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Is It Worth Going Into Debt So I Can Travel While I’m Young?

In the second installment of “Dear Eugene,” we explore whether taking that dream trip is worth going into debt.

Inspired by our intrepid founder, Eugene Fodor, Dear Eugene is a monthly series inviting readers to ask us their top travel questions. Each month, we’ll tap travel experts to answer your questions with the hopes of demystifying the more complicated parts of travel. Send your questions to [email protected] for a chance to have them answered in a future story.

Dear Eugene: I want to travel right now, but it can be hard to afford a vacation on an entry-level salary. Is it worth going into debt to travel while I’m young? 

People can often be funny about money, so let us start by saying that everyone’s financial situation is unique and highly personal to them. We are not here to condone or admonish going into debt for travel, but we are here to answer this question as best we can.

The decision to go into debt for travel can run the gamut from jonesing for a vacation for mental health to attending a conference abroad in hopes of professional development to simply wanting to see the world before settling into routine, career, and family. But what happens if your desire to travel is met with financial blocks? For some, those financial stop signs are the end of the discussion. For others, they are something to be sidestepped and dealt with later. 

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Here, we speak to travelers and financial experts on the decision to go into debt for travel, what to consider if you’re set on putting that trip on a credit card, and how to climb out of debt quickly. 

Making the Decision to Go Into Debt for Travel

In an ideal situation, we would diligently squirrel away money and save up for our future getaways, never plunging into debt and only pulling from our savings accounts. But, of course, that is not always the case, and—as the old saying goes—the only thing predictable about life is how unpredictable it can be. 

Unexpected home repairs, medical bills, and other pressing needs can cut into savings, leaving little disposable income for that dream trip to Thailand. And yet, for some, travel is more than just a vacation; it’s a necessity meant to be prioritized, regardless of the cost. 

“Travel has always been important to me; it’s more than just experiencing new places and cultures; it’s about getting out of my daily routine, relaxing, and resetting,” explains Deborah Cruz of The TRUTH about Motherhood. “For me, vacations give me the strength to deal with all the stress and anxiety that I deal with on a daily basis. It also gives me time to unplug and enjoy my family.” 

For Cruz, traveling is akin to a mental health break, but for Mia Stallard of The Vacation Atlas, her decision to go into debt focused on furthering her professional development. 

“I’ve gone into debt two times for a trip,” shares Stallard. “The most recent was to go to a travel conference in Puerto Rico last year. I made that decision because I saw it as an investment in my career and thought the connections gained would outweigh the risk. I’m grateful I took that risk because it only took me a couple of months to get out of debt after that trip, and the connections and lifelong friends I made were indeed worth it.” 

“I feel money comes and goes, but opportunities don’t always come back to you.”

In other cases, the decision to go into debt for travel is a question of opportunity and place, as in the case of Olga María Czarkowski, Founder of and For Czarkowski, her decision to study abroad in Spain at age 19 led her to travel on weekends, exploring the country she was already in. 

“I was already there,” recalls Czarkowski. “Travel is the best form of education, and that study abroad experience is what inspired me to pursue a career in travel. After that, I made a plan to pay off my debt, but no amount of money could compare to what I experienced while traveling there. I feel money comes and goes, but opportunities don’t always come back to you.”

What Financial Experts Say

Going into debt for travel is an extremely personal choice. Taking out a credit card or personal loan for travel isn’t as unheard of as one might think. After all, life is short, and the desire to enjoy something while we’re young, healthy, and mobile is a persuasive argument. So, what if you are determined to take that trip right now? Can you minimize the financial damage of going into debt? 

“From a finance advisor’s perspective, I do not recommend you go into debt for discretionary expenses like travel. However, everything depends on your financial situation and priorities,” says Wayne Bechtol, a Senior Tax Accountant at Fiona. “Some people believe the experiences and memories they gain from travel are worth going into temporary debt. In contrast, some feel it leads to financial stress and long-term consequences. I would suggest that you clear your debts on time, as defaults can erode your credit rating, affecting your ability to get affordable credit when needed.”

