How to Vacation on a Budget

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May 31, 2024

Taking a vacation without going into debt is tough. Inflation is still driving up vacation costs significantly and flights have been skyrocketing since March, according to a CNBC report. All of that means it’s crucial to take the right steps to protect your finances as you plan a trip. It starts with being smart about your budget. We talked to finance and travel experts to get their tips to help you set a realistic vacation budget. If you follow their advice, you can get away without going into credit card debt.

Assess your household budget and be realistic about how much vacation you can afford

Is traveling a good idea if you’re carrying debt? Travel blogging experts Jennifer and Mark Campbell of Just Chasing Rabbits admit, “It’s a tricky question and it really depends on each person’s individual situation. For someone in extreme debt, any extra expense is probably not a good idea. For those with minimal debt, just stick to a budget and make reasonable choices, and going on vacation should be fine.” Colleen Lanin, the Travel Mama and founder of TravelMamas.com agrees, advising that there are easy ways to tailor a trip around your budget. “I would suggest sticking to a budget-friendly vacation to appease that desire if you’re in debt. Road trips, camping, and staying with friends and family instead of booking a hotel may be the way to go!” Kristin Addis, founder of Be My Travel Muse also encourages travelers to consider the type of debt that they have and how much control they have of their debt before they decide to book a trip. “Credit card debt is very expensive,” Addis explains. “It might be better to pay that off first. But for those with student or home loans, I think as long as those are adequately getting paid on time it’s still important to travel and enjoy your life.”

Take these steps as you consider whether you can travel while in
debt

  1. Assess your debt
    Take stock of your debts to see how much you’re currently paying per month and the status of
    all your debts.
    “While getting into debt is not wise, and caution is needed so you don’t restrict yourself further,
    I still believe bringing joy into your life and creating meaningful memories is the point to it,” Caz
    Makepeace, co-founder of Y Travel Blog says. “I recommend making cuts in other areas of your
    life that don’t provide as much joy and purpose instead. Be conscious of your financial situation
    and make smart choices that help you balance paying down the debt with also enjoying your
    life.”
  2. Know your limitations
    If you’re spending more than 10% of your monthly income just to cover your minimum credit
    card payments, it may be best to wait.
    “Setting up a clear, detailed budget is essential,” says Josh Bender, founder of Travel with Bender.
    “Even though it’s tempting to travel beyond your means, getting into debt will not help in the
    long run. Instead, it pays to spend more time in destinations that have a cheaper cost of living.
    Also, consider the month you’re traveling. Being patient will keep more money in your wallet, and
    you can still have the same amazing experiences.”
  3. Set up a vacation savings plan
    Review your budget to see how much you can afford to save for vacation.
    Find expenses that you can cut back or cut entirely at least temporarily so you have more money
    to save for your trip.
    Assess your total monthly savings or savings per paycheck and then set a date for your trip
    accordingly. Be realistic: With inflation at its highest level in four decades, this may not be the
    year you want to go big.
    “Inflation has had its effect on airline costs, increasing by roughly 25% in the last year alone.”
    Says Alex Gillard, founder of Nomad Nature Travel. “People are naturally going to be looking for
    deals. Instead of going to places they have always wanted to go or perhaps places they have
    traditionally gone, a lot more people are going to be staying closer to home and making plans
    based on where the discounts are.”
    Pay off credit cards faster so you can get back to enjoying life to the fullest.
    Don’t wait to pay off your balances
    When you get home from your trip, there is one final thing you can do to ensure you aren’t paying
    for your vacation for the rest year: set a plan to pay off any credit card debt.