
- Pay for the trip without taking on more debt.
- Continue to make existing credit card and loan payments.
- Find deals on travel, hotels and food.
These tips will help you start planning your trip to find deals and make the best financial decisions you can.
Set a travel budget goal
Set money aside for your trip before it happens by opening a separate bank account and setting up a savings goal. When it’s time to take the trip, you can use the money you saved and make sure you aren’t spending more than what you budgeted for the trip.
Start with travel sites
No matter where you travel, thorough planning will pay off in the long run. Be a reader before you travel. Popular travel and hotel sites offer many choices for budget travelers. Popular travel blogs and online forums may offer news on destinations and helpful money-saving suggestions. That said, if you find a price within your budget, it's worth verifying prices with airline carriers and hotels directly for any special deals or discounts while skipping some reservation fees.
Embrace the sharing economy
Hospitality sharing services are increasingly offering lower-priced alternatives to hotels. But read carefully about a property to ensure that it addresses your needs. Some locations may require you to share a bathroom or sleeping area with other guests, or they may have other restrictions you find objectionable.
Check travel apps for last-minute deals
Even last-minute travelers can find deals if they know where to look. There are a variety of apps dedicated to finding last-minute deals. Hotel Tonight offers deals on unsold hotel rooms for a fraction of their usual costs in cities including New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Booking.com, available via mobile app or website, also offers last-minute travel deals. Be sure to read the fine print and identify hidden taxes and fees.
Control your travel costs
Little costs can add up. Packing meals ahead of time and downloading movies and other entertainment for travel time can save you tens or even hundreds of dollars. Try eating food from local grocery stores at your destination instead of dining out at every meal. If your hotel offers free breakfast, fuel up there before heading out for the day.
Avoid lost luggage
Lost luggage that requires rearranging travel connections and replacing lost items can be costly. One new preventative option: a number of luggage startups offer gadgets that provide GPS tracking and luggage that texts you if you’ve left it behind. Buying a travel insurance policy is one wise way to recoup costs if your luggage does get lost.
Purchase travel insurance
Being prepared is one of the most valuable, money-saving travel tips. Purchasing travel insurance can give you additional comfort and potentially save you money in the long run. Lost bags, snowstorms or airport diversions can and will happen despite the best planning. Whether you're voyaging by air or sea, or for the first time or the hundredth, it's important to keep your travel investments protected with a travel insurance policy. Some unexpected travel surprises are delightful, but for those that aren't, travel insurance may help you get your trip back on track.
With these tips in mind, travel is attainable for those who are managing debt.