It comes as no surprise that most financial experts would advise against intentionally putting oneself in debt. The idea is this: if you dive into debt, it should only be when absolutely necessary, such as in emergencies. Putting yourself in debt for something considered a luxury, like travel, can impact your credit score and make it harder to take out a loan or credit card when you actually need it. But for Dionne Lee—Financial Coach and CEO of A Woman Inspired, a platform focused on teaching women financial freedom—her take proved surprisingly more moderate.

“It can be worth putting yourself into debt in certain situations, providing the benefits are higher than the cost,” says Lee. “For example, buying a home or investing in self-education, where the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term financial strain. It is extremely important to be fully aware of the total costs of the loan and to compare the benefits to the risks before proceeding.” 

Because we don’t always have the money we need when we want it, the reasons one decides to go into debt are between that person and their bank account. Whether you’re going into debt for a new home, a medical emergency, or a life-transforming trip, that is your prerogative. Still, there are some things to consider to make the decision more manageable.

How to Get in and Out of Debt Quickly—According to Experts

If you’ve made the decision to go into debt for that next trip, don’t fret. There are ways to climb out of debt quickly, and if you’re considering going into debt, ease in wisely. Bechtol shares some ways to climb out of debt quickly. The first, he explains, is budgeting.

Assess your income and expenses and prepare a budget,” Bechtol advises. “Set aside a specific sum of money for debt repayment.” While you would ideally allow yourself time to save for the entire trip cost, Bechtol suggests saving at least some of the cost to avoid plunging into deep debt. If you can lessen the amount you put on credit or take out a loan for, the quicker you’ll be able to clear the debt. 

“To climb out of debt incurred for travel, you must have a plan on how you will do that before proceeding,” adds Lee. “This may involve cutting back on non-essential expenses, increasing income through a second job or additional work, and prioritizing loan repayments over other non-essential spending.” 

“Above all, if you are going to put yourself in debt for travel, the number one thing to avoid is high-interest rates.”

Beyond saving, Bechtol advises looking at budget destinations to avoid plunging further into deep debt. Be savvy with your travels, looking for affordable accommodation options, cheaper flights, free walking tours, and all-around less expensive places to visit. But, above all, if you are going to put yourself in debt for travel, the number one thing to avoid is high-interest rates. 

“High-interest debt like credit cards, payday loans, and personal loans can accumulate quickly and become unmanageable,” warns Bechtol. If you are going to put your trip on a credit card, choose one that can help offset some of the costs via travel rewards or cashback. Another option is Affirm, which offers flexible payment plans for various high-purchase items, including hotels and flights, with little to no interest.

“Choosing the most favorable financing option involves seeking the lowest interest rate and a repayment term that makes the repayments affordable,” adds Lee. “Ensure the loan has the flexibility to be repaid more quickly and without penalty if the person is in the position to do so when they return from traveling.”

davidturk1325 February 23, 2024

Our family loves to travel. When we were younger, we geared our vacations to cost effective destinations. They we're also shorter, but more frequent. And mostly road trips, or on much lessor occasions, locations with discounted airfare and lodging. As our financial future became more secure (income and investments), we did more flying to more locations, but still geared around discounts. 

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jacketwatch February 22, 2024

One always has to live within their means. As time goes on most people shed some debt like with mortgages and maybe student loans and get past taking care of children, as they are  going to the workforce  and grow their income through job advancement. Later in life, you are in a much better position to travel than when you're just beginning. This does not mean you can't travel, but it does mean you have to watch what you do. We found that all inclusive vacations, especially when our son was younger, was a great bargain as are cruises. if you want to get an inside cabin, you can get a great bargain on Cruises . Try getting credit cards, that defer interest for sometime, say one year. 

If possible, travel during off-peak times. Prices will be lower. 

Be vigilant about airline prices. Sometimes there are big drops if only for a few days. I think there are places you can sign up for getting notices about drops in certain routes if you enter them. 
Watch your every day spending so when you want to go on vacation it's less strain to do so.

Realize  there are some things that you may not be able to afford and that applies to all of us. 

You want to go on vacation  to relax and  not worryied about paying bills later.