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As the new year approaches, many will be sitting down and creating their list of resolutions for 2016. Those itching to see the world are likely to have “travel” somewhere on that list, but this probably appears after the resolution to become debt free. How can I travel while I’m in debt?

But you don’t have to be debt free to travel! Everything we need in order see the world can be ours for cheaper than it ever has been before, and there are many people out there traveling while still actively paying off their debt. I traveled for 5 years before I was debt free. How to travel the world with no money

With a little bit of research, some careful planning, and using the following tips, you can manage to pay off your debt while exploring the world! You’ll find that traveling while still paying off debt is not only possible, but often very affordable too. Can I still travel even though I have a lot of debt?

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Cash Only – Pay For Your Travel Up Front

The most important thing to consider when aiming to travel while paying off your debt is if you can actually afford to do it. This means not putting travel on your credit cards, and paying for everything up front, in cash.

If you can’t afford to pay for your trip upfront and still make payments towards your debt, you shouldn’t travel. If you can afford to pay for it with cash, while still having enough for your monthly repayments, then travel away!

This may mean traveling differently than you have in the past, and possibly making sacrifices to save. For example, your idea of a vacation could be 5 star hotels. Instead, consider options for free accommodation like house-sitting, home exchange, or couch-surfing. How much debt is too much

If you can’t afford international travel, think about short weekend trips and staycations; local travel to discover your home state instead of jumping on a 24 hour flight. Shorter trips count as travel too. The excitement is in experiencing something new.

There are many people traveling the world on less than $25 a day, so while you may have to travel differently to achieve it, there are endless opportunities out there for budget travelers while keeping a manageable hold on your debt.

Do Your Research

Traveling while in debt means you need to do extensive research. You’re going to have to stick to a tight budget, and that means completing hard research on your desired destination. How much is the average cost of food? What is the average cost of accommodation? Are there free attractions and cheap things to do? Can I still travel if I’m in debt? Should I put travel on my credit cards?

For accommodation, use third party booking sites to find the most competitive rates. And compare prices across 3 or 4 sites. Don’t forget about renting houses or condos through sites like Airbnb, and make sure to also look up the prices at hostels. Do people travel the world while paying off debt? 

Hostels have come a long way with private rooms, and are usually available for a bargain price. You’re only looking for a place to sleep after-all; as long as you’re getting a room which is clean, it doesn’t have to be first rate.

Once you have your accommodation arranged, do the same for your travel transportation. After comparing prices on third party websites, and identifying companies with the cheapest rates, then pull up their websites directly, to see if they offer the same rates. Possible to travel while in a lot of debt?

Before you leave for your trip, tap into your social media network. Post a status update on Facebook or send out a tweet on Twitter, letting your friends know where you are going and that you’d love their recommendations on the best cheap eats and free things to do. If your friends don’t have any tips to share with you, chances are they will know someone who does.

Be Flexible

If you’re looking for the cheapest travel deals, you’ll often need to be flexible with your plans, such as flying out mid-week, or traveling during off season. Prices drop during off peak season because the demand for flights is low, and this is when you can possibly save hundreds of dollars on your flight.

Each destination has a peak season, and this is when travel is most expensive. Also note that travel prices peak over holidays like Christmas, and holiday season is when airlines make the most of their money. The more demand there is for a ticket, the more expensive it will be.

Sign up for airlines newsletters to receive news on current deals and special offers. Many great flight deals are promoted via airline newsletters.

Eat Locally

One of the biggest travel expenditures while traveling is eating. Especially, touristy destinations. To save your pennies, eat better, and have a truly authentic experience, eat with the locals. If an eatery is filled with local people, you can count on the food to be tasty and affordable.

Food trucks or carts are another delicious budget option. They usually offer quick and local favorites at a fraction of the price. Look them up on-line to find out their hours and where they will be located. Many of them even tweet out their current location. Possible to travel with student loans?

Street food is the tastiest, cheapest and easiest way to get a taste for local cuisine, and is generally the most direct route to forming a sense of a country’s culture. It’s an inexpensive way to eat, and will present you with foreign flavors which will blow your mind. And it’s very safe – direct those who tell you never to eat the street food to my post on the worst travel tips of all time.

