How do you travel cheap while paying off debt? So, you’re trying to become debt free?! Congratulations! Student loans, car loans, credit cards, house, etc. No matter what debt you have, paying it off is difficult. Especially when you have a massive number like we did, it can take a So is it okay to take vacations while you’re paying off debt? Should you take time away? In my opinion, it’s a complicated answer. But let me share with you how to travel cheap while paying off debt.
Many people have asked me if B and I went on vacation while we were paying off our debt. The short answer is yes. Based on our projections, it would take us about 5 years to pay off all of our student loan debt. Five years is an extremely long time to put your life on hold and not take ANY time off for yourself. So, we decided to take vacations based on our sanity, stressful jobs, and the length of time it was going to take to be debt free. We figured out how to travel cheap while paying off debt. So, we still paid off our loans a year earlier! 4 years instead of 5! If you want to see how we did it, see this blog post!
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IS IT OKAY TO TRAVEL WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT?
Now, I think the question of whether to take vacation is very personal to each person or couple working to be debt free. If you have a small amount of debt, I would suggest sacrificing vacations for a little while until it’s all paid off. If you have less than 1 year to pay off debt, I think it’s worth it to throw any bit of extra cash towards debt. Even if it will take you two years to pay off debt, once you get the ball rolling, it may be shorter than you think! Two years can turn into one year if you follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps like we did!
However, if you have over $166K, like we did, and it’s going to take you many years to pay off, you need to still live your life somewhat. Now, we didn’t go crazy and spend a ton of money on vacations. We were still very frugal with our living, and sacrificed on what we purchased because we wanted to spend our money on traveling. We said no to certain things like a new laptop, a new car, and new clothes in order to put our money elsewhere. So, if you decide that you want to travel cheap while paying off debt, keep reading!
HOW TO TRAVEL CHEAP WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT
Budget, Budget, Budget!
The only way we were able to go on any vacations during our debt free journey was by putting it in the budget. We created our budget in order to stay on track while paying off loans. In our budget, we allotted a certain amount of money every paycheck to put into VACATION FUND! We cut back on buying certain things so we could make it work. If we put it in our budget, we would not use it for anything else unless it was a major emergency. We also wouldn’t feel guilty for spending time and money on ourselves to recharge because it was in the budget.
If you really love to travel like me, put even a small amount away every paycheck. $25 a paycheck every two weeks, adds up to $600 by the end of the year. You could go on a nice stay-cation for that amount of money. If you have a little more money to put aside, you could take smaller trips more often throughout the year. It’s your budget, so tinker with it as needed. The more budget vacations you can find that fit in your budget, the easier it is to travel cheap while paying off debt.
I have found, the best way to find deals for flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. is through Skyscanner. If you want to know exactly how it works, read this blog post! The best way to use this website/app is to set up alerts for plane tickets. When the prices drop, Skyscanner will send you an email and you can find the cheapest tickets! This was how B and I were able to find plane tickets to Boston for around $100 round trip! That’s insane.
Make sure you never pay full price for plane tickets if you can help it. Southwest Airlines always has awesome deals on flights! Sometimes they have flights that are $49 one way! So if you live in an area that can fly Southwest, I always compare their prices with Skyscanner as well.
For anyone who has a Costco card, you NEED to know about Costco Travel. I honestly don’t know how more people don’t know about this amazing perk that comes with being a Costco member. We all know how amazing Costco is. But, did you know they have their own travel agents and travel deals? For the average person who does not want to do “travel hacking” and mess around with credit cards and reward points, Costco Travel is for you!
A couple of years ago, B and I went on our first big vacation together to Maui, Hawaii. We treated this trip as our honeymoon, just 1.5 years late. Obviously, Hawaii is not the cheapest vacation. We had saved money from our budget, tax returns and extra paychecks so we could pay for the whole thing with cash. While planning our trip, I came across Costco Travel. I couldn’t believe the amount of options they had for hotels and vacation packages! The prices were great compared to doing it a la cart and on our own. The package we chose for our vacation included the hotel, the rental car for a week, the airfare, and we got to add on a luau for super cheap!
Now, being the bargain hunters that we are, we went down to AAA to see if their travel expertise could get us the same thing but cheaper. I know AAA has very good travel agents that get you some pretty incredible deals and perks! So, we went down and the agent looked up everything and gave us a price. It was over $700 more expensive, and she could not get us an ocean-view room like the Costco deal could! We asked her if she could give us the price that Costco gave us. Her answer was, “We can never beat Costco Travel’s pricing!” I was amazed. Another thing I tried was putting a package together myself that was exactly the same. Can you believe it would have been over $1000 more?! No thank you!
So, if you are ever in need of a great vacation deal, check out Costco Travel. They have everything online that you could ever want. We have never had a problem with using their services. Plus, sometimes they throw in dinner vouchers, free buffet breakfasts, and Costco cash cards! They really give you great benefits in the vacation packages. You do need a Costco membership in order to use their services. However, the deals are unbeatable! These were the best deals we found while researching how to travel cheap while paying off debt.
If you cannot afford to go on a big vacation because you have “gazelle intensity” in paying off debt, or just don’t have the money, a cheap vacation is always tent camping! See this blog post to see how cheap it is to tent camp. It is so cheap to go camping! Even in a National Park which is sometimes more expensive, it cost us $15 a night to camp. Joshua Tree National Park was only $10 a night for our spot. Death Valley National Park was $15 a night. Our stay in a yurt-type tent in Yosemite National Park Valley that included beds and amenities was $100. Still cheaper than the $300 a night for the hotel located in Yosemite National Park. We did save a lot of money by purchasing an annual national park pass for $80. Because of how many national parks we were going to this year, it was the cheapest way to go!
If you are looking for cheap deals on tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and backpacks, Costco has them seasonally during the spring and summer months for cheaper prices than most other stores. B and I got most of our camping equipment from Costco, and it’s great for tent/car camping. Amazon also has great deals and quality brands. See this post to find all of the camping essentials you need. So, if you are willing to rough it for a little getaway, tent camping is cheaper than hotels, RVs and most other places. We love tent camping! It has become one of my favorite things to do.
If you need a cheaper alternative to a hotel, but can’t tent camp, go for AirBnB. When B and I took our short trip to Oregon and another one to Colorado, we used AirBnB and loved it. This allowed us to go super cheap, and still have the luxuries of a kitchen. It allowed us to save some money and cook our own food instead of eating out for every meal. I would always recommend doing research on the comments and ratings of the place you are going to stay in. B and I always try to book with someone who is a Superhost! However, our experience has always been great with using AirBnB.
If you have any other ideas about how to travel cheap while paying off debt, let me know in the comment section below! I love finding deals on travel!