Traveling With Debt; How to Pay for Both

          Traveling is one of the greatest experiences you can have in life, but if you are like me you are sitting there wondering how to travel while drowning under a pile of debt.  When you are making monthly payments and trying to pay off your debt you may think that you will have to put off your travel plans until after you are back in the black.  That doesn’t have to be the case though, if you seriously love travel then you can find ways to save money for.  There is no reason to put off traveling, even tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  

Call Your Debtors.

     A lot of people are scared to call their debtors, they think that they will try to strong-arm them into paying for the balance up front or take every extra dime they have.  Years of dealing with debt has taught me one thing; the people in charge of your debt can be VERY accommodating.  Unlike pushy telemarketers  debt collectors don’t want to do anything that will send you into hiding.  All you have to do is call them and work something out.  Usually the amount you settle on is going to be much less than what they originally asked for.  I started out with one student loan that wanted $240/month, something I couldn’t swing if I wanted to travel.  After calling them and talking to a representative I got that monthly bill down to only $10/month.  That is something I can definitely afford and it keeps my account current and out of default.

Consider Automated Payment

     The number one reason I am currently clawing my way out of debt is because I am a terrible procrastinator.  I simply forget to ever send in my payments or make the right calls when I need to.  If this is one of your big problems to consider setting up and automated payment plan.  This can be especially helpful when you are traveling.  Rather than trying to find a wi-fi connection or making long distant calls, set up the automatic monthly payments and put the proper amount of money in an account you will need for the duration of your trip.

Make a Detailed Itinerary of Your Trip.

     Planning out your trip thoroughly is important when you are trying to pay off debt at the same time.  You constantly see travel bloggers telling you not to plan too much and just experience the area you are in.  That is great advice for someone who isn’t crippled by debt.  For those of us who are, unfortunately, we need to plan a bit more to make sure we know where are money is going and how much we will spend.  Going over budget could mean not having the money for your next loan payment.  Believe me having a debt go default will screw up your travels a lot more than planning to much.  With that being said…

Plan a Cushion

     After you have a budget and itinerary for your trip worked out try to save away some extra money that isn’t accounted for.  This will let you have those spontaneous travel moments.  Sure maybe the trip won’t be one unplanned whirlwind adventure, but at least you will get to have some unplanned fun.

Find a Travel Points Debit Card

     Nowadays these are few and far between, but a travel debit card can help you take exotic trips for free or a fraction of the costs.  Using these to pay off your monthly bills, buy groceries, or make your monthly loan payments will build up your point balance, meaning you will have more to spend on debt each month.  Trying to do an internet search for a travel debit card turns up almost no results whatsoever, and the ones it does are all old links that are no longer relevant.  To find one of these cards you are going to need to pound the pavement.  I was lucky enough to find a debit card at my local credit union that offers points for any debit card purchase or payments.  Talk to your smaller local banks and credit unions to see if they have any of these cards available get something out of all those monthly payments.

Be Smart With Windfalls

     Read any blog online about paying off debt and the first thing they tell you is to take any unexpected windfall and use it to pay off your debt.  Why that is sound advice it doesn’t really work for me.  Will power is not one of my strong suites, (hence the debt,) so I have adopted a 70-30 attitude towards windfalls.  Any time I get some extra money, (income tax, bonuses, finding $5 on the street,) I take 70% of it and put it towards my debt to chip away at it a little faster than my monthly payments allow.  30% goes directly towards my trip funds, usually into the cushion budget from before, since the whole budget for the trip should already be worked out.

Consider Alternative Accommodations and Travel

     If you plan on staying at expensive 5 star resorts and eating out every night you won’t be able to take many trips, or pay off your debt for that matter.  However if you use some simple budget travel techniques you can save quite a bit of money on your accommodations and flights.  Check out the websites i use for inexpensive travel on the Resources page.

Try Travel Hacking

     A lot of people are under the misconception that the only way to travel hack is with credit card sign up bonuses.  While credit card sign up is certainly the easiest way to amass points it isn’t the only way.  Just about every airline offers air miles and have a whole host of partners you can earn points through.  Sign up for an air mile program and you will see that you can earn points through shopping portals, hotel rentals, partner airlines, car rentals, or even eating out at some of your favorite restaurants.  If you find one of the travel points debit cards we talked about above, you could use that at any one of these partners and earn double the points.

I hope this makes you realize that there are still plenty of ways to pay off your debt without giving up your dreams of travel.  If I can do it than anyone can.  If you have caught a case of wanderlust then you don’t want to put off your travels until everything is, “perfect.”  It never will be the perfect time to travel, something will always be standing in the way of your dream.  But with a little hard work and proper planning you can both pay off your debt and go where you have always wanted to.


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