Another great way to save some cash is to pick up in-season foods at a farmers or local market. It’s the perfect way to put together a low-cost and easy meal. Buy a bottle of sparkling water, some fresh fruit, a baguette, and cheeses to throw together a gourmet picnic to take with you on your day of free sightseeing. afford to travel with student loans? Travel while paying off debt

Shopping at local markets will not only save you some green, but you will also be contributing to the local economy. Travel with student loans

Utilize Travel Rewards

If, and only if, you’re able to use credit cards responsibly, consider getting a travel rewards credit card. When you first sign-up for a travel rewards credit card you will receive a bonus which is usually good for one round trip plane ticket. Many hotel chains will offer credit card rewards, and when signing up for a card with Hyatt, for instance, the card comes with two free nights at any of their properties, anywhere in the world.

Use your travel rewards card to accumulate even more mileage. You have to spend money anyway, so put it to work for you while you shop, pay bills, and travel by getting you miles.  However if your credit score isn’t doing so well, skip this step. For those living in the US, you’ll generally need to aim for a credit score of at least 700. You don’t want to apply for a card, get rejected, and have it ding your credit report negatively.

Only use the credit card with purchases you will pay off that same day. No more charging up new debt to be able to travel.

Plan For Free Attractions

Spend your days walking and using public transit to see free sites and budget attractions. You don’t need to shell out the big bucks every day for a rental car or cab rides. Research where you will be visiting to find out more about their public transportation system. Many places have inexpensive metros, trains, and bus options.  You can even purchase all day passes for around $5 in most cities. That’s a huge savings!  

You can learn a lot about a place without spending too much money. Visit the tourist information center in the area to find out what free attractions are in that city. To save money on attractions with admission inquire about city passes. They can save you a bundle and are often times just a little more than what the price of just one attraction would cost you.

Look up museums, city parks, free walking tours, markets, churches, hiking, and even wildlife watching – there are plenty of free things to do while traveling the world. Is it possible to travel the world while still paying off student loans?

NEVER Skimp on Health Insurance

If you’re traveling in debt and the budget is tight, you’re probably looking for different ways to cut down. But you should NEVER skimp on international health insurance, and anyone who tells you to cut costs by traveling without it is a horrible human being. You should absolutely send them your $50,000 bill should you find yourself needing an airlift out of the Amazon.

International health insurance is one of those things that you never want to understand the value of but, if you have to, you don’t wand to regret having brushed off its importance. Because if you’re traveling in debt and something does go wrong, you’re going to very quickly graduate from being in debt to being bankrupt. And I don’t have any tips for traveling while sorting out bankruptcy. How to travel the world when I owe people money

And don’t think it will never happen to you. It could be something as simple as setting yourself on fire while fire-twirling (my sister in Thailand. She was pregnant at the time which made the situation far less amusing than it could have been.) Or slipping on a cobblestone street and breaking your nose.

One traveler in our post on the worst and most embarrassing injuries abroad lost his vision on a river cruise of the Rhine, and another found herself receiving stitches after an Asian air-conditioning unit decided to attack.

Domestic healthcare doesn’t cover your costs when you travel abroad, so you need to take out an insurance policy which specifically caters to travel. DO NOT go overseas without international health insurance if you’re traveling while in debt. It’s more affordable than you probably think, but if you decide you can’t afford to travel with it, then you shouldn’t be traveling at all.

Pro Tip: We go through Timothy Jennings at Individual Health who has a huge range of quality insurance plans which includes insurance with #GeoBlue.

GeoBlue is a worldwide insurer who offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry, and make their best attempt to arrange direct payment no matter which medical provider you see. That means no need to lay out any of your cash, and you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim.

For more information on health insurance contact Tim Jennings at sales@individualhealth.com or click for a free quote.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Hostel by Barnacles Budget Accom. Street food gallery photos by Austronesian Expeditions & Hansel and Regrettal. Sagrada Familia by Αλέξανδρος. Embarrassing traveler injury photos by Who Needs MapsBackroad Planet and Contended Traveller.

    26 Comments

  1. I have student loan debt and I have been paying that and traveling. You are right, if you travel on a budget, it’s amazing how little you can live off of. I actually lived off much less than I did at home while traveling. Plus, I figure I can pay the debt later when I have a more stable job and life. It’s refreshing to see an article like this, so thanks for sharing.
    Katie
    Katie @worldwidevegetarian.com recently posted…Travel Blogging is Hard! P.S. I am Home after a Year of TravelMy Profile

    • Happy to hear you enjoyed the article Katie – and it’s absolutely cheaper in most situations to travel full time than it is to live in most major cities these days!! Which is shocking to most people, but if you’re traveling off a budget, especially somewhere like South East Asia, you can live off as little as $25 a day.

