I’ve been pretty open on the blog about our journey to debt freedom. Honestly, I’m an open book in general, and there’s very few topics I don’t mind to discuss with nearly anyone. But one topic that I haven’t addressed on the blog, the big fat elephant in the room, is traveling while in debt. I’m sure some of my readers are curious to hear my thoughts on this topic, especially since I’ve been so vocal about paying off our debt in general.
Should you travel while in debt, and especially while working on a debt snowball? I’ve heard it argued both ways. If you know me personally or read this blog for any length of time, you probably already know my decision on this: it’s complicated.
The gung-ho financial guru in me wants to scream “No! No travel until you are debt-free, or at least pay off all your high-interest debt!” But the emotional, human side of me disagrees.
When I was 13, my family took a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Branson, Missouri over Father’s Day weekend. It seemed to be a bad idea; Brittany and I were in the middle of a summer violin camp and had to miss two days of camp for the trip. Just two weeks later, my sweet Papaw passed away.
Papaw’s sudden death taught me that life stops for no one. Even if you are working hard to pay off debt, you never know when your next vacation will be your last. As a military spouse, I know that if my husband and I don’t take the time to travel now, while we have a chance due to a slower work schedule, it may never come because he may unexpectedly be sent halfway around the world on deployment or he will be assigned to a command that is less flexible about leave days.
However, in order to travel while in debt, I don’t believe in acquiring new debt. For any trips we take, we save and pay for everything in cash. If we don’t have the cash, the trip will be canceled. (Like with our Vermont ski trip that we canceled for a $200 weekend in nearby Bardstown, KY.) We do try to stretch our money as far as possible, by staying in mid-scale motels, not eating 5-star meals, and using travel hacking for free hotel and airline rewards. Also, this is not the time for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic location! Until we are debt free, our vacations will be camping trips or funded through hotel points.
I don’t believe that you need to stop “living” to pay off debt, but you must be smart about it. However, some people may disagree with me, and feel it would be best to temporarily stop traveling for a year or two until they are debt-free. That’s okay! Different strokes for different folks 🙂
In the end, you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what is best for you and your family. There’s no right decision in this situation. What matters is your desire to continue paying off debt and not being derailed 🙂