Being in and paying off debt isn’t fun, but taking away everything you enjoy because you’re in debt can make life miserable. In particular, many of us look forward to vacations for relief from the stress of work and day-to-day life.
I’m not going to tell you not to take vacations since I could never imagine doing that myself. But there’s definitely a lot to consider when you’re taking a trip when your budget is tight.
Here are six tips to make vacations happen even when you’re in debt.
1. Consider the impact on repaying debt
Before you pay for a vacation, consider the cost of the trip and the impact it will have on your financial goals.
No matter how you look at it, it’s going to cost money that you could use towards paying off debt. If you’re taking unpaid time off from work to go, you’ll be taking even more money out of your pocket.
Whatever you do, you shouldn’t go into more debt just to take a vacation, either. Most of all, you’ll want to make sure that paying for the vacation doesn’t cause stress rather than relieving it.
If a vacation costs too much right now, use future travel plans as a motivation to get out of debt. Maybe booking a vacation is your first big expense once you finally hit the debt-free milestone. This might not be the most fun decision right now, but imagine what life will be like when you can afford to pay for a vacation in cash!
You don’t have to decide between taking a month-long European vacation or skipping a trip altogether since there are plenty of getaway options that can come at a lower cost.
2. Go on a stay-cation
The cheapest option for any sort of vacation is the stay-cation — when you don’t travel to another destination, but you’re a tourist in your hometown instead. Maybe you take a few days off just to explore and go see sights that you’ve never taken the time to get to. If you’re like me, you have a list of nearby places you’ve always wanted to visit or see but haven’t yet.
Day trips to a nearby spots can provide plenty of entertainment, too. You’ll save big on accommodation if you sleep at home and can spend money on a few nice meals or entertainment instead.
3. Try a weekend getaway
Taking a weekend to get away, or even taking a Monday off to make it longer, can be quite rejuvenating and not too expensive, either. If you’re content with just having a weekend, you’ll spend less on just about everything than multi-week trips and you can even consider going more frequently, too.
Maybe there’s camping nearby where you can cheaply pitch a tent instead of booking a hotel. Or perhaps you’re able to visit friends and family whom you can stay with for free.
4. Find vacation deals
If you’re looking to make your vacation reasonable and within a budget, you’re going to have to be reasonable with your destination expectations.
Long-haul flights to exotic spots may cost too much, but low-cost deals for off-season locations can be a bargain.
These aren’t tough to find: just think of warm places people go when the weather is cold at home. Then go at the opposite time as those people.
If you’re still uncertain, many websites and guidebooks, like Lonely Planet, will tell you what the peak seasons are for travel and when the costs are the highest. Then use vacation deal sites like Travelzoo to find package deals and other bargain-priced vacations.
5. Scale back the big expenses
There are lots of ways you can take a trip that costs less. For starters, eating out for every meal is a huge drain on your wallet. How about making sandwiches for lunch instead? If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can avoid eating at restaurants even more easily.
Instead of paying for shows, museums, and other attractions, look for cheap or free sights. Walking doesn’t cost a thing, and you might actually see more than if you’re in a car or taking a tour. Check out a book by Frommer’s or Lonely Planet from the library as a guide and you’ll even find walking tours to many of the top sites.
If you’re stay-cationing, the above works, too, and there are still free or cheap options like going to the park, a beach, and hiking.
6. Leave the credit cards at home
Part of staying out of debt on your trip means you’ll have to avoid using credit cards for anything. Why not just leave them at home altogether?
It’s a myth that you always need credit cards for hotels and rental cars, as many businesses accept other forms of payment. Just stick with cash or use a debit card and you’ll be less likely and tempted to go over your already-limited budget.