      I know a lot of people have started to aim for this – setting themselves up in a place like SE Asia and starting businesses online. The location independent lifestyle is fabulous because you can travel very cheaply and still be bringing in money which goes against your debt. Traveling and paying it off at the same time!

      Happy travels 🙂

  2. Great post Meg! I’m travelling with debts on a tiny budget. It’s possible! There are so many possibilities of working abroad too! Slow travel can help, and a working holiday visa will make it possible! 😀
    Melissa recently posted…Travelling shouldn’t be a fairy taleMy Profile

    • Thanks Melissa! It’s absolutely possible – glad to hear you’re living life to the fullest and enjoying the world even while paying off debts.

      You’re absolutely right about taking advantage of opportunities to work abroad – there are so many possibilities these days for earning money while traveling that it’s easier and easier for us to travel when money is tight 🙂

  3. It’s always nice to read how people can make travel a reality for them. Some rally good tips – I can’t remember the last time I caught a cab, I love taking local transport.

    • I’m the same – local transport all the way! Although I generally like walking if it’s possible – best way to explore a new city – and cheapest!

  4. Great post! Most non-travellers I meet assume I must have rich parents or an amazing job to afford my travels but life of the road can be surprisingly cheap if you know how! It’s all about priorities. Mine is travel – easy 🙂

    • Glad to find someone else out there with the same ideals – couldn’t have said it better myself, it’s all about priorities. Mine too is travel, and I don’t mind doing it on the cheap if that’s what it takes!

  5. You’re inspiring. I owe around 70k in debt and climbing.

    My monthly payments are around $900. I’m managing now, and planning for my travels, but it’s very ambitious to try to travel with that kind of debt.

    I have yet to come across any travelers with that much debt. I’m still gonna go for it, though. Any additional advice? Wise counsel? Love your blog, by the way. New subscriber.

    -Marcia

    • Hi Marcia – thanks for stopping by; glad we could inspire!

      70k is definitely a lot of debt, however if you are now managing that’s your first step. It’s definitely ambitious, as that is a lot of debt, however planning is the key.

      You obviously know what your monthly payments are, so I would make sure you keep on top of these as a priority and start putting anything extra into a little travel fund. In your situation I definitely wouldn’t recommend adding to your debt, but if you can save enough for a vacation over and above your monthly repayments, go for it! Just make sure you have the money in advance.

      Look at choosing cheap destinations to start off, and research the prices for food, activities as well as your transport there; you don’t want to book a cheap flight to a remote island for instance and then realize you can’t get a meal for under $60 per person.

      Best of luck! Keep at it and you can make it happen!

  6. An important post that I can show people when they ask me how I travel with all of those haunting college loans. Thanks!

    • It’s all about planning, prioritization and knowing how to use what you’ve got! Glad to hear you’re able to travel and enjoy life even with college loans. They can be incredibly intimidating!!

  7. Most definitely agree with eating and shopping local! It’s so much cheaper, but so much more interesting and fun. You get to try so many new things and it’s a great way to meet more locals along the way too.

    • Definitely makes for a fun experience – we love getting into a new city and checking out the local markets! There’s always some kind of interesting and unique fruit which we haven’t yet tasted!

  8. Thank you so much! so so inspiring. I am 45 & my wife 40 and after a recent holiday on the isle of skye we’ve decided we’re going for it.

    Ideally in a VW camper van, firstly a tour of the UK, then Europe & then the World! 2016 is the our aim so we have alot to do between now and then so anymore tips would be greatly appreciated.

    • HI Michael! Congrats on making the decision to travel! You’re giving yourself plenty of time to get ready and prepare for the trip so that’s great – for more tips on saving and even making money while you’re on the road, head on over to our “money” section which is listed in the navigation bar at the top under ‘travel tips”.

      Feel free to shoot us an email as well if you have any other Q’s along the way – meganjerrard@gmail.com.

      All the best!

  9. Nice post!

    One of the most underrated parts of traveling is exploring new surrounds. Going out in an unfamiliar city and literally getting lost. Putting the electronics away and actually speaking to the locals. Wandering past cool spots off the beaten track. It’s cheaper, healthier, and you gain experiences (and general life skills) that you won’t find written in a book.

    • Thanks Amir – so glad you enjoyed this post.

      Totally agree with you – wandering out and getting lost is the best way to explore a new city, and you’re likely to have a better experience than on a planned tour and will save money at the same time!

  10. Hi there!

    I graduated from College a year ago and still haven’t found “the job.” Traveling is my passion and I’m managing to make it around the world every now and then.

    The unfortunate thing is that my debt is about 70k from school loans and car payments. I’m only 24 and it’s really frustrating and discouraging to even have this much debt from my own education. It’s even more frustrating that I have yet to land a job that has made this debt worth it.

    I managed to double my loans the last two months by making my own side business but the loans don’t even look like I paid any extra. Any suggestions on how to travel and make money with this much debt?

    I feel like I’m too young to not take the chance and travel, but then there is this debt floating over my shoulder telling me not to. I want to travel while I’m in good health and don’t have a family yet.

    • Hi Kristin

      Thanks for your message – traveling while in debt to me is all about the ability to make your payments. You don’t necessarily need to have the whole 70k paid off before you can travel, just so long as you’re able to make regular payments so that the interest doesn’t spiral out of control.

      I admittedly was traveling on a lot less debt – mine only ever reached 20k, but for me it was literally a case of working crazy stupid hours over a number of jobs to make my payments, and then travel on what I had saved up. I sacrificed my social life and was exhausted for the good half of three years, but I wouldn’t trade the travel experiences I had during that time for anything, and would do it all again exactly the same way.

      I wasn’t working “the job”, however had a number of well paying jobs in hospitality (for instance if you’re in the US cocktail waitressing makes amazing tips) which I kept because of the flexibility, the hours, and the money. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life, but it fitted in well with my passion and desire to be traveling.

      I think if you want to travel now while you’re young, look at first getting the job you need as opposed to the job you want. Often jobs in hospitality, while not necessarily desirable, will pay the bills and offer you the flexibility to take time off and come straight back to them.

      Sit down and do up a detailed financial plan, knowing exactly how much you need to be paying off each month, and then work out what you need to sacrifice in order to save for a travel fund.

      Myself and husband only work off one car, for instance. So figure out if no car and public transport is a potential option. Figure out if you can cut that $10 in coffee each day, or if you start inviting friends over and cooking instead of eating out. Assess where you spend your money, and what you’re happy to swap for cash to travel.

      You can still be responsible about your loans while taking opportunities to travel the world, and these days with initiatives like couchsurfing, workaway, free volunteer placements, you can travel the world quite cheaply.

      There are a number of ways to make money while traveling too, including monetizing a blog or website, which I have a few different posts about. Here are some links to articles I have posted which may help:

      http://www.mappingmegan.com/ways-to-make-money-while-traveling/

      http://www.mappingmegan.com/save-money-while-traveling/

      http://www.mappingmegan.com/how-i-afford-to-travel/

      http://www.mappingmegan.com/save-money-while-traveling/

      http://www.mappingmegan.com/sacrifice-to-travel/

      Do let me know if you have any questions or want to talk more – feel free to shoot me an email and I’m always happy to help 🙂

  11. Some great advice here for being financially responsible and still get to have a life and travel. We’ve always stuck to only spending money we had on travel, not borrowing for it, travelling independently (not tours) being so much cheaper and more authentic and eating local – ’cause food is at least 50% of why I love to travel.
    Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers recently posted…Korakuen Garden in OkayamaMy Profile

    • Thanks Toni – and absolutely – not borrowing to travel is one of the biggest things for those who are traveling while still paying off debt – it’s not a good idea to keep adding to it, but absolutely doable if you can sacrifice on a few things and start putting money aside.

      Traveling independently is also a fabulous way to cut down on costs – travel agents, tour companies, they’re all taking a cut which could be saved if you’re happy to plan the travel yourself 🙂 And then it’s much more authentic too like you said 🙂

      happy travels!

  12. Great post!
    Actually I never considered traveling while with debts because for the kind of person I am I need first to find a way to be debts free and then I can do again what I want.
    Anyway these tips are really good and worth following, for any kind of traveler!
    Luca | Luca Travels Around recently posted…7 things NOT to do in ItalyMy Profile

    • Thanks Luca! I’m glad we could provide some points of thought for how it’s possible to responsibly manage debt but still make your dreams of travel come true too 🙂

      Feel free to reach out if you have any further Q’s. Happy holidays!

    • Hi Hayley – congrats on being debt free!!! Great blog post, glad you found success with some of the same methods. I’ve found that these sacrifices are an adjustment, sure, but as you mentioned in your post, they’re not so difficult that they make life miserable, and you do get used to it after a while – it quickly becomes normal living! Happy travels! And congrats again on being debt free 🙂
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…Epic Travel Splurge: 5 Places to Stay If You’re Not Worried About Your BudgetMy Profile

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